How to spend money (even if you think you shouldn’t)

Last year the zipper on my winter coat broke. Not before time, mind you; I'd had it so long that I couldn't remember exactly when I bought it. My best guess is 25 years.

Gut reaction: Oh no! I can't afford a new coat. But of course I could. I have a regular writing gig. Yet I actually thought about getting a seamstress to put in a new zipper.

Folks, this coat wasn't classy even when it was new way back in the mid-1980s. It was a navy blue, butt-length cloth coat with a hood, bought from the clearance rack for about $40. After a couple of dozen years of wear it was fraying badly, especially around the cuffs and pockets.

Paying for a new zipper would have been like putting a new door on a condemned property. Why not apply that money toward a new garment?

  • Because I was used to doing without.
  • Because I was afraid I couldn't afford it.
  • Because I was afraid, period.

Call it a scarcity mentality, call it cheapskatery, call Dr. Phil and have him work me over. The fact is, I had trouble spending money because I remembered the time when I had nothing.

Still Stuck in the Pain

Like someone who'd gone through the Great Depression, I was afraid to loosen the purse strings. Sometimes I still am. And I'm not alone.

Mind Over MoneyPlenty of the folks body-slammed by the current recession are also fearful, according to Dr. Ted Klontz, co-author of Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health. Even after their finances improve, he says, it's likely that some “are going to have a lot of difficulty (taking) care of themselves and their families in reasonable ways.”

Spending after a financial crisis is like dating after a divorce, Klontz says. “It's a natural process to restrict it, because you don't want to go through the pain again. What that would tell me is that you're still stuck in the pain associated with that time.”

He's right. To me, hitting the mall would have been as unnatural as signing up for one of those online dating sites. (Even though I do enjoy foreign films, taking long walks on the beach at sunset and reading to orphans.)

After a day or two I came to my senses and got a replacement coat. (More on that later.) It was a good sign that my personal improvement program — aka “Get a grip, Freedman!” — was taking hold.

Before you judge me too harshly, know this: If you've never done without, you have no idea how hard it can be to believe — to really BELIEVE — that the wolf is nowhere near your door.

Instead, you remain in frugal lockdown. You pay the bills, allow for a bare minimum of necessities, and hoard the rest in case something bad happens.

Knowing You Have Enough

These days I think in terms of living mindfully, which some people call living intentionallyi.e., thinking hard about wants and needs and then meeting them in a low-cost, preferably low-impact way.

In other words, I'm not hoarding every dime because something bad might happen. I'm saving so that something good will happen, such as buying a home of my own. In the short term, I'm using a portion of saved funds to do some of the things I want, such as traveling — or buying a coat. (We'll get to that soon. Honest.)

What helped me, and what might help you, was creating a “spending intention statement.” Financial adviser Spencer Sherman suggests making a list of all the basics (including an emergency fund and a retirement fund), plus categories for long-term savings and charity. Pay those bills/honor those commitments each month. Congratulations — you're solvent!

“If you're saving money and you're giving some money away, that's telling you you've got enough — the rest of the money, you can spend,” says Sherman, author of The Cure for Money Madness: Break Your Bad Money Habits, Live Without Financial Stress — and Make More Money!.

So once I've paid my monthly bills, filled the larder with frugal vittles, mailed a check to an elderly relative, set aside money for quarterly taxes, and seen automated monthly savings siphoned off into an online bank, I know that whatever's left over is mine to enjoy.

Sort of.

Where Your Money Goes — and Where it Stays

Should I really want to use up every dime? Should anyone, especially if you're in debt, recently out of debt, or the kind of person who, before layoff, always spent like a sailor on shore leave?

Nope. And nope. That's where the big, bad B-word comes in. Two B-words, actually: budget and balance.

A “spending intention statement” is just a highfalutin synonym for “budget.” As noted earlier, an SIS eases panic and anxiety because it gives you a clear picture of where your money goes — and where it stays. It's control. It's choice.

Suppose you make your bills, continue to fund for the future and enjoy the occasional package of Sweet Tarts. If there's any left over you can choose to put some or most of it into additional categories: new car fund, college savings plan, replacement winter coat. (Nearly there. I promise.)

