Everyone is different when it comes to budgeting. It’s easy to look at someone else’s spending habits with utter disgust and not realize that they may be more frugal in areas where you have no control. It’s easy to judge someone else because they don’t do things the way you do or the way you think they should. So in the spirit of non-judgment (I guess you can judge me if you want), I’d like to offer up what I’m not willing to scrimp on in order to save a little more, and then also what I am willing to give up.
What I won’t give up to save more
Dates – My wife and I try to have a date night every weekend. And while that doesn’t happen every week because of other events that come up, we still try to do it. And I know that there are a ton of free date ideas, we like to get out and treat ourselves a couple of times each month. We don’t go crazy and we always try to subsidize it through gift cards from our credit card rewards, but I regard our date budget as a fixed expense.
Healthy Food – When I was single, I kept my food budget under $60/month pretty regularly. But now it’s up around $250/month for the two of us, the reason being that we both value eating things like produce and healthy snacks, which are generally more expensive than Ramen, Spaghettios, and Hot Pockets. Healthy people tend to be happier and more productive, both of which are life goals of mine.
Insurance – I’m lucky to have an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, but even when I was unemployed for 6 months, I had an individual one simply because that’s not a risk I am willing to take, especially after my wife’s back injuries from last year racked up $6,000 in bills for us due to insufficient insurance. The same goes for life and disability insurance. My wife and I don’t have any kids yet, but one day we will and I don’t want any changes in my health between now and then to keep me from protecting them.
Giving – Even when we were in college and living off of less than we earned, subsidized through student loans and grants, we gave 10% of our income to our church and at least $50 a month to other worthy causes. It always reminded me that there is always someone less fortunate than us and that our abilities and talents have been given to us as a gift to help others.
Debt Payments – Wouldn’t it be nice if you could give up your debt payments to save more? 🙂 Well, I guess some people default on their debts (welcome to the housing crisis of ’07-’08), but let’s keep it ethical. What I mean, though, is that I won’t allow any credit card debt beyond what I pay off every month and I will always try to pay extra if I can on other debt payments.
What I am willing to give up
Clothes – I’ve never been huge on clothes. The majority of what I wear came from a second-hand store or as a gift for my birthday or Christmas. I own two pairs of tennis shoes, two pairs of dress shoes (although I only wear one pair), a pair of running shoes (gift), a pair of basketball shoes (gift) and a pair of cleats (second-hand store). And I’ll run them all into the ground before I replace them. The same goes for my other clothes. I lost a couple of pairs of shorts to holes that can’t be repaired this summer, but it’s good that it’s cooling down because now I can wait until next spring to replace them 🙂
Going to the doctor – This one is bad, I know. But I hate medical bills. For example, I went into the doctor last month and was diagnosed with bronchitis. They also “wanted to be safe” and did a flu test, which seemed harmless. I knew I didn’t have the flu anyway. When I got the bill a few weeks later, though, it turns out that my ignorance cost me a cool $85. And because of that kind of crap, I avoid the doctor’s office at all costs. Fortunately, there hasn’t been anything that’s escalated because of that avoidance, but it may happen one day.
Eating out – As much as I LOVE eating out, I hate spending money to do it. To satisfy this, we use rewards points to get gift cards and we always pack a lunch for work. So then when we do go out to eat, it’s a special experience that we enjoy having together and it’s more about that than it is about the food. Personally, I don’t understand why people go out to eat every day for lunch. To me that seems a colossal waste of money. But then again, there may be things in the list above that others would say the same thing about.
Junk Food – As much as I hyped up the healthy food earlier, I’m really a junk food lover at heart. Give me a bag of Doritos and I’ll polish them off pretty quickly. Bake me a plate of cookies and those will go even faster. But when I’m at the store and walk by that aisle, the urge to fill my cart is smothered by my love of money (AKA my desire to keep my money). But if I’m at a party and someone else provides it, I’ll destroy it.
Birthday/Christmas money – I don’t do this as much as I used to, but when I get a check or cash as a gift, I generally save it rather than spending it. My wife is just the opposite, something I would get bugged about at the beginning of our marriage when I was saving mine and she wasn’t. Since then, she’s rubbed off on me and I used my birthday money this year to buy the new Dan Brown and Khaled Hosseini books (both of which were delicious). But when I feel I really should, I would rather save it for something important rather than spending it just because I’m special and I deserve it.
What about you? Anything you see on here that makes you cringe? Is there anything you aren’t willing to give up that you’re not too ashamed to admit? 🙂