Spending money isn’t the enemy

Someone asked me the other day…

You’re advertising yourself as a frugal person on your blog… so does this mean you don’t buy anything at all?

Wow that sure is an interesting question with a hint of sarcasm perhaps?

It’s really a shame that some people associate being frugal with not spending any money or not buying anything at all.

The thing is, being frugal does not mean you don’t spend any money, deprive yourself, and do not enjoy the finer things in life.

Spending money is not the enemy. It is how you approach money and how your prioritize things in your life.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was very frugal with very high savings rate. I have done some crazy & weird stuff to simply save money. It was fine because I was single. I was OK with depriving myself in some areas of my life. My top priority was to save money.

Now that I’m married and have 2 kids, my priorities have changed. Being a single income family pursuing financial independence, this means we need to focus on spending money on things that we value the most and cut back on spending in other areas.

Nowadays, it makes me cringe every time I see someone suggesting to eat ramen noodles, canned beans, and other cheap, high salt, highly processed food just to save money on their food expenses.

The old me would see this as frugal and perhaps applaud. The new me would not.

You are being frugal with groceries at the expenses of your future health! Eating high salt, highly processed food isn’t good for your body. It will cost you more money in the long run due to all the health issues that will come along. You are better off making your food yourself, using fresh ingredients. To save money, make a large batch that will last the whole week (i.e. pasta sauce, stir fry, fried rice, etc).

Let’s repeat that again, spending money isn’t the enemy. 

Do spend on things that you value the most.  

There’s nothing wrong with buying coffee, chocolate, or eating out in moderation if that brings you happiness. Heck, if you value fitness (and you should), it’s totally OK to spend money on that gym membership, on a bike, or the home gym. Stop labeling these as guilty pleasures. Because they are not!

If you are already taking small incremental steps to improve your finances, pat yourself on the back. You are already doing great things to change your financial life. A year from today, I can guarantee that you will be better off financially.

Spending money is not the enemy, it’s how you approach money that matters the most. How you approach your money is and will be completely different from how I approach my money. Because we value things differently. This is why it is called “personal” finance…because it is personal!

That leads to my next point. Where and how you save is again an entirely personal choice. What is right for you might not be right for me. We choose to save a big chunk of money each month toward long-term spending and investment. The big item expenses we make are usually for travels or some sort of new experience. We invest in appreciating assets that will generate passive income for us.

Life is all about balance. We need to take our financial independence journey with a balanced approach. Saving is important, but quality of life is important too.

Which sounds like a more balanced approach? Working for 120 hours a week at 4 different jobs so your mortgage can be paid off in 3 years, or working for 40 hours a week at 1 job and pay off the mortgage in 10 years? Since life balance is different for each person, I can’t answer this question for you. For me, the latter case makes more sense to me. Working 120 hours a week means missing out on being a good husband, a good dad, and seeing my kids growing up. Although the mortgage can be paid off 7 years faster, I probably would miss 3 full years of my kids’ lives. I want my kids to know who their father is, rather than asking what this strange man is doing in the house.

Remember, your priorities will change as you go through the different stages of your life. It is important to adjust your spending, budget, and how you allocate your money to accommodate these changes in your priorities.

So live below your means, save, invest, and spend money on things that you value. Strive for the right personal balance in your life.



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25 thoughts on “Spending money isn’t the enemy”

  1. Hello Tawcan,

    Frugality is relative and personal. For example, I love buying my clothes from Patagonia since it lis well made and they repair it if needed. Better for the environment and ends up being frugal. Instead of buying multiple items, I can buy one and have it last and last and last.

    • That’s frugal in my book. I have a Cloudveil soft-shell jacket that I bought 11 or 12 years ago and it’s still a great jacket. Quality over price is one way to see being frugal.

  2. Great post and excellent write-up. We have had comments from some readers how our expenses is not at all minimalist, as they presume that such means low cost. We are frugal by nature but will still spend money on things that matter to us and that is what matters.

