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Conscious Spending – Back in the Groove

Since we do want to build back up our $10,000 emergency fund as quickly as possible (you can click here to read about the dental bills that are wiping it out), we have decided to do several things:

  • Mr. BFS is signing up to officiate as many football games as possible between September and November.  That should bring in about $4000.
  • He is also looking into tutoring opportunities to use all of his teaching experience.  Those can pay between $18-$25 pretty easily.
  • I am looking for more babysitting and petsitting opportunities since I enjoy it.  That doesn’t make a ton, but it’s fun to me.
  • I may be taking a part-time marketing position for a friend of a friend’s air conditioning business since he needs some experienced help.  We’ll see how that turns out by the end of this week or after we get back from our cruise.
  • We are making sure to spend consciously.  That means we literally think about every purchase we make to ensure it’s worth it.

The Return to True Conscious Spending

Mr. BFS and I aren’t spendthrifts.  But if you’ve read my blog for even a week or two, you probably figured out that we are not in the “frugal blogger” niche at all either.  We save at least 10% for retirement, invest at least 10% (either real estate or stocks), save for large other goals, and spend the rest.  We truly believe it is possible to budget in a fun life even while you are responsibly handling your future.  We live that way.

So, in the last few years, we have pretty much stopped sweating the small stuff.  We have concentrated on the big picture and moved on with our lives.  For example, we saved up more than $100,000 over 18 months to pay off our first home’s mortgage and to put down 20% on our new home at the same time.  But we also splurge for $700 food bills each month, a $200 housekeeper, and $80 a month for lawn care.  We prioritize regularly to make sure that we are getting the most use and enjoyment out of our money spent.

Honestly, I think that is the mentally healthiest way for us to live since I am detail-oriented to a fault when I really get going.  BUT, we know we can shave off about $1000 a month in spending if we truly evaluate every purchase and only spend when it’s worth it to us.

So for the next few months at least, we are going back to our post-college selves.  We are asking ourselves “This or the emergency fund?” about everything.  So far, it has helped us avoid spending extra on convenience food, home stuff, and even a few little things that we just liked when we saw them on Amazon.  Gifts are becoming a little cheaper but very thought out.  We have started eating at home before we leave to meet friends somewhere.  I’ve even been limiting myself to a one-drink minimum ($4) plus water at the karaoke bar I have started going to with our friend, B.

This is Most Likely Temporary

Based on these last couple of weeks, I know that we can totally do this for the rest of the year.  But once our emergency fund is back up to $10,000, I bet we return to looking at the big picture.  Analyzing every expense is work.  It’s not difficult, but it also isn’t enjoyable.  It was necessary years ago, but not now.  I liked being able to aim for just not spending more than a certain target number.  I understand that we splurged regularly, and I am okay with that.  My main reason for not being a frugal blogger is that I think it’s generally a big time suck.

I value time way more than money.  I waste it just like everyone else, but I like knowing that I am wasting it by choice when watching Dr. Who or something.  Thinking about small expenses all of the time and avoiding $1 McDonald’s drinks is an excellent way to save up money fast, but in the end, I think that not worrying about stuff like that worked better for us.

We had to do it right after college to save up to buy our first house and get the life that we wanted.  It makes sense to do it when times are tough.  And we are choosing to do it now to save up $10,000 faster than we could by just waiting for it to accumulate.

Think of this as proof that conscious spending works.  But on the flip side, it is also okay to choose a less frugal lifestyle (without going overboard) if you have the money to do so.  I don’t think it’s healthy to live paycheck-to-paycheck since it’s super stressful and it all can crumble with one bad month.  But I also don’t think that it’s necessary to crack down on yourself forever even when you are saving appropriately anyway.  In short, finding your own happy balance is the key.  Temporary visits to different sides of that balance can work too though, lol.

What do you think?  Balance?  Spendthrifty?  Frugal?  What is your way of living?

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11 comments to Conscious Spending – Back in the Groove

  • I really like the phrase “conscious spending”. So many people seem to spend on autopilot, driven by emotions which marketers know how to stimulate.

    When it comes to saving money, I think the most important factors are sustainability and contentment.

    If you switch off the heating and stop eating, the new spending regime will last about two days before its abandoned.

    So it’s important to select a standard of living which you can sustain over a period which is long enough to reach your financial goals. That’s where contentment can help.

    If you’re content with your life, the desire to buy new things is less intense.

  • I think it’s important to have balance. Balance is key!

  • My way of living is always fluctuating a bit. We try to stay frugal but realistic..yet always conscious of our spending. Like I wrote in my latest post: Think about how you are trading your hard earned money for “stuff”. Is an item really worth it for your life energy?

  • @Stuart, we were way more on autopilot than we thought. This has been good for us so far. :-) And yes, our general contentment helps a bunch!

    @Savvy, I think so too.

    @Tony, good way to look at it!

  • Little expenses like dining out or entertainment can definitely add up, especially when every dollar counts. But it sounds like between carefully watching your spending and maximizing your income-generating opportunities, you’ve got it all covered. Your emergency fund should be back up to speed in no time!

  • Did you mean that Mr. BFS will charge between $18 and 25 per hour for tutoring?? I thought teachers could charge at least $60/hr. Our cousin who is a teacher charges, like, $100-120/hr because she doesn’t want many clients.

  • Balance is the only way to go. I like that you have a goal, you’ll hit it, and then be able to not continue to worry about it.I’m all for paying off debt and evaluating every purchase, but what is money if you spend all your time hoarding and saving rather than enjoying life?

  • Alicia

    It is a very useful post and these tips are really priceless. Everything in life should be thought out, especially concerning your family budget. However, I have recently had a need in fast money and I didn`t want to take money from my savings, so I found a helping hand in another way. I have decided to apply for emergency money online.I must confess I am very pleased with my decision. The application process was easy and clear, without any paperwork. Moreover, now I regularly pay the needed sum of money to my lender and have no fear in this loan system as I had before. Now, I am sure that it really works for people.

  • @Anton, thanks!

    @Emily, that was our planned charge. $120 an hour?! Holy crap! Even $60 sounds amazing. Maybe I will look at the rates in the area harder…

    @Kim, I like having temporary goals too. It’s way easier to accomplish than ones with unknown end dates. I try to make a temp goal for nearly everything even by breaking longer goals down into parts just because it is more motivating to me. And yeah, you never have to worry about us forgetting to enjoy life, lol.

    @Alicia, sorry, but I broke your online loan link. You can always email me to sponsor it though. :-)

  • Hi Crystal. I really love your site because the information is so sensible and you and Mr. BFS have made some really great choices. My husband and I also live a fairly simple and frugal lifestyle. We do things that we enjoy but don’t go overboard. For example, we used to eat out a lot more than we do now and we used to go to more expensive restaurants. However, over the past several months we’ve found we enjoy eating at home more than going out — plus it’s cheaper. We still go out on Friday nights (date nights) but it’s usually for pizza which runs about $50 to $60 including tip.

  • Little expenses really build up quickly, what really worked for me was to keep a relentless track of every penny I spent and then use categories to find out where I was spending the most, surprisingly I was spending three times as much on food that I should have. Keeping a conscious eye on spending and looking for ways to increase your income is the best way forward. This is a great post, thanks for sharing.