When Frugality Leads to Big Spending

by Katy on July 26, 2009 · 24 comments

Nickel and DimeJ.D. Roth over at Get Rich Slowly wrote a few weeks back about his frugal weekend, in which he described the days he spent scoring cheap plants, cycling to a book club and hanging his laundry. He also wrote that he’s savings towards a trip to Italy and France, a new bike purchase as well as a new mattress.

This mix of frugality with large purchases made me think about how penny pinching and big spending dovetail quite nicely.

Sometimes I feel like I’m scrimping and savings towards nothing, that I am nickel and diming myself at all times — saving a dollar here, twenty cents there. But when I really think about it, nothing could be father from the truth.

I work my tuchus off to save money on the myriad of daily expenses, (movie rentals, meals, clothing for the family, entertainment, etc.) so that I can free up our income for the things that matter.

For instance, my 13-year-old son will be going on a school trip to Japan next Spring. Despite years of fundraising, this trip will set us back at least $2000 plus approximately $300 in spending money.

One could argue that since it’s going to cost so much money for the trip, it’s hardly worth sweating saving one dollar here or twenty cents there. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I will have the cash because I consistently save small amounts of money.

Conversely, spending an extra dollar here and an extra twenty cents there would mean I wouldn’t have enough money to send my son to Japan for this terrific opportunity.

I am nickel and diming my way to the top!

Do you work to save small amounts of money or only put your efforts into the larger payoffs? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Marlyn July 27, 2009 at 5:02 am

Hi Katy…you are definitely doing the right thing! We save small amounts of money the same way you do and we are doing much better than most people I know. It is definitely the small stuff that adds up! For us, saving money is about spending less on everyday small items just as you mention, and also stashing away those little found extras of money that unexpectedly come your way (even if it is the quarter I found in the couch!). Don’t get discouraged, I believe it really pays off in the end!


NMPatricia July 27, 2009 at 5:11 am

Great post. This came up at my home just the other day when my husband scoffed at my turning something off to save electricity. (a side note, since we have a PV array on our roof and end up putting electricity back into the grid, saving electricity is the same as making money!) There is just no way he is going to give on his notion that a penny here, a nickel there add up. Sigh. Sometimes it makes for a lonely journey. Thank God that you are here to make the journey easier. Thanks so much.


Jinger July 27, 2009 at 6:06 am

this hit home with me. my 20 year old is saving all her pennies and dimes from her part time retail job for a study abroad next summer in Spain. for her, forgoing fun that costs money now will lead to greater rewards abroad.

as for me, living frugally today will allow my debt to be paid off within the next 10 years.

thanks for your inspiration.


NMPatricia July 27, 2009 at 7:45 am

Not sure this belongs here, but I can’t figure out how else to get you to know that I just searched a whole lot of Compact blogs and this is by far the BEST one – most helpful, most interesting, and most to the point. Thanks for doing it.


Di July 27, 2009 at 7:53 am

definitely works. For those not convinced just start saving those nickels and dimes in a jar and see how quickly they add up! Everytime you turn off lights, use less water etc you are effectively doing the same thing!


Angela July 27, 2009 at 10:17 am

I couldn’t agree more!

I’ve seen people scrimp and save for no apparent purpose (although maybe it just makes them feel better), but for me doing without in some areas means we have more money saved so we don’t panic when times are lean, and so we can splurge on things like travel and a nice dinner out once in awhile.


fern July 27, 2009 at 10:28 am

This is exactly how i Live my life. I’m more than willing to scrimp on day to day expenses, but i’m willing to spend on bigger things, like a hoem improvement.

However, I tend to focus on bigger cost savings on things like car insurance or homeowners insurance, rather than getting preoccupied with finding a quarter on the road.


fern July 27, 2009 at 10:29 am

This is exactly how i Live my life. I’m more than willing to scrimp on day to day expenses, but i’m willing to spend on bigger things, like a home improvement.

However, I tend to focus on bigger cost savings on things like car insurance or homeowners insurance, rather than getting preoccupied with finding a quarter on the road.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl July 27, 2009 at 10:29 am

Absolutely! I’ve been saving and I’m about to drop $1200 on a camera lens. I wouldn’t be able to do that, though, had I not been pinching pennies at the grocery stores, making yogurt, drying my laundry, and doing other such small things.


WilliamB July 27, 2009 at 10:29 am

Makes sense to me.


