True Life: Spending Money Hurts!

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spending moneyGoing into 2014, I had some really lofty savings goals. Don’t worry, I’m haven’t given up on them already! Quite the opposite, really. Although we re-evaluated our budget and income right before the New Year and agreed that we could save 40% of our income to put toward our investments this year, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I went a little nuts with my side hustle in January and was able to boost our savings rate over 70% for that month. And then reality swooped in this month for a swift – and honestly, much needed – kick in the pants.

Let me explain. I got it in my head that if we were able to be frugal and smart with spending in order to save 40% of our income, then surely I could work really hard on my side business in order to get us way over that rate month after month after month until I was able to make my side gigs my full-time work. For some reason, I starting thinking 40% was small potatoes and I had to do better. (For those of you who don’t know me in real life, yes, I am a manic perfectionist, and yes, I am obsessive-compulsive, in case you were wondering.) This is, of course, crazy talk, and a recipe for getting really unbalanced in areas of life outside of finance. It’s hard for this personal finance blogger to remember that there’s more to your goals, and more to life, than just the stuff that involves money.

But that’s where reality recently stepped in to remind me that there has to be more than busting one’s tail with extra work and then hoarding that extra income. Another use for money made from side hustles? Spending it to make sure your original savings rate stays in tact and your baseline financial goals remain on track! I’m trying to bring balance back to the Force accept this and realize that spending money on some things isn’t inherently bad  – but yeesh, it still hurts me.

Suddenly, I Had to Start Spending Money

Part of what put a dent in my dazzling savings dreams was the unusually cold winter we’ve had down here in the South. We’ve had actual snow accumulation, an ice storm, and plenty of days where the temperature never rose above freezing. We even experienced wind chills of below zero, and that kind of cold is pretty much unheard of in this part of the country. As a result, our utility bills were through the roof this month. Our gas bill doubled and our electric bill was about 1/4 higher than normal. I know we can’t be the only ones, because our most recent bill had a little note that said, “Higher bill than normal? Blame Mother Nature!” So obviously, our gas company has been flooded with angry Southerners who usually don’t have to worry about the heating bill at all.

The beginning of the year is also when we have to deal with a lot of costs associated with owning a home. For example, HOA fees are paid annually in January and we have a termite warranty that costs $185 per year, due in February. And of course, tax season is right around the corner and we’re looking at owing around $1,000. I know that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it means the government gave us an interest-free loan instead of having it the other way around, but writing a check to the IRS on top of everything that was already withheld out of my check still grinds my gears.

These are the kinds of things that didn’t occur to me when I was plotting out the possibility of becoming a savings superhero this year. Which is, of course, kind of stupid. These expenses are part of living and maintaining a comfy home, and just because they don’t crop up every month doesn’t mean you can forget to consider them when thinking of how much you could save! Lesson learned here.

What Was I Saying about Experiences Being Worth the Cost?

I know I’ve vocally advocated for the idea that experiences and relationships are far more valuable than material goods. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of sometimes thinking, yes, but saving it all is even better… And sure, some months that might be the case. Then there are going to be other times, where you need to head off on a weekend getaway with your significant other. Or you want to reconnect with friends and you go out for coffee or grab dinner a few times.

I had to relearn that these things are more than okay this month. Close friends of ours got engaged – and asked both me and my husband to be in the wedding party. We both were honored to be asked and were so excited for both our friends and that we got to be involved. But my money-conscious mind immediately started adding up the costs and I got panicky. Bridesmaid dress and shoes, tux rental, days off work, travel expenses, a hotel stay since it’s a destination wedding, and gifts?! Yikes!

All I could think was, oh my god, I am going to be spending money like crazy! This is going to throw us so far off track from our savings goals! And that’s the proof you all need that I am a total dingbat sometimes, because this could not be further from the truth. Yes, it would prevent us from reaching my self-imposed and overly-ambitious 70% savings rate goal. But it would have absolutely no bearing on our ability to save the original 40% that we agreed was our goal for 2014.

