How Not To Save

How Not toIt’s no secret that saving money, paying off debt, and earning extra income are some of my priorities. I’m fortunate to be in a relationship where Mr. P shares the same values. We certainly haven’t always been on the same page financially, but tying the knot and blending bank accounts certainly helped us work towards aligning our goals. At least, I thought it did.

Yesterday morning, I received a flurry of apologetic texts from Mr. P right as I shrugged off my coat and plopped down to my desk at work. It wasn’t even 7 am. What in the world prompted an apology? Turns out, Mr. P forgot his lunch.

In an effort to save money, be more efficient with our time, and eat more healthfully, we both bring our lunch to work every day. I’ve even mastered the art of politely dodging lunch dates without being racked with guilt. We estimate that we save between $200-$400 each month by bringing food from home.

After Mr. P texted me that a granola bar would be his lunch (and breakfast and a snack), I got nervous. Did he forget his wallet? Did he lose it? Maybe that’s why he was so upset. So I picked up the phone and dialed.

It turns out that he was going to try to subsist on a Kashi bar or two for nine hours not because he had no money or no time to grab food. Instead, he said he knew how much we’ve been trying to save money this past year. He didn’t want to disappointment me or delay our goals. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

After a few attempts at pointing out how ridiculous he sounded, I told him either he could go out for food or I would arrange to have lunch delivered*. Before we hung up, he was pondering the possibility of picking up a side hustle to make extra money.

In the past year, we’ve been so determined to save money that we’ve fine-tuned a lot of strategies. But this same laser-like focus also seems to be a lesson in how not to save money. By becoming so hyper-focused on savings, we’ve lost perspective on a few key details.

Money is not the only thing that matters. Financial literacy and savings are vital. But so are health, happiness, relationships, and so many other things. If tasked with skipping nine hours worth of nutrition, I would devolve from cranky and irritable to light-headed and shaky. None of those are ideal situations for working, especially when you work with other humans. Mr. P doesn’t show the signs of hangry quite like I do, but still. The fact that I had somehow managed to underscore the importance of money to such a degree that Mr. P was willing to make this kind of sacrifice made it abundantly clear that the real goof was in the mindset, not the forgotten sandwich. 

It’s only money. Is life easier with money? Exponentially so. Money opens doors and gifts us with opportunities. But in the grand scheme of life, I want my legacy to extend beyond whether I paid off my mortgage in 10 years or 15 years…or 10 years and a day because, you know, it’s only five or ten dollars. Money is a tool. We exchange money to obtain goods, to meet our needs, to fulfill our wants, and to help others. Spending money to buy a fast-food lunch once certainly isn’t going to prevent us from fulfilling our debt-repayment obligations or gifting charitable donations this month.

Stuff happens. Prepare for it, deal with it, and move on. We have an ample emergency fund. We have additional savings on top that. We even set aside a certain amount of “mad money”* each month. Sure, it would have been more fun to take the $10 and put it towards seeing a movie, grabbing a meal out, or having a drink with friends. But so what? The whole reason behind budgeting for unknown expenses and preparing for unexpected circumstances is to have money when situations come up. No one should feel guilty for using those funds. That’s what they’re there for.

Part of why my goals for this year are to move beyond such a singular focus on money is because I’ve had an inkling that this was happening. I don’t want to think about money all the time. I don’t want it to be the driving factor behind every decision. I want to get back to purposeful living. I want to cultivate ways to trust myself and Mr. P to continue to be smart about money, but not overly consumed by it. That seems to be a much smarter way to save.

*Another lesson from Grandma.

**And it would have extra vegetables. His faaaaaaavorite.

So Tell Me…Have you ever found yourself lunch-less and felt Mr. P’s anxiety? Have you ever taken a goal too far? 


How Not To Save

21 thoughts on “How Not To Save

  1. Oh this is too funny! Thanks for giving me a laugh this morning. It’s wonderful how you don’t want to disappoint each other. I have to stop myself from taking some of my craziness too far. This manifests with my Aldi shopping. I often forget to take my stash of grocery bags. We’re in the car running errands and suddenly I let out an “Oh F!” Mr. G says “What?!!” I tell him I left all the bags in the garage and he says “Let’s go back.” He knows it just infuriates me when I forget crap. Of course Aldi is on the way home from everything we need to do, and returning home at this point is out of the way. Are we going to spend an extra half hour driving to save $2? No. Do I beat myself up for ten minutes? Yes.

    1. The struggle is real with those Aldi bags. I can’t tell you how many times I’m that weirdo who is trying to carry 87 things because I forgot my bags and don’t want to buy more. I get really excited when I forget my bags and find empty cartons in the store!

    1. Right? He’s so silly sometimes. He already does a ton of coaching and other extracurriculars, but now he’s starting to scheme a bit more. It’s fun how contagious side hustling can be!

  2. There’s nothing to better confirm your aligned values than your partner going to the extreme! But you’re absolutely right that moderation is a smarter way to save. If I had forgotten my lunch for a 9-hour stint and subsisted on a Kashi bar, by the end I would have been ravenous and made a poor food/money decision on the way home. Balance is the key.