Karen July 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

NM Patricia, I just wanted to console you in your lonely journey to frugality. I have been married for 30 years, and have now made peace with the fact that though my husband is a great guy in so many ways, he is not on the same page with me regarding being green, frugal, and the basic “use it up” idea. I wanted to encourage you to just keep doing what you know is right. To each his or her own…even if, sadly, that he or she does not walk the green path.


katherbison July 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Nickels and dimes paid for my senior prom, spending money on school trips and, a least once during undergrad, groceries.
I still have coin jars that get a deposit every time my purse starts to jingle. There’s no apparent purpose for them yet. I simply like having them there.


Jacquelyn July 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I sure hope all my nickel-and-dime savings are adding up! I feel like I’ve cut out most of the big, obvious expenses that I can, so those little ones are what I focus on now.


Caroline July 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I’m get tired of constantly telling friends and family that ‘i don’t have the money’ for things like seeing movies, eating expensive meals etc. .. we scrimp and save because our overseas travel passion is expensive, because we want money to invest, because we want to pay off our mortgage, because these things matter more to us than the cheap, momentary thrill of spending money on something that is ultimately valueless and I will immediately forget.

People don’t understand that we have the money to do these things precisely because we don’t spend the money on other stuff.


Sierra July 27, 2009 at 9:55 pm

We do this too. I’m sending my kids to private school on the pennies I save by not buying new clothes and toys for our family.


Pennie July 27, 2009 at 9:56 pm

NMPatricia and all the others are sooo right, Katy, your site is the one that I enjoy best and glean the most from!!

Oh my gosh–nickels and dimes have paid for so many good things over the years! I started clipping coupons and honing my “pennie-wise ways” when I was an out-of work nursing student with two toddlers.

Consistently making frugal lifestyle choices and buying wisely (coupled with picking up coins in the street) helped eventually pay back that young mother’s student loan, then sent those two toddlers to college, bought vacations, and even contributed to weathering through this latest economic storm.

Never once have I felt deprived in the doing; in fact my life has always felt inwardly very rich.


thenonconsumeradvocate July 27, 2009 at 11:01 pm

I stopped on my way home from work today to put money into savings, which has become a Monday ritual for me. (I did this even though I only had $3.49 in extra money to contribute.)

I made a comment to the teller about, “Every little bit counts” and he started to tell me about how true this is, and that he never has any money because he is always spending the little bits here and there.

I may have only put a ridiculously small amount into savings this week, but I’ve put more than $600 in there with my nickel and diming over the past month-and-a-half.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate

P.S. All my work income goes towards household expenses and debt reduction. Any unexpected or nontraditional income can go into savings. This is found money, cash from a one day garage sale I had last month and anything else. It is adding up FAST!


Cheryl July 28, 2009 at 3:36 am

It’s all about priorities. Scrimp on some things and you have money for other (more important) things. Simple, really.


Kristin @ klingtocash July 28, 2009 at 5:31 am

The small stuff really adds up. I do my best to use coupons and save little bits of money (like by making my own hamburger patties and saving up to 75 cents a pound).


tammy July 28, 2009 at 7:03 am

Loved this post and hope your son has a wonderful trip. What a great thing to have a mom like you who understands how much a trip like this means to a young man.
I’m scrimping and saving my way to retirement. I’ll be 51 tomorrow and while I intend to work at least 14 more years (I work for myself, at my own pace, doing my own thing -music business). I find myself with very little retirement savings. I opened a no fee checking account and now my side hustle money goes directly into that account. I’ve accumulated $400 so far this year!


mike July 28, 2009 at 10:14 am

Every little bit of money saved helps. Bank CD’s are great. I don’t see many people talk about them. Rates are a little low now though, but it is higher than a savings account, usually by about 2-5 times more in interest.


Heidi July 31, 2009 at 3:48 am

I am a big fan of a “nickel and dime,” or small-increments type approach in many areas of my life. Tiny stitches in my knitting add up to a finished garment. Focus on losing one pound at a time, and eventually it equals 10 pounds (I hope).

Little steps to a big goal. They do add up, quicker than you’d think.

A grocery coupon for 50 or 60 cents seems insignficant, but is not, when I use lots of them, when the store doubles them, when I don’t buy things that I don’t need, and when I only buy things that are on sale.

Like everybody else, we have a coin jar (washed out milk carton actually). Not sure what we’re saving for, yet.

Less is more!


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