Just spend the money? Why the answer to Mr. Money Moustache is not Spend All the Things.

(Yet another ‘moderation in all things’ post from Grumpy Rumblings, but it’s been a while)

Recently it seems like a lot of mommy bloggers have been reading frugal living blogs, looking at their finances, realizing they’re not saving for the future to the extent they’d like to be.  Often, in the comments section without knowing anything about the bloggers’ income, net worth, or fixed costs, commenters say, “Buy that latte, spend money on that vacation, buy those clothes, get that babysitter, spend spend spend.  It’s worth it.”

And maybe that’s the right answer and the blogger is brainwashed unnecessarily by reading too many ultra-frugal-living blogs.  Or maybe that’s a terrible answer and the commenter makes a lot more or has way smaller fixed expenses or is in terrible financial shape.  Each person’s individual situation is different.  Each person has a different budget constraint.  Without knowing the actual situation, it is likely to be terrible advice that will make it more difficult for the blogger to get into good financial shape or will make the blogger feel bad for trying to get into good financial shape (or both!)

Something that seems to be missing from a lot of these posts, both mommy blogging and the bigger personal finance blogs is old fashioned “make a budget advice.”  With GRS gone downhill, we just don’t see these posts anymore on a regular basis.  You know, the ones that talk about how much to save when you’re not planning on early retirement, where you learn to make a budget, or discuss the pros and cons of taking directly out of your paycheck instead of having a budget etc.  It seems like everyone is strapped onto the frugality at all costs bandwagon or is reacting against that and suggesting that the answer is always to throw money at things.  Like there’s even more bifurcation in the PF blogosphere and less moderation than there used to be.  Maybe we’re just not looking in the right places, but that’s what our little corner of the internet looks like these days.

In reality, the choice isn’t “spend all the things” vs. “spend none of the things.”  Spending today means you’re making trade-offs for spending tomorrow.  The more you spend today, the less you will have to spend tomorrow.  That’s just a reality.  Those manicures or vacations or nice cars or meals out will have different trade-offs depending on your overall income and current savings/debt level.  It might mean less in your will, or retiring to Florida instead of California, or your kids taking out loans for school, or having to work a few more years, or not being able to change jobs when you have a terrible boss, or having to take out a loan to fix your a/c, or fighting with your spouse, or living in your parents’ basement in the event of a job loss (which might mean that your parents have to put off their own retirements because you didn’t save), or losing your house, or not being able to afford meat after you’re unable to find work.  Some of these trade-offs may be worth it, some of them may not.  Your income and savings determine the trade-offs being made.  You get to pick which choice in each trade-off to make based on your preferences.

On top of the explicit trade-offs with tomorrow’s spending, being in good financial shape (having retirement savings, low required monthly outflows compared to your inflows, and a nice emergency fund) just gives so much peace of mind.  I hated having to worry any time the check battery light would go on or we’d have a home repair, or a reimbursement would come slowly or someone would charge us incorrectly on a bill (or worse, screw up a paycheck!).  Peace of mind that it’s just money and we can afford it is worth forgoing fancy vacations for a few years to me.

I think there’s need for some more fundamentals of money management posts out there that aren’t just “don’t spend anything.”  “Don’t spend anything” is necessary for some people (and, given widening income gap in the US, for far too many people) and not spending is just the natural way of being for others, but by far the majority of people reading these blogs are in the situation where they have to think about at least some of our their spending.  The money won’t just take care of itself.  But there’s also no reason to cut spending to the bone.

Side note:  To be honest, I feel a little out of place commenting on these discussions now because we’ve made a commitment to spending more than we earn this year (since I’m at half pay this year while our expenses have doubled or tripled).   We’ve been at the “don’t spend anything” point and at the “don’t worry about money” point (though not completely– we haven’t yet been able to pull the trigger on a kitchen remodel– that may take another year or two).  But by far the majority of our lives (adult and otherwise) have been in that murky “you can have anything but you can’t have everything” stage where we have to think about things and make choices.  Of the three stages, “make way more than your fixed expenses so you don’t have to think about things” is by far the best place to be.  But it takes a lot of work and a lot of luck to get there.  And, being honest, “don’t spend anything” kind of sucks, though it doesn’t suck as much as it could– the trick being that it only sucks less when you know it is temporary and for a good cause and that the future will be brighter.  I’m all for temporary Dave Ramsey style saving blitzes to get into the black and on the road to investment.  Mostly I’m for having done that in the past!  But that’s the point, that they’re temporary and the future is brighter the earlier you do them (and now is the best time to start).