Don't forget a “fun” category. Fun is a major component of the “balance” side of the ledger. Do without entertainment for too long and you're likely to bust loose and blow the budget. You'll hate yourself in the morning. (The company that holds your credit card will probably send you flowers, though.)

Whether your idea of a good time is a monster truck rally or the New York Philharmonic, that part of the budget is yours to use as you see fit. Don't deny yourself fun — but don't try to run through every possible permutation in the same weekend, either. When coming off a long, dry, fun-less spell, it's best to start small.

Oh, and to pay cash. Choose something you find both wonderful and affordable and treat yourself, using fresh green tender from your wallet. Leave the plastic home. You're less likely to overdo it that way.

Savor and Appreciate

This is especially true if overindulgence was the reason you wound up in trouble in the first place. Learn why that was a problem, lest you repeat this particular history. Did you:

  • Try to cover up pain or loneliness by accumulating Stuff?
  • Strive to keep up with free-spending peers?
  • Have an entitlement mentality?
  • Fall into the trap of eating every meal out? (My friend knows a couple who routinely spends $700 to $800 a week in restaurants.)

Googols of self-help and personal-finance books exist to help you get to the bottom of your overspending. (You will, of course, get them from the library. Right?) Or you might want to seek help from a therapist, a reputable credit counseling agency or a group such as Debtors Anonymous.

One personal finance expert told me that it's best to initiate or reinstate treats slowly. Maybe add one indulgence every couple of months, whether that's a new video game, a perennial for your garden, brunch with your sister or a therapeutic massage. Just make sure that it doesn't raise your total monthly budget by more than 5%.

Take the time to savor and appreciate each new treat, and to think about when — or whether — to add a new one. Having money once more doesn't mean you can throw it around. (You could put someone's eye out that way.) Even though I'm working to overcome my spending phobia, I'm still striving to meet needs and wants alike as reasonably as possible:

Ha! Told you we'd get there! I needed a coat but I wanted to save money, so I compromised: I went to Value Village in Seattle, where I found a barely-worn Eddie Bauer down coat for $14.99.

Keeping Money in Perspective

Being super-aware of spending isn't a bad thing. It's a reminder to send my bucks toward things that matter. That can be a small thing, incidentally — say, an ice-cream cone with my great-nephews. On a warm summer day while I'm on vacation, ice cream matters.

But I don't need to have ice cream every day. If I do, it no longer matters. (It also plays hob with my cholesterol.) Thus skeptical spending keeps me from piddling away a ton of money on things that ultimately make no difference in my life.

Besides, remembering the tough times helps me keep money in perspective. It reminds me that I don't really need much to live on. It also reminds me how blessed I am: After meeting basic needs I now have the luxury of selecting from among my wants.

So join me. Look for the place between paranoia and profligacy. Look for balance. And look in thrift stores on half-off days. I'm still mildly irritated that I spent $14.99. That coat better last another 25 years.

More about...Frugality

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LifeAndMyFinances
LifeAndMyFinances
9 years ago

I think this recession has scared quite a few people when it comes to their finances. They might have a job now and can easily provide for themselves, but they are still tight with their money, for fear that their job could be taken from them once again. I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing. If I were given the choice between two extremes in this world, one where everyone spent wildly and frivilously, and one where everyone was frugal and wasted nothing, I think I would take the latter. Responsibility teaches us to purchase only what… Read more »

Anne
Anne
9 years ago

Well, yes and no. Frugality is good. Being restrictive to the point of absurdity is not. It’s no different from someone who needs to learn that many things they term as needs are really wants. AC (where I live) – want. Heating – need. House – want. Place to live – need. Such penny pinching won’t see you in debt, but it has other affects on your life. A great-aunt in my husband’s family is getting on. She’s 95 and fairly healthy for her age and could easily live another five years if things go well. But she’s not all… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

We flip the 30 and the 20 (that is, at least 30% to savings and only 20% to wants). I generally think of the savings as “minimum” and the wants as “maximum” though for a good portion of our married lives the needs have been below 50% too. As our income has grown we’ve increased our savings rate far beyond our wants rate.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

We did the same flip with 20/30!

