Frugal Friday: Choose Wisely

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I had an interesting conversation with a friend. Someone had asked her why she paying for gymnastics and swim lessons for her children when she was trying to save money. It wasn’t a question of paying for perceived luxuries when there was debt to pay off. Her friend just didn’t understand her paying for expensive things when she was trying to be frugal. I think it was honest confusion that happens to us all.

And it’s an interesting question:

How can you scrimp and save and then pay so much for X,Y, or Z?

We each make decisions how to spend our money. Some better, some worse. But, really, what’s the goal of all the coupon clipping and penny pinching, anyway?

  • Sometimes it’s to get out of debt.
  • Sometimes it’s to be a good steward of resources.
  • Sometimes it’s to free up funds to pay for something higher on the priority list.

Making Choices

My husband and I love Peets Coffee. It’s a little more expensive than grocery store coffee, about $14 a pound. Not really what many people would consider “frugal.” But, we really enjoy a cup of Peets in the morning. So much so that when we lived in Kansas, we had it shipped to us every month or so, direct from the plant, because we couldn’t buy it locally.

When we decided to fight our debt, we gave up Peets. It was a luxury that moved lower on the priority list. And we tried other brands on sale, with coupons. And we drank some really wretched coffee as I gave bargain brand after bargain brand a try. And we lived, and it was fine.

While I still clip coupons and still make efforts to be frugal, I have added Peets to our list of regular purchases. We’re not rolling in dough, but now that the Debt Monkey is off our backs, we’re free to have a little more discretionary spending. And Peets is one of the things we choose.

For someone else, it might be extra activities for your kids. It might be a nicer car. It might be a salon hair cut.

It’s your money. You get to choose. Just choose wisely.

Related: MoneySavingMom has another interesting twist on the definition of frugality.

What do YOU do to save money?

Share your favorite money-saving ideas today. Leave a link to a post that shares some frugal wisdom. (Please no giveaways or deals posts. Teach us how to fish!)

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  1. Its so important to remember to enjoy things along the way on the frugal road! So many times I think people forget that!

  2. Last Spring, I spent a week at the hospital with my dad who was having a heart transplant. Every morning before leaving for the hospital, I drove across the street from our hotel to Starbucks to get my morning coffee. Yes… spent about $25 that week on good coffee. My aunt (Dad’s sister also staying at the hotel) said, “You are so frugal, normally. Your Starbuck’s spending shocks me!” My response was, “I’d rather skip lunch and start the day with good coffee if I had to choose.” 🙂 No, normally I don’t buy Starbucks but good coffee is worth spending money on to me. Normally I’m at home and buy it by the pound. You’re right… We all make choices! After your post, just had to share… I agree with ya!

  3. I describe our way oflife as “frugality with a purpose”. We are frugal in some (perhaps some would say many) so that we can splurge in others. We have horses and my kids take private music lessons, which many would consider unfrugal. The primary reason that I am frugal though, is so that I can stay home with my children. For me, frugality is intertwinedwith a higher quality of life. Sometimes that higher quality of life involves doing something frugal like making homemade bread and sometimes it means indulging by purchasing a piano (used and with cash, of course!)

  4. You might consider joining a whole foods or natural foods co-op in your area. I buy whole organic coffee beans for between 7 and 9 dollars a pound – I watch for sales, which are frequent. I buy a five pound box, sometimes two, when they go on sale.
    A couple months ago we thought we’d save money by buying whole beans, non-organic, at the grocery store and I discovered that my organic beans were actually less.

  5. I find it interesting what people question in my life. I adore travel and we spend our money on experiences where my best friend loves her home and will buy things that I would NEVER spend a dime on or I would get them used at the thrift store. I think certain things in life are not on the thrifty list if you want to FEEL richly blessed, and no matter how much money you have in your life, you CAN feel richly blessed if you honor what you love and save for THAT. thanks for sharing your space with us today, my article is a delicious broiled grapefruit recipe by mark bittman that really surprised me it was so good! 🙂 Alex@amoderatelife

  6. Wow, this must be on people’s minds right now! I just had a conversation with my sister-in-law, my frugal buddy, about this. They needed to buy a new work truck for my bil, and were appalled at the monthly payment that the dealerships wanted to charge people. It was almost a monthly mortgage payment. Because they are frugal, they put down $10k immediately. They had already made the choice to save for the truck, knowing this would happen one day, and had saved in other areas to ensure that this purchase could happen when it needed to without impacting their budget.

  7. Great post. That is definitely something to keep in mind, that we can be frugal in some areas to make room for other areas to splurge in. I haven’t really thought about it like that, but, I guess I already do this.

  8. I have often thought the same thing. My sister and I are both very frugal by necessity, but she will spend more on somethings than I ever would, and there are things I spend more on that she wouldn’t. It’s all a matter of priority and keeping it in balance.

    I linked up to my post on saving money in school lunches in my series of What’s in YOUR Lunchbox? for back to school.

  9. Thanks for the good reminder! It’s so important to remember that the reason for frugality is to be able to be free to use your money for what is truly important to you and not to waste it on what is not.

