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Am I being too cheap?

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Am I being too cheap?So, Mrs. RB40 finished reading The Money Code (affiliate link to Amazon) and she agrees that she has the fear money mind. This means she sees money as security and is conservative about spending. I think it got her thinking because she asked – “what’s the goal for our money” – at 1am. This confused me at first because I wasn’t sure what she meant. Anyway, she is wondering if hoarding money and being super cheap is really the right way to live. It seems that I have been overly cheap for a while now and she thinks we should spend some money to have a bit more fun.

How did I get so cheap?

I have been considerably cheap for about 3 years now. I think the turning point was when I found out I wanted to quit my career AND we were having a kid. As you can imagine, this put a crimp on my spending pretty quickly. Raising a kid will cost a ton of money. We are planning to pay for his college education as well so we are saving in a 529 for that.

The bigger factor has been me not wanting to work in a corporate setting anymore. I made about 2x more money than Mrs. RB40 and I knew it was going to be a huge income reduction. How many of you can function with 66% decrease in income? It became a challenge to save as much as I could. I might have taken this a bit too far though. For 2013, my challenge is no clothing purchases and I’m being similarly cheap in other area as well. Am I being too cheap?

Saving minded

I have always been inclined to save rather than spend because we didn’t have much money when I was growing up. When I finished college and got a job, the first thing I did was to invest in the 401k and Roth IRA. I also invested in various after tax accounts. However, I didn’t mind spending money either. We traveled internationally every year and supported the local businesses by going out to eat at nice restaurants once or twice a week. Mrs. RB40 also enjoys cultural events and we didn’t mind spending there.

Afternoon tea at the Peninsula

Afternoon tea at the Peninsular Hong Kong in ’05. I didn’t mind spending $50 on a snack back then.

No time to spend

Over the last 3 years, I have cut back quite a bit. A big part of it is due to the time factor. Baby RB40 has kept us very busy and it seems we haven’t had time for anything else. We rarely go out to nice restaurants anymore and haven’t traveled much. Now that I’m a stay at home dad, I don’t have much energy after a day of craziness either.

Baby RB40’a former daycare had a parent’s night out once a month. We took advantage of that a few times and went to see plays and enjoyed some nice dinners. Now that he’s not going to the daycare anymore, it’s more difficult. We haven’t found a baby sitter that we like yet and I don’t think he is ready for one either. I just know he is going to throw a huge tantrum for 3 hours if we hand him off to the poor babysitter.

My mom is here to help out for a while though. He is comfortable with her now and she doesn’t mind being alone with him for a few hours. We really should take advantage of the situation while we can and go enjoy ourselves a little bit. The problem is we haven’t done it. Mrs. RB40 is too busy and she hasn’t initiated a date night. I’m too cheap and I don’t want to spend $100 on a night out.

We still eat out about once a week, but we have been going to family style restaurants lately. It’s easy for us because we can bring Baby RB40. We usually spend around $30 and I’m comfortable with that.

As for entertainment, I don’t mind watching a DVD at home. I also like attending free concerts and events, but that’s mostly in the summer. There is not much free stuff going on in the winter.

Need a date night

Now that Mrs. RB40 brought it up, I realize that I need to put more effort into some nice date nights. There are a ton of great restaurants in Portland that we haven’t been to. She wants to try the Little Bird Bistro so I’ll get us a reservation this weekend. I’ll leave the entertainment up to her. It will be nice to spend a little time together without the third wheel. 🙂

Need to figure out what to spend

The more difficult part is to figure out how much money to spend on entertainment when we are not making much money. My tendency is to save every dollar now that my income is minimal. When I was making good income, we saved over 50% of our take home. Now, we are probably saving around 25%. It’s a big reduction in both amount and percentage, but that’s still better than most families.

I need to figure out some kind of formula to reach a happy median between saving and hoarding. We have a stable emergency fund and we’re comfortable with the amount we are saving toward college and retirement. Perhaps if we take 50% of what’s left over after saving and target it toward entertainment/travel? That way we can still save extra in our dividend portfolio account and also allocate some money to make life a more interesting experience.

