Spending Money Isn’t Bad

There is this absurd notion that money should not be spent out there in the world right now that is driving me nuts.

It is evident in posts about weddings (people not having one to save money) and comments about Christmas (not celebrating it as to not have to purchase gifts), and Tweets about skipping nights out with friends to stay at home and watch TV for free on your computer because you don’t want to spend money. There have even been posts from people who go to restaurants and not order anything because they don’t want to spend the money (even though they are with friends and possibly making them uncomfortable, as well as taking up prime real estate in a restaurant), or putting garbage bags over your windows because you don't want to pay for blinds.

People don’t tip, or rent for life so that they don’t have to deal with purchasing a new appliance or home maintenance (not due to lifestyle choices).

When did spending money become so evil?

While it is good to advocate for saving money on things that aren't important, (for instance, why spend 75% more on name brand noodles when no-name would work just fine? Plus I’m not into spending $100K on a car and I’m okay with $15 wine in lieu of far more expensive bottles), skipping out on experiences and spending time with loved ones just to save some money is flawed.

Spending money can be just as much as an investment as saving it. You might not get a monetary return, but why do we focus so heavily on monetary returns? Are we over-looking emotional returns?

Why are we hoarding something that we work so hard to accumulate?

My favourite saying about money is that you can’t take it with you. That is the truth.

If you have the money… if you make a decent living and don't have debt, why is spending money on yourself something to be frowned upon?

Money isn't important

Money is very important for those of us who don’t have any.

I went through the starving student phase, and it was heightened by the fact that I paid for the vast majority of my education out of pocket while working full-time. It's understandable to need to save money when you are struggling, and I’m not saying “screw it, blow your cash” to those who are in a tough spot financially.

However, if you are financially okay, and you are putting away some money for retirement and emergencies, why cut back on life? What's the value in forgoing a dinner out with friends for an extra $25 if you are already saving?

Yes, you could go on about the time-value of money and how that $25 would be much, much more than $25 if it goes  in a retirement account. And that's all good. But life isn't about skipping the fun stuff so you can have more money than you need in retirement.

Is it just finance bloggers that are constantly trying to out-cheap each other? Why, in this community, is spending money - small amounts, when you aren't accumulating debt - so frowned upon? Spending money isn't bad.


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64 thoughts on “Spending Money Isn’t Bad

  1. I don't get it either and I'm middle aged with three teenagers. I think spending can be healthy as long as you are doing less of it than you earn. I love spoiling myself and others with a few choice purchases. I also love updating my home with new paint, furniture and other knick knacks - that's my idea of minimalism. Frugality is overrated!!

  2. I guess I see this as the exact point of frugality. Cheap means not spending money at all. But frugal means spending money consciously and focusing on quality. Yes, I was one of those people who would go out to eat with friends for the social aspect and not eat with them. Why? Because I would rather spend my $25 on a tasty meal I can make at home than low-quality Applebee's food.

  3. Good post. I think it's a balance, one that too many of us don't find many times. I agree that money, in the end, is not really important. Life is about spending time with those you care about and love and enjoying that time. I think a key is finding what's important to you in life and putting your money to use in that way while at the same time allowing yourself fun. If you don't add in that aspect then life is just too boring.

  4. You're right. Spending money isn't bad. Spending money without a plan is where people get themselves into trouble. I think a lot of us forget that and just rail on not spending. The key is to spend consciously.

  5. I definitely agree with you! If I'm earning money and making way above what my monthly bills are, shouldn't I be able to spend at least SOME of it?!

  6. Very interesting! I think I embrace spending money as a natural default/inevitability, so I never listen very hard to those who tell me its bad to do so. Though I do like the minimalistic trend of keeping your money for special things and experiences...

  7. I think many times you have people that really don't know how to spend money without going overboard, so they choose to take the route of not spending any money at all. How many people that you see would be able to go to the mall and buy just one sweater? Or would they go there with that in mind and come back with bags from six different stores? I think often it might be people realizing their limitations and avoiding some of the temptations that lead to poor decisions.

  8. This post brings up a couple of points that seem important to me:
    (1) People have different values about what is worth spending money on.
    (2) We all need to stop looking for validation from other people about it and stop judging others.

