What's "Normal"?

I had a conversation with my husband last night about our frugal endeavors.

We're both "Savers," but, in every relationship, there's a Saver and a Spender. On a Spender-Saver scale where zero is "Spends Everything" and 100 is "Scrooge"- he's an 80 and I'm a 98- so he's the "Spender". Ha!

Anyway, I read all these frugal blogs and see how we could be eating for $30 a week and turning the heat off & bundling up in the house and all these other things... and I see all these ways we're spending money unnecessarily. He, on the other hand, sees his friends who bought more house than they can afford, are dealing with car loans, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and thinks we're doing great! I grew up with parents who paid off their house when I was in junior high and always bought new cars cash, so I have a high bar set as the "norm." He's seen his parents cut corners to make ends meet, and still deal with health-related credit card debt, so his idea of "doing great" is living well under our means, with an emergency fund.

The issue at hand: I always feel bad (and often voice it) when we go out to eat. Whatever meal we get when we eat out I know I could make at home (maybe not as well!) for about 1/6th the cost. My husband says that this is our only form of entertainment (we very rarely go to, rent, or buy a movie, pay for a concert, or anything entertainment-wise) so it's worth the splurge. Sigh. He's probably right.

This week, while we were talking to an elderly friend, she expressed so much surprise that we were debt-free, had paid off our school loans, and used cash-only as much as possible. I later asked my husband- are we so unusual? Apparently so. I thought I was struggling to be "normal" and stay above water, when what we're doing- living below our means and debt-free- is the exception rather than the rule. I've had a very good, apparently atypical, example set for me, so my view is skewed.

Still, I don't want to be "normal." My husband is right, though, I probably can stop trying to compete with all the Ultimate Frugalistas on the Internet. We can settle into whatever is a comfortable place for us, for now.

3 pennies for thoughts:

Kacie said...

You guys are definitely on the right track financially!

Sometimes, it can be painful or unfun to spend money. But, I think your husband is right -- dining out is a form of entertainment.

Of course you can make the food at home, but dining out can be fun. Maybe it can be more enjoyable for you eventually!

Joanna said...

It IS enjoyable for me, but I have a nagging guilt on our way there, that I ought to "be a better home manager" and have things together and planned enough that going out to eat is rarer than it is, for us. Planned "dates" I don't have this problem, but the "I have no idea what's for dinner" nights when we end up eating out, I feel like I'm failing.

Jennifer @ Money Saver 101 said...

You do what you need to do to save money. Some frugalists do things, not just to save money, but also to conserve to protect the environment.

We're much like you, actually. We've been 100% debt free, until recently when we sold our compact car to purchase a mini-van that was desperately needed - we took out a loan for that, although we could've paid cash for it, but we didn't want to completely empty out our savings.

If you aren't struggling to pay your bills and have enough money to put at least 10% into savings every paycheck, then I would say you're doing very well, and splurging a little bit here and there is a good thing to do, for yourselves and for the economy. Think of it this way, when you go out to eat, you're helping keep that restaurant in business. You're giving your waiter a job. Maybe he's struggling with debt, and you're helping him out by enjoying what you have.

Maybe that will help you feel better?

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