What about you? Do you have a good formula for entertainment spending? We have been doing well in the 6 months since leaving my job so I feel a bit more comfortable with spending. International travel will have to wait a few more years though. It will be a pain in the butt to drag a little kid around in an unfamiliar country, so we’ll travel more in the US.

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{ 69 comments… add one }

  • Financial Samurai January 25, 2013, 12:34 am

    $50 for desert in HK! Nice.

    I think you’ve got to give yourself another 6 months to get a nice year under your retirement belt to be able to feel more comfortable with spending. I have a lack of spending problem myself since I’ve been so used to saving most of my income.

    That said, saving and investing is like a game that brings me joy. So why stop something that’s fun?!


    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:14 am

      I think you’re right. I’m still not comfortable spending now. A full year would give me the peace of mind that it will work out OK.
      I’ll need to ease into it and keep the missus happy. 🙂

  • Greg January 25, 2013, 1:17 am

    Many of the things that are worthwhile may not actually cost much at all, yet provide priceless pictures and memories for all many years into the future.
    Rent a tent trailer and take a weekend trip to a nearby camping spot.
    Maybe do some fishing?
    Some of my fondest memories from when I was young were with the grandparents up to Oregon – we went crabbing, dug for clams, got bit by crabs in the process, got my knee all bloody when I fell in that blackberry patch we were picking blackberries in.
    Then had homemade clam chowder, ate crab (didn’t learn until many years later that the crabs really weren’t getting a bath like promised) and I’m not sure what happened to the blackberries, but know we had some good huckleberry pancakes.
    I still can picture the Dreamwhip or Coolwhip(?) tupperware-like container in the freezer full of frozen huckleberries.

    I have fond memories of a day at the beach, which happened often in summertime, when I was growing up. Price? Gas and parking.

    Or a weekend in a cabin in the snow.
    Or a weekend in Palm Springs in a cheap motel – we didn’t care where it was, it was a fun getaway.

    I always make fun of my coworker, when it comes to coupons.
    He’s cheap, and if ever you need a 2-for-1 coupon, he’s the man to go to.
    I’m the opposite.
    I’d pay double if the fricken sales people would just leave me alone.
    He asks me to help him figure out why his work PC is so slow.
    Within 5 minutes in his office, up pops a window related to the latest coupons from coupons.com (I forget the actual site, but you know what I mean.)
    Hmmm… I’m guessing I know the reason for the slowdown…
    We go to lunch, and I’m the passenger, and I’m sitting on coupons.
    Coupons also on the floor.
    And coupons in the door panel.
    And coupons above the sun visor.
    I joked last time… ‘if I open this glove box, what will I see?’ – yeah, more coupons.

    Maybe you’re cheap, and maybe that’s good, and maybe Mrs. RB40 has a good point as well…

    But it doesn’t have to be expensive if you’re creative and trying to keep it low cost.
    I’m no travel agent, and haven’t been to these places, but two places I’d like to drive to for a weekend are
    San Antonio Riverwalk, and
    the Biosphere in Arizona
    Both cheap if you drive, but whether it’s feasible for you to drive with a young one, not sure on that.

    So now that I’ve rambled on for so long…
    I think you’re asking the wrong question when you ask ‘are you being too cheap?’
    Rather than a focus on saving, maybe also include some time to figure out what else you and Mrs RB40 and Baby RB40 want to experience, and find more 2-for-1 coupons for things that aren’t so important and spend a little more for things that are?

    Our family and another spent a week in Banff Springs Canada on a ski trip long ago.
    I think it was 0 degrees or less, and we had signed up for a sleigh ride to a restaurant for dinner. We were all miserable because it was so fricken cold on the sleigh right.
    Yet what a wonderful memory it is now.

    Save so that you can splurge on the things that provide those lasting memories – they’re priceless.


    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:19 am

      You are right! There are a bunch of fun stuff to do in the summer, but winter is a bit slow around here. The Mrs. doesn’t like being cold and that’s why we don’t do much snow stuff. Lasting memories are usually those big trips. They are always fun. We’ll travel more around Oregon and Washington this year when it warms up. It will be a lot of fun. I just need to find something fun to do in the winter…

    • Paul January 25, 2013, 10:05 am

      I agree with Greg – good things do not necessarily means they cost much. Maybe you could use your engineering skills on solving this problem, didn’t you mention you also needed some added stimuli in another posting?
      Look at this way: it is a classical problem of solving for the maximum enjoyment using the least resources. Enjoyment is the pleasure it brings Mrs Rb40 and yourself and resources is the money spent.
      I don’t know if you have watch the show “Extreme Couponing” , http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing
      I know they are a bit extreme but it makes you think in a different way relating to grocery shopping.

