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We All Have Spending Weaknesses

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!

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. My splurge is golf. I have to play golf a couple of times a month. Golf is expensive, but I make it work. My fiancee’s is gift giving. She is always buying gifts for people, whether it is for an engagement, birthday, a new house, whatever, she’ll find a reason to buy someone a gift. She has a big heart, but sometimes a simple card or phone call will do.

  2. My spending weaknesses are clothes, shoes, purses and gourmet spices!

  3. My spending weakness is Target. I have a category in my budget sheet named “Target.” When money gets tight, I avoid the place altogether.

  4. I think it is lame and irresponsible that you added “The girl who spends $200 a week on locally-grown food” on your list of superfluous spenders. I’m the wife of a grad student, mind you, but I am able to buy a week’s worth of fresh, locally-grown produce for $30 a week. Of course, this is only fresh fruits and veggies. I still buy other food (total food bill comes out to $70 a week)–but my point is that the fruit and veggie requirements for 4 people can be met by spending $30 of all organic, locally grown produce! You just need to know where to look. Google “community supported agriculture”.

  5. My weakness would be snowboarding. During the winter I feel the need to take ski trips. My other weakness was photography, however I got over that by buying everything that I wanted and started to put my equipment to use.

  6. I’d say I have a few spending weaknesses. One would be clothes, although I have gotten very good about this one, I used to spend a lot on going out to clubs, eating out and stuff like that, but I began to look for other forms of entertainment that are just as fun and make for great dates as well. I have a few friends that go crazy with their spending habits and subscribe to the philosophy of you cant take it with you when your are gone. While this is true, you are definitely right that there has to be a boundary. The fact of the matter is, that if people can afford to do the things they do, chances are they worked hard to get there, and hard work does warrant occasional rewards, but people also need to keep the future in mind so that they can continue to have fruitful lives into their later years. While it’s great to work and play hard now, do you really want to have to work hard so that you can play hard later on down the line?

  7. I’m guilty of having a spending weakness for LCD TVs and console games.

  8. I have things I like to splurge on. My boyfriend and I are taking a week long trip to Napa Valley next week. We have saved up a lot of money so we can do it right and not worry so much about costs. We want to take lots of wine home with us. BUT, we have been saving money up for months so we can do this. Meals out have been few and far between…

  9. Oh definitely books for me. I live in a one bedroom apartment and have 3 floor to ceiling bookshelves packed full, and this is after a major cleaning out! :)