  3. Great post Bob, I agree we are all different thus our goals, approaches and values will be different as well. This doesn’t mean be frivolous or delay saving for the future, it just means life doesn’t need to be devoid of happiness and room to live outside of being a recluse.

  4. I completely agree. I get comments on how much of a “tight-a**” I am with money. I might be a little “tight” every now and then but i still spend my money on things and experiences that i want. Similar to others, I went overseas and another week holiday elsewhere in a year… while still investing. Some people just don’t get it.

    • Exactly. Many of us in the PF space value “experience” rather than things. Others perhaps value both things and experience. It’s just your personal preference.

  5. I like how you specifically call out spending on groceries. It’s such a focus for many on reducing spending but it can easily be missed that spending the least may not be better. Health matters. Time along any savings goals matter.

  6. Great Post! I sometimes feel guilty by thinking lifestyle inflation is keeping my savings rate constant although my income is growing. But with the changes which come from having kids and the going through the phases of live , so do your priorities and spending habits. I think it helps to also not have a set goal to achieve FIRE but know it will happen if you continue to look after your savings and investments.

  7. Great point on the 120 hours per week & 4 jobs to pay down in 3 yrs. vs. 40 hours to pay down in 10. It’s very relative. Either decision is up to the individual. I believe in frugality and having a high savings rate…however, I also believe in never being in a state of want. If you want a certain item or indulgence; I believe in going for it. I was in a state of want for a Rolex Submariner for the longest time and you know what; the damn things have radical price increases every year. I finally took the plunge late last year and purchased a 2015 model in mint condition. I made that compromise but I was thrifty at the same time and saved myself $1700. from the price of a brand new one. I have ZERO regrets.
    I am using this story simply as an example to make my point. Save and save big, keep your spending down, pay down debt at a fast clip. Do all of these things but by God, if there’s something you’ve wanted for a long time and you’ve made financial sacrifices they BUY IT! You won’t regret it! This will be the subject of a future blog posting. You inspired me!

    • Exactly, if the Rolex Submariner is what you value, believe you need, and can justify the purchase. Prioritize what’s important and what’s not important to you. In the long run you’ll feel better that you made that purchase. Having said that, if you were to make that purchase by taking on debt, that’d be a completely different story.

    • Well said mr fire. I know how expensive these watches are. I too wanted one for the longest time ever(another more model). In the end i did get one when i started working. I was happy and appreciated the watch for some years. Then my taste changed and i sold it. These days i only go for casio g shock 5600 series digital watches. Love them and they last forever.

  8. Great post Tawcan on frugality and conscious spending! I’ve been following your blog for years now and your message is all about financial coherence: your spending is aligned with your values. I appreciate the optimism and empowerment in your work.

  9. “Do spend on things that you value the most. ”

    I agree wholeheartedly Bob! My post about my mountain climb in Antarctica is now my most read post and I think I hammered that point home pretty well.

    I overheard a person at work recently make a sarcastic joke about frugal people eating dinner out of a tuna can, and I just smiled with the knowledge that I was going to have a healthier and lower cost dinner than he was that evening 🙂

    • Exactly, if you value a trip to Antarctica more so you can explore down there, by all means, spend the money. And of course, make sure you have the money to spend, rather than taking on debt to do such trip.

  10. I read some articles on frugality vs cheap. I think there’s a difference. I think frugal is getting value from your purchases and living well at a lower cost. Cheap is buying something due to price and not worrying about any consequences ( if it will last or harm your health).
    When we’re younger, being cheap may not seem so bad because we think we’re indestructible. As we age, we change and choose differently due to different circumstances.
    Life is a series of choices. How we spend our money (or not) and how we benefit from that is a path we choose to take. I try to make good decisions without sacrificing health, wealth or time.

  11. I’m always surprised when people can’t make this distinction. I remember years ago talking about finances with someone, and they said they could “never live like you”, implying I just saved money and did nothing else. Pretty sure I had been on 2 Caribbean vacations that year, but I just don’t like to waste if I don’t have to.


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