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I have a grandparent like this. He has $100,000 in the bank. BANK. Besides investments, etc. and won’t pay for trash service-$10. Almost burned down some trees using his burn barrel he’s getting so old. (senile?)

Emily
Emily
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Agreed that it’s a little ridiculous not to pay for $10 trash service, but at devil’s advocate, depending on how old he is, elder care (nursing homes, assisted living, etc) is really, really expensive. At $6000/month plus, $100000 doesn’t last so long. Just a thought.

PawPrint
PawPrint
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

It’s the Great Depression generation. My Dad, who would have been a similar age, died with a bunch of money in the bank. After teling him that he could afford new pants, a bigger room, a new mattress, I finally realized that he got a lot of pleasure out of looking at his bank statement. It made him feel good to know that he had money in the bank. So I quit trying to make him spend money (although once I took over the check writing, I did buy him new pants and a new mattress) and let him do… Read more »

Drizzt
Drizzt
9 years ago

my problem have been spending money. i think i have a psychological problem against spending money. too much of something is never good.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
9 years ago

I’m having a hard time seeing this story as an example of “balance” in a budget. It sounds as though the coat was an essential wardrobe element where Donna lives, and she only very reluctantly decided to replace it at the end of it’s lifespan. To me, a story illustrating balance would either be how she now actively plans for routine replacement (or upkeep) of basic pieces or how she budgets a small amount to allow herself to *responsibly* indulge in purely “fun” garments.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

@Nancy: The agony of the coat was an example of how sometimes I still struggle to find balance. My first reaction was “I can’t afford it.” Of course I could afford it. I knew that. I’ve been traveling a lot (frugally) so obviously I know I can afford certain fripperies along with necessities. But the first thing I thought — erroneously — was, “I don’t have the money.” I’m a work in progress, is all I’m saying. And I know I’m not the only person out there who has these anxieties. Are they rational? Nope. Are they understandable? Yep. So… Read more »

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
9 years ago

I’m not sure my father has owned a new winter coat in the last 30 years. He actually still has his parka from junior high that he wears when he shovels snow. It’s really hideous. He mostly inherits coats (and other clothes) from deceased relatives. (He now has a lovely collection of LLBean coats from my well dressed uncle who died at 49). My Dad’s parents always fought about money so he doesn’t like to spend it unless he has to. I haven’t inherited the same “poverty mentality” but sometimes I wish I had. When you owe more in student… Read more »

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago
Reply to  Laundry Lady

I sure know where you’re coming from. For years I allowed myself to be ground down by my extreme thrift. It seemed responsible. I have had to learn that allowing a little comfort into my life, and a few frills, actually gave me more creativity, more initiative, and a sense of abundance that paid off in multiple ways. My pleasures are still small ones, but I feel like I’m more in balance. *Every* penny can’t go to that debt. Too much of that, and one ends up in the crazy house, or depressed and sorry. Life is for living and… Read more »

Suzanne
Suzanne
9 years ago

I love reading Donnaa’s articles and would also pile on heaps of praise by agreeing with J.D.’S statement that she’s “almost as funny as Robert Brokamp”. Wow now that’s a compliment. : )

I do, however, wonder why Donna brought up the Balanced Money Formula. There is nothing in the article about spending for fun, unless she’s mistaking replacing a 25 year old unwearable winter coat for fun. Maybe its in the article because once she is able to justify actually spending on her needs, she aspires to eventually spending on wants someday.

Have sone fun Donna! You’ve earned it.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

Quick note: I am the one who put in the Balanced Money Formula graphic. While editing Donna’s piece, I was reminded of it. But if it’s going to cause confusion, I’ll take the image out.

Panda
Panda
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I think it fits. She does talk about spending on treats and fun as being necessary to make a spending plan work. (Although I also question whether replacing a broken winter coat is really a treat…)

(Besides – I always look forward to Tyler’s rants whenever the Balanced Money Formula comes up.)