Again, I need to remember that my side business provides us extra income. Yes, some of that money should be saved. I can even save all of it if it works out that we don’t have additional expenses that month. But I have to accept that it isn’t a crime to allocate another portion of that extra income towards experiences like traveling to the beach to see good friends (finally!) get married.

Spending Money Hurts – But Being So Hard on Myself Isn’t Much Better

No, I don’t like spending money. I feel so anxious and guilty about any kind of spending because I feel like every dollar that leaves my pocket pushes me farther and farther from building our net worth and reaching our financial goals. And while that’s true to some extent, it’s completely unreasonable to think I can get away with something like, I dunno, never having to spend money on anything but food and shelter for the next ten years.

This is especially irrational considering three important factors:

  1. I’m so young and have time to continue to save.
  2. I have no desire to completely stop working in the next 1o years, so setting a hard “retirement” goal within that range and then worrying I won’t meet it is kind of silly. I set a lofty goal because I like challenges and working hard for things; setting the bar high is my way of pushing myself to achieve. But it does kinda backfire when I forget that I’m simply aiming high and I start thinking that’s a critical point I have to reach or else.
  3. This whole saving or spending money thing works both ways. Some months I won’t be able to save so much – but that won’t happen every month! My ability to save my minimum – 40% – and my maximum – about 70% – will be in flux and that’s fine. It’s a give-and-take situation, like just about any other healthy relationship in life.

It is hard to remember that there are more goals that just the ones that deal with our finances. And it’s not easy to cut ourselves some slack when we don’t hit amazing markers of success at every turn. But for our own sakes, we must try to do these things. Achieving financially is a great thing – but understand that even small victories are still victories.

This past month has served as a much-needed reminder of these things. I’ve been reminded of the fact that money can be both saved and spent, and it’s all good. I’ve been reminded that constant perfectionism isn’t reasonable or fair. I’ve been reminded that, as much as it pains me to spend money, it’s not a sign of weakness or failure. Spending money is not inherently bad. And continuously pushing your goals to extremes isn’t always so smart!

Do you find yourself getting too caught up in financial goals from time to time? What do you do to bring yourself back to reality or to remind yourself that you don’t need to constantly tweak your goals to make them harder to reach?

 

35 Responses

  1. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    February 27, 2014 9:51 am

    angry southerners? Isn’t that an oxymoron? :) Man, the best laid plans are gonna change. I think, and believe me this is happening to me this week, that you do all that saving when you can MOST of the year so when thing you were not quite expecting don’t derail you. I think there are times where you do have to loosen the purse stings for one reason or another, either to enjoy life a little more, or buy something that is pretty much a necessity for most people…like heat for you, and in my case a new car. ugh! :)

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:33 pm

      So true! It’s just hard to keep that in mind when my money is flying out the window, lol. But you’re exactly right, sometimes you just gotta crack open the wallet at bit – there will be a time to get back on the crazy savings train the following month! Thanks for making me laugh, Tonya :)

      Reply
  2. Big Guy Money

    February 27, 2014 10:05 am

    Moderation in everything… I’ve had people tell me that our savings goals are outrageous (not that it matters to me!). Just remember there’s a difference between being frugal, and being cheap. Sounds like you’re doing a good job in recognizing when you’re taking it a little too far.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:34 pm

      Absolutely a difference in frugal and cheap! I was definitely toeing the line hard before I realized that while saving is so important, it’s not the only goal to have in life.

      Reply
  3. SavvyJames

    February 27, 2014 11:05 am

    “It’s hard for this personal finance blogger to remember that there’s more to your goals, and more to life, than just the stuff that involves money.”