Although it seems like our last ‘moderation in all things’ post was about 3 years ago, we’ve got a bunch of them:

Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam and Expanded ramblings on extreme living

Is it ok for personal finance bloggers to be balanced?

Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire (this one was written before DH’s new job, so the numbers have changed, but the ideas are still the same)

Why we pre-paid our mortgage early on, but didn’t just pre-pay it (and now we’re no longer pre-paying it, partly because we’re in a better financial situation!)

Why you shouldn’t spend all your money on experiences (or on stuff)!

Why are our stop feeling guilty and relax posts so popular?

Two related posts:  Satisficing as a life philosophy and There is no best

Why it’s ok to buy a new car (or a used car, whichever)

In the near future, I will collect posts on different kinds of budgets and different ways of spending/budgeting (including couples’ finances!), and I’ll point out some classic Get Rich Slowly posts that are well worth reading.  If there are gaps in that list that I see, then I will try to find some time to come up with some new posts to fill in those gaps.  I’ve resisted doing a 30 days to better finances series because people are so different and different things work for different people at different stages of their lives, but maybe I should dig that out and try again.

Do you have a handle on your finances?  Do you balance fun spending and future spending?  Are you happy with your balance?  Do you feel like you need to cut back or loosen up?

77 Responses to “Just spend the money? Why the answer to Mr. Money Moustache is not Spend All the Things.”

  1. taylorqlee Says:

    I err on the save a lot side when it comes to spending money (you know, minus this summer when my entire life collapsed on itself). I focus pretty strongly on FI/RE, though that’s largely because I don’t enjoy working. Also because not having money is a huge stress trigger for me, so in the end scrounging up that financial cushion is pivotal to my mental health.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    I am very very glad for several things that I did as my young self that make life so much easier now that I am 20 years out of school.

    Here is the list of things that really moved the needle for me:
    1) picked a profession that had a high job placement rate and paid well.
    2) saved 15% for retirement from the first paycheck..because my pay was still a lot more than a college student so I didn’t miss it.
    3) married a spouse with like minded financial goals, work ethic, and values.
    4) don’t buy stuff til you have the cash to pay for it. (Can be experience or stuff.or repairs…preventative maintenance and planning for end of life on major things prevents a lot of surprises.)
    5) don’t be house poor. (Ie, give yourself a buffer in case of job loss)
    6) save an emergency fund slowly in a place you won’t be temped to use it (like bonds or a hard to access account)

    That is the magic formula that works for my life. Although everyone is different, I can see most of these things as easily adoptable. The one trade off that I didn’t make that a lot of people do is giving up an income to be home with the kids. This is usually the one big thing that many people think is worth the risk…but I grew up with a working mom and a deadbeat dad, so being able to provide trumped being available 24/7.

    Good post.

  3. Mrs PoP Says:

    I personally feel like we’ve got a pretty decent balance in our lives of spending where it’s important to us, and not spending where it’s not. That means we end up spending at about the same rate as a household with median income, but we save a lot because we’ve been fortunate and our careers have gone well so far and our income is significantly higher than it was when we just started out and got comfortable at the “median income” spend level and felt no need to inflate our lifestyle significantly.

    So yes, we save a lot and some folks lump us in with MMM because of that. But we have no problems spending on luxuries (hello $950 glasses!) when they’re well-considered and we feel worth the value to us. =/

  4. Jeannine Says:

    I am so happy you all are doing this series! it comes at the perfect time for me: after 8 years of rice and beans (grad school) when I started to make an actual income and partnered with someone with an actual income, I’ve been able to save a ton and still pretty much buy whatever I really wanted, when I wanted without having to think about it too much for about 6 years. But now that we’re starting to think about buying a house (cheap market, but still), I’m starting to feel the need to make some kind of plan for a thoughtful approach to managing money. All that to say, thank you!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Do you have any specific questions you want answered?