Sarah
Sarah
9 years ago
Reply to  Panda

This is probably hair splitting but I got the sense that the realization that she was viewing replacing a coat as some sort of indulgence is what triggered the “Hey, wait a minute, I’m not a starving artist anymore” moment that inspired this article. I know I’m currently working on the balanced spending thing. After years of being a student whose budget was “spend as little as possible” I now have a full time job that’s relatively secure (as much as anything is these days) and every time I spend money on something that I do not absolutely need, I… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

@Suzanne: Say what? Don’t you think ice cream is fun? If you don’t, can I have yours? Seriously: I didn’t bring up the balanced money formula. J.D. put the graphic in as an illustration. But I *do* have fun. Heck, I’m writing this from Anchorage, Alaska, where I came up to house-sit and stayed another five weeks to visit family and friends. (And eat ice cream — Alaskans are the highest per capita consumers of the stuff.) Therapeutic massage is also a line item in my budget. I’ve even thought about combining the two: Instead of a hot stone massage,… Read more »

Suzanne
Suzanne
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I’m glad to hear it! Ice cream is definitely fun.

STRONGside
STRONGside
9 years ago

Spending money on the things in your life that matter, and that will save you money down the road is never a bad thing. I am constantly reminded by my wife about how my spending habits dont make sense. I am irrationally frugal often times and not even willing to spend money on preventative maintenance, or for high quality, when I know it is good value and smart money wise. Sometimes our frugal mindsets prevent us from spending money that will save us money in the long run.

Anne
Anne
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

Preventative maintenance is essential with some things (unless you decide you won’t need to replace it if it breaks). But high quality can be a bit of minefield with me. These days, I find it hard to find high quality things in stores. When I do buy things that turn out to be high quality (as tested over time) usually, they are my vintage pieces. Items that generally were thrifted or handed down. Our handmedown wardrobe – very high quality, high end danish piece – given to us by a buddy of my FIL who was clearing out his house… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Sorry to be grouchy, but “thrift” is not a verb. I guess what you mean by “thrifted” is that you bought something in a thrift store?

Also “preventative” is a noun. The correct adjective is “preventive”.

I know this is nitpicky, and I’m not trying to be harsh, but I just got annoyed.

Anne
Anne
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

My apologies about the misuse of “preventative”. Shame on me!

But I would say that it is fine to use “thrifted”. I think the English language can handle a few additions. If you don’t like the word, don’t use it. But I like it and will continue to use it.

I would say “thrifting” involves mostly getting used items or deadstock but these purchases can come from various sources. These may be thrift stores. But it can also involve using craigslist or shopping at garage sales or flea markets.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Andrew, too nitpicky for this site.

Andrea
Andrea
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Probably just nitpicking here but my fiance builds furniture and veneer on MDF is actually necessary in some pieces. MDF doesn’t expand our contract. So you can put a border on it and not have it break in a year or two. It doesnt make it low quality. It will actually last longer.

Anne
Anne
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

You’re right. I have a lovely bed that has a nice veneer over mdf and seems to be holding up well. But it’s hard to tell the good stuff from the junk. Or at least I can’t tell. And it’s not just MDF. Sometimes wooden pieces don’t hold up either. In my experience, paying more, doesn’t mean you get better quality. But also the reverse seems to be true too. Paying very little for a new item doesn’t guarantee that it will fall apart. My real problem is that I can’t seem to rely on observation or even a company’s… Read more »

Jessie
Jessie
9 years ago

Gah! I thought I got a good deal on a barely used Eddie Bauer down coat from the thrift store – $30. And now you go and trump me by half! haha Good job!

We’re still in the scrounging every penny stage of our finances, but I look forward to when I can have that ah-ha moment and realize that I don’t *have* to anymore.

eric
eric
9 years ago

This story is reminiscent of “The Overcoat” by Gogol.

