It’s OK to spend money!

The Simple Dollar was one of the first PF blogs I ever read. The articles were insightful, the advice was wonderful, and he seemed to take a middle ground on the whole frugality thing.  But lately he seems to have forgotten that there are people out there who aren’t male & living with children in rural Iowa.  That someone out there might be more interested in fashion than the kids they don’t have, or might not think that organic food is the end all and be all of existence.

Yesterday, he posted a response to a comment by Sydney, who said that the “Latte Factor” was not necessarily as important as getting the big stuff (e.g. rent/mortgage) under control. The comment continued, “Yet if you arrange your life so that major expenses are not consuming all of your income and then some, you can actually eat lunch out once awhile, buy that cup of coffee, or see a movie. Quality of life goes up dramatically. At that point, if you want to save on little things also, it becomes a choice, rather than a constant necessity just to survive.”

Instead of seeing this as sound advice (keep major expenses small and you will have enough wiggle room to allow yourself a cup of coffee or a lunch out), Trent misinterpreted the comment and claimed it said that “the ability to participate in a consumer economy is directly tied to the quality of life.”

He very condescendingly told Sydney that he used to think money was the way to happiness too, but (and I’m paraphrasing) he grew up and realized what’s really important.

Way back when I first started my blog, I wrote a post on why I hated most other blogs, and TSD was firmly in my mind as I typed.

Trent’s examples all involved things with his family, which is nice for him but not really applicable to someone who doesn’t have family or someone whose family lives far away. Furthermore, enjoying a lunch out or a cup of coffee isn’t buying into consumerism! On the weekend, I’ll walk to a small coffee shop by my apartment for a latte, which is a nice change of pace from my usual coffee, and sit there drinking it. The weather has been awesome lately, so I sit in the sun and watch the people walk by. On the way home, I might take a longer route that passes by the ocean and I just marvel, “Wow. I live here.”

Nothing but the promise of caffeine and tasty vanilla lattes could get me out of bed in the morning otherwise.

The building I work in has no windows, save for the ones in the lobby. This means that I work in a florescent-lit box for 9 hours every day. Often times I’ll work straight through lunch, but every time I take the hour to go out to eat, I walk back into work refreshed and ready for another 4 hours. Getting out of here helps me regain my sanity. Sure, I could leave the building for an hour and probably get the same boost, but nothing can lure me away from my desk like the promise of an artichoke and spinach panini.

I don’t necessarily agree with the original comment that sparked Trent’s missive since she threw out furniture and vacations as big expenses you should splurge on. I think this may have been just some bad examples.

I have a hand-me-down couch from my parents, and the upholstery has ripped on both sides of the cushions. It’s an eyesore, and not really something you can hide. I feel better just by covering those ratty slipcovers with some red sheets, and that way the stuffing doesn’t scratch or poke me. I love the rattiness of the wood (each ding and scratch is a reminder of my childhood), but the cushions are bothersome. Chad and I are saving up to reupholster it – is that wasting money?

And my honeymoon is going to cost a bundle, but it’s worth it to finally get to see all the places in Europe I’ve dreamed of seeing.

I’m not saying that you should derive happiness solely from spending money, and sure, I could walk by the beach or leave work without doing so. I’m just sick of the big-name blogs who seem to have a hostile reaction to spending money on anything that isn’t absolutely essential and basic. You can save money by cutting back on the big stuff and you can save money over cutting out smaller luxuries. When did spending money become a moral failing, indicating that you’re too simple-minded to enjoy the free things in life?

Frugal Bachelor (comment #77) had the best reply; I actually said, “Oh snap!” when I read it. The comments in general are a shitstorm, which is why I still read TSD. (OK, I also read for the same reason I watch The Hills – because it gives me something to be angry about. You don’t know what they’re going to do/say next, but you’re sure it’s going to be ridiculous.)


14 Responses

  1. My thoughts exactly, except articulated better. 🙂

    I read TSD for the exact same reason. I’ve tried to stop (it annoys me most of the time), and I can’t, because he writes this stuff that makes me think “are you kidding me?” and I wait until the end of the day and check out the comments. (ditto the Hills, but The City seemed too contrived to get me into it.)

    He’s well intentioned, but seems to have a hard time acknowledging there are many valid paths to happiness.

  2. Well, I seem to be caught in a strange spot here, because I actually
    felt I agreed with what he meant to say (or at least I thought I did). lol.

    Maybe I’m over-simplifying it, but I felt as though his argument was based on only the last few lines of what the commentor said. Basically, that buying coffee, seeing movies, and eating out directly improves your quality of life. Trent’s point was that quality of life doesn’t have to be measured by how much money you spend out, or how much you eat out. You can have a high quality of life while not doing those things. (And yes, maybe the commentor threw out some bad examples that skewed the conversation in a direction that wasn’t intended.)

    I do know is that there are people out there that are just so USED TO doing things a certain way that they couldn’t imagine that staying home for a night or two could be fun at all. I get the feeling most of the time that he’s simply trying to get some people to think out of the box and try something else.

    I also don’t think that we’re his target audience. (By “we” I mean most PF bloggers) I like to think I’m fairly consciencious (sp?) with my spending, and so I’ve kind of outgrown his money saving posts, as its usually something I’ve heard before. But that doesn’t mean it might not do someone else some good if it opens up their eyes to look at their behavior in a way they hadn’t before.

