A Love Affair with Frugality and Frivolity

by Shawanda Greene

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After I paid off my final debt in December 2008, I really wanted to treat myself to a ginormous leather designer handbag. Reluctant to abandon the habits that led to debt freedom, I set a $500 cap* on this piece of shoulder art that’d accompany me for all of 2009.

After telling a friend of my purchase decision, I received a strange response.

“What?! You can spend $500 on a handbag, but you won’t pay someone to professionally do your hair?”

Mmkay. I tell another friend of my intentions.

“That’s crazy! You mean to tell me, you can’t buy a soda at a restaurant, but you can spend $500 on a purse?”

*Sigh* All of a sudden I felt a need to justify a decision that needed no justification. I was out of debt. I had a reasonably sized cash savings in the bank. And most important, I could afford it.

When you publicly proclaim your desire for financial stability and you mention part of acquiring that desire includes a heavy focus on limiting cash outflow, you’ll get a lot of judgmental stares when you decide to buy – well – anything. Perhaps that’s an overstatement. But  saving money, unlike spending it, isn’t a recreational activity.

Presumably, you’re saving for a reason. And it’s okay if you don’t know what that reason is yet. When the mood strikes to buy something you want, you’ll enjoy/use, and you can afford, don’t feel guilty about what you spend your money on. Unless you want to do something dumb like “make it rain” in the club, go ahead and use that hard-earned and hard-saved cash for whatever disgusting, vain, or dorky product or service your heart desires.

To answer my friends’ questions…Yes. I am willing to forgo five professionally done hairdos or 250 overpriced and watered down restaurant sodas for an awesome handbag. I can do my own hair (I don’t anymore) and water is healthier anyway.

If you want to spend your money on clothes, home renovations, NASCAR memorabilia, or mountains of toys for your kids, then I applaud you. Hopefully, you’re deriving great satisfaction from these purchases. Isn’t that the point? What have you bought that others might consider frivolous? Is there anything you want, but wouldn’t buy because you think it’s too superficial.

*Not that I’m afraid of losing any frugal street cred, but I ended up buying a $40 purse I absolutely loved that lasted nine months. I had a price ceiling of $500. I never said anything about a floor. ;)

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com October 16, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Couldn’t agree more.

I will spend lots of cash on things I am interested in, and really really want, like boots.. a good dress.. etc

But as for haircuts, restaurant outings, nails.. or anything that doesn’t really float my boat.. I can forgo all of that and refuse all of it, just to be able to spend $300+ on a pair of boots I will love forever and ever and ever.

Awesome post.


Shawanda Greene October 16, 2009 at 8:36 PM

Thanks. Nothing wrong with spending $300+ on a pair of boots. I did it once. I ended up leaving them on the bus, but that’s neither here nor there.

I also look at how often I’m going to use something. I don’t feel the need to change handbags based on my outfit, so I end up carrying the same purse everyday.
Expensive jeans can give you good value for your money too. Unless you’re wearing a really flashy pair of jeans, no one is going to notice you wear them every week.

Matter of fact, I find the flashier your clothes are, the more people notice the frequency with which you wear them. For instance I have a t-shirt with a picture of Ursula (from the Little Mermaid) on it. I probably spent about $25 for it, but I can’t wear it as often because I don’t won’t people giving me the “OMG! You just wore that shirt” look.

Appreciate the comment.


Ashley October 16, 2009 at 12:20 PM

I have a friend that needs to read this post! We just had a conversation yesterday about how people make things work (still look put together) while on a small budget. I tried explaining to her that those people don’t get their hair and nails done, buy expensive clothing and accessories, and eat expensive meals every night. They likely get their hair and nails done, shop at discount clothing or thrift stores, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches often.

Cutting back in an area that is less important to you is the best way to have everything you want without going into debt!


Shawanda Greene October 16, 2009 at 8:42 PM

I used to wonder how people could make small budgets work too. I later learned these people fell into two categories. Those with small budgets who go into debt to give the illusion they’re making it work and those who exercise discipline to make it work. The latter inspires me.


Carla October 18, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Since I am the queen of sample sales, consignment stores and super clearance sales, people sometimes think I sent more on a certain item than I actually did. $150 on a $400 bag from a sample sale website, $25 on a pair of used $200 sunglasses on eBay, or $100 on a $600 coat from a consignment store. Some people may have an issue that I dare spent over $20 on an item. None of my clothes are flashy per se (I wear a lot of black), but some people do recognize a certain quality and look at me with wide eyes.

Its amazing how people judge others on how much or how little money they spend on something.


Shawanda Greene October 18, 2009 at 8:06 PM

I wish I had the gift of bargain hunting for fashions. I’m always extremely impressed with those who can pull it off.

Are there any sample sale websites you’d recommend? The concept never even occurred to me. I hate digging through racks of clothes.


Carla October 18, 2009 at 9:16 PM

Sure! Here are some websites:
https://www.gilt.com/ My favorite
http://www.badjoan.com/index.html discount store

Let me know if you have any questions!


ctreit October 23, 2009 at 11:21 AM

I spend the same way you do. I don’t see the point of spending money I don’t need to spend or spending money when I don’t think I am getting good value. Then I spend (sometimes lots of) money on stuff that others think is totally nuts. Here is the good news: I spend my own money and others can spend their own money. We all have our individual preferences which makes life so beautiful and diverse. And, we all should cherish the fact that we have the freedom to make such individual spending choices. Why worry about others’ spending choices?


annie December 30, 2011 at 6:26 PM

I also spend on what I enjoy. For instance, instead of paying $500 or more on a 2-bedroom home in this area the kid and I LIVE on that $500 by renting a small 1-bedroom home in a less-expensive part of town. We then have money to buy what we like, which for the kid is currently Barbie dolls and for me it is books and the occasional computer.

We don't own cell phones nor televisions but all of our laptops are less than 3 years old and we tend to upgrade one machine a year. That is what we use and enjoy and I have no regrets.

Of course people look at me funny because I won't buy a tv but I get a new laptop every year but who cares? We love it and we spend a lot less than our neighbors..


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