September 2, 2013

It's all about the Benjamin's

Recently a friend asked how I  decide what to spend money on especially when we have school debt.  I'm so glad they felt comfortable to ask a personal question because had they not, I wouldn't have the opportunity to reflect on the question even after I answered it.

Initially I gave one main reason.

Sharpening the saw, a phrase used in the book "7 Habits for Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey, teaches us that if we take the time to care for ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally/socially, and spiritually we will be more effective individuals.
This idea definitely dictates how I choose to spend my money.  For instance, when I know I'm at my whits end with children, housewife duties, or other responsibilities, you better believe I'm going to "invest" money in myself in one way or another so that I can jump back in head first, ready to tackle what I need to.

I see it as a form of health insurance.  It has become more common for people to need medication to function from day to day.  I'm not saying medicating is bad, it's not, I've just found other ways to function.  "Me time" is my medication.  That means I spend money to purchase craft supplies to feed my innate need to create, BUNCO prizes to participate in a monthly get together with other ladies, manicures at the local beauty school, and so on.

I always come away from "me time" feeling ready to tackle my "must do's" and seem to be more productive too.  Simply said investing money in myself makes me last longer.

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I also think that it is super easy to become so wrapped up in being frugal that I miss out on creating great relationships and memories.  It is certainly possible to spend little if any money to create memories and strengthen relationships, but occasionally doing something special that costs more than you might normally spend can be a nice thing.

Anyway, I kept thinking and thinking about how people spend their money.  It's clear that everyone does it differently.  What we think to be a perfectly legitimate purchase, one we've carefully considered and determined to be worthwhile, may be frivolous and extravagant to another person.  We all evaluate our needs and wants differently.  What we consider a "good value" might be not be to others.

There have been numerous times when friends or family don't want to do an activity or eat out where we planned because they can't afford it, but will later spend money on gas to go on trips, purchase electronics, go on shopping sprees etc.  To me, it's not always an issue "we can't afford it" but rather an issue of priority.  Like I said before, everyone spends differently, and that's ok.

Occasionally the "we can't afford it" phrase does make for an awkward moment.  In my mind, the person may as well be saying "I can't believe you are spending your money on THAT!" It makes me think I'm somehow not as frugal or wise in my spending as the other person.  I know that's not the case,  just how I perceive it...probably out of guilt ;)

I too have been that person who says "we can't afford it" but I think I may just start to say "we are saving our money for something else right now" so as to avoid unwanted awkwardness.

In the end, to each their own.  It's not my place to judge what anyone does with their hard earned money, but to live in a way that honestly represents what I believe in- frugality and self-reliance.


  1. as a mom of school age kids, i've found I have to be careful how I word things too. I don't know what my family's financial situation growing up was, though, with a dad for a teacher & 6 kids, i'm sure i was right in thinking we were poor. Since we've had a full time job for 7 years, I feel like we are more well off than my parents were, but still want a simple/not spoiled lifestyle for our kids. So I want them to know I'm not worried about money, but choose to dress them in hand-me downs. I'm also trying to find a good phrase to mean 'we are choosing not to spend our money on that.' (we'll see around christmas time if i'm still 'not worried about money', with dr bills & preschool, our month expenses just went up ALOT)