    (Dang, sorry that was so long!)

  3. Oh, wow. “Oh, snap!” to frugal bachelor indeed! (The bit about diversifying from your children really hit home with me, not that there is anything wrong with spending time with your children…but….one day they grow up to be independent…)

    I don’t read TSD, but I stopped by to see what all the fuss is about. I think Sydney’s comment was really appropriate – if you cut back on the huge expenses, you have more wiggle room for the little joys; a pedicure, latte, meal out with friends. Brunette on a Budget just posted a list of “why you’re not rich” the other day…living in a house you can’t afford was one of them.

    Trying to pay back debt and save money… I’ve cut out a lot of meals out and latte trips… but I NEED those every once and awhile! I work in a windowless box for 9 hours a day too, and sometimes its the only thing that will lure me out into the world!

  4. TOTALLY!!

    I don’t read TSD any longer because his posts make me mad. Him and his getting mad over spending $3 on a chocolate bar for his child.


    he’s always in my mind when I talk about big blogs that whine all the time about spending money on lattes etc…

    Here’s my reply in a blog post.

  5. I also really hate when other big name PF bloggers try to make others feel bad for spending that cash.

    *rolls eyes*

    It’s my money. I’ll buy 50 chai lattes if I want.

    All it means to be in PF, is to be CONSCIOUS that you’re spending it and that you cut back elsewhere, instead of just always saving saving saving.

  6. I rarely read TSD, but I did read that post. While it didn’t exactly stir up much emotion because I think I understand what he was saying, I disagree that complete non-materialism is necessary. All things in moderation.

  7. Trent is cheap in his bones. I’m sure you know someone like this, someone who is pained by spending money.

    He also strikes me as the kind of person who would always whip out “you’ll understand when you have kids.” Ugh, I hate that one.

  8. Personal finance is called “personal” for a reason, isn’t it? It’s not as though there’s only ONE right path to financial independence, freedom and happiness. But, a lot of time, I think the danger of blogging is that sometimes readers take statements out of context, or as more often is the case, the blogger doesn’t articulate his/her thoughts as clearly as he/she wanted, which creates a whole firestorm. I understand the message Trent was trying to convey, but his post came across as, “Sydney is a slave to consumerism because she enjoys lattes and eating out.” But if that’s what he intended to say, well, that’s just silly.

  9. I agree completely. I still skim TSD’s posts, but most of the time they piss me off. Personal finance is all about find YOUR balance, which is most likely different then someone elses. While money can’t make you happy, going out to lunch with friends can. Great post!

  10. yesterday, Trent reminded us to brush our teeth before going to work. And to shower!

    Yeah, I’m picking on him, yeah, I’m probably not his target audience (someone who is digging out of debt or has/had spending problems). But good grief.

  11. The problem is that happiness comes in many forms and what is important to you might not be important to me. I don’t read TSD, it never held any interest for me. It sounds like he is simply trying to make the point that we CAN find happiness in simple things like time with the family that don’t necessarily cost money. But it is wrong to say that it is the only source of happiness. Many people enjoy a fancy coffee once in a while, a night at the movies or a dinner out. There is nothing wrong with people for enjoying and chosing to spend their money on these things. Different strokes for different folks.

  12. I didn’t read the original post on TSD (his blog makes me mad with his ‘hollier than thou’ attittude, so I don’t read it anymore). You’re so right. He seems to miss the point that it’s personal choice how we each manage our money. He seems to think that just because HE chooses the simple country-bumpkin life, the rest of us should want to as well. Of course you’re going to save money by living as a hermit and never spending a dime, that doesn’t mean we should all aspire to it.

    On another note, I think it is important to remember that some of the PF blogs out there are written by people with a very different attitude to thrift than you, I and most of the bloggers who have commented on this post. Probably if you have 4 kids, survive on one income and live in the burbs, your attitude towards saving every little penny would be different – like, possibly many simply don’t have any other choice. Sometimes I read those blogs to remind myself of how I really don’t want my life to turn out.. that sounds awful, but if I ever find myself denying myself a £2 latte just for the sake of not wanting to spend the money, I will close down my blog, stop dispensing advice and have a good hard look at what my life has become!

    Great post 🙂

  13. Amen, FruGal! I was already a bit biased about this blog — he always seems to assume people can live just like him. Things are different in other places. And a lot of women wouldn’t be okay working full-time so their hubby can blog — and still pay for day care.

    Then he really pissed me off by highlighting an article about “lifestyle diseases” which were “completely avoidable” — like depression. As a depressive, I was pretty friggin’ offended by that. I couldn’t believe he thought it was a good idea to highlight an article that was so badly researched. (The writer mentioned depression in the same line as “smoking” and called asthma a “smoking-related” disease.) Basically the article claimed that if you lived better you could avoid diseases associated with these habits/conditions.

    Yeesh. I know lots of people are pretty avid Trent followers, so I try not to bash him. But something about him just kind of rubs me the wrong way I guess. Maybe I just decided too early and can’t get away from it.

  14. […] Today, I am interviewing the wonderful Paranoid Asteroid, who caught my attention with this very post about hating PF blogs, and then followed up with a post this March saying that it was okay to spend money. […]

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