A while ago I wrote elsewhere about my efforts to cut back on household expenses, and subsequently choosing drugstore shampoos over the good stuff. In the comments on that article someone told me I was being “penny wise and pound foolish”, which kind of pissed me off because how does that make me pound foolish, exactly? It’s not like I stopped buying salon products, switched to Pantene, then started dunking my head in a vat of truffle oil after my showers.

At any rate, I think I’ve learned that decent shampoo is, in fact, worth the money. Mind you, I don’t think it actually makes much of a difference in my hair. My hair is what it is: a hot mess, for the most part, primarily because I have an annoying high-maintenance haircut which I am doing zero maintenance on. It’s just that using a soap that feels good and smells good is one of those human niceties that somehow seems to make a palpable difference in my day.

Same with skincare crap. Yes, I could use the Cetaphil, or I could pony up for something that doesn’t look like jizz. It’s the little things, you know?

I have followed through on some other budget reductions, though, including finally stopping the cleaning service I have used and loved with all my heart for years. I hated saying goodbye to the ladies who continually managed to make my toaster look like something that should be hanging in the Louvre, but I could no longer justify the cost. Especially since I’m cleaning all the fucking time these days for those ever-entertaining surprise realtor visits.

(I thought I was doing a decent job of keeping the place cleaning-service-clean, too, and then I peeked under the bed today when a rather large mound of Unidentifiable Whitish Fluff emerged. I don’t really want to discuss what I saw, but I will say I spent the next 20 minutes scurrying around like the kids’ Zhu Zhu hamster trying to get under there with the vacuum because my GOD. MY GOD WHO LIVES LIKE THAT. Hoarders, that’s who.)

Oh, and I cancelled our CSA share, finally being honest with myself that I wasn’t really making 100% good use of the entire box of healthful, planet-friendly produce. If only the local farms would offer a box half full of green leafy vegetables, half full of pretzel crisps, but alas.

Then I turned around and bought a CrossFit gym membership, which negates a good chunk of my cutting back. So far I believe it to be worth every penny, but I suppose some might call it pound foolish.

I keep circling our spending like a math-stupid wolf, peering and trying to decide what I can ditch, what I want to keep. I’ve started dividing purchases into my freelance salary, which is a depressing but maybe-useful exercise. Should I buy the giant select-a-size pack of Bounty paper napkins that will take me an article on goddamned Lindsay Lohan to pay for? Or should I maybe . . . use a dishtowel? The entire endeavor reminds me of trying to lose weight, where the process of trying to get to a place where you don’t think as much about your weight, ironically, makes you think about your fucking weight all the time.

I know these are vague sorts of questions and kind of overly personal to boot, but how would you describe your relationship with money? Do you focus on budget issues all the time, or only during certain times of the month, or what? Is one of the larger stressors in your life, or way down the list? Has it changed one way or the other in the last few years?

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Moose
11 years ago

Honestly? I don’t believe I deserve to have any. That was a fun realization. And explains a lot about the state of my bank account.

Moose
11 years ago

Um, that depressing realization aside, I’m totally with you on the shampoo.

Kathryn
11 years ago

I don’t think that cutting back on your spending means that you start using VO5 and cancel your internet and cable. For me, it means that I figure out what my spending priorities are. Crossfit means a lot to you, and it is worth giving up cleaning service for…so that’s what you’re doing! I’m in no way a money expert, I’m very young and do not have any money but I believe in relishing in a few really meaningful things. It sounds like you are doing some things that make you really happy.

6512 and growing
11 years ago

Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) I stress about money while my husband never does (even when we have good reason to stress) and stressing never helps.
2) If we have more, we spend more.
3) If we have less, we get creative.
4) And cliche, cliche, cliche, but having a fatter wallet doesn’t ultimately make us happier.

Lori
Lori
11 years ago

When I first quit my job to stay home with the kids five years ago, it was either cut back or run up the credit card. We were constantly monitoring our bank account and totally lived paycheck to paycheck. I made a lot of tuna noodle casserole. It really sucked. I loved being home, but I hated worrying about money. Luckily, we were at a place where we could make some smart decisions — don’t buy the big house in the super fancy neighborhood, pick the smaller one in the okay area. We opted to have only one car — what a luxury, I know it wouldn’t work for a lot of families. (I still had to drive my husband to and from the commuter train, but when your kids are little, strapping them in carseats and turning up the music is kind of a relief — my down time.) As the years passed, my husband’s salary has gotten better, with a few bumps along the way, of course, but things aren’t nearly as tight as they used to be. We’ve also gotten used to living with less and don’t try as hard to keep up with the Jones’, so to speak. I can’t complain, we’ve got it pretty easy, really, but I still do miss making some of those luxury purchases I could’ve made before I quit my job. Now we use the extra money for vacations, or “adventures,” as my kids like to call them, and try and make memories. Memories are better than a Coach bag or fancy shampoo any day.

That being said, I wouldn’t call your decision to join Crossfit foolish at all. If Crossfit is worth it to you, then you should enjoy without guilt. I will always have good coffee in the house (don’t try and tell me Chock ful of Nuts is just as good as Illy, b/c you’re wrong!) and my husband always has nice shoes. We only get one life, cutting back on money so much that it takes the joy out of it is wrong.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

my relationship with money is (to steal one of your phrases) SUCKTASTIC! I am about to turn 43 and have always had a very strong work ethic. I am the “bread winner” of the family because I am forced to be, because my husband never stresses about money or really seems to care at all. I feel trapped and just when I manage to dig us out of a hole and feel like we’re getting on track….I get the text message “they fired me. I can’t believe them” And there goes the savings account again.

So yeah…not where I thought I’d be or want to be, but having a hard time finding a way out.

Anne
Anne
11 years ago

What and how we spend is always on the radar, because it is so fucking easy to go off the rails, just like with a diet. That’s why I keep a food diary and a budget. YNAB software (You Need a Budget) has helped us TONS. We have been much more organized and prepared for expenses, resulting in about one-tenth the arguments, since buying it.

By the way, I am currently in Tofino, thanks to you. Saw your photos years ago and swore we’d visit one day. So, thank you for the amazing inspiration. It’s so beautiful here it makes my throat hurt.

honeybecke
honeybecke
11 years ago

When my first son was born in 2005, I quit working to stay home with him, and then in 2007 my second son was born. My husband has a pretty good job so I am fortunate to be able to do this. But let’s just say one income still sucks. We do stress about money but we are really smart and humble about it too. We know what we can afford and what we can’t. We do without a lot of time, yet it never really seems like we are missing out on anything. I shop for pretty much anything and everything second hand and garage sales. I am talking everything from clothes to kitchen wares to furniture. My husband wears second hand $1 dockers to work that look brand new but come without the $50 price tag. That shit adds up ya know??
For our personal fun money we each get $45 in cash per month. Anything that is not essential must come out of this. (Let’s be honest though, it really should just be called coffee money heh.)
When we bought our house we looked at what we could afford comfortably each month and then didn’t allow ourselves to look above that asking price. I keep tabs on interest rates and since we plan on being here forever we have already re-financed twice and each time that saves us $120 per month.
I call around every few months and get quotes on things like our cell phones, cable, telephones and stuff from different companies. I check with my car insurance each year and as my car gets older I can lower the deductible if I want to save on the payment.
We don’t buy anything on credit. If we can’t pay cash we don’t buy it. That doesn’t mean we don’t have credit cards, we do and we use them and pay them off every month. I can’t stand to let them make a dime off me.

We don’t have the six months worth of expenses saved up in a saving account like we would like to, but we do have a little nest egg that gets us through the unexpected things like furnace problems and car repairs. So far, so good.

Anyhow, I think you’re on the right path here. I hope you can find a good balance with it and not stress too much.

Chelsea
11 years ago

I get paid just once a month – which actually helps with budgeting. I make all of my ‘intended’ bill payments within the first 5 days of the month, which leaves me with spending money.

We worry about money constantly. We also always have the best intentions..but alas that always never works out well.

Our next goal is to get the 6 mos savings in the bank, including mortgage + car payments. We’ll see if we get there.

Maggie
Maggie
11 years ago

I hate budgeting, and am scared shitless about when I eventually have kids, and how I’m going to budget & save for THAT!

