Frugality Versus The Urge To Splurge

It’s become fashionable in the world of frugality to preach the virtues of saving as much as possible, even when doing so might prevent one from having a little fun. Wow, we’ve become a bunch of uptight Puritans. When does frugality go too far? Is it possible to be sensible about your personal finances, while occasionally splurging on your personal pleasures?

Not only is it possible, but it’s smart to *gasp* indulge, on occasion. Life is for living, after all. Anyone who has developed a sense of wisdom about finances knows that allowing for a splurge or two is essential, not optional. You can still be smart with your bucks, while living it up from time to time. The key concept, of course, is balance. Learn to live with a “moderation in all things” mantra with your diet, hobbies, guilty pleasures – and your money. Read on…

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Frugality And Wants And Needs

Don’t Buy Toys

Don’t buy toys. Look around the next time you’re in your car in the warmer months. How many RVs, boats, or jet skis do you see being towed around? Now, ask yourself: how often are these “toys” actually used? Chances are, not as often as their owners thought that they would be used – before they were purchased.

RVs and other fun (and expensive) machines can be rented, for the most part. Even if you decide to buy a pricey toy – remember that its cost won’t be the worst thing to hit your wallet. You’ll need to pay for fuel, insurance, maintenance, and storage space. Boats, in particular, gave rise to their own famous quote within nautical circles: “a boat is a hole in the water in which you pour money”. No wonder used boats can be had for a song in many cases.

Their owners know that the boat isn’t what will break the bank – all the other costs of ownership will. If you have friends who own boats – then become an even closer friend to them! Offer them money for fuel, buy a 12-pack before you board, or help them clean the decks after you dock for the evening.

You’ll be invited back for another trip on the waters, and you’ll still spend much less than the boat owner will. This applies to all-terrain vehicles, RVs, and dune buggies. If you skip the ownership role, will you be able to tell your pals about the latest toy that you just purchased? Um, no. However, once you buy them all drinks during the next pub visit, will you receive gleeful invitations to join them on their boats during the upcoming regatta? The odds are good.

Don’t Buy When You Can Rent

Don’t buy when you can rent. Tools and other “big ticket” items are similar to the toys mentioned above. Guys (especially guys) love to show off and talk about their tools. (Get your head out of the gutter. We’re talking here about power tools: sanders, mowers, chainsaws, and the like. Weirdo.)

How often will you actually need a roto-tiller for your backyard? Probably once, and that will be it. Will you be using that belt sander more than twice over the next year or so? Rent one first. Then, determine whether you’ll use it every few weeks. If so, then go buy one. There is one caveat to the “rent vs. buy” concept: avoid “rent-to-own” furniture and appliance stores. You’ll get charged so much in monthly or weekly rental fees that buying furniture, especially if it’s used, makes the most financial sense.

Buy Used

Buy used (and not just cars). If you must buy a toy or tool, Craigslist can be your best friend. Toys are unnecessary, unlike cars, and so tend to get sold for cheap when their owners need cash in a hurry. Remember, though, that your biggest costs for most recreational items are almost never the item itself – it’s everything else you must buy, as mentioned above. Craigslist tends to offer used “big ticket” items for lower asking prices than eBay or other auction sites.

Use common sense when buying or selling anything via classified or auction sites, of course. However, if you are willing to put in a little time and research, you can save huge amounts of money by buying that used kayak or mountain bike you’ve been wanting to pick up. Folks looking to sell recreational items probably are in a hurry to do so – due to a move, expanding family, or recent injury caused by the offending toy (oops, did I just type that?)

So, remember that the asking price is merely a “suggestion”. By the way, don’t let fear prevent you from shopping for used items on Craigslist or other similar classified sites. Read here for suggestions on how to use Craigslist wisely and safely.

Don’t Confuse Wants And Needs

Don’t confuse your wants with your needs. We’ve already discussed renting vs. buying. If you can get away with renting an item on occasion, it’s probably a “want”, and not a “need”. Sure, you may need to get out on the water and enjoy your passion for entertaining bathing beauties on your inboard-powered cruiser.

However, you may also want to eat and have clothing and shelter tomorrow. Decisions, decisions. Learning to free your budget of unnecessary “wants” – at least, those that don’t give you an adequate “fun” return on investment – is crucial. Determine which recreational items you really won’t miss, and spend money wisely on those you’ll use regularly, and not put into storage.

When thinking about responsibility vs. fun, remember: you could get hit by a meteor tomorrow. So learn to strike a balance between the occasional splurge and a solid savings plan. Going too far in the direction of responsibility might not always be a good thing. You may find yourself at death’s door, realizing that the flash of your life flickering before you is notably devoid of wild parties and adventures.

You were too focused on saving for your now diseased-ridden present state, once known as “your future”. You only live once, of course, so a healthy penchant for the pursuit of happiness might just be a wise trait.

This post was written by Karl Marrion who is a keen money saver and investor who blogs at WiseStockBuyer

Last Edited: 2nd July 2012

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  1. says

    Yes, I agree, if you can afford them, and you are going to get your moneys worth out of them, it’s not so bad. It’s more when you buy them then use them once, then put them in a cupboard, you are not really spending wisely!

  2. Jennifer says

    When you can pay less by renting something a few times a year, why not rent and put the savings towards your family’s needs, a savings cushion, helping others, or paying for the other fun things that you or your family wants. Part of being a good steward of your money is figuring out the wisest way to obtain what you need and want. Simply looking at “affordability” is good only if you haven’t figured out how to avoid digging a hole for yourself financially. It’s not the best guideline if you have learned the basics of personal finance.

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