    Great point. I have been guilty of that as well in the past. Like you, I can often get DEEPLY immersed in things that pique my interest or when working toward a goal. Fortunately, I have learned to find a good balance between focusing on money/retirement planning and the rest of life. And when I do start to slip a little, the wife slaps me back to reality.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:36 pm

      Haha, good thing you have your wife to set you straight from time to time! I’m glad you understand, though – I was nodding along with your comment about getting really into an interest or goal. Sometimes we just gotta take the blinkers off and check out all the other things that are going on around us and our one-track financial brains :D

      Reply
  4. Kathy

    February 27, 2014 11:17 am

    Several years back my hubby and I dedicated $100 each month for each of us to spend however we want. It was my idea because I didn’t want to justify buying earrings or some other frivolous item. This money actually goes into a savings account in another bank. Now, my account has a few thousand $$ because every time I think about spending it, I decide not to. Once I look at the balance I keep thinking I’ll save it for something else. What else you ask. Well, I don’t really know. But seeing the balance grow has become more satisfying than spending it.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:37 pm

      I’d probably be the same way, Kathy! Once my money goes into savings, I really can’t ever get it out.. but that’s a good thing, of course. I’ve just been frustrated this month because I haven’t been able to get that money into savings like I wanted to!

      Reply
  5. Alicia

    February 27, 2014 11:19 am

    I *hate* spending money when it gets moved over to my savings account, even as illogical it is because it’s a planned spending account. Then I suck it up and transfer it back when those bills pop up. I’m thankful I have the ability to just shift it around, but boy does it hurt my accumulation mindset :)

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:39 pm

      Haha, I totally understand! I’m so “bad” about not taking money out of savings that I can’t even transfer it over if it’s planned spending funds. I just have to leave it in the checking account and make a note on my budget spreadsheet that I have x amount sitting there for this expense or that cost. We had a little budget surplus this month, but I had to earmark it for my bridesmaid dress – if it had gone into savings, it woulda stayed there and I would have shown up to that wedding in my underwear rather than pull it back out :P

      Reply
  6. E.M.

    February 27, 2014 1:47 pm

    Um, YES! I know exactly how you feel since February has been more expensive then I anticipated. My boyfriend is constantly telling me I can “afford” it, but that’s not the point. More money out means less saved or put toward my loans. I really don’t like spending on much either, but it can be such a horrible struggle sometimes. There’s a chocolate expo happening this weekend, and it sounds like fun, but a $15 entry fee for each of us makes me question if it’s worth going. I’m too stingy for my own good/sanity sometimes.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:42 pm

      I hear ya! Being able to afford it is one thing, but wanting to spend that money is totally different! But it is good to relax from time to time and just enjoy life as it happens instead of worrying over every last cent 24/7 (which I am obviously guilty of doing). We get so focused on our awesome goals that it’s hard to pull back, but we need to remember that it’s all about the long game. As long as we’re consistently saving/paying off debt, we’ll end up on top when it matters! Some spending here and there won’t completely derail us, although it sure feels like it in the moment.

      Also, one should never question going to a chocolate expo. Always go to the chocolate expo ;)

      Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      February 27, 2014 4:44 pm

      Right there with you! It’s hard for me to remember that in 10 years, that occasional month where we didn’t get savings crazy won’t have thrown us completely off track at all! We’ll still be right where we want to be – it’s just difficult to grasp that concept without the gift of hindsight sometimes!

      Reply
  7. Done by Forty

    February 27, 2014 6:24 pm

    I’ll admit that I often fall prey to this same sort of binary thinking: either I’m a success since I saved X, or I’m a big loser because I, gasp, spent money on fun stuff. It’s often hard for me to see things in terms of degrees. A lot of days it’s just spending = bad, saving = good.

    But hey, even if your natural inclination is to feel a little off when spending, I suppose there’s nothing better to spend some money on than your wedding, right? Congratulations again — I’m sure you’ll find it’s money well spent.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 1, 2014 8:00 am

      Exactly! I like the way you put that as “binary thinking,” that describes it perfectly.

      Well, it’s not my wedding – I spent too much on that a couple years ago now ;) It’s a good friend of ours, and right after my cousin’s wedding. But at least the family event will be in town – our friends are getting married on the beach. I guess I should just celebrate the excuse for an unexpected extra vacation, right?!