    Again, taking into account that our bases are covered and we're not jeopardizing our future or making stupid decisions, we are all very different and that's fine. I can read someone's blog and hold them accountable to their intentions, even if those intentions are different than mine. If someone is living in accordance with their values and it's not directly harming anyone else, I don't care honestly what they do with their money. We all know in our hearts what is right for us if we really listen, and if we know something is right for us, we don't need anyone else to validate us and it won't bother us if someone disagrees.

    Let's all just own our choices. It's okay to say "I don't value retiring at 40," or "I don't value home ownership," or "I don't value Christmas" or "I don't value eating out" but also "but it's great that you do, and how can I help you move toward your goals?" If we can disagree respectfully and let other people have different values, I think it would go a long way toward making this community stronger, which is what I would like to see.

  9. SP

    You can add up all these one-off costs, and it does have a big impact on your overall financial picture. A $25 dinner never broke anyone, but a few $25 dinners a week really adds up. It's about striking a balance that is in line with my values. Yes, I value time with friends at restaurants, but sometimes we can go out, other times we probably could stay in. Like leslie pointed out, it is also about frugality and focusing on quality.

  10. Yeah- I think it does come down to a difference in values. Also- with a blog, you rarely know the whole thought process behind any decision.

    Maybe someone who isn't spending Christmas with his/her family is in the middle of a family feud. Maybe someone not eating at restaurants is on a restrictive diet or is in the middle of Ramadan. Being cheap to the point of unethical is a different story entirely- I'm not defending the non-tippers and such.

    I also think that a number of bloggers (or maybe it's just my perception) enter the blogosphere when they are in the 'starving student' phase- hence so much talk about extreme budgeting?

  11. Jen

    Cheers! LOVE this post. I definitely would not consider myself a frivalous person - I save a lot of money each month, I heavily research all major purchases and shop for deals/coupons all the time. However, I firmly believe that having a set amount of discretionary money that I don't have to watch like a hawk is what makes me sane. I have a gift budget for weddings, birthdays, and christmas...I stick to that budget for the most part. Plus, I LIKE buying people gifts and going out to eat with friends.

  12. Amen! I'm lucky to be in a position where I can spend money. I don't like the guilt trips that people give other bloggers when they spend money. I understand when some people's blogs are partially to keep them accountable, but not everyone is absolutely skint and needing to pare every penny out of their budget.

  13. I think some folks tend to go to extremes. My brother is an example of this - he'll deny himself things because he likes to be a martyr. The point should be about balance - and there's a big difference between being cheap/crazy 🙂 and frugal!

  14. I'm one of those people who is not going out on a Friday night, or spending money on Christmas (but that's mostly because I don't really have anyone to buy for), and am really, really tight with money, but that's because I'm not making "enough" to really make it right now. I have to do it and sometimes it sucks. But I know that's not what you were talking about. It's the ones who do seem to be hoarding all they make. And I agree, your life will pass you buy without experiences. Even though I don't make a lot right now, I do have plans to travel more and be a little looser with my finances if that does happen. Especially travel!

  15. Amen to that, sista, lol! You can't take it with you, and while you should definteily save and pay down debt, there's no reason you can't also spend money. Paying $5 to park at a forest reserve and play with my girls is worth more to me than sitting at home and watching TV 'for free' with them.

  16. Steve MoneyPlanSOS Stewart

    Gosh Daisy. I can see where you're coming from. A lot of things we say could be perceived as saying that spending money is evil.
    I hope none of my posts sound that way but I will certainly try to be more clear just in case.

  17. Emily @ evolvingPF

    Haha I think you referenced one of my posts as a negative example as I'm the only person I know about who's written about eating out without eating!

    In my defense, part of that decision is our limited eating-out budget but most is my rather restrictive diet. Many restaurants are unwilling to tailor their dishes to fit my needs. And yeah, I'd rather go out and spend time with friends than sit at home, whether or not spending money is involved! My husband always spends money when we join friends in restaurants.

    But to your point - I don't necessarily agree that spending money is frowned upon. Sometimes people frown on each other's specific choices but I think we all understand that enjoying the products and experiences money can get us is a legitimate use. Basically all the money we save we'd like to eventually spend, right?

