With this busy time of our lives, Johnny and I have made some changes that have increased our monthly budget some. We used to rarely (and I mean RARELY) pay for babysitting, oftentimes opting to just stay in and watch a movie or relying on kind family members to help us out. This was all in the name of not spending extra money. Now we find ourselves paying for over 10 hours of babysitting each week because I need kid-free time to get work done on our small business. We’ve also increased our food budget some so we can eat out a couple extra nights because we’re both working so much. Are we as people becoming less frugal? Are we suddenly kicking budgeting to the curb? No and definitely NO. Don’t believe me? Welp, then it’s time we had a talk about budgeting and frugality.
From the beginning of our budgeting journey, Johnny and I have admitted that we like nice stuff. In fact, we did a whole post about it. We don’t think that budgeting means only liking the cheapest stuff and living the most frugal life. We think it means giving every dollar a name and spending and saving with purpose. And lately, we’ve been thinking about that a lot more. Sometimes people like to be frugal just for the sake of it. They’ll buy gas at a cheaper gas station even if it’s super inconvenient to get to and takes an extra 10 minutes out of their day. Or they’ll buy a ton of something that’s a super great deal just because it’s a great deal, not because they actually need it. Or they’ll give up eating healthy all in the name of getting 10-cent frozen burritos from the grocery store (Johnny in college). But what they’re not doing is taking into account the actual cost of those frugal choices. Take the gas station example, for instance. Saving, say, $0.09 per gallon x 10 gallons x 52 weeks equals $50 saved per year. But it also means you’ve spent an extra 8.5 hours, valuing your time at less than $6/hr. Everything has a cost.
But budgeting… now that’s a different story. Budgeting has purpose. It allows us to weigh the pros and cons of child care and think about opportunity cost and realize that it’s worth it to us right now. It allows us to look at the big picture, rather than just focusing on saving cents on a dollar here or there. It allows us to create a financial plan for the future and splurge without guilt when we know we can afford something extra. It allows me to get some ridiculously expensive boots instead of 10 ridiculously cheap shirts because that’s what I’d rather spend my clothing budget on. If I was frugal all the time, I’d never get nice stuff, just out of principle. Budgeting equals freedom. Big picture freedom. Frugality for the sake of frugality doesn’t do that.
Right now especially while life is crazy and busy, we hope to remember that everything has a cost: quality, opportunity, quality of life, etc. And when it comes to spending money, we’ll keep in mind what that cost of being frugal is. If we can be frugal and without sacrificing what’s important to us, we’ll always choose frugality. Saving money is important to us. But if it means giving up our quality of life or giving up opportunities just to save a few bucks, we may opt for a less frugal option. And as long as it fits within our budget, that’s a-okay.