  3. I tend to take goals too far. Usually, it ends up biting me in the ass. Like when we bought the house, and I was buying curtains and curtain rods bit by bit to avoid stressing our finances.

    Then I got distracted by general life stuff, and a year later, the curtains and rod we used weren’t available. That caused a huge headache because my husband is literally OCD about matching. So I had to change curtain rods and finding the right length was a pain and… ugh. All so that I wouldn’t put an extra $75 on the card.

    One of the (only) good things about Tim’s ADD is that he encourages me to live a little more in the present. I tend to live only for the savings goal, which means living for the future while life happens all around me. So he usually keeps me from losing perspective. Except, apparently, when it comes to window dressings.

  4. It’s funny how you get in habits of thinking. When my 10-2 shift (eat a late breakfast, no need for lunch) turned in to 10-6 (not gonna make it 9 hours w/ drive time) on Monday, I didn’t just walk over to Bojangles or the Chinese place, like I might have a few months ago. I walked over to the grocery store and picked up an apple and a pack of peanuts, because we don’t casually pick up take out anymore. Was it a better choice? I don’t know, but it was certainly a different one.

  5. I find myself in this same situation right now. I am so laser focused on getting our debts paid off, I find myself struggling to think about other things. I think it’s because we have so many little irritating debts.

    I must always remind myself that yes – it is JUST money. It’s important, but shouldn’t ruin your life. We have to remember that it is okay to spend sometimes and not beat ourselves up about one forgotten lunch.

  6. Oh my goodness. Mr. FI and I did this SEVERAL times in the beginning of our FI journey. Like Mr. P, there were several times where we debated between buying something or just going without when it came to anything from lunch one day to buying food in general for the last few days of the month because we had already reached/maxed our food budget. Not that we just didn’t eat at the end of every month, but we did have less-than-satisfying meals and made it much harder on ourselves trying to scrounge up random foods to get by until the next month came along. Unfortunately, this behavior was easy to justify after seeing how hardcore other ER couples could be. We held ourselves to very high and rather ridiculous standards right off the bat and it honestly took a few months before we realized we didn’t want our journey to be that way. Like you said, saving extra money is great, but it supposed to alleviate stress and guilt, not cause more! I’m glad you and Mr. P are choosing to let things roll off your shoulders making adjustments to your savings so that it can be more flexible and less like a prison sentence 😉

  7. I recently transferred to a new job where the only lunch option on 85% of the days is to bring a lunch. Of course, the side-effect to this is a great deal of savings but it does require a lot of planning ahead. Part of my planning, is being aware that crap happens and there will be a time when, like your husband, I will forget. For those days, there’s the emergency can of soup. I keep a few cans of Progresso, along with a bowl and spoon, in my office.

    Now, if I could survive on junk food…I work in a large agency and one division or another is always having food or snacks to celebrate who knows what. If I am starving, I can always find calories to get through the day.

    I think it’s great that the two of you are working toward finding the balance in life that works for both of you.


  8. I’ve totally been there and it’s not fun!
    Lucky you were there to help him out but I guess this just shows that there is such a thing as being too frugal sometimes. Definitely worth bringing lunch when you can and you remember though – it saves so much indeed.

  9. I can relate to the hyper focus for sure. When planning for this year, hubs and I decided that “fun” (or mad money as you call it) is not going to derail our progress. If I want to grab a coffee with a friend, I shouldn’t feel guilty, if it isn’t an every day thing. Shifting our mindsets can be hard when we have such big goals, but living life is just as important as you said, it’s important not to lose sight of that!

  10. I have been in this same situation and have since tried to avoid it by stashing some frozen food or quick cooking food in my food bin at work. I also have a sash of snacks on hand just in case. I admire you reaction to your husband trying to survive on just a few Kashi bars. Any time my husband takes a step back and chooses not to spend on his own I’m always leaping with joy inside. Cutting back on his “wants” has not been as easy as it is for me. Good luck in your year’s endeavors!

  11. I’m not sure that I have ever contemplated *not eating lunch* to save money (I’m like you and get crazy hangry quickly, so this is never really an option), but I can relate to taking goals a little too far. I have definitely given Mr. ONL the stink eye for some of his purchases at various times, when I felt like I was trying hard to cut wasteful spending, and then here he was, having the nerve to spend THREE WHOLE DOLLARS on something dumb. 🙂 I’m glad that you quickly got to a place of perspective and made your man eat some lunch!

  12. Sounds like you two landed on the right decision (eating > not eating), but I totally admire Mr. P’s dedication to your goals! A lot of people would let one slip-up be their downfall, and it would quickly go from one meal out to a purchased lunch every day. Good habits are so much more important than a couple dollars here and there.

    1. Illness is a hard one to combat. In my couponing days, I had quite the stockpile of cold meds. They can be so expensive when they’re not on sale! Now I try to take a more balanced approach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *