Startling Expenses: Splurging vs. Saving


Swistle wrote a fun post a while back about Startling Expenses that I just loved. The jist was that sometimes you just can’t fathom why people spend their money the way that they do, but that everyone makes financial decisions based on the things they value. It’s not a radical idea or anything, but I just loved the way she worded it (as usual.)

Anyway, it was fun to think about my own. The things we spend crazy money on and our reasons. But also, where we do not splurge at all. I thought it might be a fun little peek into the medicine cabinet of our budget.

Where We Splurge

*Our gym membership – So it’s $200 a month and the thought of paying that for a gym membership makes some people’s eyes roll back in their heads. I get it. But it’s totally worth it to us because A) Hi, results B) These people are like family and I never could say that about 24 hour fitness C) Personal Training style attention and guidance without the fees (when was the last time you saw a personal trainer being available to you 5 workouts per week for less than $25. Oh right, NEVER.) and D) Again, just because it’s worth repeating: results. Those things are important to me. But man, it’s a load of cash. I don’t fault anyone who wouldn’t prioritize that, but it works so well I’d give up cable before I gave up CrossFit. (Wait…no more Real Housewives? WHAT???)

*Groceries – I’ve mentioned a million times that our monthly grocery bill can sometimes hit $1000. CRAZY TOWN for just the two of us, I get it. But its not only 21 meals per week/84 meals per month, but it is also a huge part of our life: cooking is my favorite hobby. So is blogging and writing about food and my adventures with it. So it’s totally worth the price of admission.

*Fancy Coffee – I will not buy crappy coffee. Ever. Sorry. And while we’re at it, Sorry I’m Not Sorry. I am a Peet’s Coffee & Tea addict and at $17 a pound (and 2 lbs per week) it’s a pricey habit. Even with Garrett’s employee discount it’s expensive. But I will never ever ever EVER EVER change. I spent over 10 years working in coffee, I drink my coffee black, it’s got to be great. Period. Full Stop.

*Nice Bras – Ok, so truth be told Garrett doesn’t splurge on nice bras. :) But I just cannot buy cheap bras. I sort of hate spending loads of dough on nice bras (especially because they aren’t even always all that fabulous) but I spent too many years wearing crappy bras and I have the embarrassing photo evidence to prove it. Sports bras, pretty bras, daily bras — I will shill out the cashola with no questions.

*Travel – Doing things, having experiences, seeing new places are all a major priority. I will find a way to finance and excursion even if it means having less stuff.

Where We Save

*Most Media – I have a serious library addiction. I’ve spent less than $75 on books, music, and general media in probably the last 3 years. I read A LOT but I get books almost exclusively at the library. Itunes? I never use it to buy music. If I am looking for a song I totally request the whole cd (I know — can you believe they still make cds?) And since Garrett and I go there about once a week together I always have time to thumb through magazines I might have previously splurged on. FOR FREE. I haven’t bought a dvd in maybe 5 years. If I can’t get request it at the library or stream it on netflix, I probably don’t want to watch it *THAT* bad. And we never go to the movie theater. I like doing that but I just feel like we never really have time, and it’s not something I try to *make* time for. I’ll just catch it on dvd.

*Dining Out – We just rarely do it. I love food and restaurants and chefs just as much as the next person, but (toot my own horn alert!) I cook pretty good food. No need to go out that often. When we do, it is usually because we are traveling, when it’s really inconvenient to cook at home, or when we want need Mexican food. This ends up being probably once every other month.

*We drive OOOOOOOLD completely paid for cars – Like really old. Mine is a 1999 with 150K miles. Garrett’s is a 1991 with 90K miles (it was his grandma’s and grandmas don’t drive anywhere OBVS) and it doesn’t even have air conditioning. What? But Holly, hasn’t it has been over 100 degrees for the last week in Sacramento? Yep, and we don’t even care. We just work around it, because did I mention: THEY ARE FREE. Also, the combined car insurance is less than $100 per month for crazy coverage.