For now, however, I have a system that works…BUT, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to give you a little tip, which may or may not work for you, because you don’t live in LA…and maybe you have already shopped around for the best deals anyway…BUT, if not, check prices of shampoo & other toiletries, pharmacy items, cleaning supplies, household goods, etc…I used to buy shampoo & other iteams above at CVS or the grocery store–wherever I was when I needed them. Then one day I bought shampoo (Herbal Essences) at Target, and my life changed forever…it was HALF the price I had been paying at CVS & the grocery store. And it was not on sale–this was their everyday price. I was shocked, and felt cheated. I started comparing other prices at Target and realized I had been throwing money away on these things! I now make a special Target trip at least monthly for all toiletries & household items, and still wonder every time how I didn’t figure it out sooner…

Ness at Drovers Run
11 years ago

The hubs and I have also been through the same exercise over the last two years, cutting back where we could, and ultimately where we couldn’t either. What I learned when it comes down to it, is that there are many things that I can do without. But I also learned that I’m the one that kept short changing myself, cheaper moisturizer, home hair colour etc. Who was I helping? Ultimately no-one, because I felt SO craptastic about my self image that everyone suffered because of my resulting lack of niceness. The bottom line is that everyone has to cut back. That means less golf for the hubby (oh but I *must* have my relaxation time sweetheart) BALLS I say, if I can’t afford moisturizer, you can bet your sweet ass you will NOT be playing golf this month, or at least for three months from now. There is a *LOT* to be said for meal planning – and we’ve saved a heck of a lot of money doing that, doing the cook once eat twice thing also helped. We even turned off our satellite TV subscription for two months because we had so much downloaded content to watch that we weren’t watching the rubbish on TV anyway. There are so many places a household can cut back – even switching to cheaper insurance etc. Don’t sell yourself short – moms are classic martyrs, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

caleal
caleal
11 years ago

I went to school to become a counselor, ideally at a non-profit working with elementary aged kids. Two degrees later I’m dying under the weight of soul crushing student loan debt that I’m pretty sure will never, ever go away. I’m also trained for a job that is surprisingly low paying for how much I paid for it. This makes me constantly worry about money.

However, that makes me dumb about my spending. What’s blowing fifty dollars on Starbucks a week when I’m already in over 100 grand? Starbucks makes me happy! I know I need to get it into gear, but it’s hard. It’s a constant struggle because it feels like deprivation, when it’s common sense. Much like food relationships. Woe.

Sarah
11 years ago

Money is the singularly most stressful thing in my life. I spend endless hours in therapy talking about my money anxiety issues. It has been this way for me since I was a child, but has intensified as I have aged. Now I pretty much hate money and ignore it (and hire other people to deal with it) the best I can.

squandra
squandra
11 years ago

The first year we lived together, we lived within but not below our means. We were young enough that it didn’t stress us out much.

But then we got some goals that required a tighter belt, and started the Dave Ramsey thing. Now we live on a budget and really, it’s pretty much stress-free. I like that priorities are set ahead of time and our money goes wherever we decide it should, so there aren’t any decisions to agonize over — just adjustments from time to time.

We went off the budget for a couple of months surrounding a cross-country move, and actually that *did* stress us out. Too much mental energy. By the time all of the first and last bills had shaken out, we were so ready to have things streamlined and self-sufficient again.

Trading rent for a mortgage this year has been an adjustment, and we definitely had more fun furnishing the house than we are now, saving for retirement … But in reality, we know retirement is the most fun thing EVER, so our paychecks get divided up accordingly the day we get them. :)

More power to the folks who manage to simply put saving for the future before coffee, lunch, etc on a daily basis, but neither of us has the willpower. A budget makes it easy.

Tara
Tara
11 years ago

Ah, money. My husband and I come from very different perspectives. He spends very freely, and I am very cheap. However, since we’re both pretty open to suggestions, this hasn’t caused a lot of strife. We’ve both managed to meet somewhere in the middle and it’s working for us. But here’s one great thing that I learned from my husband. If you want something really badly, and you deny yourself that thing, a lot of times it winds up costing you more in the long run, because you keep trying to buy other things to fill that void. So, through him, I have learned that it’s important to allow myself some luxuries. I think your Crossfit training falls into that category. It makes you happy and is totally worth every penny.

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

OK, how many readers recognized today’s title as the Pink Floyd song?

