Some people are really good at every-day frugality. They minimize gas consumption, turn off electronics when they aren’t in use, spend shockingly little at the grocery store. They can go days without spending a dime, eschew everyday luxuries like Starbucks, and have their monthly budgets down to the bare bones.
My dad is like this. It pains him to spend $2 on a coffee – or water. He reuses everything. He comparison shops gas stations. He buys even grocery meats on sale. And may God be with you if you leave the front door open for more than 5 seconds at our house.
But on the other hand he has no problem spending money on big ticket items when he feels the desire. For instance, he bought a grand piano for his and my mom’s anniversary when I was little. Then a luxury auto when I was in high school (during what was surely a mid-life crisis). In retrospect I realize he was willing to splurge on family vacations too, making sure we saw places like Disney World and New York (even though he still never allowed us to buy bottled water on the road).
My mother, on the other hand, is uncomfortable with big expensive purchases. She hesitates to replace old cars, plans vacations based on what flights are cheapest, and rarely buys any major new piece of furniture or appliance. However, she can spend $150 at the grocery store every week (for 2 people!). She gets her nails done twice a month. She has no idea what the price of gas is and fills up her SUV indiscriminately.
Can you imagine how these two people have managed to stay married for the last 20+ years? Their financial habits make each other crazy, and as a team they don’t balance each other – rather they end up overspending as a couple in every area, big and small. But imagine they each had stayed single. Who would have come out ahead, theoretically speaking?
Is it more important to be vigilant with our money on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis; or do the big savings really come when you scale back on big purchases like a new car?
The answer will vary greatly based on the person, and of course it’s best to do both. But few people are willing to sacrificing big AND small for decades on end.
Which method do you prefer?
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