Do Your Values Determine Your Spending?



value spendI’ve been reading personal finance blogs for at least a decade now.  A lot of them have come and gone, but the concepts that I learned helped shape financially where I am today.  Who knew there were backdoor Roth IRAs or hidden benefits with credit cards.  These are all things that I learned over my years of PF reading.  


I majored in Finance in college.  You would think that I was ahead of the game because of my degree, but college only taught me corporate finance.  Like most of you, I didn’t receive a formal personal finance education, and I give a lot of credit to the financial bloggers I follow for the PF knowledge that I have accumulated.  


Crazy Debt-Free People

With that said, one thing that irritates me is when some financial writers are overly intense and portray getting out of debt as some sort of brutal feat that can only be accomplished by the most brave of heart.  Have you ever seen the show Extreme Cheapskates on TLC?  Some of these people take saving money to a ridiculous level.  Teetering on the line of getting institutionalized.  

After watching that video, don’t you feel like some people wear their self-deprivation in not spending any money as a badge of pride?  Whenever I read these articles or watch these videos, I roll my eyes and think, great you got out of debt, but you had no life and probably little to no friends for ten years.  Worse, in the video above, it cost him a marriage.  What fun is it to go through life valuing money over relationships?


Value Spending

Of course I’m not saying that you should go out and buy everything that you want.  That’s just plain stupid.  What I am advocating though is value spending.  This means that you should spend money on things that bring you joy and are meaningful to you.  What good is it to live and die with a ton of money if you’re miserably penny-pinching all your life?


My Value Spending on Food

value-spendRight now, I am in a phase of life when I like spending money on two specific things.  The first being spending money on food with friends and family.  I am the first one to admit that I don’t like cooking.  It’s not that I can’t cook at all.  I definitely can cook meats and veggies on the grill.  It’s more or less that I don’t derive a lot of joy from this activity.  


On top of that, I hate eating lunch at my desk at work.  I like to get up and stretch my legs and get off campus to eat.  Usually, this allows me time to recharge when the introvert side of me is flaring up and grants me the opportunity to think through issues from the morning and potential solutions for the afternoon.  


value spendThere is a group of us that get together at least once a week to grab lunch at a BBQ restaurant close by.  I really look forward to this outing.  It’s probably the best $10 that I spend all week.


With all that said, I probably eat out more now than I have in the last four years.  Looking at our October spending, we spent $240 on restaurants versus spending $190 on groceries.  Now I know some of you will look on with horror seeing those figures.  


A Quacky Sunday Tradition

value spendOur family has begun a weekly Sunday tradition of enjoying a peking duck from Whole Foods.  They bring in a gourmet chef who prepares each for around $25.  So that means we spend roughly $100 a month on duck.  This meal however feeds three of us for two days.  So at six meals total, it breaks down to about $4 per person per meal.  Plus our dog gets to enjoy all the delicious bones involved.  We figure it’s well worth the money at $4 a person.


My Value Spending on Traveling


value spendOur other area of value spending is travel and experiences.  I have always enjoyed “collecting” stuff.  Maybe it is because I had hoarding tendencies.  As a kid, my baseball card collection was my prized possession.  In my adult years, I gravitated towards accumulating nice furniture and electronics for my house.  Now, those baseball cards sit boxed up in my basement, the nice furniture sits untouched in the living room, and the electronics are outdated.  


Something I still kick myself about is not traveling when I was in my 20’s.  I was so focused on paying off my mortgage and filling up the house with nice things.  I mean seriously, what 25-year-old bachelor needs an 8-person dining room table with hutch?  While I’m glad that I have it now, I think it only got used a handful of times when we played poker.


If I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t have bought all that nice furniture.  That way, my wife could have chosen items that she really loved when we got married.  While my wife and I have travelled a bit, there is so much that I still want to see.  As you read in my cruising with a baby post, it wasn’t exactly easy for us to travel with our kiddo.  So unfortunately our travel plans may be set back for a while.  


value spendHopefully though, when he is older, we’ll be able to travel more easily with him.  At the top of my bucket list is Iceland.  At least once a week, I check out various Iceland blogs and just marvel at Iceland’s beauty.  My favorite one right now is Bruised Passport, and probably 90% of their Iceland blogpost traffic comes from me.



value spendI know that some would advise that I should reach FIRE first, and then I’d be able to travel to my heart’s content.  I agree to an extent, but for me, I need a balance between living today and living for the future.  Plus, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  What happens if I get hit by a bus the day after I reach FIRE?  Would I look back upon my life and regret not doing and seeing certain things?  So for now, I’ll keep trying to pursue the right balance for me.  


How does your spending reflect your values?  How do you find balance between spending now versus spending later?  Share your thoughts below.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. I agree. Simply by pushing the extreme cheapskate mentality we push away those who could easily pull themselves out of debt by scaring them. The reality is there is plenty of fat in the average household to cut, and it doesn’t mean you need to deprive yourself of everything.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…The Case for Financial PlannersMy Profile

    • Thanks for the positive feedback. There is absolutely fat on the average household and with a couple of tweaks some people could definitely get out of debt with a little bit of focus. Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Great topic! I agree 100% that there’s a difference between being frugal and smart about spending versus being a zombie cheapskate. Gaining wealth should be a balanced life, not a hellish grind.