Meg
Meg
9 years ago

I am the same way. I have put so much off over the past two years of paying off debt, now that we are out of consumer debt, I have a hard time purchasing the things I NEED. For instance: Walking Shoes I walk our puppy anywhere from 1.25 – 3.25 miles a day. My two pairs of walking shoes are both terribly uncomfortable, give me blisters, and falling apart. One pair is a pair of Nike Airs given to me for free, but a size too big. The other, I bought at the trift store two years ago for… Read more »

Hollie
Hollie
9 years ago
Reply to  Meg

I used to be the same way about walking shoes. I’d buy cheap ones and wear them until they had no support and hurt my feet. I’ve decided in the past year that that’s just silly and not a wise way to save money. I don’t pay for a gym membership. Walking and hiking are my main sources of exercise. The money that I spend on good walking shoes and hiking boots is an investment in my health. And hopefully I’ll protect my feet enough that I’ll avoid the expense of needing to see a podiatrist! Using money wisely is… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Hollie

Here I am telling DH he got a new pair of shoes 2 years ago, you don’t need another. =) Yesterday! I don’t think he walks that much in them though. Just likes new things.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Meg

Meg: I had to invest in comfortable shoes (I like the “Sandy” style from Rockport) when I gave away my car. Definitely worth it.
But there’s a frugal hack for that, too: I buy several pairs at a time through the Mr. Rebates cash-back site when Shoes.com puts up a big sale and offers free shipping.
Don’t ever skimp on your feet. Payback’s a bitch.

Danna
Danna
9 years ago
Reply to  Meg

I have to agree with everyone else who responded to you. I neglected my feet for the first 28 years of my life and now I have bunions, heel spurs, and am prone to plantar fasciitis. So, I now have to spend $600 on custom orthotics about every year. Buy good shoes with good support and replace them when they are wearing out.

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

Very funny post, Donna. And one I really related to. Those of us who are Birkenstock-wearing (bought 10 years ago at a yard sale), granola-eating (only homemade or in bulk at the Co-op on 10% off day), tree-hugging (in the state park we rode our bikes to so we could avoid a $7 parking fee) freaks add a whole other layer of guilt. What do we do with the old coat if we decide to replace it? It sounded too worn to give away to someone else. But I hate to add one more thing to the landfill. Could I… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

My husband can have this mentality but it can lead to hoarding-like behavior, just warning ya.

Wende
Wende
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

Ha ha ha! Pamela, you just made me laugh out loud as I sit here eating granola (the last tablespoon of dusty crumbles from the bag because I need to use it all) in my yogurt (bought on sale at the lowest price of the year) wearing my birkenstocks (free! given to me by a relative who decided it would be too much bother to return shoes that didn’t fit her). And for years, we’ve avoided the state parks to avoid the fee in favor of ‘free nature’. Love it! Heh.

Trina
Trina
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

I have this same problem with my DW, who can’t get rid of old, worn-out things because they will end up in a land fill. She watched a couple of episodes of Hoarders, and now our house is almost empty!! LOL 🙂

Hannibal
Hannibal
9 years ago

“Cheapskatery” LOL

I’d even say, once you’ve paid for essentials, put at least half of what’s left in a savings account. The big ‘secret’ is – you can live on a lot less than you think, and the more you save now, the sooner you can jump out of the rat-race

Max From Liquid
Max From Liquid
9 years ago

I know what it’s like to not have money. You’re exactly correct: when you’re solvent, then you can spend. My patented budgeting system does just that: let’s the user know how solvent they are. It’s formula:

Cash and cash equivalents
+ money coming in for the month
– credit card balances
– money budgeted to spend for the rest of the month
– money saved for upcoming items (like a mink coat..hahahaha)
= emergency fund, or your solvency.

You can be an over saver if you neglect spending money on your health or your home. See http://liquid.is/5xRGA

Mary H
Mary H
9 years ago

Enjoyed this post. I can relate to so much of what Donna says. I try to “tread that delicate path between gratuitous indulgence and self-denial.”( a quote from a tv show I can’t name). Sometimes I zig-zag.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago

I love your articles, Donna, and this one is great, full of outside resources and your own grasp of the psychology. Thank you!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Aw, shucks. [[blushes, looks at ground modestly]]

Susan
Susan
9 years ago

Well, you sure trumped me. I have a down coat from Eddie Bauer (purchased in the 60s). I have replaced the zipper (used sewing machine, $5.00 at a garage sale) 3 times. The down isn’t quite as puffy as it once was, and the appearance of the coat is not what one would wear to the opera, but it still works for outdoor chores and dog walking. Will I ever buy a new (or even new to me) coat? Maybe. Someday. I probably should read that book.

