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When to Fight Your Frugal Instinct and Spend the Damn Money

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“Does that sign say wine?“

These were my exact words as we walked through our neighborhood one Sunday afternoon. A sign down one of the side streets had caught my eye. 

Of course, we had to check it out. I love wine and I’ve said that our neighborhood lacks a good wine shop. 

We walked into the quaint store, received a friendly greeting and found ourselves surrounded by natural wines sourced from all over the world. “Yes,” I thought, “this is what the neighborhood needed.”

We spoke with the local owner and tasted some wine. The whole experience brought a smile to my face. I love seeing someone follow their passion and take that leap of faith to start their own business.

As we left the store, I took note of some of the prices on the bottles of wine, which were higher than what I’ve been paying at ALDI. 

And here is where my frugal instinct kicked in. I immediately determined I couldn’t buy my wine there because I thought the cost was way out of my price range. 

But why did I feel that way? Why did my instinct to save money overrule my desire to support a business I thought was good for the neighborhood?  

What did I need to do to get myself to spend the damn money on the things I value? 

MY FRUGAL INSTINCT: HOW DID I GET HERE?

After we left the store, I started thinking about what had happened.

My instinct was to use my money to support an chain grocery store instead of a local business just to save a few bucks. Something didn’t feel right here.

I have worked hard on reducing my expenses by figuring out the best places to find the deals. Places like ALDI and Amazon have become my go-to’s for finding the lowest prices on goods. 

Doing this has allowed me to trim my budget and use my money for other financial goals. This strategy has brought me great success in cutting my expenses. 

During this process, I had conditioned myself to think about cost first and everything else second. This basically meant my instinct was to only think about how my spending would affect my wallet.

I’m proud of the way that this line of thinking has allowed me to cut expenses in order to achieve my money goals. But this experience with the new local wine shop got me thinking about how I have not always been focusing on the bigger picture when it comes to determining how I’m going to spend my money.  

THE PROBLEM WITH ALLOWING MY FRUGAL INSTINCT TO TAKE OVER

As I was reflecting, I realized that saving money on a purchase is mostly serving my own needs. It mostly affects my bottom line. 

And that’s not a bad thing. I shouldn’t feel ashamed for thinking about how a purchase is going to affect my own goals. 

But what I realized is that there are so many things that are important to me, both inside and outside of myself, that I want at the forefront of my mind when deciding to spend money. 

There is a bigger world out there that is affected by my privilege and my spending. I feel like it’s a mistake for me to forget that.

I recognized that I needed to install a system of checks and balances so that my frugal instinct can more closely align with my values in order to be fully intentional with my money. 

THE A-HA MOMENT

One of my greatest learnings in the past few years has been understanding that living intentionally—thoughtful decision making—can evoke a sense of ease and clarity in my life. 

After years of trying to cut my expenses, being intentional with my money ended up meaning that I was spending within my budget and on things that would be enjoyable only to me. 

But now I’m realizing it’s more than that. It’s not just about how my spending affects my wallet and happiness.

Being intentional is about aligning my money with ALL of my values and priorities and those values and priorities include contributing and participating in a world outside of myself. 

It turns out it was easy for me to forget about this as I worked to cut the fluff out of my spending. 

On that Sunday walk through the neighborhood, I knew I wanted to make more of an effort to consider not just my wallet when making purchasing decisions. This was the wake up call I needed to get myself to fight my frugal instinct and spend the damn money. 

HOW I’M WORKING TO SPEND MY MONEY INTENTIONALLY

My a-ha moment reminded me that there were times I had forgotten that being intentional with my money went beyond thinking solely about how spending would affect my financial goals. There was more to intentional spending—more things my money could do—and I had to work to remember these things and fight off my frugal instinct when it took over. 

After giving it a lot of thought, here are the things that I determined that I want my money to help me accomplish:

1. MEET MY FINANCIAL GOALS

Yes, thinking about my financial goals is what allowed my frugal instinct to take shape, but it’s still something that is important for me to consider.

My financial goals are important to me and it would be difficult to meet them if I tucked them away and didn’t use them to help gauge whether or not a purchase is in my best interest.

This is still probably one of the first things I’ll think about when making a purchase, but I’m going to do my best to think about the following as well. 

2. INVEST IN MY HEALTH

Spending money on things that will help me maintain my health is a good thing. Things like quality groceries, gym memberships or tools that simply help me stay healthy are indeed worth my money.

But it’s so darn easy to forget that when my main focus is saving money. And doing so would be a disservice to myself. My savings account should not come before my health. 

3. PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT

Designing my life in a way that will help reduce my impact on the environment is important to me. But thinking about how my purchase will affect the environment has not been at the forefront of my mind.

Yes, I’ve done things like change out my faucets and showerheads with low flow versions to reduce my water usage and I participate in our local composting pilot program, but I know there are more ways I can adjust my spending to help even further. 

Maybe I can buy more local groceries.

