Frugality vs. Budgeting

Frugality vs Budgeting

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.

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  • Reply Laura @ Rather Square March 15, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Interesting post (and I love the photo!). We’re currently “investing” in the expense of a raised garden bed for our backyard – it’s a bit of upfront cost (building materials, soil amendments, seeds, etc), but the plan is that the garden will pay for itself within a year or two. Hopefully we’ll save money and be more healthy at the same time!

  • Reply Casey G. March 15, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I know lots of people equate “frugality” to simply saving money as much as possible, but I’ve never really seen it that way. I think frugality is saving money on things that don’t matter as much to you or in situations where buying the “cheaper” thing, etc., won’t really impact your life negatively. All this so that you are able to spend MORE money on the things that really matter to you or that you think are worth it. It might be higher quality clothing (and boots!), better food, or just something that increases your quality of life in some way, even temporarily or for a season, by adding value or convenience. For you guys right now that is babysitting and eating out more often, but that hasn’t always been the case and it probably won’t always be the case. For me right now? I don’t pay for cable because I don’t care much about TV but I sometimes spend $30 or more per month on audiobooks. 🙂

  • Reply Halsy March 15, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Everyone is in different stages. For some saving $ and spending more time to be frugal may need to be what they need to do because they have more time than. $. Others may have more $ than time. I think you are exactly right when you said budgets=freedom and is all about telling your money where to go. A budget allows for no guilt when you make those splurged that are within your budget! I also believe that I need to be a good steward of my $ so I try not to spend frivolously but having an ocassional “splurge” is not spending frivolously in my book!
    Seriously though check out NewLeafWellness blog for quick meal ideas using mainly the crockpot! Kelly’s recipes are a lifesaver when you are time starved and want good home cooked food! They are budget conscious and healthy. In the time it takes you to go pick up takeout you could probably do one of her freezer meal sessions. Cannot reccommend enough!

  • Reply carlotta March 16, 2016 at 4:53 am

    I SO NEEDED THIS TODAY! we’re planning our wedding and we’re super excited but we’re both nonspender and super frugal and I really have to push myself sometimes to just choose what I like and looks good / tastes good/ makes us happy etc etc and just spend it. because it actually all fits in our budget. 🙂

  • Reply Rob March 16, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Budgeting and being frugal. Or better yet – spending to properly enjoy life’s pleasures and rewards while maturely living within one’s means. This all takes on different meanings as we advance from single to young marrieds to later having kids to eventually retiring happily. Budgeting never stops. Joanna, you and Johnny are in the still early stages of this life cycle and you both see the benefits from properly budgeting. On the flip side, my wife and I are on the recently retired side where here too budgeting is necessary to enjoy a happy retirement lifestyle. In fact, proper budgeting could be considered even more important for us rather than for you. If you mess up, you have time to recoup over time as well as the ability to earn more. With us, however, time becomes more limited as the years pass. Retired peeps are on fixed incomes as well as hopefully variably increasing investment incomes. It becomes more important to watch how much gets spent over time so as not to run out of savings. No worries on that score for us but I read often about how so many peeps have not saved much (if anything) for their future retirement. Things won’t turn out well for many of them. So – budget, from day #1, and do so responsibly (if not frugally).

  • Reply Catherine Alford March 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Great post! We’ve gotten less frugal in some areas, like our food budget, but we remain very frugal in others. I think there are times in life where you won’t be able to budget every penny. I’m glad you guys have a system in place to watch your spending though.

  • Reply Rachel. March 16, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I love this post! Having (fairly) recently moved to a full time job while studying we decided to pay for a cleaner. Yes, she is getting some of my ‘extra’ wages but we aren’t spendin the whole weekend on chores. Right here and right now, the time matters more than the money.

    I see it as we budget/bargain hunt wisely so we can spend our money where it matters most to us. I know it’s not for everyone but we want to enjoy life’s opportunities now not just save every penny till we have ‘enough’.

  • Reply Melanie March 16, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    I have always said I’m frugal day to day with budgeting, but like to splurge with vacationing. That’s my favorite and most worthy spending spree:traveling. I’ve also learned to try to respect others spending splurges. Some people like to splurge on vacations, like me. Other like my father choose to spend on home items like hardwoods floors, couches, tv, etc. girlfriends of mine value clothes shopping the most. sometimes it’s hard to relate to others spending choices, necessary to avoid jealousy, judgment, resentment, etc. just my two cents 😀

  • Reply Kat at beanieandtalbot March 16, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Great post! I think being frugal is different to being cheap. To me, it’s about deciding what is most valuable to you, and budgeting accordingly. For my family, that means saving on groceries and fancy outings and not going on an overseas trip, so that I can stay home with the kids, we can send our son (and the rest of the kid, in the future) to a Christian school, and spend money having an occasional coffee date together.

  • Reply Jordan March 28, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Some really important points here. The best financial situation isn’t always getting the cheapest version of everything. Making a budget, which included spending a little more on certain things, was truly what has helped me save money.

  • Reply Feisty Harriet April 15, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Yes!!!! I was trying to explain this to my sister the other day, specifically on clothes. She buys cheapie cardigans from WalMart a few times a year because they fall apart. I bought a really nice wool/cashmere one from Banana Republic for $85 and told her I felt I had the better value. Because I bought that cardigan TWELVE YEARS AGO and still wear it a few times a month and it has held up beautifully. So, cost per wear, who is the one being money-wise? (I submit that medal goes to me.)

    Excellent post.

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