There are a lot of personal finance bloggers who are extremely frugal. Some of these bloggers have one vehicle for a family of 5; some make their own décor for their wedding and ask their bridal party to help set up the venue; some use reusable paperless towels; some use cloth diapers; some don’t have cable; the list goes on and on. While being frugal certainly has its benefits, I need a life of balance.
I don’t want to be fake or lie to my readers. I love luxuries in life. My husband and I are, as some people like to call it, foodies. We vacation fairly lavishly. I drive a luxury vehicle and own designer shoes and bags. But, there is still a sense of balance. I don’t solely purchase designer items. My luxury vehicle was a used one. We eat at some expensive restaurants, but we also love home cooked meals and a cheap slice of pizza or even a dirty water dog (if you’ve never heard of it, Google it) every now and again. This need for balance is basically how I apply minimalism tendencies, but still feel fulfilled by indulging myself, too.
I love my home, but it isn’t my dream home
Have you seen the show “Tiny House, Big Living?” It is truly fascinating what some of these people do with such a small space. I am truly impressed. However, this is not how I want to live my life. For me, being in small and tight spaces makes me extremely on edge. I love openness. This gives me a sense of calm.
To be clear, I do not live in a mansion. I live in a modest, 1.5 bath, 3 bedroom house that is between 1600 and 1700 square feet. Sure, I would love a house that offered more closet space and an en suite, but, as the minimalist mindset goes, there are other things that are more important than that extra space for things. I am in love with our neighborhood. It is such a great area to raise a family. On any warm day, our streets are flooded with families going for walks, adults going for jogs, children riding bikes and people walking their dogs. Additionally, we live less than half a mile away from a park. Everyone in our neighborhood is also extremely friendly and I’ve made great friends just walking distance from me and I can’t wait for us and our children to grow old together.
Aside from loving my neighborhood, living in a smaller house gives us the ability to save more money. We bought our house back in 2013 before the housing market in our area became a seller’s market. We got our house for a very reasonable price and we made it so that we could easily afford the mortgage and taxes on one salary in case my husband or I ever decided to stop working. This allows us to spend our money on the things we love and will allow us to continue to do that. We want to be able to bring our future children on vacations. We even talk about buying a vacation home one day. If we bought a bigger house, we’d have a higher mortgage and higher taxes which would be a bigger financial burden and would give us significantly less flexibility when it comes to spending.
The point is, while I would love a walk-in closet to fill with clothes and shoes galore, those things will lead me to temporary happiness, whereas all the reasons I love our home will lead me (and my family) to happiness for the rest of time.
I drive a luxury vehicle and I paid it off in full within less than a year
I drive a 2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350. My husband, on the other hand, drives a 2006 Ford Focus with a severely dented hood. People seriously laugh at the contrast (to be fair, though, he also has a Harley Davidson and a 2006 Pontiac GTO for hobby vehicles). Some people may think I’m crazy for owning a luxury vehicle. I’ve heard it all: luxury cars are a waste of money; people only drive them to show off; the maintenance on luxury vehicles is crazy expensive; a car just gets you from point A to point B, who cares what it looks like?
For me, I don’t care what people think of my car. I didn’t get it to show off and I’m not embarrassed by people who think it’s a waste of money. When I turned 16, I got a 2006 Jeep Liberty that was certified pre-owned. I was fortunate enough to have extremely generous parents who bought it for me and I was also grateful and money-conscious enough to keep it for 10 years. A vehicle that is 10 years old definitely starts to lose its luster, as well as some other things like fully working mechanics and the latest technology.
Related Post: Why I Bought a Luxury Vehicle
I loved my Jeep when I got it and for the first few years I had it, but then that feeling went away and I just looked at it as a reliable vehicle that did its job, nothing more, nothing less. So when it came time for me to car shop, I wanted to buy something that I loved. That vehicle just so happened to be a 2014 Mercedes ML350. I wanted something that looked nice inside and out, had lots of updated features and provided convenience and great customer service. However, I didn’t need a brand new 2017 car (I bought my car in 2016 right as the 2017 models were coming out) to get all that and, therefore, I found my financial and indulgence balance in a pre-owned luxury vehicle.
I am obsessed with traveling and planning way in advance makes it easy to save for
I LOVE vacations. Actually, love isn’t even a strong enough word. I’m a fanatic of vacations. There is just nothing that compares to visiting and exploring a new place while having an excuse to not work and minimize your social obligations. Vacations bring me such joy that I wish I could just do it permanently. But since I can’t be on a permanent vacation, I truly like to make the most of my vacations. I enjoy lots of amenities, great views, the best food and top notch service to make it really feel different than home.
Vacations are not cheap, though, at least not the way I vacation. I’m not a camper. I’m not even a glamper. I will never have a RV. I don’t like motels. I prefer to have my towels replaced daily (sorry, environment- it’s just while I’m on vacation). I like high thread counts on my sheets. I’m impressed by pretty décor and beautiful views. These are things I do not want to give up when planning a vacation, so I don’t. Instead, I plan my vacations far in advance and save up for them over the course of a longer period of time than most people do. I do what I have to in order to make it happen without accumulating any debt.
I cook at home at least 5 days a week, so I can enjoy dining out on the weekends
As I mentioned above, my husband and I are “foodies.” I feel like such a stereotypical millennial for saying that and, to be perfectly honest, I have never actually called myself that outside of this blog post right here. I, like most humans, enjoy eating good food. I’m also fascinated with the art of food. I don’t just mean the way food looks, although I’m very impressed with food presentation, but rather the way chefs combine flavors and create delicious dishes. If you’ve ever watched Chef’s Table on Netflix, it’s really interesting to see what the thought process behind creating dishes at restaurants is like.
I view dining out as an experience. I like to try new places, new cocktails and new foods. I’ve even spent $800 before on a meal for 2 people… and yes, it was the best meal of my life and I would do it again (I actually have done it twice, whoops).
On the other end of things, though, in order to support my expensive dining out habits, I do not do this every week, or even every month for that matter. I also cook at home A LOT. We live in an area where there is no Uber Eats, Seamless or GrubHub and there are very limited options for delivery, which definitely pushes me to cook more, too. But I don’t even do takeout during the week. This allows me to have the ability to be able to dine out at nice places a little more often.
What’s the point?
After going on about all the things I do spend more money on than I truly need to, I feel like I should mention that this is not how I live every aspect of my life. In fact, I rearrange my budget to make sure there is enough focus on the things I love most, while sacrificing others.
There are no daily lattes for me. My nails and toenails are usually bare unless I’ve received a gift card to get them done or paint them myself. Home décor projects take me an unreasonable amount of time because I don’t want to spend large amounts of money on them all at once. I almost never go out to eat or order takeout on weekdays. I have a set clothing budget and I stick to it, or come under, each month. I’ve never carried a balance on any of my credit cards. I take advantage of free samples of makeup, skincare and haircare products as often as I possibly can. I am currently typing this on an outdated laptop that’s been missing the 8 key for 2 and a half years. I’ve got an iPhone 6s (when the iPhone 8 and X were released 5 months ago).
Living a balanced financial life means something different for everyone. For me, it’s about indulging in vacations, going out to eat, driving a luxury vehicle, living in Westchester County, NY all while making sure I have no debt beyond our mortgage, my retirement plans are being contributed to, my savings account is plentiful, I donate to charities and don’t feel like I’m struggling financially. And that should be everyone’s goal: live a life you love, but make sure your finances are not suffering because of it. A few sacrifices can go a long way in helping you afford things you enjoy.