      I bet you can come up with a scheme that makes you take your lady to dates AND also keep you saving as much as you want. All it takes is a bit of “brain time”. And it will make good postings here as well

  • My Financial Independence Journey January 25, 2013, 2:46 am

    I’ve got a “fear money mind” as well. I’ve never made much money (until now) and I’m well aware that I work in a labile industry and that I could b laid off at any time. I also know that the economy is still in the pits and that my chances at quickly finding a new job should I be laid off are small.

    Some of my friends accuse me of lacking balance. They might be right. As time goes on I’m working on slowly increasing spending in those areas that really bring me joy. We’ll see how that works out.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:20 am

      I know how you feel. In what area would you spend money on? Travel? That’s what I like best.

      • My Financial Independence Journey January 25, 2013, 2:21 pm

        In no particular order, I would spend money on: travel, fine dining once per month, a maid, a personal trainer, cooking classes.

        • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 10:24 pm

          That’s a nice list. For me I would put travel and maybe yoga. Fine dining is nice once in a while.

  • Justin January 25, 2013, 4:24 am

    Joe, still down in Nica and just want to say that every other couple has either a baby or a toddler down here. It is not as big of a deal as you are making it out to be. Maybe you need to move somewhere where there is more beach. From LA, it is 2 three hour flights down here. Thailand is a bit far on a plane unless you drug your little one. In terms of being too frugal and saving for college there is always financial aid and city colleges. In Santa Barbara, almost everyone goes to City college to guarantee themselves a spot in the UC. I personally went to a 4 year college straight from high school and did some CC education after and there is a difference but in other countries kids also go travel after high school and see the world a bit. Not in the states, we just put them right on the hamster wheel. I am not going to do that with our daughter and when it comes time for college you will also be able to qualify for more aid since your family has decreased income. Maybe you are being a bit too frugal but that is such an individual choice, that it is hard for anyone to say. I find myself doing the same thing sometimes but the fact is that life is what happens when you are planning for the future. My grandfather worked his butt off his whole life and saved just to realize that when he wanted to use his money he was too old to do so. My girlfriend’s father got pancreatic cancer at 65 and as he lay on his deathbed he said that he wished he had traveled more, worked less, and spent more time with his kids. Life is now, Live it. In the states, we work more hours, take less vacation, and are allegedly more productive than most other nations, for what? Are we really any better off than most Euro countries that get 4-6 weeks vacation? Why? Who is better off? Big corporations and the banks. I choose to escape the nonsense by saving like you have and then cutting my expenses by living somewhere else where the poisonous consumer mindset is non-existent. You have already made a great step by extricating yourself from the rat race. Good luck !

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:27 am

      I hope you’re enjoying the nice weather down there. I think southern California is also warming up so it should be nice when you get back. We’re just so used to traveling by ourselves. I still think it will be a huge pain to drag our kid around another country. We’ll travel in the US for a few years until he can appreciate the experience. I think it’s useless to take a small kid international traveling. He won’t remember a thing anyway.
      City college is a good choice or even attending college in town while living at home. We’ll see how it works out.
      I think you are doing great. Someday we’ll get there too. Cheers!

      • Leah February 11, 2013, 6:38 pm

        For what it’s worth, my parents took us three kids to Guatemala at the ages of 4, 6, and 8. I was 6, and I have vivid memories of the trip. We went again when I was 8. I almost remember the trip when I was 6 better, honestly — it was a longer trip, and we really got into it. My mom got Spanish lessons for me and my older brother before and after we went, and we really cemented in our language skills. Even my 4 year old brother still remembers the trips we took. It is definitely possible to travel with young ones, and I promise that your little one will remember the trips you take.

        • retirebyforty February 11, 2013, 11:17 pm

          Really? Mrs. RB40 has great memory like that too. I have terrible memory and don’t remember many trips at all. We’ll probably take a long vacation to Thailand before he start grade school.

