Overspend Here, Underspend There

by Katy on October 25, 2012 · 47 comments

As I sit here drinking my Red Rose tea and eating my bulk purchased oatmeal, I ponder at my surroundings and the last 24 hours. I am wearing thrifted pants and T-shirt, as well as a cozy long sleeve top given to me by a friend who was recently widowed and wanted me to look through her wife’s closet to see if there was anything I could use. (I took two shirts.) I’m wearing my wool lined $37.50 Keen boots from two years ago, yet I’m wearing no socks as my supply is low and I need to start darning.

I gassed up my mini-van yesterday to the tune of $73.78 and have already driven almost 60 miles to my sons’ cross-country track meet which was out of town. I pay extra for sustainably raised eggs and milk, yet I balk at the price of organic milk. I shell out the cash for private tutoring, yet I try to eke out one more year from my winter coat. The heat is off, although we’ve cranked it up a time or two when we’ve had guests.

My life is a mixture of over and underspending.

Are you noticing a pattern here? I overspend on big picture stuff, which is generally for others, especially my kids. Yet I underspend on myself. But there is zero negative consequence of underspending on myself. I have what I need.

I rarely, if ever overspend on stuff. You know, material objects, things, clutter. Crap.

And what I consider to be stuff, you might view as worth it. When I have a single pair of cute winter boots, I’m set. I don’t need a second pair. Same goes for coats, travel mugs and the like.

One and done. Kind of.

Life is not black or white, and to expect complete consistency would be unrealistic.

So next time you’re feeling bad about the inconsistencies in your life, remember that that you are not alone. No one is perfect, and we all choose where to put our energies.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda in Indiana October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

Different overspends and underspends perhaps here…but same principle…each of us has different priorities. But you were right on the mark! And it feels good!


Katy October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thanks. I was afraid that today’s blog post was too rambly.



Susan Marsh October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

Excellent post, Katy!


Katy October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

Thank you!



Susan October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

Katy, this wasn’t over rambly. I thought you made an excellent point about priorities and how money is spent. I’m frugal in many, many ways but we eat good quality food and I cook mainly from scratch…next to rent, food is my biggest expense. Oh and when we do have spare money, it goes on yarn for my knitting and Kev’s crocheting…but even then, its probably like £10 we spend on yarn.


Gill October 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

I agree everyone has different priorities. Well written.

Gill in Canada


tna October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

Exactly. I just turned off all the fans after my roommy left for work yet I’m eating fillet mignon and eggs as he asked me to help him finish off his steaks before they went bad. I’m wearing a 3 dollar j crew dress but as I watch the north wind start up outside I’m reminded I need to get some more wool smartsocks that will cost around 20 dollars a pair. I also will buy another wool buff at 30 bucks. Those 2 wool items, socks and buff, work perfectly to keep me warm and comfy walking out in the winter bluster along with my 10 dollar thrift store down jacket and 2 dollar marmot gortex insulated gloves. I made what I hoped would be banana cupcakes last night but didn’t have enough sugar so they taste more like banana muffins with butter cream icing. My roomy said, “Eh, muffins are good.” And I guess that sums up the trade offs.


Mauren October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am

There are always trade offs, and very happily so to some of us. What is important to one person, is not always important to another. Being frugal is important to some people, whereas it’s not a top priority for others and even still, extremely important to others for survival. Most of us, pick and choose.


Tina October 25, 2012 at 11:02 am

Yes, we spend crazy amounts on some things and skimp on others 🙂


ledith October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

I spend outrageous amounts on maintaining my two dogs and buying hardbacks as soon as they are released. But almost everything in my closet is from a friend, a thrift shop, a clothing trade or (like you) from the closet of a friend who died. (Unlike you, he was a man and I am still wearing his sweaters and flannel shirts!) Being frugal on clothes means I don’t have to wait for the library to get a book, and it is worth it to me.


Susan October 25, 2012 at 11:43 am

Thanks! I feel the same way. I have a cute pair of boots (on my feet, thank you very much), and our heater is on a timer, set to go off in the early morning, afternoon just when kids get home, and just before bed. I don’t need another pair of boots. I don’t live in a place that’s particularly fashion-conscious. I only need to purchase a (used) flannel shirt to fit in.


Denise October 25, 2012 at 11:58 am

I was just pondering this too! I will splurge for private school for my children, barter for their free dance lessons by teaching tap classes, spend next to nothing on myself, but we are DEFINATELY going to Disneyland this year and sparing no expense.


Amanda October 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I am confused by your sock darning. My ankle elastic always wears out way before I wear holes in the toe or heel. Maybe it’s just how I wear them? Clearly it must be of enough value to you to spend the time doing it.


Katy October 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Our 98-year-old hardwood floors are hard on socks.



Elaine in Ark October 26, 2012 at 6:42 am

My mom had 7 kids, and that’s a big reason we had to wear shoes or slippers in the house. No walking around in stocking feet, or bare feet either!


