Having A Plan Allows Me To Enjoy Spending Money

Next week, I’m going away to church camp as a counselor.  Yesterday, I went shopping for camp supplies with my wife and my daughter.  While they were looking for shorts in JC Penny, I walked to the other end of the mall, looking for a new printer for our home.  My old printer, which has served me faithfully for almost a decade, is sadly incompatible with Vista, the operating system on my new laptop.  Following my own $100-a-day-rule, I researched the new printer for a week, and decided to go with a Lexmark All-In-One.  I wanted a printer that could fax / scan / copy / and print – and since my “office” is now the baby’s room, I needed a compact machine that could be set up on the kitchen counter and print documents wirelessly from my home network.  (For those interested, I went with the Lexmark X9575.  It’s a nice machine and I am really digging it’s wireless functionality.)

I also purchased a new router for my home network.  My daughter now has my old laptop (connected to an external monitor) and I wanted to be able to network all of our computers.  Now, we can all share the Internet connection and the printer.  (My daughter has a webkinz pet.  Have you heard of this?  The people behind this idea are geniuses.  Sell a $1 toy for $15 – add in a few online games – and boom – you’re rich!  Amazing…)

Over the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about myself –

I do a pretty good job of saving money.  (I pay myself first, last and all along the way…)  But, I’m not particularly frugal.  I still like “stuff”.  So, I’ve managed to create a budget that allows me to both save and spend.  Being debt free allows me the option to do both.  I can save a good portion of my income, in taxable and non-taxable accounts, and I can still have enough left over to buy some nice things.  I don’t go overboard with my spending – and I never buy anything for which I have not budgeted – but I do enjoy having a few gadgets and gizmos.

When I talk to my friends about living on a budget – and saving for the future – they always assume that I’m missing out on the fun things in life.  On the contrary, I’m enjoying my life now, more than ever.  I have a plan.  I’m sticking to the plan.  And, as part of the plan, I have some discretionary spending.

My wife and I talk about this all of the time.  Instead of new cars, we’ll drive used ones.  Instead of name brand foods, we’ll eat generic.  But, we’ll also go on vacations, send our kids to camps, and buy nice things for the new baby.  I don’t even pretend to be “Mr. Frugal”.  I’d say that I’m frugal 50% of the time, practical 49% of the time, and foolhardy 1% of the time.  I guess that’s not so bad!  🙂

My goal is to live a life of balance.  I enjoy saving money – but I also enjoy spending it.  In the past, I spent with out care or thought.  Now, I still spend, but I do so only within the confines of a well-developed plan.  By planning for the occasional splurge, I can feel good about the purchases that I make, knowing that I am also responsible with my savings and retirement contributions.

(By the way, I use You Need A Budget to manage our household finances.)

What about you?  Have you found balance?  Are you a saver or a spender?  Both?  I’d love to read your comments.  Please note, comments take a few minutes to appear.  Please be patient.

11 thoughts on “Having A Plan Allows Me To Enjoy Spending Money

  1. i have not found a happy medium. well, i had…but then i unexpectedly lost my job, which really changed our position on finances. so now, we’re back to square 1 trying once again to find a happy ground and get out of debt. at heart, i am a self proclaimed shopaholic, so this is a rough transition for me. but, i also love to see our savings account grow. once we’re back to 2 incomes, we will have a somewhat happy medium of being able to knock out our debt as well as satisfy my need for shopping 🙂

  2. I’m right there with you NCN. Since I’ve paid off all of my credit card debt and my car loan, I am able to buy those “wants” every now and then. I now save up for my purchases and pay cash instead of incurring more credit card debt. This is something I could not do when I was up to my eyeballs in debt.

