As a writer of a public blog about money and investing, I get plenty of feedback from the internet. Not all of it is positive. There are definitely trolls. Sometimes though, people ask really insightful questions that are worth sharing. Sometimes even the trolls ask really good questions.
Today’s post is about one such question. A reader recently wrote to me and asked:
“Don’t you ever just splurge on fun stuff? Your “Other” spending is practically non-existent. Don’t you ever have any fun?”
The reader was probably just trolling, but I found this line of questioning (or is it lifestyle commentary?) really interesting on a whole bunch of levels. How we think about fun can create large differences in how we spend…
Fun Is Not Spending, And Spending Is Not Fun
First and foremost the questioner here implies that because we don’t spend much on non-essential items, we don’t have any fun.
I beg to differ. That couldn’t be more wrong. Fun is not about how much money you can spend. There’s plenty of fun to be had that’s free or a really good value.
For example, the Tako family has a ton of fun:
- We go on summer camping trips with the kids.
- We take a annual vacation when the kids aren’t in school. Sometimes this is international, and sometimes domestic.
- The whole family enjoys board game nights!
- We enjoy watching movies, often borrowed from the library.
- I read a TON of books to the kids, all borrowed from our local library.
- We host and enjoy dinner parties with our friends quite often.
- We enjoy walking/riding bikes/visiting our local parks, and hiking on our local trails.
- We have other “fun” hobbies (like writing this blog) that don’t cost much.
So yes, I think we have A LOT of fun! Honestly, I don’t know how I could even find the time to have more fun!
Does all this fun cost a lot? Nope! Most of these activities are not so expensive that they’ll put a dent in our monthly expenses. Many are completely free. Traveling internationally can certainly get a little expensive, but we try to travel-hack our trips whenever possible. This makes flying considerably cheaper.
We don’t just spend money to create expensive fun. Instead, we find fun things we enjoy that also happen to be really good value for the money that we do spend.
Do We Ever Splurge?
To answer the question “Does our lifestyle includes any splurging?”, I think we first have to discuss how to define splurging.
Splurging, is spending money far beyond usual (every day) levels and doing so without constraints. Basically, uncontrolled spending in the pursuit of “pleasure”. The key here is spending without fiscal constraints.
So does the Tako family splurge?
I would say, “No, we don’t”. We never “ignore the prices” and just party. That’s not to say we don’t have any frivolous spending — we do! Mrs. Tako and I both have play money accounts for our frivolous spending (covered in this post), but our frivolous spending is carefully controlled. This control keeps the frivolous spending to a very small percentage of our annual income.
You’ll never see us randomly laying out thousands of dollars on expensive handbags, at 5-star restaurants, or late night pub-crawls. Even when we go on family vacations there’s always constraints.
We try to get good value for our money. On family vacations our spending is freer than it normally would be, but we still look for good value and carefully control that spending. No crazy shopping sprees here!
This is the difference between trying to be a frugal person and actually being a frugal person.
The tape measure of frugality just becomes part of who you are. You can’t turn it off like a light switch. It’s always on. So spending with wild abandon? Just. Isn’t. Going. To. Happen.
I am not going apologize for being who I am either. I’m frugal and OK with it. I’ve been careful with money for so long, measuring value and being careful with money just happens automatically.
Sure, Mrs. Tako and I will occasionally go out for dinner, but we don’t go to high-end places. We don’t order a bottle of wine or the most expensive thing on the menu either. We keep things pretty “low rent”, and we do this so rarely it feels really special.
This is part of the mind-hack that happens once you get yourself off the hedonic treadmill. Suddenly even a pretty pedestrian meal out feels like a fantastic 5-star luxury experience.
Not A Special Snowflake
If there’s one thing I reiterate over and over again on this blog — that I’m not a special snowflake.
Nobody is ever going to dump a pile of money in my lap. I’m just a regular person. I wasn’t born into money. I didn’t inherit a large sum, or get rich from stock options. I don’t have special skills that are going to earn me hundreds of thousands of dollars a year either.
I simply earned my money the hard way — By going to work day-by-day and making a few dollars at a time. Then, saving and investing whatever I could.
Frankly I worked hard for that money, and I learned to be extremely careful in how I spend it. I’m not ashamed of that. To suggest that I should spend it freely or loosely without controls in place sounds like absolute lunacy to me.
I traded my life away for those dollars! Shouldn’t I be absolutely certain I’m getting good value for those dollars? I think so.
How about you? Do you ever spend extravagantly on shopping sprees, meals out, or on vacations? Be honest and tell me about it in the comments!
[Image Credit: Flickr]