      • Jeannine Says:

        not yet! mainly my problem is that I have no psychological relationship to money than either it’s of absolutely no concern, or I’m terrified of going into debt so I’m in total deprivation mode. The potential for a mortgage is a middle ground that I have no experience negotiating and that is going to throw my two modes out of whack; for the time being, I’m just looking for a third mode.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I *totally* get that. I’ve found the going from “no concern” to “middle ground” to be pretty irritating– it is much more fun to go from “total deprivation” to “middle ground.” (Several of our “mortgage” posts talk about getting ready for DH to be unemployed, dealing with his unemployment, and then saving up for leave… You may also want to check out the “financial fire drill” post, including predicted housing expenses.)

      • Ana Says:

        “no pyschological relationship with money”. This is EXACTLY how I felt before I “embarked on this financial health journey”. I went straight from spend nothing because spending=bad to not caring because “we are making good money” without much realization of what was actually happening behind the scenes.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The one thing that I think Suze Orman is good on is the psychological relationship with money. (She’s terrible on specifics!) I think a lot of the other pf gurus tell you their money psychology and make everything black and white but don’t necessarily get into a healthy relationship mindset. (Elizabeth Warren is really balanced too, though still limiting– her system doesn’t really imagine a happy Mr. Money Moustache.)

      • Jeannine Says:

        (I can only reply here instead of below your comms) thank you n&m and ana–am oddly reaffirmed in hearing that finding a middle ground wasn’t easy…I’ve been feeling like childish, petulant almost, in reaction to how not-evident it is for me to wrap my head around it. I have the grs fire drill open and will sit down with spouse to do it before we go to any more open houses so we know what our actual price range for a house is–thanks!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Most of the online calculators tell you to buy too much house– we made that mistake ourselves, though fortunately we bought based on my salary alone, not knowing if DH would get a job. So in the end it was affordable. Still way bigger than we needed though!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Also another mistake we made– don’t forget to factor in insurance and taxes into your monthly payment. Most online calculators don’t give that and that is a third of our payment!

  5. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    Having a balance is what frugality is about for me. I’m not against spending on things that are important for us; I’m against spending on things that are wasteful and not important for us. Now that we are earning a little more, we’re spending a little more too. As long as we are meeting our savings goals, I don’t stress too much about it anymore.

  6. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD Says:

    It almost gives me hives to spend money on non-food things, so that’s pretty much my saving strategy: don’t buy something unless the need for it (like, my kids outgrew their shoes) outweighs the hives. We almost never go out to eat because of food allergies. I also sale-stockpile clothing for the kids; I bought seven pairs of good shoes in ascending sizes, on clearance, and when the kid outgrows one, I pull out the next one. So far it’s been three years on the same shoe stockpile. We have taken one fancy vacation in ten years of marriage, and even then we stayed with friends.

    One day when I have a stable (or more stable) job I feel like it’ll be less hive-y to buy things. And when the spouse was a postdoc and our income was HALF what it is now we did live like we were flat broke and therefore managed to save a quarter of it ($41k/year before taxes) and pay off $30k of mortgage principal in 3 years. And it kind of sucked. So this is still better than that. We have never had any debt aside from houses, from a combination of frugality, luck, scholarships, and solidly middle class parents. My spouse almost never buys anything aside from milk and maybe a beer once a month -that’s how our marital division of labor plays out- so it’s a little more stressful for me because I’m making virtually all the buying decisions on everything from groceries to big ticket repairs and renovations.

    So, I think we have a good balance but having a second income would make each buying choice less stressful. And, of course, we’d like to save/invest more and build up the kids’ college funds a little more.

    Side note: my spouse’s employer holds our mortgage – yes, directly- at such a low interest rate that it’s not worth it to prepay; instead weminvst any surplus.

  7. Ana Says:

    I 100% agree. I was going to write an ode to budgets sometimes soon. Its so not “extreme” or “radical” so it doesn’t make for great blogging, I guess. I think budgeting is the only thing that will work for us right now. It also takes the moral dilemma out of every single purchase (there are still moral dilemmas re: purchases, but a lot less!). Does it fit the budget? Yes/no. It also relieves a LOT of my angst about spending (I was freaking out last week because I hadn’t updated our spending/budget, once I got around to it, I felt so much better).
    I am however, not pleased to be called a “mommy blogger”.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think the budget just isn’t “in”–it has been in style in the past, but ultra frugality seems to be the in thing these days. Looking forward to your ode!

