Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do you need a spending plan?

The more I read, the more I wonder if people who are savers by nature have trouble spending money? I find myself occasionally questioning how I spend money. And yet why do people who save have such trouble spending money on buying a new couch, new car, or going on vacation they saved for and have already set aside cash?

Is it the fear of the future? Fear of needing the money? Or is it feeling that they are unworthy of enjoying the fruits of their labors? I think that it's admirable to be saving for retirement, paying off the mortgage early, college for your children, but is there a point where you are not enjoying your life as much as you should? Do you scrimp and not take hot showers? Or not use the dishwasher or dryer because of cost? Do you only shop with coupons or not buy meat because you watch your grocery bill?

Growing up I never realized how unfrugal my parents were. I thought they were the cheapest people ever. But now looking back I realize they prioritized for what was really important to them. Yes driving the same car, watching what we spent on clothes, saving for retirement, not buying a super fancy home they lived modestly. But my mom never scrimped on food, at the grocery store I always got fresh sashimi ($19.99/lb every night I got some), fresh juice, whatever meat I wanted, fresh veggies, any snacks, and pretty much anything. We also spent on music lessons, swimming lessons, etc, school/education related items. My parents would pretty send me on every opportunity the school had including trips to Washington DC from Hawaii for spring break.

So my mom cut in places that seemed important at the time, fancy car, bigger home, fancier vacations, yet she spent where she felt it most important, her family. Our health and well-being were the top priority. My mom has also always had a christmas savings account and has no trouble spending it, but I talk with people who are having trouble buying a couch or a car with money saved.

I find myself right now wondering which path am I going down? Is the path to living a thrifty life unable to spend forever? Or will I do need a spending plan? And would I change my spending habits if I knew I only had 10 years to live? My aunt and uncle, wonderful thrifty people, now live their life like there is no tomorrow. About 3 years ago my aunt went into a multiple sclerosis induced coma and was hopsitalized for 6 months. Because of that, they now travel, eat out every meal, and enjoy their time together without looking at the bills. Their time together is short and my uncle tells me, all the saving we did from our 20s has to be spent now because if "your aunt" dies then what will be the point to spending it alone?

I guess that's the problem with getting caught up in the savings mentality. We mute our desire for spending of any sort at what price? How do you strike a balance between saving and spending?

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