Struggling to spend sounds like such a #firstworldproblem.
And, yes, it is.
But it’s a real problem faced by many folks who would rather save, then spend.
When is enough, enough? When should you up the budget instead of continuing to cut? And how do you make sure you’re doing this on purpose – not just giving into lifestyle inflation?
Let’s take a closer look.
Saving Too Much Can Be A Problem
Yes, it really can.
My brother actually mentioned this to me at my middle son’s birthday party. It was an honest question of when is enough, enough? He and I have similar habits, where we spend much less than we make and save/invest the difference. He doesn’t have kids, though, so his expenses are less than mine.
So when exactly is saving too much a problem?
I would say it’s a problem when you start feeling like it’s a problem. When you start feeling resentful of saving, rather than excited.
Or it can be a problem when you’re using too many coupons to shop and buying food that’s not so good for you.
Perhaps you haven’t gone on any vacation in years, even though you want to, because you’re focused on savings.
Or your spouse and/or kids are unhappy with your level of spending.
These are all signs that it’s time to take another look at your spending, your priorities, and your goals and dreams. You want to make sure you’re not pursuing tomorrow at the cost of too much today. It’s important to save for the future, and towards your goals, but not at the sacrifice of your life.
Pursuing FI At All Costs Should Be Pursued With Caution
You can get impatient to reach financial independence, and cut everything to the ground, spending nothing above and beyond your bare bones expenses. And some people can do that and still find a lot of fulfillment in life. That’s wonderful! I’m a HUGE fan of only spending on the things that have real meaning to you, and putting the rest towards your real goals and dreams.
The issue comes if you start cutting out the things that give meaning to your life – or to your families life.
Different things matter to different people. If you read “general” finance advice that tells you to cut out lattes, trade your car for a bike, stop eating out, never take another vacation, etc. etc. and do it, it might be fine. Or it might make you miserable.
Also, different people have different goals. Some people want to reach financial independence as soon as possible. For those people, cutting out everything accelerates their goals. But others want to retire later in life, and have more enjoyment along the way.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Sprinting to FI at the cost of everything else in your life might be too high. Just like with dieting, where you cut out everything and rebound hard with a binge, cutting spending too close to the bone can cause a spending rebound and binge. You can “fall off the wagon” and just give up on this whole idea.
When you hang out online, talking about money and financial freedom all day, it can seem like a never-ending contest. Whose savings rate is the highest, who can retire earlier than who, and how much money do we all have.
It’s certainly possible to take a longer, meandering path to FI. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy.
Beware Lifestyle Inflation
The reason this is such a tricky question is because this is a slippery slope straight into lifestyle inflation.
It’s going to be hard to save enough to reach financial independence, pay off your mortgage, save for kids college, or any other large goal. You’ll be tired sometimes and want to take a break. And you’ll slip into the “I deserve this” mentality.
You don’t want to fall into that trap of inflating your lifestyle thoughtlessly, or because you “should”, or because everyone else is.
You should be doing it because it’s something you want, and truly value. Only you can answer the question for yourself what those things are.
Just be honest with yourself, and carefully examine your choices. Then you’ll be OK.
So When Is Enough, Enough?
Only you can answer this question for yourself. Here’s a few clues I can think of that you might be reaching that point:
- When you hear a lot of serious complaints from your family, that can’t be resolved through other means (like making the ordinary extraordinary)
- You’re unhappy about the sacrifices you’re making
- If you’ve sacrificed spending on the things that do matter to you
- Not spending in an area is causing you issues
- You’ve crossed the line from frugal to cheap
- All your stuff is falling apart or breaking
- You’re not maintaining your house, car, or health like you should because of the cost
And the biggest one:
- You’re already on track to reach your goals, or ahead of your goals, but you’re still feeling like you should save more “just because”. And you or your family are unhappy about the life you’re leading to save more.
Families On The Same Page – You Both Need To Be Happy
One of the trickiest areas to deal with is when you’re happy with your lifestyle as is, but your family isn’t.
Kids are an easier topic, in many ways. As the parent, you get to raise them in the way you deem fit. Kids can earn money to buy the things they want, and frankly they’re going to want a lot more things than is good to give them. If it were up to them, they’d be swimming in toys and electronics, eating nothing but cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Significant others, partners, and spouses are the ones you need to compromise with.
If your significant other has different priorities, it’s time to sit down and talk about your goals and dreams together. You both need to be working together towards your future, not separately. Financial independence can’t be just one persons dream, because that leads to fights and resentment.
So talk about your dreams. Make sure you’re spending in alignment with them. If your dreams require you spend a bit more today, and you can still meet what you want long term, you’re good. Don’t feel like you need to win some kind of savings contest.
How do you know enough is enough? Have you ever gone too far down the FI rabbit hole? Let me know in the comments.
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