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
9 years ago

Donna, There is so much I like about this piece. One thing that jumped out at me is that helping to support an elderly relative is part of your monthly budget. Right on.

The strength of your thinking and writing in general is the reason I’ve had your blog ‘Surviving And Thriving’ on my blogroll for going on a year. Please keep writing.

Kelly
Kelly
9 years ago

I liked this piece! So funny and honest. I struggle everytime I make a purchase.
My mother always told me I was “ridiculous” for spending money.
My sister got married and I bought her a $50.00 gift.
Mom: “That’s ridiculous, you should have gotten her some measuring spoons and nothing more!”
This was before marriage and children. I had plenty of money etc.
It becomes engrained!
🙂
Kel

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

Some people have an aversion to shopping (particularly for clothes). My husband, even if his underwear is see through, socks have double holes, shorts falling apart, will not replace the items. Probably over the long run it has saved us money (but not embarrassment) but some cases it has cost us money; for example him having to run out at the last minute to buy a pants/jacket combo at full price, rather than planning ahead of time and finding thrifted pieces or hitting a sale.

slccom
slccom
9 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

Actually, your husband’s cheapskate and tattered clothing has probably cost him big over the years. A shabbily-dressed employee is going to miss out on a lot of promotions and opportunities.

Jacq
Jacq
9 years ago

I only wish I could wear the same coat I wore 25 years ago when I was a size 2 Goth type. 🙁 Maintaining a stable weight is the best wardrobe savings strategy ever.

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

This is so very very VERY true!

I have jeans in six (6!!) different waist sizes. Not to mention all the shirts–

Debbie
Debbie
9 years ago

I can relate to what Donna is saying. After years of economizing, it’s hard to loosen
up a little.

On bigger purchases, I still go through the gut-roiling, second-guessing decision period. I’ve finally come to terms with it, and have realized it’s my process of really flushing out my purchases. When I make a such purchase, I never regret it.

Hey, I tend to be an over-achiever in thinking in most situations any way, so why not in shopping 🙂

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago

Donna has made good points in this article, but it actually doesn’t make a great deal of sense if you are a regular reader of hers.

She says she can’t let go of a few bucks for a new coat because of her over frugal mindset, but she travels regularly including a recent visit to England for several weeks.

It doesn’t really sound like she’s hanging on to every dollar.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

Did u read how she travelled? Stayed in hostels. Went to McD’s for the free wireless and felt guilty for buying coke. She travelled frugally.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Amanda: I’ll be staying in hostels in Philly, New York and D.C. in August — have to go to a conference in NYC, and decided to stay a while and do tourist-y stuff as well as visiting family and friends in that region.
Using a hostel for $19-$35 a night (and crashing in my dad’s spare room) means that instead of a three-day conference trip I’ll be able to sojourn for almost a month. And eat ice cream, of course — although in South Jersey I’ll be eating custard, thank you very much.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

@E. Murphy: The point is that I’m still trying to find balance. As I said toward the end of the piece, once I’ve taken care of business (including saving) then I can spend if I want to spend.
I just don’t always do it well. Still working on it. Balance is what I’m seeking, and I know I’ll find it some day. Just not today. Tomorrow’s not looking good, either.

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago

I’m trying to get my Needs as low as possible, increasing Wants and Savings. If things go sour, you can easily cut back on Wants and Savings, but you can never (by defintion) cut back on Needs. For me, ideally, the needs are below 40%. I know this isn’t about the balanced formula, but since it was there, I thought I would throw it in. I have trouble spending sometimes because I’m not sure where to maximize my dollar/happiness between choices. The end result is to stick more in savings instead. Not ideal either! (eg, my car is 12 years… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

At least nothing mechanical stopped working on your vehicle. You have time to select a frugal one! I have an easier time spending on well researched products.

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Same here, everything you said! It’s hard to spend after a lifetime of barely having enough for the basics. I have found a useful yardstick for the decision of where to spend to maximize value: if it would make a relationship with someone you care about easier and happier. For example, I like to have my nieces for sleepovers, so I bought a kid-sized card table that fits them for crafts and meals. Similarly, I started to allocate some funds to family outings with my mom and dad, who are getting up in years. There’s no end to the value… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Me too. I want absolute needs + contract costs (debt payments, any ongoing subscriptions) to be less than half my take-home, which is about 30% of gross.