  • G January 25, 2013, 6:46 am

    As a woman, I have got to say happy wife..happy life! For the love of Thomas the Train, take advantage of granny and get out of the house! Take your wife to dinner and a show..or a hotel!

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:28 am

      That’s my motto too. I blame the Mrs. though. She’s not always assertive enough to demand what she deserves. 🙂

  • Hunter January 25, 2013, 7:20 am

    I think you can find a happy medium that gives everyone more enjoyment while still maintaining a relatively high savings rate. Do you still surprise Mrs RB40 with spontaneous gifts? Theraputic massage gift certificates are always a winner. Joe, how hard have you looked for a babysitter? Is it that you haven’t found one you like, or that you don’t want to go through the pain of paying for a sitter on top of the entertainment costs for you and Mrs. RB40? I feel your pain, families are expensive, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

    This message approved by Stay At Home Dad Bloggers United.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:30 am

      The only surprise she gets are from the cats when they do their midnight throw up sessions. 🙁 Thanks for the tips. I need to figure it out. I haven’t looked for babysitter at all. It’s all you said and I don’t want to leave my kid with a babysitter either. I’d better get things together while grandma is here.

      • nicoleandmaggie January 26, 2013, 2:46 pm

        We didn’t leave DC1 with a babysitter until he was 5! And even then it was a daycare lady. Generally we bring them with us wherever we go when we go out. (We didn’t think he’d appreciate Sondheim’s Company, and I really wanted to see it!)

        • Greg January 26, 2013, 3:28 pm

          I don’t have any kids other than my pooch, so I don’t know how these costs fit in with day care costs in other ways. But I work at a K-12 school district (tech dept), and the district provides child care at the elementary schools for kids not yet ready to get into school – 2.9 years and up and potty-trained. The program is funded by what they bring in in $$$’s, not by the state or tax payers. But the program is managed by people at the district, and implemented at the elementary schools. I know it’s been very successful at our school district.
          If the school district in your area doesn’t have a similar program, maybe that could be worth looking into and trying to get going?
          Here’s a link to what our school district provides for child care for 2.9 years and older – http://www.pylusd.org/education/child-care.asp
          The link may only work for another week, though – web site is being hosted outside starting in Feb, so links to info will change at that time. But it should still get you close.
          I’m not involved in the program with regards to costs, implementation, etc… – I just update the info on the web page when requested, so I just provide as a reference point for comparison. If I were a parent, it would seem like a good, safe, consistent option. How the cost compares, I haven’t a clue.

  • Mr. 1500 January 25, 2013, 8:28 am

    Being too cheap is certainly a good problem to have. More folks need to have this problem.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:32 am

      Heh heh, I think you’re right.

  • My Multiple Incomes January 25, 2013, 8:29 am

    No matter how tight your resources are, try to give yourself and your wife some quality time. It is stressful enough as it is to continuously worry about saving money, but to top it with spending most of the time at home, is definitely going to create some tension in your relationship.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 9:32 am

      I’ll give it more effort. My tendency is to just save and avoid spending, but it can be draining. I’ll make sure to go out and have fun at least once a month.

  • Cindy Brick January 25, 2013, 10:57 am

    Your wife sounds like she has a touch of cabin fever! At least the Brick and I both get restless about this time of year…
    Don’t you have dollar theatres in your area? Those are great for getting away mentally. Our local theatre is also $5 on Sundays, all day. (The Hobbit movie is especially good for this.)
    I’m not sure if Oregon/Washington has this, but if we get antsy for the tropics, we’ll spend a day at one of the hot springs resorts in Colorado. One price gets you in all day — you can pack a lunch — and soaking blissfully in a hot spring is especially nice when it’s snowing all around you. You just have to be careful driving home – you get TOO relaxed!
    Certainly there’s some kind of resort near you that Mrs. RB40 would enjoy — a day, or even overnight (Groupon?) shouldn’t cost much. And since your mom is there to take care of your son…

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 10:27 pm

      I think you’re right. It’s a long winter here in the Pacific NW and we are only half way through. We have a few free movies tickets from Costco’s Christmas giveaway. We should use them to go see the Hobbit. There are some hot springs around here. I’m not comfortable taking the whole day off though. We’ll see what we can find. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • jim January 25, 2013, 10:59 am

    You definitely need to find some happy medium where you’re not saving every dime possible and not spending money on fun things. Hard to say if you’re ‘too cheap’ now or not without more detail. Doesn’t sound too extreme as you do say you eat out once a week. The worst misers would never do that. However I’d also say you should absolutely take a date nite for your own sanity and the health of your marriage. You have to get out once in a while.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 10:28 pm

      Eating out once a week is our outlet, but we really do need a date night. It’s been a while.