      On the topic of mommy blogging, what would you prefer to be called? (You’re also a academic blogger and a medical blogger and starting to be pf so not a monolith. Maybe that makes you a lifestyle blogger?). https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/are-all-bloggers-who-are-mothers-mommy-bloggers-also-how-do-you-feel-about-the-term-mommy/

      • middle_class Says:

        How about calling those blogs as parenting blogs? I know there’s a lot more to those blogs besides parenting, but the term “mommy blog” can sound condescending.

      • Ana Says:

        Yeah, I’d rather be an “working mother” blog or “parenting” blog, the term “mommy blog” to me is associated with a certain type of cutesy blog made me a SAHM who calls it her “work” and is heavy with millions of staged photos, chevron/glitter, poop stories, and cheesy “inspirational quotes”. Lifestyle blog…no. In my mind, that category is associated with basically selling a curated, aspirational, consumerist existence—again with millions of staged pictures, shopping links, pinterest-y recipes and home decor. (maybe I’ve spent too much time on GOMI)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        you’re definitely a working mother and that’s a subset of blogs… though this ultra-frugality fad is definitely not limited to working mother blogs– there’s a lot of SAHM blogs (of the type you describe) talking about it as well (along with the Marie Kondo book that is also really in!) — selling minimalism… it’s kind of ironic, but they do get free stuff and money for those posts

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Also, before I forget– definitely post that ode to budgets– I think you could reach a lot of people. Maybe you’ll spark a new fad!

    • Rosa Says:

      I feel like I spend a lot of time telling friends with relationship issues “You two should sit down and make a budget so you don’t have to fight over every spending decision.” And they’re all like NOOOOOO that sounds hard! Plus my spouse just thinks I should never get any money for my stuff!

      But it is really nice to have that document of how much money there is, where it’s going, and what the agreement was about how that would work. Even if getting there is hard. It’s not that a budget cured all our money fights, but it did corral 90% of them into the time/space we put into negotiating, making, and evaluating the budget, instead of letting them all spill out into every part of our relationship. I mean, fine, we disagree on how much we need in savings and how much to give to charity and what counts as an expensive restaurant, but we compromised and wrote the compromises down as hard dollar figures so we don’t have to refight those fights every time we make a spending or donating decision.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Absolutely! There’s not much point in arguing if people don’t even know what the facts are, and when the facts are there it is much better to solve actual problems if there are any.

      • Rosa Says:

        I would have thought this was something that didn’t happen in our era of no-fault divorce and online bank statements, but I’ve recently had several friends find out terrible financial secrets about their spouses in the process of divorce. Hidden debts are more of a practical problem but hidden assets seem like more of a betrayal – a pre-emptive strike against your partner. Making a budget might not have helped because the deception was deliberate, but INSISTING on a budget and stuff like “let me see the tax statements” and “what is your actual paycheck, honey?” would have, at the very least, gotten them on a basis of honesty many years sooner.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s so sad. :(

      • Linda Says:

        Does it make me a terrible person that the first thing I did when I knew I had to file for divorce was check the important financial files — tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, etc — and put scanned copies on a thumb drive. My ex didn’t try to hide anything, thank goodness, but having experienced my father doing that to me and my mother…I wanted to be prepared when I went to the lawyer. :-/

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think that makes you smart and wise. :/

  8. Solitary Diner Says:

    Great post. I’m looking forward to slowly making my way through the links (or possibly binge reading all of them, as I’m on vacation and have nothing planned for the day).

    My relationship with money has completely changed over the past year, as I’ve gone from spending as much as I want (and racking up debt) to restricting my spending in the hope of someday paying off that debt. Initially, I went the ultra frugal route and spent almost nothing on non-essentials, which was good for developing frugal habits, but not so much for enjoying life. Since then, I’ve gradually figured out how much I can spend while still making a solid dent in the debt, and I’ve loosened up with the spending, which feels good. I still feel anxious about money, even when my spending is under budget, but this is something I’m working on. I’m sure it’ll get better once I settle into my permanent job and have a better sense of how much I’ll be making long term.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      There’s a lot to be said for a short-term minimal-spending blitz while you’re in the getting rid of high interest debt and getting on firm financial footing stage. It’s way easier to relax when you have money in the bank and have limited your monthly nut to something reasonable.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    I’m currently in a less-spending phase. Although my pension income is higher than my work income was that last year (actually the gross is about the same, but they don’t take out Social Security or pension money), I’m still bringing home only $2031/month (+health and dental insurance). And although my house is paid off, I’m paying for all the expenses and taxes and utilities right now while my boyfriend is unemployed.

