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On Spending Consciously

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There is a lot to be said about being a frugal person. I try to save money whenever possible – I use coupons, buy quality items, and shop with a plan. But that doesn’t mean I am cheap or afraid to spend money. I have no problem spending money, so long as I make the conscious decision to spend. I don’t like the idea of buying things out of habit.

The Benefits of Spending Consciously

Spending Conscioulsy

Do you think before you spend?

I try to avoid spending money for the sake of buying the newest gadget or out of boredom. When I spend money, I want to receive value and pleasure from the action. Let me give you an example.

Eating out. Once a week I go out to eat with a coworker or with my wife. It is a planned event and it certainly isn’t a big splurge for my wallet or my waistline. I have no problem spending money once a week for a change of pace, to socialize, and to get out of the office. The rest of the week I prefer to brown bag it. I enjoy eating leftovers – they often taste better than eating out and are healthier for my waistline and wallet. I enjoy going out to lunch, but I don’t think I would enjoy eating out everyday. Now let’s look at a different situation.

I have a coworker who eats out for lunch everyday. Is that a problem? Not for him. I asked him about it one day and he responded, “I’m in my fifties. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t fool around with the ladies. This is my vice.”

I’d say on average, my coworker spends $10 or more on each lunch (he never eats fast food). That comes out to well over $200 per month, and probably over $3,000 per year. But that is not a problem for him because he budgets for it, he enjoys it, and he does it consciously. Eating out is one of his spending priorities.

Unconscious Spending Causes Problems

Spending money is not bad – it is designed to be spent. But unconscious spending can cause big problems. It would bee a big problem for me if I ate out every day, spent several thousand dollars every year, blew my budget, and didn’t derive any pleasure from it. But it’s not a problem for my friend who budgets for it and enjoys it.

So long as you are sticking within your budget and aren’t spending yourself into debt, then you shouldn’t be afraid to go out to lunch every day, or spending money on another habit. If it is important to you, then find a way to fit it into your budget. Just make sure that when you place those items on the counter and reach for your wallet that you are doing so consciously, and not out of habit.


Published or updated December 11, 2012.
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mouli Cohen

Spending is a double edged sword. One of the main reasons we’re in this financial crisis is people living well beyond their means. So, it’s good to tighten the reins a bit. On the other hand, if we all stop spending, we’ll never get out of the recession.

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2 FFB

Great article! I think many people with money problems spend unconsciously. When you take a step back and look at your spending habits you can look at what is important to you and plan for that spending. You can also cut out the “fat” as well.

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3 Miranda

You have made a great point about PERSONAL finances. What works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. But, for everyone, the key to successful finances is planning ahead and making sure you are in a position to spend what you do.

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4 Kelly from Almost Frugal

I agree. I absolutely have to budget for things like this, and doing so helps me to save money. I don’t spend money on a lot of things without thinking about it, but that’s a recent development! It was only after I gave myself permission to spend €25 at Ikea every month and eat out twice a month that I stopped splurging once a month for much bigger amounts than I spend now.

Nice post!

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5 Miss M

Ha ha, I had a post like this a few months ago called the CoCo Revolution. CoCo being short for Conscious Consumer. I think frugality has a negative connotation that is unwarranted, there is nothing wrong with being more aware of our own spending.

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6 Ryan

Miss M, Sorry I missed your post. And you’re right – some people think the term “frugal” equates to cheap, which isn’t the case at all. It’s all about making the financial choices you want to live the life you want. If that means saving money on eating out so I can save more for retirement, or drive a nice car, so be it. Frugality is making the best of the resources you have available.

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7 Kristia

Enjoyed your article. After numerous financial mistakes, I’m learning to become frugal. And I also agree, frugal doesn’t mean cheap.

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8 DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad

Nice post!

True, bringing lunch is frugal and helpful in reeling in spending, but I wouldn’t call your co-worker unfrugal. He rightfully points out that he is selective in his spending. That’s what frugality is about– being selective and careful with your spending.

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9 Dawn

I agree with Miranda – I was just thinking about this the other day. As long as you are making conscious choices and have the money to do so, then you should spend as you see fit. It is only when it is happening without prior thought – or planned money – that it becomes a huge problem. Great post!

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10 Slinky

Great post. I think spending consciously is the most important thing to managing your money well. It doesn’t matter how frugal or not you are, as long as you’re choosing what to spend your money on. I decide how to spend my money and I put it in my budget. Then I stick to it because I know that’s how I really do want to spend my money. If something comes up, I have to decide where the money for that thing will come from. Can I cut another budget category or is it worth putting off my big savings goal a bit? Funny how it’s rarely worth doing that!

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11 Michael Anderson

I definitely agree that budgeting for pleasure spending is imperative. I also feel being able to budget for household spending is even more important. I work with Low Cost Power, and have found it helpful to be able to save tons of money on my electric bill and budget for it at the same time.

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