Over-Saving: Walking the Line Between Saving and Living

We just bought some new living room furniture. Our old furniture was just that: Old. While it was still serviceable, it was no longer that comfortable. Yes, we could still sit on the couch, but the couch had lost a lot of its support and comfort. It was also no longer a great match for our decor which has changed since we bought the furniture all those years ago. The time had come for us to part ways with our old faithful furniture.

When we last bought furniture, we were newly married with little money. Consequently, we bought cheap furniture. While it has held up better than expected, it was made from cheaper materials and less than solid workmanship. It was good for what it was, but this time we wanted something a bit better. We shopped around and finally found a good deal on some well made furniture that we love. It was expensive, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

I won’t lie, though. Writing that big check gave me a little heartburn. While we can afford it (i.e., we won’t have to touch our savings for it) and we love it, I still paled at the thought of parting with so much money for something that is technically not a “necessity.” Our old furniture would have lasted a couple of more years. Wanting a replacement was simply a want, a desire for something better. I have to remind myself at times that these types of purchases fall under quality of life and are sometimes just as necessary as a true need. (Note that if you don’t have any money saved and the “quality of life improvement” purchase will have to go on a credit card, you can’t afford it. In that case you need to make the old stuff stretch or do without. I don’t advocate going into debt to improve your quality of life. Too many people do that already and it’s led us to many of the economic problems we’re in.)

When you’re focused on saving for the future, it’s easy sometimes to forget that you have to live (a little) for today, too. I forget this at times and try to hold on to things long after they should have been replaced. I find myself thinking, “But I can get another year out of it! It’s not a necessity,” and putting off the purchase. Never mind that a newer thing might make my life easier, might be more comfortable, or might come with features that are a big improvement on the old product. It’s a fine line and I have to get better a walking it.

You want to save for the future. You want to have a nice retirement and the ability to ride out any emergencies you may face. However, you also want to live a nice life today. After all, you only get one pass through this world and sitting on a couch that pokes you in the butt isn’t fun. This is why we scrimped and saved so much when we were younger. We knew we wanted a better quality of life as we got older, so it was much easier to make the sacrifices while we were young and still used to living cheap from college. Now that we’re older and have money saved, we can look at spending some of it on things that make life more luxurious or easy. But it still hurts at times to part with that money, knowing how hard we worked to get it. It’s why we consider our purchases very carefully to make sure that what we do buy is valuable to us. It’s a constant balance to remind ourselves that we saved for this item, so we can buy it without jeopardizing any of our other goals.

You can go overboard the wrong way, though, and spend on a better life today when you can’t really afford it. People start telling themselves, “Well, I only live once” and using that as justification for all kinds of reckless spending and debt accumulation. While you want to have a decent life today and enjoy it, you still have a future to consider and it will be pretty bleak if you only live for today. You have to find a good balance. It’s easier for some than others.

I know that I am guilty of over-saving at times. Maybe I’m just cheap. I am getting better, however, at spending on things that bring me enjoyment or improve my quality of life. I’m getting better at looking at my big purchases in terms of the enjoyment they bring rather than just the money. I still save a lot, though, and I look for great deals on what I do buy. I guess on the scale of things I’d rather err on the side of saving too much than of living hedonistically today at the expense of a secure future.

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7 Responses to Over-Saving: Walking the Line Between Saving and Living

  1. Rachel McTague says:

    It’s good advice when you counsel people to find a balance between saving for a better life later, on the one hand, and living a full life now. Sounds like you err on the side of the former, cheating yourself out of some quality of life.

  2. Leigh says:

    What I have decided is that I will allow myself certain areas to spend in based on what’s important to me. While I don’t need to dress like a supermodel, it is important to me to have a speedy computer. I don’t have to eat steak every night, but my iPhone is a must have.
    Folks run into problems when they don’t prioritize, accepting that they’ll have a little less in some areas to meet savings goals.
    I accept my thrifty self while still indulging in the areas that I consider the tipping point between dollar wise and just downright self-denial for its own sake.

  3. rob62521 says:

    I often feel guilty about buying new things that we can afford. Thanks for the article!

  4. Smarter says:

    Of all products, furniture is the one with the highest markup profit.
    NEVER, never buy new furniture!!
    You could have bought well made furniture at a HUGE savings by watching for moving sales, show room & model home sales, Craigslist, etc.
    I always smile when visitors comment on how lovely my furniture is and they always sigh saying, “I wish that I could afford expensive, beautifully well made furniture, too!”
    If they only knew how much I really paid, they would be very shocked!

  5. Jennifer, I agree, and I think it’s hard to feel motivated in your job if you don’t reward yourself with a few things along the way even as you’re saving for larger and more distant goals. We can’t put everything enjoyable off until the future–we don’t even know if we’ll get there. It’s all about balance.

    Also, like you, I am stunned by how much nice, new furniture costs. I’m not convinced that it’s worth it, so you’ll have to let us know in a year how your new furniture is holding up!

  6. KaChing says:

    We save so that our future will be better than the present time. In general, that idea makes good sense. But there are some purchases better enjoyed now than in our later years. Sacrificing today for a better future is ideal, but we should also take caution so as not to cheat ourselves from the present moment.

  7. NJDebbie says:

    I love this post! We’ve been sleeping in our mattress set for over two years now and last week I told my husband that it was time to buy a bed. I felt embarrassed to be sleeping on the floor when we could easily afford to purchase a bed. Today, my husband we’ll pick up our bed and I’m so excited!

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