How Do You Spend Your Money?

by Katy on August 18, 2009 · 31 comments


I apparently have a reputation my family for being a bit of a tightwad. (I know. . . where on earth would they get that idea?!) It’s not that anyone in my family is a particularly big spender, but I apparently stand out.

How do I know this?

My older sister Jessica was in town last month, and she and my mother went out for an afternoon of mother/daughter pedicures. My sister asked if my mother and I ever splurged in this indulgence together, and this is what my mother answered:

“No. Katy would rather pay off some bill that pay to get a pedicure.”

My sister, ever the rivalrous sibling had no qualms reporting this conversation to me, all the while showing off her newly bright blue toenails (complete with big toe rhinestone flowerette!)

Even though I knew there was complete and utter truth to this statement, I still didn’t like how it made me sound like a miserly old stick in the mud.

I would like to be the kind of person who is completely on top of her finances and can still enjoy the occasional indulgence. I quickly got out a jar of nail polish and painted my toenails a vibrant fire engine red.

Okay. . . Β there was no mother/daughter bonding, no foot massage and certainly no rhinestone flowerette. Plus, it made me feel like a reactive and annoying little sister, which I try and minimize now that I’m supposedly a grown-up.

I just choose to spend my money differently. My husband and I have debt related to our money hole of a house and we have prioritized getting that paid off as soon as possible. And when we do, I think we’ll save for a family trip to Japan.

And now that I come to think about it, I am going to choose to hear my mother’s comment as a compliment instead of a criticism. Because yes, I would rather pay down my debt than go get a pedicure. For which I apologize not.

How are you spending your money these days? Have your priorities changed or are you enjoying the little indulgences more than ever? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane August 18, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Hi Katie,
I’d like to think that we’d spend our time and money in similar ways (Had friends over for Dirt & Buttons last night, served the leftovers from a party I’d hosted on Saturday, a good time was had by all). I am going to be flying into Portland early Friday, Aug. 28th. I’m picking up a car and driving it back to NorCal. I figure I can spend all day Friday exploring. I’ve never been there before. Since both my time and budget are limited, what do you recommend as must see/must do in your fine city?


Sierra August 18, 2009 at 10:25 pm

I just spent all my money on enrolling my older daughter in a gymnastics program. It cost at least twice as much as any other kids’ activity, but our first visit was so good that I’m feeling great about it. I wrote a post about how and why here:

Most days I’d rather pay down debt than do just about anything else. But since all of that is about quality of life for me and my kids, I do put a lot of money into them.


Meg Haskins August 19, 2009 at 3:17 am

Hi Katy! I’ve been enjoying following your blog. I’ll bet your sister isn’t gifted with the flow of words or the connections with others (like-minded) who enjoy the simple things in life. I do love a pedicure on occasion, but I can also paint my own. It seems to me that you have multiple “girlfriends” who bond with you & others through the art of writing about their real lives. Not society’s idea of female bonding.
I am spending my money differently these days, for sure! I am recently unemployed, seperated, and returning to full time school. I live alone in a one bedroom apartment off of $800/month. My rent is $500, and I have a power & gas bill for utilities. My car is paid for but my spending money each week goes for food, gas & cigarettes. (I just starting smoking after 16-1/2 years, temporary setback, I hope) Thank goodness I’m a thrifty Diva. I have to say that even though this is the least amount of money I’ve ever lived off of, I awake each day with peace & happiness and a real love of each day and what it may bring. My life feels rich and I know it’s going to get even richer. Joy is found every day in the life that we live, if we look for it.
btw-I just painted my toenails black & it feels damn sexy!


Kristen August 19, 2009 at 5:39 am

I am also the “tightwad” in the family. But I also find it unbelievable that someone would criticize you for putting your money towards important things (like paying your bills) rather than frivilous things (like a pedicure). I guess that is why our country is in the mess we are in. Because we think we are entitled to both even though we don’t have the money for both. Bills and savings come first for me and then the extra goes towards wants. In October we are taking a trip to see college friends and it is worth every penny!


Jennifer August 19, 2009 at 6:11 am

I just found your blog and I love it!! I completely agree that we are our priorities completely upside down. I also would rather pay a bill than get something unnecessary like a pedicure. I get an allowance every two weeks when we get paid and any splurges from that is spent at Jo-Ann Fabrics getting fabric for my quilting. And this year we want to put our two sons in swimming lessons but that money will come from savings from our allowances and not from our “general fund” because that money is for bills and savings. Keep up the good work.


