I have a small financial confession to make. While I believe in being frugal, while I shun consumerism and I believe in saving more than you spend, and while I frequently preach that we live in a country of abundance and we can all find some place to cut our expenses..
There are some areas of our budget where we can save more money and spend less. But I’m not making an effort to further reduce costs.
I understand how important it is to save money, and to not fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation. Don’t worry: we’re far from living the high life, makin’ bank and then makin’ it rain. We’re firmly middle class and we track every cent that comes in and goes out. We’re not suffering from a lack of cash, but we certainly can’t afford to not worry about it, either.
When It Comes to Where We Can Save Money, We Pick Our Battles
I like to think we’re pretty rational, logical people – but human beings are emotional creatures, and I know we’re no exception. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much I know about the numbers and the math behind things like investments and compound interest.
I get jealous about the stuff other people have that I don’t. I get tired of having to put off big trips and fancy vacations because we’re saving for other priorities. There are days when I just want to go out and spend my money on whatever I dang well please.
So I know it’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to be super savers in every budget category, on a consistent basis, over a long period of time. My frugal willpower can only focus on so much at once.
If I tried to cinch down our spending in every single way that I could, I’d feel deprived and irritated.. and I don’t think I’d be able to fight those sudden urges to spend all the glorious cash we had “just sitting around.”
I believe in slow and steady progress, with steady being the key word here. While we could theoretically speed up our journey towards our big financial goals by saving even more than the 40% of our income we currently manage, I don’t think it would work in reality. Simply put, I’m willing to be frugal. But I’m not okay with being obsessive about my savings, or cheap either.
Essentially, we pick our battles. Because we strategically choose the areas in which we cut back to save more, I have the ability to continue saying “no” to those occasions where I’m seized with a desire to go on shopping spree, or to just say, “screw it, I’m taking this money I’d normally put toward my investments and going on a cruise this month.”
What I’m Not Willing to Cut Back on in an Effort to Save More Money
Again, I’m not okay with being cheap. You won’t find me showering with my clothes on so I don’t have to do laundry, or peeling the skins off bananas when I have to pay for fruit by weight (both actions, by the way, that I’m pulling from real-life examples – or at least, reality TV examples via Extreme Cheapskates).
Here’s what else I’m not willing to do, even when cutting back would mean we could save more money:
- Scrimping on pet care supplies. Our three indoor cats cost us about $50 per month. We could easily cut this down to around $25 to $30 and save a little extra money by switching to a lower-quality pet food and not regularly buying treats and toys. But we knew that we were becoming responsible for the well-being of living creatures when we adopted our pets from an animal shelter – and we understood that came with financial responsibility, too. We believed that by taking on this responsibility, we were also agreeing to provide any animals in our care with the highest quality of life we could reasonably provide.
- Going (even farther) out of our way to save on utilities. We practice basic, “green-minded” energy conservation habits. We turn lights off when we leave a room, we take quick showers and don’t leave water running, and we’ve made an effort to better insulate our house so cool air doesn’t seep in during the winter – or leak out in the summer. But we’re satisfied with this, and don’t believe we need to go to extreme measures to save a few bucks per month (you can check out how much my month of line-drying clothes saved me here. Spoiler alert: not a whole lot).
- Spend lots of time worrying and stressing over every last cent. I don’t clip coupons because I don’t have time – and I don’t worry about the money I may or may not have been able to save if I did spend my energy doing something I didn’t enjoy. While I am happy to save where I can, I have limited time and energy and those resources are better spent, in my opinion, earning significantly more money rather than saving a few bucks from time to time.
- Eliminating all unnecessary spending. Guess what? We enjoy going out on dates a few times a month. Sometimes I want the convenience and sugary goodness of a chai tea latte from Starbucks – and I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel guilty over the $4 it’s going to cost me. I’m not willing to cut back in these areas that make us happy because, although highly important and a useful tool, money isn’t everything. My goal is to balance being happy now with being financially secure throughout my life. They key is to enjoy these little splurges and discretionary purchases in careful moderation.
I’m also not okay with sacrificing the things that are most important to me. We carefully prioritize our spending in the areas that we value the most. In other words, we build our budget around the things we want to spend money money on.
By doing this, we’re able to, in my opinion, truly have it all. We eliminate the crap we’re not interested in so we have the room to spend on things we enjoy – travel, experiencing new things together, eating tasty Mexican food. We scrimp on the stuff that we don’t think matters much – material goods, fancy cars, – so we don’t need to compromise on what we love.
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What are you not willing to cut back on – even if it meant saving more money?
Roberto Matthews says
Great article. I have saved a lot by simply cutting the cable bill. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that when I mention this to other families, they think I have gone crazy!
Kali Hawlk says
Cutting cable is a great place to start saving. We’ve done the same and we’re both a lot happier than we’re not so glued to the TV, and saving a lot more!
Harry Campbell says
I would be fine without TV except for sports. There are too many sports games that I want to watch that are still on cable 🙁 NBA playoffs right now is a great example, these games are all on cable and they’ve been awesome!
I completely agree, especially with your last paragraph. Prioritizing what you spend on tends to lead to the best outcome. I would never cut corners with my cats, either. I’ve cut back on all the expenses I can, and I’m pretty happy with where we are at. Now, we’re focusing on earning more to get rid of our student loans so we can really start saving toward what matters (travel, food, family).
Kali Hawlk says
It’s amazing how much easier it is to save once you’ve figured out where your real priorities are! Suddenly everything else doesn’t seem worth so much money, and it’s not so difficult to cut back on the things you don’t really value in the first place.
[email protected] says
For me it is travel. I can do without stuff around my house, but travel is an experience that enriches life and gives you stories to talk about the rest of your life that I find very valuable.
Jon @ Penny Thots says
This is a reason why I love reading so many different personal finance blogs. What works for you might not work for me or another. But what works for someone else might work for me. There are so many ways to save money and by reading various ways, it helps me to expand my thinking and think outside the box so I can find new ways to save that work for me.