I also agree with the “spend on the luxury that makes you happy.” We don’t do much frivolous spending (no cleaning service or yard service and definitely cheap hair products), but we do buy a pricey coffee drink every day. Those coffee drinks are SUCH a treat, the thrill of getting one is worth the silly high price.

lisa
lisa
11 years ago

Enjoying all the comments. When my husband joined the Marine Corps we took an 80% pay cut. We had so much less but were so much happier. We’ve always lived within our means and had a budget and that’s always kept us debt free. And I was totally a Starbucks-a-day person and then my husband figured it was a good “investment” to buy a $1200 espresso maker…..the thing paid for itself in 6 months! Right now we’re feeling a little more crunched because we spent $6000 on airfare (six. thousand. GOD) for my brothers wedding, and we’re trying hard to save up enough money to pay for a new car in cash (we live in Japan and will be moving back to the US next summer), but, cutting back a little now is better than having a car payment right?

I totally agree with you on the gym membership- well worth it. And good shampoo. Oh- and food. I don’t make concessions on (healthy) food….even if a pear is $3 and strawberries are $6 I still buy them.

Barbara
Barbara
11 years ago

Cetaphil DOES look and feel like jizz! Amen. And I just can’t – no matter how good it might be for my skin – wash my face with it. Ew.

Money is the Elephant in the Room at our house – has been since we got married nine years ago. Husband won’t talk about it, won’t budget, won’t “share” other than the barest basic amount to cover mortgage, etc.

So I pay bills out of what we put in the joint, and I put in enough to cover my share of that, then the rest is “mine” as his rest is “his”. There’s no plan of the future, and even though he’s getting ready to retire he’s never discussed that with me – how we’ll make it happen financially.

Weird? Totally. Weirder still I know I will be fine, no matter what happens to “us”.

Gertie
11 years ago

I’m a budgeter, ever since home-ec class, but now that I’ve been unemployed for over 15 months money is so tight that my only luxury is vegetables.

Kate
11 years ago

We’re a one income family. Well, I make like $9/hr at a 7 hr/wk job…

THANKS GRAD SCHOOL.

So really, one income. At least while we have little kids. I have to say the biggest de-stressing change for us was switching to a cash budget for groceries. It means that in months with unexpected expenses (car breaks, have to travel to a funeral, etc) I never have to worry about not having enough money for food.

And it makes me have to pay attention to what I’m feeding the family, how I plan meals, all that stuff that contributes to an overall less stressful house.

Eric's Mommy
11 years ago

We have no extra money. We haven’t been able to pay our mortgage in 2 months. I don’t splurge on anything good for myself because I can’t, cheap shampoo, cheap skincare products, I haven’t had a haircut in a year. Budget, what budget? I lost my job over a year ago and make more on unemployment then I would if I got another job, plus I am home to deal with our Son. My Husband works 2 jobs and doesn’t even make as much as I do on unemployment. The ONLY good thing is in 6 years (if he makes it, he drives a city bus and it is AWFUL) he will be at top rate and making good money. Right now though things are bad, really, really bad. We are used to it though, we never really had any money, just enough to barely get by. Even with my college degree and working at a huge Biotech company for 10 years.

warcrygirl
11 years ago

We have two kids and one income. We decided this when the oldest was a baby because by the time I finished paying for childcare I was bringing home $2 an hour. We’ve been cutting corners for the last 10 years and have been quite comfortable up until the economy took a shit. I do my own pedicures, use cheap shampoo, use Clinique but mainly the free samples (I can’t give up my 3-Step) and buy generics whenever possible. If we do spend money it’s almost always on the kids: scouts, sports, school stuff, etc. It sucks not being able to take vacations to Disney or have a time share on the beach like my friends do but I don’t regret it as it was the best decision for us. Now that the boys are older I can look into going back to work…just as soon as the economy picks up. *sigh*

Nyt
Nyt
11 years ago

I’m glad to see that everyone has some kind of issue with money. Around here, the money thing is my job, and I do it twice a month. When the economy took a dive, I had to take a hard look at what was going on in our own home. I’m a much better slasher than budgeter.

First, we used up everything we had, whether it sucked or not. We now buy only the things we use, and if some company wants me to change products, they better be sending me a full size sample.

If you think Target is cheap for cleaning supplies, try your local home improvement store. I never thought I’d say it, but I save a ton on cleaning supplies by buying at the Home Despot.

Paper goods are always bought in bulk. And take a look at how you use them. I have never used just “one sheet” of paper towel to clean anything. High end brands make no sense around here.

Slashed the cable to bare bones. Netflix covers everything that we’re supposedly “missing”

We follow the “clothing” rule with the thermostat. Add some or take some off, but do not touch the thermostat.

