The guy with the $50,000 luxury car. The couple with the $3,000 a month loft apartment. The girl who spends $200 a week on locally-grown food. The guy who spends $200 a month on gym memberships and fitness classes. The guy with four motorcycles. Do you know them? These are extreme examples, but most of us have one or two spending weaknesses. Even if we’re otherwise smart with our money—even if we know better—we splurge in a few areas. As long as you limit your splurges and as long as you are sure of the value of those splurges to you personally, your spending weakness is probably a good thing.
Some people can live life in a state of permanent self-denial in pursuit of their long-term goals, be it an early retirement or simply a huge bank account. Others would ask: What’s the point if we can’t enjoy ourselves today? Although we all should learn and practice restraint and frugality so we can live within our means, we do need to enjoy ourselves today. Of course I’m not saying go into debt and buy whatever you crave. There’s a line between the spending patterns that keep you forever ensnared in debt and those that allow you to reward yourself periodically while continuing to build long-term financial stability.
And I know: I used to be in the “it’s just money, live now!” camp. I ate out whenever I pleased. I bought whatever I wanted. I even pursued my private pilot’s license simply for the fun of it…before I even had a full-time job. Talk about an irresponsible indulgence. Obviously, those decisions caught up with me, and about five years ago led to my financial enlightenment. I tightened the belt and started learning (and writing) about making smarter money decisions. Although I consistently live within my means today, I have my spending weaknesses. The two that come to mind are: the occasional dinner out and a BlackBerry that, although I use it for work, I admit is primarily for my own entertainment.
My fiancee’s include fitness classes and organic foods. Although I would say she spends too much in those areas, she’s living below her mans and she’s quite frugal in every other area. (She does not, for example, share my interest in the latest and greatest cell phones. She recently purchased a new phone only after her old one cracked and wouldn’t hold a charge for more than a few hours).
I’m acutely aware that all of the budget bulldogs out there would find faults with both of our budgets. Stop paying that ridiculous cell phone bill! Cancel your gym memberships! Stop shopping at Whole Foods and cut your grocery bill in half! It’s true, those things together could save us about $200 a month. But those are our spending weaknesses. Our indulgences. They’re what make working and saving and scrimping on other things worthwhile. Could we do without them? Sure. Would we get rid of them if times got really tight? Of course. But for now, we pay for them—fully acknowledging that they are luxuries—as we continue to work hard to build our future.
Do you have spending weaknesses? What are your indulgences—your splurges? Are they in check, or out of control? Do you justify them, or feel guilty about them? Please share in a comment!