Do you grade financial success in big ways or small?

I came across an article recently on The Simple Dollar blog about the link between consumerism and quality of life. It caused me pause, as I evaluated whether I connect the two. Am I happiest when I’m spending money? Does my quality of life improve when I’m able to indulge in things that cost money, like vacations, eating out and attending high-ticket events like concerts and sporting events?

Or, am I happiest when I’m spending time with my family, going for a jog, reading a book or coaching kids?

The honest answer, for me at least, is probably a little of both.

The blog essentially contrasted two thoughts.

This, from SmartSpending:

I’ve never understood the unending supply of articles telling people to skip a cup of coffee or brown bag lunch just to save a few dollars. It helps, sure, but it won’t save you if you’ve made bad decisions on major expenses. I completely agree that if you plan carefully and take care of the big things – the long term major expenses in your budget – there’s far less need to sweat the small things. So many people buy a more expensive home than they can easily afford, cars they can’t afford, big expensive vacations or a houseful of new furniture they can live without. Even the choice of how many children to have and when has a huge impact on finances.

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 in a while, 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.

And this, from The Simple Dollar:

While I might enjoy the experience, I no longer feel like a meal eaten out raises my quality of life at all. Instead, the things that bring what I would call “quality” into my life are experiences with my family. A quality experience is eating a homemade dinner with my children at the dining room table. A quality experience is a nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon curled up next to my wife. A quality experience is a picnic at the park or watching my son’s soccer practice.

Where do you stand? Do you measure your financial prudence by every day purchases, or more by big-ticket buys? Is living frugally every day less or more important than chopping way high interest credit cards, for instance?

And how do you measure quality of life as it relates to the money you spend — or don’t?

5 comments Add your comment

TinyTam

September 23rd, 2009
4:41 pm

Ms. Cash,
I think I agree with you. I don’t have a perfect balance between the two but I think that’s the key. Balance is necessary in most aspects of everyday life (including spending). If I can use a coupon for a meal that might otherwise be pretty expensive then I feel great about it. At the same time, if I manage to shop at a thrift store and find great deals on designer threads or treasures, all the better for me. I’m being frugal or staying within my budget without depriving myself of a guilty pleasure. Gotta love that right? Have a great afternoon.

huangzhixian

September 24th, 2009
12:38 am

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carrieodie

September 24th, 2009
12:50 am

I agree that balance is a very good thing. I do love everyday things such as walks, spending time with my family, etc, but I also like to get away for a vacation sometimes, or enjoy a nice dinner or event out. That’s why I love your column and read it every day…it gives us a chance to have a little of the “good life” without having to spend lots of money on it. Thanks for all the awesome deals and tips you bring us every week.

SSW

September 24th, 2009
2:45 pm

I agree …balance. I like a little of both worlds. I don’t want to spend so much that I have to cry about it later nor, do I deprive myself. Example: Generally, I rent Netflix movies $4.95 a month. If a new movie comes out from my very short list of favorites actors then, I’ll go to the matinae (w/ Nachos $12.95). I got to the movies about 3-6 times a year. Not a lot but enough. Balance is good.

Dietroly

November 20th, 2009
8:36 pm

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