Katharine August 19, 2009 at 7:06 am

Hi Katy,

We don’t actually have debt but if we did and if I chose to pay it down rather than get a pedicure, I would be proud of that. And I would expect my family to be proud of that too – I’m sorry that you didn’t get that reaction. But I, a random stranger, am proud of you for it – and I love your toes. They look fabulous. πŸ™‚

My husband and I often get criticized for not having enough fun – we don’t eat out often (because we feel we can make better meals more cheaply at home); we don’t do expensive romantic get-aways (we’d rather go for a walk by a beach with our daughter); we don’t go on fancy holidays (we like camping).

We do spend money – once a year we go out for an expensive luxurious meal at a really fabulous restaurant. But in general we are tight with our money, partly to avoid consumerism, but mostly because we’re happy without spending money and nothing increases my happiness like seeing my savings account growing. We’re planning on buying a house this fall and renovations will likely become a big part of our life so until then, we’re trying to save every little bit.

Oh, and I do sometimes buy expensive cheese. πŸ™‚


GLM August 19, 2009 at 7:42 am

Call me cranky, stingy, a tightwad or even just plain old cheap, but I just don’t see how a pedicure is worth a FRACTION of the $40 it costs.

Keep the faith! It doesn’t matter how nice your toenails are if your roof has a hole in it that you can’t afford to fix.


fern August 19, 2009 at 8:29 am

I’m a firm believer in scrimping on the small, inconsequential stuff (eating out too much, manicures/pedicures for sure, haircuts, clothes and most small purchases under $20), while willingly spending my savings on things that matter to me, like renovating my home, which has lasting enjoyment benefits for me as well as a resale value boost.


Mariko August 19, 2009 at 8:41 am

That is so hilarious! And if you really want a pedicure, try one of the beauty schools, where you can have a student give you a pedi for a fraction of the cost. Take that, Jessica!


Tracy August 19, 2009 at 8:44 am

First, love your blog! Nice to find kindred souls. Living debt free is worth a hundred pedicures. :O) I married a tightwad and am proud to say I’ve become one, too. My friends with nice pedi’s are also stressed out about money all the time . . .just knowing that we’re debt-free, and that I could lose my job tomorrow and survive just fine for over a year, is worth the useless luxuries I sometimes have to do without! Keep the faith!


hiptobeme August 19, 2009 at 8:53 am

Whenever I hear a comment made by my mother that comes through my sister, I immediately assume the worst. Perhaps, she was trying to show her pride for you but it was not translated well. At any rate, I am sure that you paying your bills and caring for yourself financially makes your family proud of you. We have seriously cut down on the frivolity, it has been a tough year, but I have had to learn to balance. We can still have fun, it can’t be all work and no play.


Angela August 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm

I think my family also considers me kind of cheap based on past comments.

A pedicure is one of the little splurges I do enjoy, although not that often and only in the summer. I get one about once a month from April through September, mostly because of the massage and care more than just the painting, which of course I could do myself. In Los Angeles, a pedicure is only around $15 plus tip.

My biggest splurges are travel and an occasional massage or facial.


christajean August 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I have NO qualms whatsoever letting someone else pay for a pedicure for me!
My birthday is coming and that’s what I’m doing with my mother. πŸ˜€


Kori August 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm

While we are in serious debt pay-off mode, we’re also trying to live a balanced life. I know for me, if I don’t indulge in a treat for myself every once in a while, I will start feeling resentful and frustrated with our debt payment plan, and I’ll end up going on a crazed shopping and splurging binge. So, in the interest of averting such an event, small treats are built into our budgeting – I do go get a mani/pedi once a month… luckily where I live, I can do that for around $30 including tip. It isn’t a HUGE indulgence, financially, but it is a treat for me, for the relaxation and “splurge” feeling.

I guess the most important thing is living the life that works for YOU, so long as it isn’t a life that’s harmful to others or the planet.


Lindy August 19, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I do know how you feel because I have a sibling that thinks money has to be spent for any kind of valuable bondness and I at times feel like a cheapskate compared to them.

But as a mother with grown children myself, I can say I’m sure your mother see’s the uniqueness in each of her children. Your mothers comment was probably just exactly that, a comment with no hidden meaning in it.

You have many readers that love your tightwad ways. Keep it up! πŸ™‚


Marie August 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

When we were poor living in college my sister told me I needed to get a better pair of jeans, and suggested a $150 pair. That at that time was my food budget for the month and often had to cover diapers too (2 adults 2 kids in diapers). She also spends out the wazoo for makeup and haircuts.