    Personally, I have value spending on food as well. I love to get Pho or Shawarma on the weekend religiously 🙂

    And to a certain extent, I have value spending on vacations as well. I like to take a few days off once in a while and check out a new city and just detox a bit.
    Andrew recently posted…How To Survive A Bear MarketMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Andrew!!! Sounds like we are similar in the things that we like to spend our money on. I know for me I definitely put it into my spending plan to afford these things and not go into debt 🙂

  3. While we’ve cut way back on our restaurants, it’s because our family enjoys cooking and eating at home (and it makes restaurant food feel way more special when we actually buy it! On the other hand, we don’t cut back on family activities (kid’s museum, movies, corn maze, beach trips) so that’s our thing we can’t give up and have no desire to. I like the “You can afford anything, you just can’t afford everything” philosophy.
    Emily Jividen recently posted…Get Ready for Cold Weather with Jon’s “Winterize Your Car” Checklist!My Profile

    • That’s an awesome philosophy to have. I have a feeling as my son grows older that my eating out will cut back to afford more kid activities that bring my son joy. But until then I’m definitely going to enjoy good eats 🙂

  4. This is great! I really began to get in touch with value spending after reading Your Money or Your Life and it’s stuck. You’re right – there is a balance between living life today while still planning for tomorrow (and it’s different for everyone). It took us over a decade to finally stop the debt cycle, partially because we lived life along the way.

    We definitely value travel (though it’s typically on a budget). My husband and I traveled a bit when we were in our early 20s, but during the first 5-6 years of having children, the travel came to a halt. When the kiddos were about 3 and 5, we started taking weekend camping trips and, eventually, vacations. They’ve grown up traveling and I’m grateful for all the amazing memories.
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Lack of belief could be the roadblock to your financial successMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Amanda. My son is currently not a good traveler so we too think we’ll have to wait to travel for a bit. But once he’s old enough and if he has siblings down the road we definitely want them to experience other cultures and experience different things in life. Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. I like the post. I’m sort of in your boat. We save a ton of money, but there are numerous things we could cut down to save a lot more if we wanted to. For the life we want to live, we choose to spend more on things like food and travel. My goal is to get our savings rate up to 50%, and we could definitely do that now if we cut down in a few areas. But I would rather focus on earning more money and keep spending on things that we love along the way.

    I’m also not as against debt as some other bloggers. I’m definitely not a Dave Ramsey disciple. If you have some self control and a bit of financial knowledge, a little bit of debt isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s productive debt.

    • I think debt is a tool like anything else. If you use it properly it can definitely propel you but if you misuse it, it can definitely hurt. For where I am in my life, it doesn’t make sense to take on any debt and it’s been a freeing feeling for me. But if down the road I could buy a business that required I take on a little bit of debt in order to make out sized profits later I would definitely consider. Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. That balance is a hard one. For me, I traveled quite a bit in my 20s and now regret that I didn’t save more. In retrospect I probably could’ve done both if I had found the personal finance community earlier.

    As for value spending on food, where can I find this Whole Foods that serves Peking duck?

    • That’s interesting that you wish you didn’t travel as much as you did in your 20s where I had to opposite problem.

      I agree with you though if I came across the PF community earlier I think I would have definitely found a better balance.

      Also the Whole Foods in Northern Virginia definitely sells the Peking Ducks 🙂

  7. This article is really nice to read. It’s not all about the goal (reaching FI) but also about enjoying the journey.

    We try to cut down on things we can let go of, like selling a car. But do like to splurge on other areas, like taking motor lessons. In the end, when finding a good balance it will still be able to take us on the road towards FI, just on our own terms.

  8. Life is about balance, and living like a ascetic until you reach FIRE doesn’t make much sense to me. But it also means not living like you can have it all at once. Picking 2 or 3 things that give you joy and spending reasonable amounts of money on them sounds perfectly balanced to me. Postponing those things indefinitely might mean you never get to enjoy them. I wish I had travelled more when I was younger and in better health.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…What Color Is Your Financial Personality?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Gary. I definitey would like to travel while I am still young and fairly healthy. Who knows what the future holds and I’d definitely would like to have a decent balance while I can 🙂

  9. Great topic. We have chosen to prioritize family, friends, church and volunteering over moving to earn more money, or side hustling a lot. I guess this is a different question than how we prioritize our spending, but limiting earning will delay FIRE for us but allow us to live a better life along the journey.

    For spending, we are willing to spend on travel, giving to church and charity, and spending on church retreats, hospitality, and some outings with friends. We consider these well worth it and cut back in other areas like food & clothes to maintain our savings rate.

    • I glad to hear that you values line up with how your are spending your money. I know at times it doesn’t always work out that way but it seems like you have created an awesome balance. Congrats!!!