    Which doesn’t mean I’m not buying expensive things! I’m buying Spanish classes at the local community college for both me an my boyfriend and seriously considering buying an iPad just to play video games on, but that money is coming out of my vacation fund, so this year we’re only taking in-state vacations.

    It also helps that I already have everything I need (I’m old enough to have accumulated way too much, in fact) and am only in replacement/maintenance mode for most things.

    In other news, a moderation blog I like who you might not have heard of is Saving Money in Your Twenties.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Maybe you can make extra money by selling some of that excess stuff :-)

      • Debbie M Says:

        It sure sounds like a good idea, but in practice, by the time I’m ready to get rid of something, it’s considered useless or worse. Even my best, high-quality non-worn clothes are not acceptable at all to the only resale shop I could find that claimed it specialized in “classic” clothes but in fact only wants clothes you just bought at the mall yesterday. The $90 sneakers that seemed good in the store but not on my first run and that I couldn’t find the receipt for after nine months of looking got me $5–I should have dug out the arch supports and kept them for myself. I no longer have any interest in selling things (except I still bring my books to Half-Price for a few cents). I donate and try to low-ball the estimate for tax purposes.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, I mostly donate too. Just get the tax receipt and get on with life.

  10. crazy grad mama Says:

    I love budgeting, because I find it very calming to keep careful track of our money. (I was actually thinking about posting about my method soon – it’s nothing fancy, pretty much just an Excel spreadsheet version of the envelope method.) We’re at the stage where we can afford some nice things, but definitely not all the nice things, which means I sometimes have to rein in my husband’s desire to buy shiny new tech and fancy foods. In general, though, we spend where it makes a real impact on our well-being (e.g., paying more in rent to avoid crazy-making neighbors).

  11. xykademiqz Says:

    I came across the twitter feed of Mr Money Moustache’s wife (she is quite beautiful btw). One pic shows her cutting her hair — wet hair in a pony tail on top of head, bent over, and then using a big pair of scissors to cut off part of the pony tail. The caption is “A great day for a haircut.”
    There is never, never, a need to do that. Cutting hair, even well, is not rocket science, I have cut hair of many of my friends and family and even made some money doing so. I bet there are friends who would do it cheaply or for free for her. Supercuts costs like $10. That’s when I realized it has nothing to do with being mindful of spending or about being frugal, it’s extreme living for the sake of extreme living bullshit. In other words, there is nothing of interest for me there.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      And being able to cut your own hair with no training is also dependent on having certain kinds of hair or certain styles. It would never work on my hair, for example.

      • Katherine Says:

        I agree that cutting your own hair is never necessary. That said, I would totally do it if that haircut would work for my hair. As it is, I get my mom to cut my hair for me once a year or so (and sometimes I cut hers, too). When I had bangs, I trimmed them myself. Getting my hair cut at a haircutting place just really stresses me out. I’m not quite sure how to talk about what I want, and I think the whole tipping thing and chatting with a hairstylist I don’t know is super awkward.

    • chacha1 Says:

      as someone who cuts her hair roughly the same way as Mrs. MM, I have to disagree. :-) It’s got nothing to do with extreme living – it’s being disinclined to spend even $10 (it’s twice that, at least, in L.A. and probably 3x since I’m a woman) plus two precious hours of leisure time going out to the mall to get a “professional” haircut that will look just the same as what I do at home. This is what’s called “allocation.” I’d rather spend that $10 and two hours on a cheap lunch out with one of my friends (none of whom cut hair except the one who lives 50 miles away). p.s. I do my own nails, too.