Sarah W October 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Great post at a needed time. I have been wrestling with the over/under spending that I do. I’m single (have not yet met my love 🙂 and I dine out alot, its a form of entertainment/socialization for me (I’m very frugal in other areas of my life). But sometimes I find myself comparing my dining habits on friends who are more settled, who dine in more. I especially love your last line, “No one is perfect, and we all choose where to put our energies.” I wrote it down as a reminder. Thank you.


Katy October 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm

You’re welcome. 🙂



Patricia Mattoon October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Katy, last month, three of us “easterners” spent some savings seeing your beautiful “neck of the woods,” but did it as frugally as possible. We got cheap flights, had no checked luggage, rented a small car with unlimited mileage, carried a collapsable cooler, bought food with coupons at the grocery stores, stayed in cheaper motels that had “complimentary breakfasts,” took advantage of motel rooms’ fridges and microwaves, saw sites like national parks that had free admission. The weather and scenery were amazing and we enjoyed every minute!


Barb October 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Great post! Today I wore a skirt, tank top and cardigan to work that had each been purchased separately at Goodwill but I spent $12.00 at lunch so I could meet a friend who was having a hard time and needed to vent. We get to choose our priorities. 🙂


Naomi October 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Excellent post Katy.
I spend almost nothing on “things” – my partner was astounded that I just bought a NEW book this week (by a blogger I have been following for a couple of years, and I really thought about if I wanted to buy it ).

For years I thought I was really frugal, but recently I added up the money I actually spend on ‘doing things’ (mostly playing ice hockey and yoga classes), and realised I do spend quite a bit. However, it’s all on ‘experiences’ (and keeping active), so I am ok with that.

By the way, would love to see a book from you – any plans :0)


Susan Marsh October 26, 2012 at 6:51 am

I agree. I think Katy should write a book. I WILL definitely buy it!


Reese October 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Oh I don’t know. I’m sure Katy would love it if we could somehow share it and pass it on… I can see a well-worn book, with curled edges, and a distressed binding passing from hand to hand. A thoughtfully ironic twist to her message about frugality 😉


Katy October 27, 2012 at 8:02 am

I don’t have any immediate plans to write a book. I have a hard enough time writing a daily post! However, I’m thinking more and more about it. I had an atrocious day at work yesterday, and it made me think about how I need to make my writing more of a priority.



Linda in Indiana October 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

If you write it, I will! buy it!!

Kymm October 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Don’t even own a pair of boots anymore, but I have an old pair of slippers that look like heck but still keep my feet warm in the winter. I’d rather go barefoot but that’s not happening in Iowa in the winter. I don’t spend much on anything other than food and gas–food because I like to eat and gas because I need to get out of the house and into the wild (or what passes for that around here) on a regular basis. And yarn. I get a little spendy with the yarn sometimes.


Kate October 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Great post! I have a pair of Merrell hiking boots that I bought for $40 off ebay…… 10 years ago. They are in great shape and I <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 them. Even if I had of paid full price, 60 or 70 bucks probably, it is so worth it to buy high quality things that you don't have to put in a bunch of extra cost into, or buy more frequently.


Lynn D. October 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I’m sitting here sipping tea that I grew myself from three tea bushes (camellia sinensis) just outside my back door (lowest carbon footprint ever!). I’m relaxing because I just cleaned out my sock drawer and threw out a bunch of holey socks. I refuse to mend socks even though I enjoy mending other types of clothes.


mrs.p October 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I have always underspend on myself and overspend on my family, but yesterday I went and added up where the money goes and how much we make. That was a big eye opener.I need to stay more on top of it. Need to make some cuts.


Anna October 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Oh thank you! I was just thinking about this today. I feel better that I’m not alone in being both frugal and occasionally spendy. Thanks.


Deb October 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Thank you for this post…I thought it was just me. My life is full of inconsistencies….like the fact that I don’t watch football because it is too violent but my favorite sport is hockey! ??? Yeah, I know. I quit trying to figure that one out a long time ago!


Ann October 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Totally live my life this way…won’t spend too much on a purse, but will spend money on cheese. Not exactly a tradeoff but the Mister says it is bedtime and I don’t like staying up alone…


amra October 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Funny you should mention this. I was just thinking about the subject, as I’m typing away on my new bluetooth keyboard for my ipad. I struggled with the idea of buying it – who needs more junk? – but ultimately decided that I wanted to see if getting it would allow me to avoid carrying my heavy computer to school (thus sparing my back).

It never seems to matter how much the cost actually is, or how much it would improve my life, certain things just feel like extravagances (for me, at least – never for the dependents, of course lol).


Rachel Gillespie October 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm

What’s really cool, Katy, is that you’re conscious and aware of your spending patterns and there is a thought-out logic behind them. I still like to save money but won’t do so at the expense of someone else’s human rights or the environment. Consequently, I find my spending patterns to be as inconsistent as you think yours are. We’re thinking about our spending and its consequences and that’s a good thing.