    It's probably also a bit easier to talk about self-sacrifice than self-indulgence. Like, on my blog I probably mention saving to our short-term targeted savings accounts more than spending from them, even though we do it equally.

  18. I would tend to agree with this.

    We do hold ourselves to a tight budget when it comes to things like bills and grocery shopping. However, when it comes to our own personal spending money, we each have generous amounts that we can spend freely on whatever we want. I *like* getting a $50 bottle of wine once in a while and I *enjoy* spending money on a night out with friends. I would not give that up even though $50 could buy me a few more shares of stock.

    I think that as long as you set financial savings goals and meet them, there's no reason to hold back your spending money.

  19. I'm with you here. I wrote about something similar when I talked about giving your money a name. All money is earned to be spent or given away (at some point), so hoarding for no reason is a waste. Spending should feel good, and if it doesn't, you're proably spending on something that's not important to you.

  20. I agree with you. Spending is not evil. I think what makes it "evil" is that most people spend more than they have. So they end up on one extreme versus the other: either you are a spender or saver. I like to think of spending money on yourself, such as investing in your future--retirement account, investment accounts, and life insurance. Spending money for leisure is great way to relax--spa, vacations, trips with friends. Spending money on your children--happiness, toys, games, clothing.

    There has to be a balance. If you make $45,000 a year and let's say 1/3 goes towards taxes and other deductions, you are left with $31,500 or $2,625 monthly. Spending 12% of this income on entertainment and shopping could prove to be a disastrous to you finances. How much you can spend and remained aligned with your financial objective is all relative. Because if you make $250,000 a year and spend 12% on "whatever" it will have a less of an impact. The marigin of error is narrower the less money you make.

    Knowing when it makes sense to spend or splurge your money is important to obtaining a balance and healthy life. If it's easier, set up a splurge account. 🙂

  21. A-men. We're in the boat of NEEDING to be frugal right now, but after a while I hope to loosen up the strings (after I'm done with school and back in the workforce.) That doesn't mean we'll go crazy, but it does mean we might take some more lavish trips.

  22. We spend money but we just budget what we spend. Sure we can add another $50 to eating out every week or month and if we really wanted to but will that help us achieve our goals. Personally we are not big fans of eating out, but that's just us. We don't turn down invites because we say we don't have money or don't like to eat out, that's silly. We spend money on quality items over quantity so we want to save for the best we can so we don't have to spend it twice. We just talked about this today Mrs.CBB and I. Now that we have the money to pay off our mortgage can we honestly look back and say we did it in vain, that we missed out or gave up things and the answer was .... you'll have to wait until I blog about it lol...ok,ok, no we didn't. You are right, we can't take it to the grave but we can leave a legacy for our kids ( if we have any lol).. great post!!!

  23. I'm definitely on the more frugal side but I think that's because I don't feel like I have a ton of "extra money" leftover at the end of the month, and I just can't justify going out again, after I was just out a few days ago. That said, we all have our priorities and one of mine is a spendy wine club.

  24. I think a lot of people can't control themselves. If they do it once they'll do it again. I wouldn't mind spending something every once in a while if it stayed every once in a while. You just need to make sure your priorities are in line and spend according to them! If you can do that, you should be fine... as long as your priorities are straight.

  25. I totally agree. We're in a situation now where we HAVE to live the way we do in order to pay of debt and OBTAIN the life we want, which includes spending money (wisely of course). We're being particularly careful with our money, which for now, includes basically not having a life but it's short term pain for long term gain. We have no intention of living like this forever. I am already dreaming of our (mostly) debt free life.

  26. I agree that money is meant to be spent and enjoyed, not hoarded. I spend it where it matters to me (food, travel, experiences) and then save where I don't care much.

  27. LP

    I am a long-time lurker who is coming out of the cracks because I LOVE this post. It is a massive frustration I have with the personal finance world. Money is a means to an end, it is not the end itself. You can't take it with you is definitely something I remind myself of constantly, and not just about money: I see a lot of my peers pursue the next big thing, be it the next rung in the finance world or another prestigious degree, not because it makes them any happier (it actually usually makes them unhappier), but because they've lost the forest for the trees. What is the point of life if you spent most of it under the fluorescent lights of your office, padding your bank account but never spending time building or maintaining relationships, pursuing hobbies, RELAXING. Ok, rant over. Thanks again for writing this post.