    • Revanche Says:

      It’s possible that you’re right about the reason Mrs. MM does it but personally I wouldn’t want to be relegated to the ‘Extreme Frugality’ dustbin for something like that :D

      I do my own bangs, badly, badly enough that the usual stylist I see asked who did this to my hair ;) and still, if I could cut my own hair, I would. It costs me 1-2 hours and $65 for any professional stylist, or $15 and 3.5 hours for a student (dammit, Bay Area!) and I honest to goodness just do not care enough about my hair to spend that kind of time on it. I will when I have to venture out and give a talk but not in my usual day to day. Also my energy is incredibly limited so even leaving the house takes a toll. It’s got to be something really worth it to justify using that energy and haircuts just don’t meet that standard.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        This is why my hair gets really ratty before my *cough* annual haircut. Maybe I should look into the pony tail method!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Pony tail wearing, sure! Pony tail cutting, maybe not…

        Anyway, what I need someone else to do to my hair takes skill. I don’t just need it shorter, I need it thinned out (it’s VERY thick and unwieldy and will quickly turn a weird shape if you don’t do it right).

      • Rosa Says:

        I have really straight, thin hair and the pointy-headed ponytail cutting works really well on it – gives it slight layers & gets all the bad ends off. I used to give myself a fake razor cut when those were popular, in a similar way – turn head upside down, chop kind of randomly, go right side up, trim anything that’s super uneven.

        It just depends on your hair type. A friend of mine with wavy hair, his mom used to do the whole family’s hair with a Flowbee and they all always looked cute – fade on the bottom, longer & curly on top.

    • bogart Says:

      Count me among those who would, indeed, may try that method. Very happy to avoid the hassle of going in for a haircut (I also change my own oil for the same reason — would rather crawl under the car than sit in Jiffy Lube).

      Shortly after my son was born, when my tolerance for dealing with stupid (to me) stuff like going to get my hair cut was unusually low even by my standards, I took my (wonderful!) dog clippers, bought a 1.5″ spacer, and buzzed my own hair. It was great — so easy, and sure, I had a terrible haircut for a month but then it looked just like it does after I get a pro to do it short. And I could have done that forever, with no hassle involved. And I have to admit I don’t think it’s my responsibility not to have a “terrible” haircut, if “terrible” is defined as unattractive to other people. But I have succumbed to the pressure exerted by my husband and my mother and don’t do it. I do, however, blame the patriarchy.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        stupid patriarchy
        without it I would never have to shave
        ugh
        stupid shaving

      • xykademiqz Says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I have cut my own hair, but not the ponytail way. As I said, I spent a lot of time in college cutting people’s hair and I have a whole ensemble of stylists’ scissors and clippers (such as the ones for thinning hair, with a rectangular sawtooth shape, that N&M mentions above). If I have enough mirrors and time, I can do my own hair to look very much like from the salon and I cut it pretty much like in the salon (arms start hurting after a while, though).

        When I saw the Mrs MM picture, I was just shocked — it looks very pilgrimy. And I guarantee that cutting hair with random questionably sharp scissors, and especially when cutting a thick piece of hair like a ponytail, really damages the ends (think sawing through a log). You need to cut with proper scissors.

        I didn’t realize so many people abhor going to a stylist. I have long hair and have it cut 2x per year, to me that’s not too onerous, either in terms of money or time, to get a professional cut (and I like my stylist so I certainly don’t mind chatting with her for 30 minutes 2x a year). Or get a friend to cut it, one thin strand at a time, and with proper scissors.

      • chacha1 Says:

        I have to trim mine every 4-6 weeks in order to keep it at the length that is Long But Not Constantly Annoying. (It would be short if there were not a hair fetishist in my household.) I also color my own, because getting it professionally colored would be at least $100, again every 4-6 weeks, and a minimum of three hours each time, and not my idea of fun.

        My free time is worth at least twice as much to me as my work time, I refuse to spend it on something so easily done at home.

    • Kathryn K. Says:

      De-lurking to say that cutting my own hair is one of the frugality lines I won’t cross personally, although I will happily do things like wash out sandwich bags and just replaced an 80s? (it had fake wood-grained paneling) tube TV that finally bit the dust with another tube TV we had had gotten for free.

      If cutting your own hair works for you great, but of the pics I’ve seen people put up of their haircuts, I haven’t seen any that look that good. Mrs. Frugalwoods (who I like because while she’s pretty extreme herself she’s also very live and let live) put up a pic fairly recently showing her hair after her husband cut it, and even for a long straight haircut it left a lot to be desired IMO.