Even though there have been times where we have had to fix things that seemed pricey at the time, they have cost us less money than a new car out right and WAAAAAAY less money than financing a car. We are looking into new cars for the future because they won’t last forever but right now and for the past 5 years, we’ve been super content to drive our old (FREE) cars. I like the feeling of all that cash in my pocket way more than all that Mad Baller Status that driving a Honda Accord would give me. :)

*Clothes on sale – First, you know me, I rarely buy clothes from stores fancier than Target/Gap etc. But more importantly I just don’t buy anything for full price really. There has to be a coupon, sale, deal or I will probably talk myself out of it. I spill things, my weight is changing, my style is fickle so expensive clothes just aren’t on my agenda. This could change in the future as our finances change (because I certainly ENJOY expensive clothes and shopping and expensive jewelry and all of it) but right now I am happy dressing myself up bargain basement style.

*Fancy Technology – Our TVs are small and not high tech. Our “nice” computer is 5 years old. I don’t own a Kindle, iPad or eReader. My laptop is TEN years old and hardly works. I’ve had an iPhone less than a year. Upgrading these things would all be super convenient, technology is a large part of my life and having fancy gadgets or better systems would totally be awesome. But it’s also a lot of cash and to us, right now, totally not worth it.


Have you ever thought about your startling expenses? What do you splurge/save on?

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19 comments to Startling Expenses: Splurging vs. Saving

  • A'Dell
    August 17, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I should totally do this post.

  • A'Dell
    August 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Uh, I was not done typing yet. Good bras are worth every penny and people without, ah, BLESSINGS, in that area just cannot understand. Every time I see someone talk about her awesome Target bra I am just like, well, that’s great but Target doesn’t even SELL bras in my size, much less GOOD ones in my size. So. Agreeeeeee.

  • Stephanie
    August 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Great post Holly. I totally agree with you! Library….hells yes, I love that we have three really close and we rotate between them. We don’t even have TV here, because it is just not worth it and wouldn’t you know it, we read a lot more.

  • Linda Sand
    August 17, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I’m one of those women who have nothing up top so I can get away with cheap sports bras.

    My splurge is technology. I want my internet fast and now! That said, the phone I finally just replaced was 12 years old. It still worked fine but I now need speaker phone capability and it didn’t have that. So I went from very dumb flip phone all the way to iPhone in one leap. That will let me use the iPhone’s hot spot to run my computer when I’m on the road instead of having to buy more technology to do that. At least, that’s how I justified the splurge. :)

  • Chloe
    August 17, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Well my largest monthly splurge is student loans, lol. Then comes our food budget which is probably around the same as yours. We love our farm fresh veggies and local grass fed meat. I totally agree with the bra thing. I need to wrangle these girls in everyday and cheap bras just don’t do the trick. Where we save money is on eating out (we just enjoy the food we cook at home too much), and things like going to the library instead of buying books. Also, I love clothes, but am just too cheap to pay for good ones. Maybe one day!

  • Erin
    August 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    I’m lucky enough to be still at the age where I’m financed by my parents… but I definitely splurge on food – mainly high quality ingredients like grass-fed beef and pastured eggs from the farmer’s market. I don’t care much for shopping, I don’t watch TV (actually don’t have a TV), I’ve been listening to the same songs for the past 6 or 7 years and I’m not tired of them… so really grocery shopping is wear all my $ goes.

  • San
    August 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I love this post! I want to do my own! I think it’s interesting to see where people have their priorities :)

  • bethanyrx
    August 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I am SO guilty of being the judger-of-other-people’s-spending. Sometimes I feel like we make such great money, but I can’t figure out where it all goes… and then I remember A- student loans, and B- remodeling another! house (which we DID pay cash for, thankfully). Anyway, such a fantastic post by both you and swistle. Thanks for keeping my judgy brain in perspective!

    xoxo, B

    • Holly
      August 19, 2012 at 11:37 am

      Oh I’m still a judger (work in progress LOL) but I guess Swistle’s post made me feel like…ok ok, not everyone has to do exactly what you do, Holly. Get over it. So I try to remind myself of that when I’m being particularly judgy. It’s discipline to keep that crap in perspective. :)

  • Meg
    August 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Love this! We definitely prioritize local, fresh, whole foods – even if it means paying more. I am by no means an amazing cook, but I’m really proud that we’re making it a priority to eat at home most of the time – this is HUGE for us! We were spending way too much time and money eating out.