Unfortunately daycare puts that completely out of reach. But we have the savings from when I hit that goal, and we’ll get back there with luck.

I am thinking about having one or two barebones budget months a year, just to see if I really can still hit the ballpark figure I have in my head for groceries & other need spending on a tight budget after several years of a generous one.

Ali
Ali
9 years ago

It probably would have cost you more to have a seamstress replace the zipper in your old coat. My husband looked into getting a zipper replaced in his motorcycle pants, and ended up using duct tape instead. He’s since replaced those pants, but alterations can be really expensive unless the garment is really worth it.

Melissa
Melissa
9 years ago

I love this post so much. It rang really true to me. Thankfully, I’ve never had to *really* do without, but I’ve definitely come close and I find myself balking at spending money on certain, high-price items, even if I know they’re necessary. For instance, while I don’t really blink at spending $20 on a new DVD once in a while, I will totally wear my shoes into the GROUND before I’ll commit to spending $60 on another pair, and even then, I worry I can’t afford it. Of course I can, but there’s for some reason a line in… Read more »

Megan E.
Megan E.
9 years ago

I like this article because it reminds me of how I need a new sports bra (and yes, it is a need) but instead I keep saying “well it’ll get cheaper” – a good sports bra can cost a bit, but when I see a $50 one on sale for $15, I need to just stop procrastinating and get it. I believe it’s more about where we want to spend our money and what makes us happy. Traveling is fun – a new coat is not (For some people). Thus, the $15 coat “costs” more than the $1,500 trip –… Read more »

MutantSuperModel
MutantSuperModel
9 years ago

I love, love, love the Fabulous Freedman. Great post Donna. If I ever get my booty to thrift stores and garage sales, I think you’re the main reason why. I have so much respect for you, what you’ve done with the cards dealt to you, and what you continue to do every day. You’re an inspiration.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago

You can’t see me, but I’m blushing.

krantcents
krantcents
9 years ago

I recently went through something similar with my attache. My leather attache handle that I owned for 25 years broke! It would cost $20 to repair and it wasn’t worth it! Instead I bought a new nylon bag (retail $175) for $52.15. I only plan on working 6 more years, did I need it? Well, I got it and love it. It is lighter and organized better.

Jenny
Jenny
9 years ago

If your old coat is getting worn, hang in there ’til after Christmas. A couple weeks into the new year, Value Village is stuffed with winter coats–brand new fleece ones with the tags still on, ones worn only a few times for a couple of years, and lots of ski jackets. I think it’s the combo of getting new stuff for Christmas plus the cleaning/organizing frenzy everyone seems to get in at the start of the new year. After seeing what was there, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a new coat again!

cynthia
cynthia
9 years ago

Donna,
Thank you very much for this post. Allowing myself to spend on myself is something that I struggle with daily.

SB(One Cent At A Time)
SB(One Cent At A Time)
9 years ago

Nice to see a change here, the blog which promotes frugality, is also pitching for spending, it’s a game of balancing act.

Bella
Bella
9 years ago

great article Donna, really resonating.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Thanks, Bella. I’m hoping it helps people think about balance.

Lola
Lola
5 years ago

I have this. I had no money much until I was around 50. I was a fine artist with a part time job and an old used car. That was fine. I was very frugal. I rented a room in a house with other people. I ate at home. I used coupons. rush tickets, student tickets. Everything I bought was on clearance. Now its very hard to spend on even one luxury purse. I had found the purse that I really liked, but, even though I had the money, I just could not do it.

Fran
Fran
5 years ago

I don’t think if I ever became a wealthy person that I wouldn’t have an issue spending money on certain things. My husband wants to take me to an expensive restaurant one day. Not that it is an everyday thing, but I have a limit to what I will splurge on a restaurant meal. 40.00 to 50.00 a person way exceeds this limit. To me there is no food out there worth that much. He would also like to take me on a Disney vacation. To me it is a lot of hype for way too much money. I want… Read more »

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