She technically can afford it. She married into wealth and they covered her college. I married into poverty and we’re slowly entering the middle class now that we’ve graduated. She has no concept of not being able to buy everything she’s ever wanted because she used to get whatever she wanted growing up. It took me a few years to realize that she was never going to repay me everything she borrowed.

We choose to pay off our student loans as fast as possible. It helps me sleep at night. And unfortunately I’ve had to cut the connection for a multitude of reasons.

I felt empowered by you painting you’re toenails. I’m getting my first haircut in 2 years this week.


Kris-ND August 19, 2009 at 5:25 pm


Our spending and saving priorities have just radically changed.

We are actually going to be spending a few hundred dollars every month that we were not spending before. We have a good reason, and it fits our priorities. We bought the property adjacent to our cabin. For the next 10 years, things will be tight, but in the end, we gain extra acreage, which will pay for itself, as it is a flatter piece of property than the property our cabin sits on, so room for a HUGE garden, an orchard, and most important to us, room to put a home for either or both of our children when they have their own families(if they choose of course).

We have taken into account both the pro and con discussions with friends and family and we realize that some may think spending that kind of money, that will cut out movies and meals out, and “stuff” is bizarre. we see it as a quality of life “upgrade” for our family, both current and future.


Kathy August 19, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Siblings, gotta love ’em… πŸ™‚ The good thing is that you all (you, your mom, and your sister) seem nicely connected to each other.

Personally, I “don’t get” pedicures or manicures. I’d much rather bond over a cup of good coffee. To each their own though…


Jeanine August 19, 2009 at 7:21 pm

I haven’t commented in a while, but my situation has drasticly (sp) changed.

Gone is my 15 dollar an hour job and free cable,phone and internet, as well as paid for health benefits.

I knew that was coming though, so I planned accordingly. Remember that….”to survive on 7.50 an hour blog?” Boy am I using it now!

Also gone is my father. He passed away July 6.

He left me a small house, some acreage, a store, small amount of unused life insurance.

I am truly blessed. The house needs a small amount of rehab, a couple of new walls, some new kitchen/bath fixtures, a through cleaning and some paint, and we should be set to move in by Sept 1. I am now officially a DIYer.

Even though I am now without a job, I took one of your readers’ advice and am going back to school.

And since now we won’t have a monthly rental note, I can afford it without taking out loans.

The girls will be in a better school district, and there’s a small hope on the horizion of a part time job.

Life is good.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley August 19, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Hey! I do enjoy the simpler things in life. I haven’t gotten a pedicure since forever and I never ever have had a rhinestone embedded in my big toes until now. And I am tightwaddy like Katy, or almost like Katy! I make almost all the gifts that that are given by my family and those I don’t make are usually second-hand. I hang my laundry, bake my own bread (before Katy), recycle like crazy. All the paper I use for sketches (I’m the illustrator) is paper that has been used on one side already. I only use “used” paper for my copier, fax machine and printer. All of my clothing, and the clothing my family wears comes from second-hand sources. I did buy two pairs of shoes in New York two weeks ago, in the spirit of full disclosure. So, gentle readers, do not fret that Katy’s family doesn’t support her. We are very proud of her, from our heads down to our sparkly toes.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley August 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I hope that everyone realizes that Katy was making a joke when she wrote that I am ever the rivalrous sibling!


terilyn August 19, 2009 at 9:46 pm

We spend our money on essentials and health care, then save the rest. We are looking to the future, and trying to make sure we have enough to live on no income for a while if necessary.


denise e. August 20, 2009 at 3:36 am

i really enjoyed this blog. The line I hear from my sister is, “I’m worth it!” when it comes to indulgences that she will and I wont pay for. I just smile. I would rather have no credit card debt and cook a really good meal for the both of us at home.


Jeanne August 20, 2009 at 4:42 am


We got tremendous criticism – some overt, some covert – from family for our lifestyle. We chose to live in a tiny apartment with my in laws, work very hard, take modest vacations, pay off our debt and save for a house. Eleven years later we moved into our dream home with no worries. Not only that, but we started two businesses and by running them frugally, we have zero debt with either one. We are happy, healthy, and doing what we love in life. But family STILL criticizes as if they cannot believe that anyone who has this wonderful life is truly happy, as if we are lying all the time. It is amazing and sad at the same time. Do what you choose to do and ignore the criticism. A blue pedicure fades in a week; the peace of mind you get from paying off your debt lasts a lifetime.


Angela August 20, 2009 at 9:34 am

Jessica- I think most people who’ve read this blog more than one day know both Katy’s relationships with her family AND her sense of humor, and so would know she was joking. But most is not all.