  3. We crawled out of the pits of debt in preparation for retirement number one about 3 years ago. We finance the big stuff….house & car. We use 0% financing to make short term purchases like the riding lawn mower, new refrigerator etc. We make sure we pay it off a couple of months before the final due date to be sure there is no way we could incur the interest. We save monthly in a variety of ways. Some is 401K, some in a mutual fund, some in “his” savings account for the BIG emergency fund, some in “her” savings account for bailing out smaller emergencies like tires, glasses, or sanity emergencies like going to a NASCAR race or something frivolous once or twice a year. We pay cash for almost everything one way or the other. We charge all of our auto gas monthly but pay off the entire balance religiously. Same thing with Target purchases. If we anticipate not being able to pay off the full balance, we don’t buy.

    We are whatever anyone wants to call us….cheap, frugal, miserly. But we have supported as many as 4 family units off of one income and still managed to pay cash somehow. So call us anything you like but don’t call us in debt because we only owe for the really big stuff.

  4. Spending money is definately more enjoyable now that we are debt free and spend money that is actually ours!

    Amazingly our 10 year old printer was still going strong too when we had to “upgrade” for a Vista compatible model. I hope that this generation of printers is as durable as the last one!

  5. You may want to re-evaluate that printer purchase… inkjet printers may have lower barrier to entry than laser, but boy-oh-boy do those inkjet cartridges get expensive.. I went with a b&w laser and have never looked back.. if I really need color, well, there’s always kinkos or such…

  6. I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum from most people — I’m a big saver, and have a hard time spending. It’s caused little money spats between my husband and I, but we’re working on something of a compromise so we can still spend a little and enjoy life without ignoring what we want in the future. 🙂 Of course, I’ve never had a problem spending my alloted $50 of fun money each paycheck, but it’s the bigger things I get hung up on. (Like my recent handbag purchase, or things I really like such as tattoos. Irresponsible to some, life’s little pleasures for me. 🙂 )

  7. I am Mr. Cheap, but being married to someone who is willing to spend money for quality experiences keeps us both grounded! It works out awesome that way.

    I agree that being debt free and having a plan is much more fun that being in debt and doing whatever we want. The cool part is that you have the freedom to do more things and when you buy/do them you can feel totally positive about spending the money. There is no waiting for the credit card bill or feelings of regret.

  8. Can you explain your $100/day rule? I think I might know if it has anything to do with paralysis by analysis.

    We are in pretty good shape with debt, our only outstanding now besides the house is one car. I have had trouble with spending, more specifically, not spending — it used to kill me to spend anything extra. My wife, OTOH, has been more of a free-wheeling spender. Over the years I’ve become more comfortable with spending while she’s gotten better at a little delayed gratification. I feel I’ve finally gotten to the point where you are, NCN.

    We found and started using You Need A Budget a couple months ago and love it. The freedom of knowing where our money goes and having a well-thought-out plan for our money for the month is a wonderful thing.

  9. I am married to Mr. Scrimp and I’m Mrs Save, but I definitely spend way more than my DH. I enjoy spending money and having a nicer lifestyle. Sure saving is great, but I want bang for the buck! I mean honestly what’s the point of buying something cheap to replace later?

    Or why not buy something expensive, wii when it came out, for the hours of pleasure we’ve gotten? Sure it was and is pricy and the games $50, but I cannot count the hours of fun we’ve had with each other and our friends.

    My mom says spend while people are alive to enjoy it, you can’t from the grave. She’s never been big on debt but she does believe in living well.

  10. Lexmark X9575 is indeed a very useful gadget particularly when you wanted all the functions viz copy/scan/fax/print. Yes indeed a comprehensive budget planning helps you to spend in a right proportion to your income and also only for useful aspects. This certainly reduces your irrelevant expenditure making you left with more money which is the result why you live happily as you feel relaxed all the time. As Thomas Huxley says: “Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely.”

  11. Excellent article. It is so easy to get on one side of the spectrum or the other. I’ve naturally seen many people who spend far more than they should, but I’ve also seen people who feel very guilty after any small purchase. Balance is needed and you make good suggestions.

    My wife and I tend to spend money on travel rather than things. Even there, we are frugal and tend to be able to do a lot more than others for a lot less because we are wise with our spending.

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