  12. chacha1 Says:

    I’m financially stressed right now because 1. $6000 out of pocket for hysterectomy (from HSA) 2. $7000 for tuition 3. $12,000 for a not-so-old car. The tuition and car will be paid off by the end of next April and at that point I should have a completely different outlook. Right now I’m at the “buying skirt steak instead of filet mignon” stage.

  13. Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

    Excited for this series! I like when these things are easy to find. :) Also, unlike other internet-related things that I use to occupy my brain sometimes, finance-related things are never blocked at work! Our IT people block EVERYTHING else that is fun.

    I feel generally OK about my spending habits – I got myself back on the budget wagon after my bank stopped working with Mint, and I switched over to You Need a Budget (which I LOVE even more than Mint, even though I had to pay for it). I’ve made solid progress on some financial goals I have and also found out that I’m getting my current job’s funding agency to pay off a big chunk of student loans over the next 2 years (which doesn’t affect my payments now, but will later!). Yes, it means I am stuck in a relatively low-paying job for 2 more years. But, that was probably going to happen anyway so I can get the job I really want, not just the job I can get.

    My situation is pretty boring, though – no kids, renting a great place at a steal because it allows flexibility over the next few years, and still driving my junky old car. I spend a little bit on things that make me happy, but I have a “treat yo’self” category (Parks and Rec, anyone?) that I fill based on other goals related to home things, work things, and getting myself to work out. That, I have realized, is essential to getting me to stay on budget. I don’t feel deprived because I have fun money. Woo!

  14. Linda Says:

    I’m fairly happy with the balance I have going right now re: spending and saving. Except for when I want something fairly expensive (like a house) and realize that I don’t have enough money to put 20% down in the this market (outskirts of Bay Area) in a location where I would want to live…unless it was a fixer upper, and then I’d still run short of money to do the fixing up.

    My income allows me to live a fairly comfy life here as long as I don’t do any big splurges like take a non-local vacation, buy a new car, or buy a house. I do need new living room furniture (the Ikea couch and loveseat are about 14 years old now) which won’t be cheap (I want to get better than Ikea this time), but I still have to figure out where/what I like that I can buy.

    It would be nice to have more money saved that could be used for a down payment if I do want to buy a house, but I haven’t made that enough of a priority to override my desire to still eat really good food regularly.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, we have some friends who are paper millionaires because they bought in the Bay Area during the last recession. What that means is the value of their housing has doubled from 800K to 2 million(!) If we sold our current 3000 sq ft house for the full assessed value and didn’t have any mortgage left, we still wouldn’t have enough money for a downpayment on a bay area house.

  15. VeggieDinner Says:

    I agree that something is missing from the early retirement versus throw money at it/you deserve it spectrum. I, too, once enjoyed GRS then lost interest a few years ago. I cycle through phases during which I cannot get enough of MMM or FrugalWoods or the like. What I like most about your posts is that they are inspired by your real life decisions. I like reading about the decision-making process and whether or not you were pleased with the outcome. I cannot relate as much to the blogs that convey 110% certainty with their decisions and imply that everyone else can/should do the same, whether it is saving more, spending more, or losing weight*. The problem with reading MMM or a polar opposite who encourages spending (or getting swept away in comments) is that you don’t know to whom you are comparing yourself. So much of internet comparisons about money hide the reference group: Is this a true peer with similar salary, debt, and values? Or is this someone who approaches these decisions very differently and has different satisfaction levels with the outcomes.

    *Related, I didn’t chime in on your comments post last week but found it thought-provoking. I asked myself why I don’t comment when I strongly disagree, as is the case with blog posts on blogs I’d like to read but might have to stop, because I don’t like reading about minor, as opposed to life-saving, weight loss endeavors. It’s like high school eating disorders have reared their ugly head 20+ years later..or perhaps they never go away, and we need to have a much deeper cultural conversation about this. I think the answer is that I spend enough time debating and negotiating in my work and home life. I don’t want to spend the energy to craft a thoughtful comment and be prepared to engage in follow up if I’m challenged. I don’t have the mental bandwidth to tackle a topic as loaded as highly educated, healthy (even fit and athletic) women in their late 30s and 40s agonizing over weight and looking to the internet to applaud them for a certain eating/exercise regime. This is all to say that I think yours is one of the few blogs where I find the comments section to be respectful enough that I would stick my neck out and comment when I endorse (yeah financial balance posts to come) or strongly disagree with something.