  • Aloysa January 25, 2013, 11:18 am

    AS I said before, you are not cheap, you are very reasonable. 🙂 We like to sit at home and watch DVDs as well, and we go out once-twice a week, and get one take out. We don’t have kids and our entertainment budget is pretty reasonable (I think, and remember I am a spender.) I do believe you have to have some fun in life because otherwise you are going to get in a rut and hate it eventually. I think you are doing great. But I would definitely add one date night a month. 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 10:30 pm

      Ahh… Having no kid, does have its perks. We have been so busy with Baby RB40 that I haven’t thought much about a date night. I’ll make sure to find something fun to do this weekend.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor January 25, 2013, 11:40 am

    I don’t think you’re being too cheap; in fact I think you’re doing exactly the right thing given your great (imo) decision to exit the corporate world and save your sanity if not your life! One of the foremost dysfunctions that leads people to spend beyond their means is a deeply embedded sense that, if they’re not spending a lot money, they can’t be having fun. Not true! Fun does not equal or require spending money. I think each person can confirm this in their own mind if they just take 10 minutes to list the most fun times they’ve had in the past decade.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:00 pm

      I agree, that’s why I don’t like spending money on eating out. The experience doesn’t stick for me. I like traveling and I always have a great time seeing new places and cultures. It’s still nice to go out once in a while though. Mrs. RB40 on the other hand has great memory and she remembers plays, nice restaurants, and those kind of things. 🙂

  • Pam January 25, 2013, 11:47 am

    I had the same problem and the solution I found that works for me is to save an amount of money in an account dedicated for Vacation/Entertainment every month, just like saving for IRA/401k/investments. That way, when I want to spend on something fun or go on a vacation, I have the money in that account. Because I have set it aside explicitly for that purpose, I don’t have a problem spending it. Before, I would just have had this money sitting in “savings” account and that made me more hesitant to use it for fun.

    This formula works for me and I end up spending it for what it is meant for because I know that other categories (savings/investments) are taken care of separately.

    Another benefit of this approach in my case is that it helps me be spontaneous. I am not good at saying “Let’s go to Hawaii. I need $X amount saved for that” and then save for a few months before going. I’d rather just go when I can take the time off. By having the money already saved for that purpose every month, I can afford to be spontaneous.

    • Greg January 25, 2013, 12:31 pm

      I could see this helping from the opposite perspective, too.
      I’m a bit spontaneous, and I’m not good at saving, and that’s largely why I have credit cards to pay down. I don’t take vacations to distant places because the thought that comes to mind is ‘whoa, that’s way to much to put on a credit card!’, and I don’t have the spare money in the bank to pay for it.
      But… my HARP refi is saving me $500/month.
      Now might be a good time to re-direct $100/month of that to an out-of-sight-out-of-mind location – and in a year I’ll have $1200 for a bit of a getaway – guilty-free.

      I don’t do much travelling, but about a year ago I asked my friends/family for their top 10 places to visit that should be on everybody’s bucket list to visit at some point in their life. The thought being – if I could only go to one place per year, and had 10 years to do it, and limited funds, where should I go? I also wanted to learn to overlay google maps at the time, so my secondary agenda probably kicked in also 🙂 and I created this site to map the places they sent – http://www.buckety.net. I just add places to it manually right now. But the goal was, or is, to let a person tag a place from their phone while there, and add it to the map through the phone app. Not sure that’s going to happen, but it did give me a start at some interesting places that people thought should be on everybody’s bucket list. I’ll probably use more vacation time to work on the site so I know where I should’ve gone on vacation instead.

      • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:06 pm

        That’s a great list so far. Europe is expensive, but you can travel like a backpacker and still have a ton of fun.
        I have a bunch of places that I want to visit in the US too. We’ll try to see them over the next 4-5 years.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:02 pm

      That’s a great idea. I’ll do that. My ING account is pretty idle these days so I can use that.
      It would be great to have $X ready to be spent as fun money. I want to go visit the Big Island. 🙂

  • krantcents January 25, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I think you need balance because you cannot maintain extreme saving very long. Build up your reserve and find ways to enjoy your life without spending a lot. I keep a very low profile lifestyle, but we have dinner out (or brought in) twice a week, go to the movies a couple times a month and go out with friends. Think about the things hat are important to you and find ways to do them. Last year, we went away fro the weekend to a B & B. The whole weekend probably cost $300. My wife and I said it was our birthday present to each other which we normally don’t do. I enjoyed it so much, I have committed to doing it at least 2-3 times a year.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:08 pm

      We need to get away too. $300 isn’t bad at all. I think you deserve to enjoy life. You already worked hard and have the resources to do so.

  • Maverick January 25, 2013, 1:27 pm

    At the beginning of my career, an older gentleman told me to “…travel internationally while you are a young man and can do so…then travel the United States when you get older and travel may be more difficult for your body. The US isn’t going anywhere.”

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:09 pm

      That’s a good idea. When people get older, traveling internationally become less fun. There are health issues to deal with and you’re used to a certain level of comfort. I think I can still rough it, but we’ll see how I feel when I’m 60… 🙂

  • JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit January 25, 2013, 2:41 pm

    I’m not having to make that decision yet but I’m sure trying to transition from saving everything you can to splurging a little every now and then is hard to make. It’s all about your priorities, if dinners at restaurants increase your wife and your happiness then it’s okay to spend there. There’s always tradeoffs and the biggest thing is realizing what you truly enjoy out of life. If it’s travel and learning more about other cultures, then by all means spend reasonably in that area. It’s all give and take I guess.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:12 pm

      You’re right. It’s hard to splurge when you’re so used to skimp. 🙂

  • 101 Centavos January 25, 2013, 9:31 pm

    Suggest investing in some nice classic duds for date night. Makes it all that much better. Look good, feel good. Earlier this evening, some bespoke wool-silk slacks from a Hong-Kong tailor. Made 17 years ago, and still fit. Italian shoes, cotton shirt, nice belt. A good time was had by all at the company blowout.
    Good clothes last a while, and can allow a no-spend year or two.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2013, 11:14 pm

      No new clothes this year! 🙂 Nice job fitting into your pants from 17 years ago. Not many people can say that. I don’t even have anything from that long ago.

  • nicoleandmaggie January 26, 2013, 2:40 pm

    We’re struggling with this right now, albeit from the other direction. We have the money right now but in a few months we’ll lose 40% of our income. How much should we cut now… should we stop eating out once or twice a week. Should we stop buying so much fancy cheese? We’re already spending at comfortable levels, but we may have to cut next year. So do we cut now? Do we start budgeting now? When we have a relatively high net worth, do we really need to cut at all? But it isn’t high enough to generate enough income to finance the spending without drawing down or at least not adding to it. That line is hard. Much easier to have more money than you know what to do with!

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2013, 3:32 pm

      Can your reduced income pay for all your monthly expenses? If you have positive cash flow, you probably don’t need to cut your expenses. If you have to cut, I would cut now. You should just bank your husband’s pay and see if you can handle it for a few months. That’s just the way I think though.

      • nicoleandmaggie January 29, 2013, 10:00 am

        We spend XK/year. My take-home pay (not including summer money) will be XK/year, but we’d have to stop pre-paying the mortgage, saving extra for retirement, etc.

        We have been banking most of DH’s pay this entire time. (We used to bank more than that!) It’s the room for emergencies that’s the concern. It’s easy to bank everything when you have 40% more income than you need coming in every month, but not so easy when your income matches your expenditures almost exactly. And we do have an emergency fund… but it’s a different way of thinking.

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals January 26, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Wow, I don’t know where to start. I echo you on so many of your thoughts. My realization that I couldn’t stay in corporate America happened the same WEEK I got pregnant (unplanned) with my second child. It wasn’t until I’d been working freelance for about 18 months that I really started to feel comfortable sending moderate amounts of money. I think you have to “learn” how to spend money, just like you have to “learn” how to save it. It’s a skill to do so responsibly.