Or even just walking to Target down the street and using my own shopping bags instead of ordering from Amazon would help, since Amazon leaves a larger ecological footprint through additional transportation and packaging.

It’s the little changes like these that can make an impact. And remembering this when making a purchase is something I want to make more of a habit. 

4. CONTRIBUTE TO MY COMMUNITY

The question of “how can my money help the communities I’m a part of while also taking care of myself?” is a tough one for me. It actually feels odd admitting that. I want to sit here and say that it’s easy for me to give give give. But it’s not. 

And I think that is ok.

But there is a way to find a balance.

I can find a way to buy that wine from the local wine store or buy my V60 coffee filters from my favorite coffee shop instead of Amazon. And I can create a “giving” bucket in my budget and allocate an appropriate amount of money to it.

It’s these little things that won’t destroy my financial goals, but can help contribute to the world around me that I want to but at the forefront of my mind.

FINDING THAT BALANCE

Currently, I feel like I often consider these things when making a purchase, and sometimes this results in me spending more money. 

But there are also many times that I have allowed my frugal instinct to take over and make my decision for me.

Acknowledging these four things that are important to me will help me be more intentional with my money. It will allow me to make a decision that balances my needs to meet my financial goals, and my needs to try and help the world around me. 

This is not saying that I’m always going to say yes to that charity or always buy local. I simply want to me be more aware and start choosing where my money goes by being more intentional versus letting my frugal instinct always call the shots. 

YOU GOT THIS

A simple walk through the neighborhood turned into quite the learning experience for me. 

It reminded me that it’s not just about how much money I’m saving. It’s about being truly intentional with my money by considering all the ways that my spending affects the things that are important to me. It was a reminder that I’m part of a world larger than myself.

Nowadays, it’s so easy to forget that we are part of an entire society beyond our front door. We are a community that relies on each other to thrive, whether everyone realizes it or not.

So go on, expand your vision beyond your own front door beyond your own needs. Think about what you want your money to provide for both yourself and the world around you. What are your values and how can you adjust your spending to reflect those values?  

It’s so easy to get caught up in our individual lives that we often forget this. Remember that you are part of a larger world outside of yourself. 

Together we thrive. 

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9 Responses

  1. This post reminds me of some of Ramit’s stuff that I’ve read. In summary, save and invest according to your plan and then spend money on things that you value! As long as you are hitting your savings goals, you shouldn’t feel bad about spending money on things that matter to you. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Supporting local businesses is something which goes against living frugally.
    It’s always going to be cheaper to buy a 10 litre drum of “grape-style fermented drinking juice” cheaper at COSTCO or Tescos or Aldi.
    The same for many things.

    As a case in point; we buy fruit from a local greengrocer on a Friday after work in a family ritual where we are all “fruit friends”.
    We go there and chat with the owner, and neighbours on the way, buy what we want (plus a beer or kombucha) and if the weather is nice, go sit in the park and eat them.
    On Saturday, I go for a big shop in Lidl and buy fruit for half the price.
    We are getting a different experience with the local shop and for the sake of a few pence, we keep our high street vibrant.

    So go and patronise the wine shop – you will learn more about wine from an enthusiastic owner than from any supermarket.

    1. Fruit Friends! I love it. I also love the idea of thinking about spending money in terms of the experience you’ll get out of the expense. There are so many goals and priorities to balance. And I’m learning to be ok with things not always being completely in balance. Thanks for the nudge to go and patronize that wine shop.

  3. Love this article/thanks so much!
    Retired 3 years ago and loving life…
    It continues to be VERY difficult to change mindsets to spend from save…
    I need to make some changes soon,however it’s very difficult to take the first draw down of retirement funds…

  4. I love this concept! It is such a balance but when it comes to things that are important to us or help other people (especially friends and those less fortunate than us) its ok to just spend the money! We shouldn’t be cheap at someone else’s expense (assuming we have taken care of ourselves first!

  5. I’ve definitely been guilty of thinking only of the bottom line. It’s something I’m working on. One of the major ways I shop my values is to avoid Walmart, whose labor practices I don’t agree with. I’m fortunate enough to not NEED the absolute lowest price, so I vote with my dollar. Which hurts sometimes but it’s overall a good thing for my conscience.

  6. I love this! I have come to the same conclusion- our dollars speak for us and we should use them to create the change we seek in the world. Supporting local businesses, farms, and reducing our footprint on the Earth are some of our priorities. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. This is a great post to get me thinking! I definitely don’t always shop in the most ethical manner as far as buying local or from small businesses. It’s hard to get past the financial aspect of things sometimes. I hope you’ve been back to the local wine shop and gotten to know the owners!

    1. Thanks Kate! It’s so hard to put aside the financial impact on our own finances when making purchases. I’m happy to say that I have been back to the wine shop twice since this article and have been able to find bottles of wine at a price I’m comfortable paying while supporting a local business.

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Picture of Melody Creator of Cash for Tacos

Hi! I’m Melody and I want to help you create a vision for your life and provide you the necessary tools to use your money to make your vision a reality. 

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