  16. Noemi James Says:

    Thank you for putting all those links up there. You guys are always great at providing links.

    I read the first ones and I didn’t feel like I saw myself in either of your categories. I’m (obviously) not super-frugal (understatement of the year) but I’m just as certainly not a high-powered career woman. It seems that was my first financial mistake–choosing a profession that is best known for its poor earnings. Well done me.

    I’m not trying to save for early retirement but I’m not outsourcing so I can be more successful in my career. I’m just trying to find that elusive (so far for us) balance that will allow us to keep the life we currently have.

    The truth is, I was never taught any of this stuff, at least not until it was much, much too late. My parents taught me not to bounce a check and to always pay off my VISA bill and I did those things (the vast majority oft the time), but no one ever told me to save money for a rainy day or invest early or anything like that. I don’t understand how I wasn’t taught these things since my parents knew to do it themselves. Maybe they assumed I’d just learned it, because they did? Except they learned it by never having enough growing up, and then to compensate for that they always gave me too much, but never taught me the lesson that growing up with not enough teaches you. I literally grew up assuming money would never be an issue for me, that I would earn enough to have the life I wanted (which I don’t consider extravagant by any measure). I honestly think I believed (without realizing it) that my husband would make the big money and my salary would be more like a discretionary fund, just like it was for my parents (my mother was also a teacher). But that wasn’t at all the case. And now I’m stuck with a job that is supposed to support us when I never considered it needing to do that. I feel like such an asshat for believing all that now… what was I thinking?

    I’m going to write a post on this soon. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to teach my kids about money, and how I want to start doing it right away.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That post is a bit older, I think from before you even started this iteration on your blog. Most middle class people are in your situation.

      A good reminder that I will need to teach my kids about money.

  17. femmefrugality Says:

    We lived in deprivation mode for a long while. We’re just starting to get to a truly balanced place now. It’s kind of really nice. We do do vacations, but don’t do things like new clothes (unless absolutely necessary and then it’s mostly consignment/resale,) salon visits ever, etc etc. Value-based spending. And I’m totally okay with taking a break at a beach once a year as long as it’s budgeted for and the future is getting proportionally (or slightly disproportionately) taken care of, too. Some things are worth it; what’s worth it depends on who you are. And if you can afford it even if it’s worth it depends on how low you’ve got those expenses vs. your income.

    So a long way of essentially saying ditto?

  18. Worth It, Reasonable and The Whole Picture | Not a Wasted Word Says:

    […] the sentiments of a comment they left on Ana’s post last week (and was expanded upon in a post put up yesterday). In the end, the answer to the question, Should I spend? is never justified (at […]

  19. Abigail @ipickuppennies Says:

    I fall squarely in the middle of the two schools of thought. My husband deserves partial blame/credit. He’s convinced me that some things *are* worth the money. So we have a vacation fund for a (small) trip at least once a year. Even if it’s just to Vegas for a couple of days.

    He’s also convinced me to spend on some conveniences for sanity’s sake. When you have health problems and/or disabilities, you have to reevaluate what you can do yourself and what you should just pay someone else for. So after years of arguments, I finally relented and we have a water service. (The stuff here in Phoenix is, to use the technical term, icky — even after filtering.)

    I hate spending money that could otherwise go to savings, but we get a commensurate amount of ease/enjoyment from the various things we’ve decided to pay for. So I admit that he has a point. Just don’t tell him that.

    Many people would look at our version of frugality and decry it. But my focus is frugality in an imperfect world. And we are deeply imperfect.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have an under the sink filter and a shower filter because the water is terrible. It works really well (much better than brita). One of our friends has an entire house water filter, which is a lot more expensive but also works really well.

  20. Grumpy Rumblings 2015 Year in blogging | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] The busiest day of the year was August 3rd with 1,587 views. The most popular post that day was Just spend the money? Why the answer to Mr. Money Moustache is not Spend All the Things. […]

  21. We are not Mr. Money Moustache | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] In case there are widespread misunderstandings, we thought we’d clarify a few things.  We are not the FrugalWoods.  We are not Mr. Money Moustache.  We don’t think you need to spend nothing.  (Nor do we think you need to outsource everything!) […]


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