A final word about insurance. Do look at it, but be careful what you cut. We took a lightening hit a few days ago and while our larger deductible seemed like no big deal a few years ago, it really stings about now.

el-e-e
11 years ago

I wish we were better about money. We have the desire to budget carefully and save thoughtfully, but when it comes down to it, what that means is… we don’t spend money on clothes. Basically. I mean, we buy groceries and books and video games when we want/need them, and the way we justify the “fun” spending is seriously, we never buy new clothes. It… isn’t the best plan.

My hubs & all his coworkers just got their 2nd 10% pay cut in 3 years, however, THANKS ECONOMY, so something more structured is going to have to be done.

My wish would be to have weekly budget “meetings” (a la Dave Ramsey) with each other, pay off and cut up some credit cards, and start saving that 6 months’ worth. We’re also due for a new car, but… we’ll just have to see about that. Good discussion, I enjoy reading everyone’s comments.

Emily
11 years ago

We’ve done a lot of little things (cloth napkins instead of paper, for example), but the biggest change has been with our two credit cards. Several months ago, I sat down and tried to figure out what was sucking all of our money away every month and making it so hard to make ends meet. When I figured out it was credit card payments, we (and I know this would make some financial advisers reach for their smelling salts) dug into savings to pay them off. Now, we’ve each got a strict budget about how much can go on our credit cards per month, and the balances get paid off at the end of the month. And we’re still on our previous (asstastic) budget until we repay savings. It’s tight, but worth it to know that we’re not going to get ourselves into such a big hole again, debt-wise.

Caroline
11 years ago

Money? well, it’d be more of a problem if we had a mortgage to pay but we can never figure out where we’re going to be living in two year’s time (and now it might be London! aaaaaargh mortgages way way *big*!). But what I want to know is: what’s a good fancy shampoo? for long otherwise pretty normal hair? Every time I try one at random it’s not much nicer than pantene whatever from the drugstore …

LauraC
11 years ago

My husband and I met at work and consequently got laid off on the same day when the company was going out of business. Your analogy with the diet is spot on. We had to constantly assess whether something was worth spending the money, and find ways to not spend money.

At the time, it sucked. In hindsight, it helped us realize how we value money when we are in lean years and fat years. We still use cloth napkins, dishtowels, the library, and free days at museums. Purchases are made with more thoughtfulness now.

But yeah, it sucked getting to that place because you think about what you are giving up, instead of thinking about whether or not you need them.

I’d also agree Crossfit is something for you to stay healthy and sane and you know you will use it.

Anne
11 years ago

I’m an accountant, so one would THINK that I would rock at budgeting and money things (since that is what I do for clients all day every day, and I’m very good at it here), but HAHAHA not so much with my own money. I have the same fits and starts of budgeting, the same splurges-I-shouldn’t-do, etc., as everyone else. When I get it in my mind that we are going to SAVE, DAMNIT!, then I think about money all the time for a few months. They I sort of…forget about it for a while. Until the lack of saving gets on my nerves again and I’m back to SAVE, DAMNIT! It’s a process. Some days are better than others.

Kristin H
Kristin H
11 years ago

We did the same thing, dropped the cleaning lady, stopped going out as much, etc. when my husband quit his job to stay home. I seem to go through phases where I think about money a lot and then I don’t. We sort of reach an equilibrium, and then get off kilter and spend too much again, on an off like that. It’s not a huge stressor for me, but I was surprised by how much less we spent (and the fact that it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be) when we decided he’d stay home.

One good thing about dropping the cleaning lady is I’ve started having the kids help clean the house. They’re learning how to clean. I figure this must build character or something.

Melody
11 years ago

I am completely neurotic about money.

When I was a little kid, my family really didn’t have a lot of money. All I wanted in the world was to take horseback riding lessons, but of course, that’s way expensive. So, I got it into my head that if I just saved up ALL of my birthday money and ALL of my Christmas money and ALL of my allowance, and never spent any of it on ANYTHING, one day there would be enough for me to take horseback riding lessons. Except, of course, there was never enough.

Today, I am a master at budgeting money, but it’s wearing on me. I work for a non-profit and I get paid enough to comfortably make ends meet, so long as I abstain from most luxuries. So, I get take-out or go out to eat maybe once a month, eat a lot of beans and rice, get just a few pieces of new clothing a year, and wear shoes well past the point when they have holes in them.

