Many of us are caught between two extremes: we either feel like we have to live it up while we’re young, or we have to squirrel away every last cent to secure happy, comfortable lives for ourselves down the road.
We need to learn how to balance these money management habits.
Yes, there is a way to live well today and save for tomorrow, just as there is a way to save plenty of money for the future without depriving ourselves the joy of the present.
When “Being Frugal” Becomes “Cheap”
For me, I lean toward the “save now, enjoy later,” side of things (versus of the “spend now, worry later” way of thinking).
I find it difficult to loosen up and allow myself to spend money because I’m extremely focused on my big financial goals.
But the result is that from time to time, I see that my frugality is bordering on cheap and my desire to grow wealth is taking precedence over everything else.
It’s taken me a long time to realize I don’t have to hoard every penny – and that if I go too far, I risk really missing out on experiences and opportunities that won’t come around again.
I’ve learned to seek a balance with my finances, and I encourage others (no matter what your money management tenancies look like) to do the same.
Here’s how I strive to be financially smart by growing wealth while still enjoying the life I’m living today:
I Budget for the Fun Stuff
I maintain a budget and track all my spending. It’s crucial for me to do in order to keep my big financial goals on track.
But my budget doesn’t require me to pay for bills and necessary expenses before throwing all the rest into savings.
Yes, I do prioritize my savings, but I am careful to allocate funds every month specifically for the purpose of spending on fun stuff – new experiences, great date nights, lunches with friends, local events and shows, and so on.
I keep things balanced by prioritizing how I spend my “fun money.”
One month my husband and I might go out on lots of dinner dates together. The next month, we’ll stick to afternoon coffee dates and put the bulk of our spending on an event or two, like a concert or festival. The month after that we may stay in quite a bit in order to spend our money on a long weekend trip away.
We allow ourselves to spend our money and to really enjoy it. But we know we have to prioritize, and we understand we can’t use all our cash to do every single thing we think might be fun or to purchase every single thing we see that we want.
Just as you would allow yourself a small treat or maybe even a “cheat day” when you’re on a diet, plan for a few splurges within your budget.
You’ll get to enjoy things that may be costly – but you’ll put boundaries on your spending for fun that will help maintain your savings goals.
I Enjoy Frugal Hobbies
The most significant way I balance enjoying my life now while still putting away a big chunk of change for my nest egg is by enjoying activities that are inherently frugal or inexpensive.
I’m an avid runner and I love being outside. Any day can be made better by going on a long walk, and if I get the chance to go for a hike, my heart is happier for having spent so much time being active in nature.
I’d much rather ride my bike, go for a swim, (try) to play tennis, or simply hang out in the park than shop, go out for fancy meals all the time, or spend all weekend partying in the city. Because what I love to do doesn’t cost much, it’s easy to put away that unspent money into savings or investments without feeling deprived.
The key is to find enjoyment in things that don’t require spending lots of cash. Put more value into your experiences and your relationships than you do into stuff and keeping up with the Joneses’, and this becomes easier to do.
I Find Joy in the Work I Do
It’s hard to feel like you’re really living for today when you despise what you’re doing for one third of every Monday through Friday. When I worked in a job that I couldn’t stand, I felt the need to make up for it by treating myself in other ways. For me, this meant buying clothes, gadgets, and meals out constantly.
I finally reached a breaking point – both with my career and with my excessive spending for no reason. I made a plan to start doing work on the side as a creative outlet.
What started as a side hustle turned into a side business – and is now close to becoming my full-time job. Engaging in work that I truly enjoy doing has helped me balance enjoying today with saving for tomorrow because I no longer feel such a need to try and buy myself happiness.
I have to earn a living, but being more fulfilled by my work has made my job something that I look forward to doing. It’s another thing that helps me be happy and loving life right this minute without being detrimental to my desire to put away a significant amount of money for my future.
Plus, just one side gig has the added benefit of creating an extra cash flow for you. This makes boosting your savings rate even less painful than if you were trying to do it on your day job income alone.
Pursuing any work that fulfills you and brings you joy is a great way to make it a little easier to find life grand right now – without having to spend money to generate that feeling.