  10. I so agree Jessica! My husband and I have not always been frugal – and some people would probably say we’re still not frugal enough! But while living overseas we learned to cut corners and over the last year and a half that we have been back in the States we have continued to watch where our money goes and cut where necessary. We like Starbucks coffee, but for various reasons I decided to see if we could get something cheaper. I ended up ordering Dunkin’ Donuts (the REAL stuff, not the fake DD coffee in the grocery) to be delivered on a regular basis. Now we have coffee we love (for cheaper than Starbucks), but when people hear “coffee subscription” they raise an eyebrow. However, in the last year we have learned to live very comfortably on my husband’s paycheck – and have even saved for major purchases. I’ve also learned that everyone does “frugal” differently – and that’s okay. One size doesn’t always fit all. Our main goal is to be good stewards of everything the Lord has given us (which is EVERYTHING). I’ll just be enjoying a good cup of coffee while we do it. 😉

  11. This post hit home for us because I do spend gobs of money each month on gymnastics for my daughter. A total of $5,000 a year or so – and she is a low level competitive gymnast. Yikes! We have questioned ourselves many times on whether we really want to do this and it always comes back to yes we do want to spend our money this way. Even though we are back in debt temporarily we won’t drop gymnastics (you really can’t take time off and have much hope of retaining the flexibility and skills and when you sign on you do it by the year). Everyone has different priorities but as long as you don’t spend more than you earn it doesn’t matter what you spend it on as long as you are spending on what is important to you.

    1. @Jennifere, Yes, our family too–we work hard to cut back in many areas, but spend over $250 a month on each of two kids–for our 13 year old son who plays very competitive baseball, and our 16 year old daughter who rides horses. Not only do they learn a great deal about those things, which may become a part of their professional life, but also develop so many life skills, and their character while dealing with the challenges. So, when the going is tough and we think about it, we believe it is worth all the scrimping.

  12. It’s all about choices and what’s important to you. We love good quality meat and currently make room in the budget for local grass-fed beef. It’s worth the cost to us and I’m willing to scrimp and save on other things to be able to afford it. When we have a little extra grocery $$, we love to buy a wedge of really good Parmesan at Costco. We like to eat.:-)

  13. My husband would have to agree with you on the coffee thing! When we were paying off our debt he told me to buy the cheapest coffee around. I did and he about gagged on it…
    So we switched to a moderately priced brand.
    Now that we are debt free he likes his Starbucks, but usually he asks for it for his birthday or Christmas so it doesn’t come out of our pocket.

  14. I totally agree. Personally, one of my biggest motivations for finishing up our emergency fund was that I wanted to start saving for vacations. Travel is very important to me, and I knew that if we were going to take our kids places, it would have to be a saving-priority.

  15. Great points! We scrimp on our grocery budget like crazy. I am a coupon clipping, deal finding machine! However, I do pay to get my hair cut and hi-lighted at a salon and we have a cleaning lady. We scrimp and save on some items so that we can splurge on other items we can afford that save us in the end time, which means more time with our kids! Plus I LOVE scoring deals at the grocery store and when people are AMAZED at my couponing skills!

  16. It really *is* all about priorities. And each person’s priorities are different. We are frugal, and next week my son starts guitar lessons that will cost $60/month. That doesn’t make me any less frugal. I can easily pay for it by choosing to save in other categories. I totally understand your Peet’s coffee purchases!

  17. That’s the whole point of being frugal, IMHO–you save where it doesn’t matter so you can spend where you really need or want to. Life is too short to drink crummy coffee every morning, LOL!

  18. I live frugally, so I can splurge on what’s important to my family. The only debit we have is our house, with a 15 year payoff goal. I pay a $84 monthly YMCA membership. It seems crazy to some, but it’s important for me. We also occasionally put our children in swim lessons, gymnastics or baseball. I would not be able to afford the fun “extras” if I didn’t save money in other areas.

  19. I, too, LOVE my morning coffee and don’t you dare make me buy yucky generic or pre-ground or anything BUT good stuff! 🙂
    But I don’t care what dishwasher detergent I buy as long as it gets my dishes clean, I love using old socks to dust and mop my floors, I don’t care about TP (I actually prefer the thin scratchy stuff because that’s what I grew up with and don’t like the fluffy soft stuff because I find it sticks to me!), carrots can certainly be bought in bulk, and in-season produce is the best and freezes well for February.
    But, seriously, don’t take away my expensive delicious whole bean freshly ground in a burr grinder and made in an aeropress coffee. It makes my day start in such a happy way.

  20. I whole-heartedly agree on this one! It is your money so you get to choose. For instance, I am a penny pincher but I will spend a bit more on healthier foods for my family. I just flat out refuse to live on powdered mac ‘n cheese just because it is cheap.

    Great post!

    My blog is back and running so come by and visit.

  21. Great post! I have heard that instead of stating, “I can’t afford it” (which suggests you have no power or control” you should state, “I chose to spend my money on other items or in other ways.”

  22. My parents lived frugally and saved to put their four daughters through violin lessons. 14 years’ worth of lessons plus instruments, music, and everything else is quite a chunk of money! I really appreciate that they chose to invest in us instead of expensive cars, boats, or any of the thousands of other things they could have used that money for. What they gave us is priceless.

  23. I couldn’t agree more. That right there is the whole concept of my blog. There are some things we really enjoy and value and many ways to save money to make it happen.

    I also agree with Olivia, we love our family bonding time during vacations.
    Thanks for hosting.

  24. I agree completely. I’m not really trying to be an ascetic. I’m trying to be a more mindful consumer — so I can leave a smaller footprint, give more away, be independent, retire sooner, etc.

  25. I make frugal choices so I have the ability to make splurges. I have no problem wearing well chosen thrift clothing, for example, in order to buy local, grassfed beef, organically grown produce.

  26. Hi Jessica! Lost you for a while… for some reason, I just wasn’t popping in as regularly. But it’s nice to visit again and be able to link up with you.

    I completely agree that everyone’s priorities have a little different twist, and what may seem like an extravagant splurge to some may be a true necessity to another. The key is to carefully weigh my own choices to ensure that I’m not undermining my family’s financial goals!