    • retirebyforty January 28, 2013, 8:51 am

      18 months is a good amount of lead time. I’m only 6 months into it, that’s probably why I’m not quite comfortable yet.

  • Mike January 26, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Keeping the wife is always a good thing. But do strike a balance with her as well. Sometimes spending is good and sometimes saving is a lot better. Maybe revisit some of your goals and then maybe discuss some possible solutions. That’s just something I would do in your situation.

    • retirebyforty January 28, 2013, 8:53 am

      She doesn’t like spending money either so we usually have the same goals.

      • Mike January 28, 2013, 9:52 am

        That makes it nice though-and probably a lot easier too!

  • Jared January 26, 2013, 6:06 pm

    Joe, I had a similar conundrum a while back and I stumbled upon an article that actually lays out a coherent plan for how to both 1) save enough money and 2) not feel bad about spending some money on fun things. I’ve been following a variation of this budgeting strategy for the last year and it has made it easier to balance savings goals with enjoying the leftovers.

    Basically, you split your spending up into prioritized categories: needs, priority savings, discretionary savings, and then wants (i.e. every that’s left over). You just need to set goals and amounts.

    Link: http://pocketmint.net/2012/02/the-conflict-free-family-budget-your-turn/

    • retirebyforty January 28, 2013, 8:54 am

      Thanks for the tips. I’ll check it out.

  • Sarah Park January 27, 2013, 9:41 am

    I don’t think you are being cheap. You are just being practical. You have a family to raise and a kid’s future to prepare. This is just a normal thing to do.

  • Buy & Hold Blog January 27, 2013, 5:57 pm

    I too have a fear money mind and frankly if I were in your shoes, I too would be a spendthrift. I went through this phase when I bought my house in 2007 and till 2012. I’ve losened my stance a little in 2012 for a couple of reasons, our daugher is now
    a toddler and secondly our nest egg has grown in 2012. We’re eating out. Plus, we made a few needed home renovations.

  • Julie @ Freedom 48 January 27, 2013, 7:54 pm

    I think a lot of people view us as being “too cheap”, but the reality is, we’re just not interested in spending money on some things. I have no interest in buying name brand stuff, or buying new clothes just for the sake of buying new clothes. However, I don’t hesitate to buy new clothes if I need new clothes! We eat out every few weeks, but our idea of “eating out” is picking up a sub or shawarma, or a walk-in pizza special from Pizza Pizza. We spend no more than $15 total on a dinner out for the two of us.

    • retirebyforty January 28, 2013, 8:57 am

      I like eating out like that too. But sometime it’s fun to go to a nicer restaurant. We haven’t done that for a long time and I’ll try to budget it in so the Mrs. can try new places.

  • I am starting to irritate my husband because I just recently decided we need to stop spending and start saving. He wants certain things and I am basically telling him that isn’t the way to go. For me it’s like my weight loss journey. I am giving up certain foods because I am in the losing phase, and when I get to goal I will introduce those foods more often because I’ll be maintaining. Right now I need to be in the saving mode until I get some extra in the bank. Then we will have to reevaluate spending. I think it’s important to enjoy some of ur money..when we leave earth,we can’t take it with us.

    • retirebyforty January 29, 2013, 12:01 am

      You might have to ease into it. Good luck with both losing weight and saving money. You guys are doing well on both front from what I read.

  • Rob @FinancialSprout January 28, 2013, 5:15 pm

    I did read your post about not buying clothes for a whole year, and I thought it was a tad bit cheap. A great idea nonetheless, but still cheap. I actually really liked that article by the way. I didn’t necessarily take the challenge, but I definitely kept the challenge’s principal in mind. I don’t think it’s good to be overly cheap, but I think it is good practice to keep a frugal mind. Everything can be good in moderation.

  • sin camisa January 30, 2013, 8:43 am

    Winters are a bit harder; but in the NW nature is pretty much free.

    Out dinning outing has been Costco for a while; and the wife loves it. Meal for four $15!

  • First Gen American February 11, 2013, 2:53 am

    I was asking my friend who has grown kids what she would do differently at my age and she said to spend more time with my spouse. I still don’t have a good babysitter but I took the advice to heart, so yes I think it’s a good investment to spend time/money on date night.