Erin October 26, 2012 at 4:09 am

Wow, Katy. This is so my life. Being frugal in many areas allows me the freedom to “overspend” in others.

My kids wear thrift store clothes but each has private Suzuki lessons (daughter on cello & son on flute) and play sports they love. I have few clothes, many of them used, but I get to drive my dream car (Town & County mini van) when I shuttle my kids and their cohorts to these activities we love.

It’s all about choices, baby, and I love mine. Sounds like you do too.


Lesley October 26, 2012 at 5:10 am

AMEN to Katy’s post as well as all of the great comments following. Lots of shades of gray in this world, including money spending and saving. I loved the book “Your Money Or Your Life” for this very reason … encouraging me to think about what it takes to make my money, and where I really want to spend (and save). Both bring satisfaction to my life.

Not a rambly post! Great post.


Rosa October 26, 2012 at 5:41 am

I wore my ridiculously expensive winter boots, that I finally invested in last winter after wearing thrift store boots for years, this morning. They are not cute, but man are they WARM. They made me happy last year every time i had to shovel snow. Rated to -20, waterproof. Totally worth it.

But i wear them with a coat that’s probably 30 years old and needs a button.


Paige October 26, 2012 at 6:40 am

Love this post! There’s always something new for me to learn in your posts. KEEP IT UP!!!


Carla October 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

Ah, it’s like you have summed up my life. Just the other day I was musing to my husband about our weird life. I get clothes for us at a ‘free shop’, clothing exchanges and thrift stores (refuse to pay more than a few dollars for a piece -getting a beautiful vintage coat for $20 recently was a huge purchase for us in that department), get the ‘cooking specials’ at the market (they also often give me the stuff that’s a bit banged up for free), go pick windfall apples from the ground to make apple butter for less than half the price but then we turn around and buy yummy but more expensive grass-fed beef, pay $ to see a naturopath (although our insurance covers 80%) put our kids take gymnastics and dance, spend oodles on fixing up brickwork on our 1920s house.

If I think about the money it seems weird because our society is all about how much things cost and how you’re worth it to buy new. So the money idea makes it seem inconsistent.

But if I think about what we have and what we do, it’s all very consistent in that we look for good quality things that look good and feel good. So I choose to see it this way through the lens of my values and what we have and do. And then it all makes perfect sense.


Ruby J. October 26, 2012 at 7:20 am

What a great post! Sometimes frugality gets a bad rap because others think we’re misers, but it’s all about balance. I watch the small expenses like a hawk so that we can afford the bigger things and the occasional splurge. And when I buy clothes from a thrift store, they’re always something that looks great on me and is from a maker whose products will wear like iron.


Jens October 26, 2012 at 7:27 am

Great post! My husband and I like to travel and have started going to Europe every other year. People always ask how we can afford it. Well, I drive a ’98 Nissan, buy 99% of our clothes at thrift stores, cook from scratch, haven’t had a TV since ’82, rarely go out to movies or restaurants, use the public library all the time, and so on. We save carefully and choose to spend our money on experiences. We love our lifestyle, and enjoy ourselves very much!


Karen October 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I will spend for good-quality food, necessary medical care, and the upkeep and food for my two rescue dogs. I will skimp on clothing and shoes for myself; what I have will do for quite some time.

But we each need to respect the others’ choices and not judge.


Kate October 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I seem to be sensing a pattern here – we are all happy to overspend on the things that are important to us, bring us joy, and conform to our values, while we underspend on the rest. The key is that we’ve actually thought these choices through – we don’t just buy a new car because the neighbors did, a new purse because our best friend got one, or a fancy new phone because our pay-as-you-go isn’t cool.


Bauunny October 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Absolutely! I will splurge and buy several copies for gifts because books are something I value. Your post resonated with me as I have realized that I am especially frugal in some aspects of my life so I can be especially not frugal in others. I will always spend money on education, health and wellness and quality clothes (which is why I love thrift and consignment shops so I can get stylish, well made, unique and often ” made in America” clothes.


Pollyanna October 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm

This was a very good post and so true, I join in with the others to say this is how it works for me too. I can be extremely frugal (Goodwill shopping, make my laundry soap, am ready to try the yogurt recipe you shared from frugal girl). I guess this is what lets me spend on other things that I do want to “splurge” on. Thanks for expressing how it all makes sense!


Shelly October 30, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I think the balance is what helps us frugal types be happy truly happy in our underspending. It is not a chore but fun to see what we can get for a little. How long a pair of socks can last or what you can make with all the small amount of leftovers in the fridge. Then when there is something that is truly important you can have the money to purchase it. Instead of wasting money on the pretty thing right in front of you now you can save for the thing that truly will bring you joy.


Katy October 27, 2012 at 10:55 am

Well, then I’d better start my book!



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