And still, I freak out about how I need to save more money, and how I need a job where I can MAKE more money, because the age of 30 is right around the corner, and there are things that I WANT in my life (like children) that I’m still never going to be able to afford, no matter how much more I cut expenses.

I am also ridiculously neurotic when other people (including fictional characters) waste money. For example, in that episode of Friends where Ross buys a ticket at the airport so he can chase down Rachel to her gate and convince her to stay with him? I was unaffected by the fact that Rachel turned Ross down, but I felt genuinely anxious about the fact that Ross had just WASTED all that MONEY on a plane ticket he wasn’t even going to USE.

I think there is a balance to all of this, and it sounds like you’re doing a good job of finding it–assessing what adds significantly to your quality of life, and making sacrifices where you can. It’s hard to find that balance. I think it may be more common for people to be on the end of the spectrum where they spend money a little too freely, but the other end of it–where you berate yourself for spending $15 more than budgeted on groceries one week–isn’t a good place to be either.

melanie
melanie
11 years ago

When I quit work 5 years ago to have my son, I was earning 45% of our monthly income (which is why I always chuckle when people tell me they cannot possibly give up the second income–if I can do it nearly everyone can!)

We have about 5 months of saving saved up currently (I did have six months but we just did a home-improvement project)…… we have never owned a new car and likely never will (because I refuse to buy a car until i have the cash to pay for it)… our only debt has always been our mortgage, and thanks to falling interest rates last year, we refinanced our 30 yr mortgage to a 15 yr mortgage only costing us $40 more a month. That said we waste too much money on food….. I tell myself that we are choosing healthier options when we eat out (mostly things like sub sandwiches) but the truth is we can be cheaper and healthier eating more at home.

In the past few years what has hurt us is the rising cost of utilities, our local water gave themselves a 17% “raise” our local electricity provider gave themselves 10% and the gas company gave themselves 12% last year my hubby got 5% increase (and we are grateful for that in this economy) so guess who spent last winter with the thermostat set to 62 trying to save a few bucks… and this summer my thermostat never went below 79 degrees… and still I feel more broke than I did last year. OH well, whatcha gonna do?

heatherf
11 years ago

I’ve found that if I don’t budget our money down to virtually the penny (well, the last $50, but meticulously record every cent of those $50 spent), we waste money and are broke. I’ve done a fairly extensive budgeting spreadsheet with $X going toward mortgage, $X going toward groceries, $X going toward this specific bill, with $X going toward things like gas, etc. etc. etc. until there is $50 left for unexpected. I also try to make sure things like the Mortgage is covered by the first 3 weeks of the month, and anything extra beyond that $50 slush amount goes into savings. Otherwise there’s NOTHING set aside and we’re fooked. Back to the diet analogy, I don’t lose weight using the “eat less, move more” strategy – I need a super-rigorous program with fixed guidelines or I will fudge it way too much. I’m same with money.

JennyM
JennyM
11 years ago

Going through a divorce, and trying to simultaneously set myself up by myself in a smaller house and keep up the payments on the big house so that we can get a few cosmetic improvements done and try and sell that bitch — well, let’s just say that I think about money all the time. I am very fortunate to currently have a well-paying, fairly stable job that allows me to cover everything; but it doesn’t allow much room for unexpected expenses and so I live in fear of the transmission falling out of the car or the AC unit exploding or what-have-you. And then I’m always vaguely afraid in the back of my mind that I’m going to lose my job anyway and then I’m completely screwed. The whole experience is teaching me how much I relied on credit, because operating on what I actually earn (gasp!) is a whole different ballgame. Thinking about all of this all the time probably explains why my skin has gone to shit and my hair seems to be falling out, or at least shedding at an alarming rate. The problem with stress-induced problems is that it’s not like I can say, “Damn, you know what? I should just be happily married with no worries again. WHAT WAS I THINKING?”

So, yes, that gibbering sound you hear in the corner is me.

Operation Pink Herring
11 years ago

I think about money all the time, not necessarily in a good or a bad way, but ALL THE TIME. I can quote the exact amount in every one of our accounts at any given time. I’d be like some kind of goddamned savant, except for the fact that I can’t add.