  10. Totally agree with you. You also have to live happily today, otherwise your life and the lives of your loved ones would be miserable. The whole point of this FIRE thing is to live a full and happy life in the way you want. Being a cheapskate takes away the happiness factor from your life, while that’s what you should be aiming for.
    P.S. We also ate Peking duck this weekend and it was delicious 🙂
    Roadrunner recently posted…Rent or Buy? – Part 5 (Inflation)My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Roadrunner. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that thinks cheapskates lose the happiness factor 🙂

      Peking duck is so good isn’t it. We LOVE it.

  11. Agree with your post, MSM. My wife and I enjoy dining out and trying new restaurants. We also enjoy going to the movies from time to time. We don’t mind spending money on these things. It’s balances out because we both don’t spend much on consumer items. And although I would like to reach FIRE sooner rather than later, I also want to have some enjoyable moments along the way!

  12. This is a great article because I feel like people who are not into FI think all my cost savings measures are depriving me. But it’s really just optimizing your expenses to make sure you spend money on things you actually value. Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!! You are absolutely correct, we don’t have to completely deprive ourselves. Small tweaks to optimize what we value will make a tremendous difference 🙂

  13. It’s too bad those shows never show anyone being cheap while also living well. We like to maximize our happiness per dollar. It doesn’t cost a lot to eat the best food, travel, and live in luxury. Like you said it’s all about finding the best value.
    Mr Crazy Kicks recently posted…What I Would Do With Your MoneyMy Profile

    • You are absolutely right!!! You can eat like a king and travel around the world without spending big $$$. It’s all about priorities and what’s important to you 🙂

  14. Money is definitely a tool to gain what we need/want in life. There is a balance between using that tool for fun now, and using it to plan for the future. A lot of people don’t treat it as an effective tool for their lives, it really transforms your relationship to money when you realise how to use it truly as just a tool.

    Dividends Down Under recently posted…Saving for the future: October 2016My Profile

    • Thanks Jasmin for your awesome comment. You are right when say money is a tool. It’s like anything. If you use the tool correctly it can be incredibly useful. If used incorrectly it can definitely hurt you. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  15. Totally agree. Balance is so key and you don’t want to live in a studio apartment for 10 – 15 years etc. I have a large family and enjoy spending money on food. But not on cars!! So I often eat out with my wife and with friends. This is how I want to spend my life and spend my money. Its a lifestyle choice. Each of us has to decide what is important. But we should do it with an understanding of how those choices impact us! In my recent post about Cricket I talk about balance.
    PatientWealth recently posted…Success Factors for Cricket Similar to InvestingMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Patient Wealth. I am a big plan of creating spending plans and allocating your resources how you see fit. If it takes a couple of extra years to get to your desired goal, so be it. I want to enjoy the financial journey not slug my way through life 🙂

  16. That video was awesome…wtf?? People are crazy! And yes, some FI peeps would consider your Peking duck or BBQ traditions to be costly…but what the heck else are we here for? If you completely stick yourself in a bubble to save every dime – eventually your friends will stop asking to hang out! You lose traditions. I think the balance you have is key.

    Btw…travel is my biggest expense and I don’t care!! I never thought about Iceland though…hmmm…maybe a new place to add to my list!! 😉
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…Pt 2 – The Fall of My Shortly Lived EmpireMy Profile

  17. We value eating out and travel as well, even though those two things can be very expensive. My goal is to find different income streams so we can enjoy more of the things we love with our family.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!! Sounds like we’re pretty similar in that we value the same things and we’re both trying to figure out different income streams. Good luck in your journey!!!

  18. Wow! That is the first I have heard of “Extreme Cheapskates” and it is an eye opener. I spent several years in debt myself and, like chocolate to a starving man, spending was very tempting. But I levered myself out of debt by improving my earnings, rather than depriving myself to that extent. I believe there is balance to be found in any situation!

  19. Wow, this is a great post. I personally rarely budget and I’m not frugal in the modern PF sense. I’m also a minimalist though, that helps big time. Like you, food is important. I like spending more money on sustainably sourced food and going out with friends and family. However, eating out too much doesn’t always agree with my physiology, so that is another automatic savings. 🙂

    I also definitely spend a lot on travel. To me travel is medicine and meditation. I can forgo my dreams for more money, but at what expense? Travel brings me to my highest state of health and that is so worth it.
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a ‘Bleep’My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing. I didn’t really start traveling until my 30s. But now I am addicted and thought why didn’t I do this sooner.

      I totally agree that travel improves my health. I come back so relaxed and rejuvenated when I return from a great trip.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  20. Hey MSM,
    You’ve been reading financial blogs for over a decade, that’s a solid effort there 😉
    On your questions:
    My spending certainly reflects my values i.e. travelling, heading out to restaurants with friends etc It’s really tough to find the balance between spending now vs. later although my mindset is going to be pay myself first and then build up investments through dividends, P2P, rentals etc and then once this “passive” income is built then gradually rely less on one source of income

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing and stopping by Jef. I definitely agree it’s hard to always have the perfect balance between now and the future. Sounds like you’re doing a great balance right now though. Thanks for sharing!!!

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