    Personally, I think it’s pretty easy not to buy clothes for a year. That wouldn’t be a challenge I’d struggle with because most clothes don’t fit me well and it takes effort to mail order the special sizes.

    • retirebyforty February 11, 2013, 11:22 pm

      I agree. We’ll have more date nights this year. My mom is staying with us for a while and she is really helpful with the kid.

  • JC February 11, 2013, 4:47 pm

    dude, in the romance dept., romance is free. moonlight walk while holding hands, free. candle lit home made dinner with fancy table setting, free. special home made dessert like strawberries or cherries & chocolate, free. reading a funny or touching chapter of a book to her in bed, free. dvd home movie night (especially from an exotic film like foreign director etc, something out of the ordinary) from library dvd (or torrented version if you’re like that), totally free. learning (with all that free retirement time) & playing a song for her on your choice of instrument, free. snuggle time on the couch, free. Light music and oil massage (use cooking oil like walnut or soybean or sunflower oil) and some aromatherapy (burn some rosemary from the spice cabinet or something) is free. etc etc etc etc

    It is a complete Marketing Scam how businesses have convinced men that romance means “(likely expensive) date night out” when in fact those businesses spend millions of $$$ on commercials and glossy magazine spreads convincing men of this.. that they supposedly need to spend their money… on those some businesses…. to keep their women happy and “not appear cheap” to their women or to “appear romantic”.

    Especially with valentines day coming up this is important to remember!

  • Mike Hunt April 1, 2013, 1:37 am

    Hi RB40- when are you planning on making the trek down to Thailand?

    Drop me an email when you plan to come down- it would be great to take you guys out to dinner.


    • retirebyforty April 1, 2013, 9:52 pm

      It will probably be a couple of years. I want to go when the kid is old enough to listen to behave. I’ll drop you a line. Are you in Bangkok?

  • Jerrie April 4, 2013, 8:25 pm

    My grandparents started off with nothing, survived the depression, and during a period of time when everyone else was losing their shirt, they managed to claw the cash together for 400 acres of land and a home. Nothing fancy, certainly nothing like the farms you see pictured in Iowa or Indiana in the summertime, more like the scenery in the “Grapes of Wrath”. And every square inch of it was hard, miserable, backbreaking work. They raised a daughter and a son and eventually took me in as a 1 year old. Now maybe their goals were different, my grandfather grew up in a house where hunger was not a stranger, my grandmother wasn’t much better off, but this is what I came to realize as I grew up and my grandparents passed away. They hoarded every nickel, they did without a phone, their home and their cars never had air conditioning. They never passed the borders of Oklahoma or Texas, and when they did take the rare road trip, it was for a doctors appointment in Oklahoma City or Wichita Falls, Texas. The biggest personal purchase I ever saw my grandmother make was a new coat, and that was at a winter close out sale. When it was all said and done, I wish they had been more generous to themselves and at least made their day to day lives more comfortable. But I do know that they succeeded in this-I never went hungry, I ate some of the best home cooked food on earth, I learned a love of the land, and I never spent a day or night in their home that I didn’t know I was loved. Since the TV was broken more of the time than not, I acquired a great love of books and literature. I know how to grow corn, tomatoes, onions, okra, black eyed peas, potatoes, and I know how to grow fruit trees. Part of their land is mine now, and a lifetime of memories to go along with it. Once again, I wish they had been kinder to them selves, but I am so thankful for their presence in my young life.

  • Amy K November 11, 2014, 10:35 am

    Whoops, one of those is the Portland, MAINE library, sorry.

    I was going to point out their museum passes, but nevermind. In your Portland I did find this blog post from your library about museums and other rainy day activities on the cheap,

  • Amy K November 11, 2014, 10:39 am

    Hmm, it looks like my first comment got eaten. Short version: it sounds like your problem is more time than money. You need a date night, prioritize date time and use grandma/have wife take a preschool day off work/hire a preschool teacher s a babysitter to do something together. It doesn’t have to be pricey outing (though those are nice too) and then I suggested a library event, or having grandma take Jr to the library for story time (https://multcolib.org/events/today) while you and the Mrs reconnect.

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