    We also save by driving older cars that are already paid for – don’t miss that car payment! And the library is one of my favorite places, although I splurge by buying magazines/books way too often. Our desktop is a leftover from college and the laptop is new, but we’re too cheap to put MS Office on it so… it’s a web browser! :)

    I never get manis/pedis, BUT I do get my hair colored and trimmed every 6 weeks. I have a head full of crazy curly hair that is already going gray at 27 so it’s a must I’m not willing to sacrifice!

    And I’m a member at the local mom and pop gym – costs $30/month and it’s within walking distance. And I joined Everyday Paleo’s LifeFit program for $20 so for $50/month I get new workouts every day, with a focus on functional fitness. Score!

    All things considered, I feel pretty lucky that we’re not really forced to make hard financial decisions. That would probably change if we had kids, but for now, I’ll take it!

  • Amy
    August 18, 2012 at 4:37 am

    I just stumbled upon your blog from another and am happy I found it! This is a great idea for a post and I’m filing it away in my “things to write about someday” list but just a few I can think of off the top of my head:

    I splurge on coffee, good food (organic/local as much as possible, GOOD olive oil, etc), nail polish (Essie is my weakness), stuff for our baby, running shoes and moisturizer.

    I save on makeup, haircuts, my very basic and very boring cell phone, mani/pedis, and entertainment – I try to use the library rather than buying books and watch shows online as much as I can. We also cut waaaay back on dining out since having the kid. I only buy clothes on sale.

    • Holly
      August 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Amy! We sound very similar, although we aren’t buying baby stuff…yet. :) I am The Worst about getting my haircut. I love how I feel when it’s freshly cut, but whenever I think about dropping the $$ to cut it I just think “Eh, I’ll wait a little bit longer” and then all of a sudden 6 months goes by. LOL

  • Rose-Anne
    August 18, 2012 at 8:33 am

    What a cool post idea! I may borrow it because I too think it’s fascinating how people structure their budgets to maximize their happiness.

    I’d say my splurges are my home (an apartment I love), my groceries, fitness gear and upkeep, and buying presents for other people. I try hard to buy presents that people will enjoy, use, and love, and even though I am often frugal with myself, I want to be generous with other people.

    I save by not having a car at all (I take the bus and ride my bike), cooking at home most of the time, relaxing at home rather than going out a lot, and cultivating a grateful mind and heart. I think a lot of consumerism is driven by feelings of boredom or inadequacy, so in order to conquer our spending, we’ve got to believe that we are just fine as we are–spending money is not going to erase feelings of not being or having enough. Only then are we free to choose how to spend our money intentionally.

    Again, great post! I love your blog.

  • Kimberlie
    August 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Splurge: technology (iPhones, iPads, iPods, laptops, headphones), Crossfit membership, primal foods, my car (was a splurge but now it’s paid off so it’s converted to a save), high quality dog food, minimalist shoes

    Save: clothes (clearance sales), not watching tv (we have no cable/satellite/Netflix/Hulu) this helps our budget and also helps our family not have “the gimmes” from too much product exposure, kids clothes and toys (consignment sales), wine (my go-to wine is $10/bottle), haircuts

    Things I’m working to improve: cut food waste to save $, increase charitable contributions, save for braces (for the second time, at 35 years old)

  • rockermocking
    August 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    speaking of saving money on clothing: do you ever thrift? I know thrift stores can vary in quality and price across this big country but where I am in NY, I’ve stumbled upon a small chain of thrift stores where you do pay a bit more for each item but everything in their store is actually organized by size and type (for those in the NYC area the stores are called Unique Thrift and no I don’t work for them, just love $6 shirts!) Lately, because of my changing size and the fact that a lot of the clothing I buy new shrinks terribly in the wash (I have a long torso), finding pre-washed clothing in a flattering shape is a big plus. Plus, the messy eater that I am stains so many of my favorite clothing items that I feel less bummed about losing a $6 shirt than a $20 shirt.

    • Holly
      August 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      You know, for a long time I didn’t because most thrift stores around here don’t have a ton of plus sized clothing. Now that I can mostly wear 14s/16s which seem much more common, I should try again! Thanks for the suggestion!





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