      Reply
  8. KK @ Student Debt Survivor

    February 27, 2014 9:42 pm

    I’m definitely a lot like you. I can get completely obsessive when I make a goal (financial or otherwise). I have a really hard time doing things at a “normal rate”. If I’m going to do something I want to do it 150% (which is sometimes a really good thing and other times a disaster). I think you’re doing great though, so don’t beat yourself up if some months your saving is “only” 40% ;-)

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 1, 2014 8:00 am

      Yes, so true on it being hard to do things at a “normal” rate!! Thanks for the comment, KK – it’s good to know someone understands so well (and is going to remind me to not get down on myself – thanks girl!)

      Reply
  9. Poor Student

    February 28, 2014 4:37 am

    For me I find it hard to keep my budget actually. I feel like there’s always something to buy and I should’ve set my budget higher in the first place… Maybe I set my budget too low.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 1, 2014 8:01 am

      Oh, there is DEFINITELY always something to buy! That’s where I’ve been feeling so frustrated this month. When it rains it pours, you know?

      Reply
  10. DC @ Young Adult Money

    February 28, 2014 7:32 am

    Utility bills are KILLING me this Winter! It’s so cold out and our windows aren’t the greatest, so we definitely pay the price. I think sometimes I’m too hard on myself about my financial goals. I have to tell myself from time-to-time “you are doing a great job – just keep up the good work!” I always feel like I’m falling JUST short of where I want to be each month, but in reality my goals may be a bit unrealistic.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 1, 2014 8:03 am

      I can’t imagine how bad the utilities are up in your area! We have the same exact problem – our windows are just single pane and while the previous owners sealed some of them shut (which annoys me to no end when the weather is actually nice!) they still retain, like, zero heat. And our whole back wall is literally nothing but windows. Lovely for all the natural light.. HORRIBLE in cold weather!

      I can relate to your feelings on financial goals, too – that’s how I feel about mine. Seems like I fall just shy of where I thought I could get to, but that may be more because my goals are simply unrealistic rather than I’m some sort of failure!

      Reply
  11. Ajaveen

    February 28, 2014 8:07 am

    No, I don’t like spending money.

    Kali, I feel the same way you too. I had an unexpected expense on top of paying for a
    vacation in April ugh……..My goal is to cut my expenses such as limited my
    dining out next month.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 1, 2014 8:04 am

      Unexpected expenses are the worst! But you’re doing the right thing – cutting back in a discretionary expense category to help make up for it. Nothing wrong with more homemade meals right at home! :)

      Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 1, 2014 8:05 am

      Haha, love the honesty Stefanie! Sometimes I feel bad saying “I feel [negative emotion here] about spending money,” because that’s the quickest way to sound cheap. But it really does suck!! Thanks for understanding :)

      Reply
  12. Holly@ClubThrifty

    March 3, 2014 8:21 am

    I just finished working on a post about how paying in cash hurts…and it’s so true. I think that most people who write about money get too caught up in their goals from time to time. It’s perfectly normal. I personally feel that it’s a good thing when spending hurts!

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 3, 2014 3:02 pm

      Thanks, Holly – that makes me feel better to know it’s just a personal finance blogger thing ;) And I agree, having a little hurt when it comes to spending money is probably a good thing. Definitely better than not feeling anything at all when the cash flies out of your pocket!

      Reply
  13. La Tejana @ Debt Free Tejana

    March 3, 2014 1:00 pm

    Haha! I feel the same way sometimes. I beat myself up way to much. We are still young and there is still time. Not meaning we should just all start blowing our money away, but as long as there is a plan it is okay if we spend a little here and there.

    Reply
  14. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    March 7, 2014 10:22 am

    I just stumbled on your website. I believe that as long as you are working towards your goal it’s ok to once in a while treat yourself. I create mini rewards for myself because it keeps me motivated. With that being said, people need to study themselves and their emotions to know when they are going to fall off the wagon. That way they can prevent it or change the emotion when it comes upon them.

    Spending money for me always hurts unless its towards my debt. You’re young and you have more than enough time to make things up. Let your hair down and enjoy yourself once in a while.

    Reply
    • Kali Hawlk

      March 10, 2014 2:12 pm

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Petrish! I’m so glad you found my little corner of the blogosphere. That last line there made me smile – I’m definitely going to need to remember your words of wisdom! :)

      Reply

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