  28. I think one should spend money how they want to spend money. It's not buying a cheap $5 shirt because its on sale but buying something that you really want and will wear. It's more about spending money with a purpose rather than senselessly.

  29. Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy

    Daisy, are you familiar with the story of Hetty Green, the Witch of Wall Street? This article reminded me of her. She ate cold, uncooked oatmeal every day for lunch, didn't seek proper medical treatment for her son after he broke a leg, causing later for it to be amputated, wore the same filthy clothes until the threads disintegrated, and amassed one of the largest fortunes on Wall Street during the Gilded Age. Eccentric old bird.

    Extremism in any form is never a good thing.


    Actually so damn well said I have to edit one of my drafts so it doesn't sound so much like this 😉

    I'm so over being super frugal in the name of PF blogging awesomeness. I have enough money that I can spend a TON of it and still pay down debt, save a chunk, and take care of my bills -- and I LOVE THAT. I work too much and too hard never to enjoy the financial rewards of doing so.

    Cheers to spending!

    PS. Taylor Swift GIFs ftw.

  31. Very very true! I work hard for my money, and while a giant chunk of it goes towards paying down debt, a portion of it also goes towards spending time with friends, travelling, and buying stuff. I'm not ashamed of that and I'm never going to stop doing that. It's not a bad thing, it's what like is all about.

  32. I think the key to everything you mentioned is moderation. I don't spend a lot of money on eating out, but when I do I want a nice meal. I don't go overboard on Christmas presents, but I do spend on Christmas (and maybe more then most people-but I budget for it all year). As long as there's balance and you feel comfortable with your financial decisions that's all that matters. I don't judge my friends with 100k of student loan debt and they don't judge me for occasionally saying no to going out.

  33. Great post. I think PF bloggers tend to foget that savings is a means to an end. I also think many PF bloggers also fear judgement and tend to over analyze and justify their spending too which I feel is unneccessary. It's called PERSONAL finance for a reason afterall.

  34. I love your logic here! I hate when people try to do the whole extreme cheap thing. WHY? Want to save more money? Make more money! Don't sacrifice your life and fun. Time is too short for that.

  35. Scouser

    Really good, the balance needs to be right. But as a UK resident I feel I have to comment on the 'tipping' issue. I appreciate that in some countries it is standard to tip, and that in the US it is almost mandatory, but in the UK we ONLY tip (usually 10%) good service. So quite often when in a restaurant, I won't leave a tip, not because I'm being 'frugal' but because the service didn't warrant the staff getting extra money.

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  39. Count me is another person who agrees. I budget and save so I can have money for what counts. Yes, I could save more money by cutting out my weekly happy hour with friends. Heck, I could have saved $100 by not throwing a cocktail party last night. And I'd be almost $2000 richer if I don't go to Paris for vacation this spring. But travel and my friends are important to me.

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  41. I'm on board with spending money not being evil. We all should have some good experiences and nice things, in moderation. I believe that spending money really is just an exchange for either your time in the past or time in the future, assuming you're not financially independent. If you like your job and are happy to make the sacrifice, it's fine and dandy. If you're not okay with the trade off, than I think not spending is a good thing too. Spending, by itself, it neither good nor evil. I personally choose to stay out of the restaurant if I am not okay with the trade off and the progress I'm losing by going there, and that doesn't make me evil either.

  42. I agree 100% - we work hard for money so we should be able to enjoy it on things like Holidays, going out with friends, etc. I can't stand when people recommend never going out and restraining yourself from having a life because of the costs involved in having a social life.

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  45. Hi Daisy. You said it right it is not bad to spend money. Perhaps, what is not advisable is to spend money unwisely. people work so hard to earn money to spend for themselves and their families. Just be moderate. That may be the practical thing to do.

  46. Jamie Dickinson

    Well said! My wife and I refuse to stop having some kind of social life, at the expense of saving. I often write about doing the stuff you want and indulging in treats every now and then, so long as it's in reason. We keep an eye on the finances, include it in the budget and don't go over board! Simple.

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