Jean August 20, 2009 at 9:55 am

This post really struck a nerve with me! My husband’s sisters and sister -in-law had invited me to a girls day with them while one from out of town is here to celebrate one of the other’s birthdays. They had proposed a spa day and I was worried about the expense, but floored when they sent the “menu”–$275 for a day of pampering!!(Massage, manicure, pedicure, facial, cut & style and “light” lunch. )With 20% tips this would be a $330 dollar day! I’ve backed out as graciously as I could, because the guilt over spending this kind of money would overshadow any pleasure in the pampering! (And this from the women who proposed drawing names for Christmas and then eliminating exchanging at Christmas totally because they couldn’t afford it!) Would have loved to spend the bonding time with them, but just couldn’t spend two months utility bills on something so frivilous–thank goodness my girlfriends are all “cheap” too–we can spend a day together without spending any money and still have fun!


Karen August 20, 2009 at 9:56 am

Times are tight: our main full time jobs disappeared 2 years ago, so we now do many jobs. We are trying to reform our spending, bit by bit. But it does seem as if what I save by doing without is often canceled out by money spent on the house, so I don’t always feel like my sacrifices are paying off. I hope things improve soon, but I know the whole world is going through a financial crisis.

It’s funny about siblings. Isn’t it kind of odd that we grow up in the same financial condition, as kids under one roof, but as adults each sibling has a unique financial life. My sisters have always had much more money than I have and I think sometimes they feel uncomfortable about that. I think they don’t know how they would deal with not having all the super lattes every day, and the new cars every 2 years. But I don’t need that stuff, I am actually content with what I’ve got. The worst part was not always being able to afford classes etc for my kids, but they are grown up now and seem to have turned out just fine.


Tracy Balazy August 20, 2009 at 10:50 am

I’ve never had a pedicure; I never felt like hauling myself down to a salon and then sitting for it. I’ve been cutting my own bangs lately, too, to save on going to the salon just for that.

The little indulgences my husband and I enjoy are mostly food-related, whether eating at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Detroit ($6 for an excellent dinner) or buying specialty foods at a local market. We don’t have car payments or children, so our biggest expense is our house payment, on which we’re on the third year of a 15-year mortgage. We’re 42 and have four cats and a dog.

I’ve found I can buy useful things like dog collars, leashes and pet food bowls at garage sales, and my best jeans are a pair of DKNY that fit great and I bought new with tags for $8 at a thrift store. Garage sales have become my replacement for retail. People get rid of a lot of stuff that’s new/in new condition!

I’ve even turned away from eBay in favor of garage sales, which are cheaper.

I’ve really embraced this not-buying-new mantra over the past few months; I set July 1, the beginning of the second half of the year, as my cutoff Γ’β‚¬β€œ no new stuff (except underwear, bras and the twin mattress I bought for the spare bedroom, although I got a clean box spring on Freecycle).

My husband and I don’t make extravagant salaries by any means, but we hope to retire while we’re still young. And this blog is an inspiration!


Aghavni August 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Hi Katy,
Well after buying my first house in Oct of 08 (at age 54) right at the time the market came crashing down(but I was too far into the house deal to back out – I was panicked) Than I was informed at my job we were all taking 20% paycuts come December (but it’s still a job – Right ??) God was good to me and I found your web site & it’s been a blessing ever since. I decided I would turn my situation into a game. Not “how much do I want to spend, spend, spend!!” but – How much can I live without and still keep my new house and live well. Turns out I’m not living without at all. My priorities have certainly changed. Now 9 months in I’m not doing bad at all & THIS blog has made all the difference. Someone asked me just today at work, would my spending habits change when things go back to normal , whatever normal is ?? I think they were surprised when I said No – I’m actually enjoying this challenge – just don’t tell the boss. THANKS for this site & all the links to others – I should have told you sooner. AJ


Amy H. August 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I am definitely the tightwad in my marriage — and all four of us in my original nuclear family are pretty tightwaddish (I and my younger brother got it directly from my Dad and to a lesser extent, my mom) — but pedicures are one of the things I choose to splurge on even though they are entirely unnecessary. They are $15 plus a tip here in San Francisco, so super-cheap; I get a leg and foot massage out of it; and I can’t do it myself at even CLOSE to the same quality. When my mom is in town visiting going to get a pedicure is one of our favorite ways to spend time together. I’m very happy to give up other things in order to have this every month or so — for example, new clothes/shoes/handbags, taxis (I just walk), or CDS/downloads (just listen to Pandora instead).


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