I have developed this habit of classifying every purchase, as I make it, as essential or non-essential. It actually comforts me to spend money on non-essentials like salon hair color, organic groceries, books from Amazon, because I think, well, if one of us lost our jobs we could TOTALLY live without this. But I’m not giving up my fancy shampoo until it comes down to a decision between that or the house.

wm
wm
11 years ago

I focus on maximizing savings opportunities – retirement, education, etc. When I was freelancing, I focused on reducing other costs as well. Now that I have a regular paycheck, it is less of a stressor and less of a focus. As long as the savings accounts get funded and the bills get paid and we are living on what is left, I’m OK with that.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

Sadly, I just bought the $4.99 “Top Care” cheapo version of Cetaphil. The brand-name Cetaphil was the luxury item at $8.99.

Michelle
Michelle
11 years ago

My husband makes quite a decent salary (and just got a $10K raise – yay!) Still, money is super tight for us because hubby is getting his MBA and opted for a fairly highly ranked, local part time program rather than a cheaper all-online program. It’s a lot of work, but he loves it and will help him take his career where he wants it to go and I think that’s great. But…we are paying for it all out of pocket (all $60K, but no student loans to pay back later) so we are bare bones until he is done. I guess you could say grad school is our one splurge. We don’t have cable at all, we don’t do date night and maybe go out to eat as a family once a month or so. We don’t go to museums or movies, buy music, books, DVDs, Starbucks, or go out to lunch. We are well insured and contribute to retirement, but have no college savings for the kids yet. I make my own cleaning products (love Alice’s Wonder Spray!) I have never had a cleaning service and I use all “cheap” shampoos, skincare and makeup. We have both pretty much given up on hobbies that cost money for now and haven’t taken any sort of vacation since 2005. He’ll be done in May and I am so looking forward to a little more wiggle room in our budget!

S
S
11 years ago

I used to spend without thinking, hoping it would fill the void of whatever I thought would make me happy. After I got married we started paying attention and once I moved down here and we’re on one salary, I started keeping track of pretty much every penny I spend in a spreadsheet. We don’t have a huge income and so it has been a very important thing for me to learn to live within my means and by seeing the progress throughout the month I am able to stay where I need to be without going broke.

Jess
11 years ago

I love this post! And have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Mostly because there is SO MUCH CRAP in my house. I have a three and four year old and we live in the house of clutter. It doesn’t matter when I clean, it’s mussed up 5 minutes later. Because NOTHING is more fun than entropy. Except maybe the Wii. Bah. So I’ve endeavored towards the task of reducing the amount of stuff to be sprinkled about the home. Spend less, clean less. New motto. Win. Win. I think about what I lived on in college and am appalled at what I can blow through now. We’re not well to do, but every penny was accounted for, and when it was gone, it was gone. I need to get back to that, or at least turn the debit card in that direction. We will own a home one day, but not if I keep going to the Target every other damn day.

Medley
11 years ago

I’m with you on the shampoo – little things that you use every day like that matter! Coincidentally, wrote about this notion just yesterday (in case you wanted more rationalization :) ) http://www.currentmom.com/currentmom/2010/09/the-importance-of-quality-tools.html

Laura
Laura
11 years ago

I’m a SAHM, and always thinking about ways to save money. One thing I’ve noticed, is that I really appreciate my husband for going out and facing the work world, so that I don’t have to (and so that I can stay home with our 3 kids, which I love to do). He works hard, so that I can live the life that I want. So, when I come to an opportunity to waste money ($5 latte, anyone?), I find myself actually thinking of how long he has to spend at work, so that I can buy that latte. How much of my husband’s sweat equity is in that paper cup? It sure makes me think about money, and the things I buy, differently.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

I’ve always been a money worrier, which is good in that it means I hoard it away like a squirrel preparing for winter. But I’ve noticed that the money worries drive me to take on as much freelance work as I can possibly handle, which means that I’m working from 8 am until midnight a lot of days. And while the money is nice, that can’t be healthy.

I do the “purchase in terms of freelance money” too. Like, yes, we can afford to do X because that just means spending Y hours writing. But that creates a weird space in my head… where it’s simultaneously harder to spend money because I know what it takes in terms of man hours, and easier because it seems so simple to just “replace” the money we spent with a few hours of work.

(And also, when I’m ogling a pair of boots, and thinking “I could pay for those by working X hours,” I am not taking the massive taxes into account which will eat up probably half if not more of my income. So I’m probably shooting myself in the foot. Being an independent contractor is a bitch when it comes to the IRS.)

jen
jen
11 years ago

I quit working in April and we have one rather meager income. We decimated our savings so things are a bit scary right now in that something major would cause issues. I have the good shampoo too and nice face lotions but I am asking for those things as gifts going forward so once they are gone, I’ll have to make a decision on it. There just is not room for those things. My blackberry died the other day and I’m not replacing it right now…I reactivated my plain old cell. I do miss those things, mostly I just miss being comfortable but I think it has helped because I’m so much more careful than I was before. The thing that has helped the most? There is no Target in my town. I have to pack up and drive to it and so generally I decide it isn’t worth it.

I don’t think Crossfit is unreasonable at all if that’s what you need you know? I am still doing races though my husband and I did agree I wasn’t going to be signing up for every 5K that comes along. So it’s really just halfs and full marathons that I will be forking over the money for now. It’s the price for my sanity.

duchessbelle
11 years ago

Out of the many – many – neuroses I have, money is the top. Will hoard my savings like Scrooge McDuck but have no problem ignoring the credit card debt if I see a shirt at Anthro. Even though I should deplete savings to pay off debt, my chest gets tight because what if something happens omg fall down. Have actually made baby steps towards getting out of the hole. It’s a process and sounds like you’re making the best choices for your life.

Chrissy
Chrissy
11 years ago

A note to Caroline: A good shampoo = Aveda Brilliance
I’m probably the last person to give budgeting advice, but one thing I have noticed is how much we spend on gifts for friends & family, esp. around Christmas. We recently started drawing names instead of buying for every member of the extended family, and now that we have two little boys, I want to start a Santa tradition of four gifts per kid: something they want, something they need, something to play with, and something to read. It’s easy to get carried away over the holidays and I think this will help us keep our spending in-check.

Becky
11 years ago

We budget out our monthly bills, and since I get paid 2x per month I have bills that are paid with the first paycheck, and bills that are paid with the second. It’s all set up on an excel spreadsheet.

I’ve also heard WONDERFUL things about Mint.com (from friends who have used it), but it doesn’t work with our Credit Union right now so we can’t use it. One friend in particular said helped them cut their eating out budget WAY down; they hadn’t realized how much they were spending eating out, but the program broke it down for them really well. Obviously that’s most likely not your issue, but it could do other, similar things for you.

I agree with the others that it’s important to have priorities for spending. Bills first, then savings, then whatever’s left is fun money. And for us, it works better to treat money for our savings account like another bill. We don’t even consider it money that’s available to be spent (this is helped by the fact that it’s in an ING account, so isn’t easy to transfer back and forth).
I don’t have any words of wisdom regarding what to keep and what to get rid of. I’m still trying to convince my husband that we don’t need cable. Almost everything is available through either Hulu or Netflix. Except Jeopardy (yes, we are 80 years old) and baseball. Baseball is the bane of my existence, just so you know.

dorrie
dorrie
11 years ago

I think about the money ALL THE DAMN TIME. The recession hit my husband’s industry pretty hard, so we are tight. It makes me hope that once we are back on the upswing (please please God, hurry up) we will be more mindful of money wasters that we have gotten along without for this period. It’s amazing to me what we used to be pissing our money away on.

Angela
Angela
11 years ago

I think about money all the time. My lottery winning fantasy includes paying off our student loans and credit card debt. We are actually doing fine right now, which I feel very grateful for in this economy. I am the CFO of our household, and pay all of the bills, but I give my husband periodic State of the Bank Account reports just so he has an idea of where we stand. He has no interest and listens just to humor me, but it makes me feel better about the decisions I make. I have a similar system to Becky- we get paid every two weeks, so the bills are divided into first paycheck and second paycheck. I also have money automatically transferred into our savings accounts the day after we get paid. Money from the savings accounts then gets automatically transferred to an online account that we have that has a higher interest rate. I am in the process of doing a debt snowball, and it is so nice to see the balances falling.

Kali
11 years ago

Great comments and suggestions! The only difference in my frugal lifestyle is that we equate savings and retirement with normal bills. We are 58 and 59. I am employed and he is a self-employed programmer, with all the current suckage that implies. You can really see the difference in our lifestyle when compared to our neighbors on weekly trash days. One half-full trash bin and a small recycling bin is all we ever have to put out. I admit to pricing things by comparing things of equal cost: this dinner/movie out vs paying for yard help or clothing or *nice* yarn or… you get the picture.

anon
anon
11 years ago

I must be really poor, because I use Cetaphil and consider it a “splurge”. (And yes it looks like jizz. ew.)

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