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Can You Save Too Much Money?

regret spending too little

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My parents are immigrants so thrift is deeply ingrained in me. Pinching pennies in my 20s and living a zero waste, one-meal-a-day lifestyle means that I really don’t check prices on things anymore – my lifestyle is cheap. The retirement calculators tell me I’m doing fine. So if life is a race, and you’re projected to sail comfortably over the finish line, do you take the chance to look around and enjoy the ride?

What If I’m Saving Too Much?

After reading Die with Zero, I’ve started rethinking how much I am saving. A lot of personal finance is about making sure you have enough money saved for the future. If you’re a saver, you will eventually reach the tipping point where you know you will have enough money for retirement and for security. At some point, any extra money saved is just excess. While it seems great to have extra money, that extra represents work you didn’t need to do for money you weren’t going to spend. The money saved may also mean benefits you didn’t attain.

What I learned from my career break was that I didn’t have a use for all my time or money. And that was valuable information for me to learn in my 30s and not in my 60s, when I would have saved for my entire life only to find out I should have spent more money and cultivated more hobbies.

When I Enjoy Cheaping Out

I always do a cost-benefit analysis before spending. And for many luxuries, I find very little benefit. I have a really old car because I know that a newer, nicer car would give me very little joy and probably be more annoying. I live in an older building in a less desirable neighborhood because I would rather have space than a new cramped place in a hip neighborhood. I don’t buy new clothes because my closet is perfectly at equilibrium. It’s not that I’m depriving myself – I really just prefer the cheaper/no cost option.

I am not judging anyone’s own valuation of these costs. I have run my own cost-benefit analysis and didn’t find any value but that’s just because we value different things. My values aren’t better or worse than anyone else’s.

When I Regret Spending Too Little

When I thought about splurging on my current life, I immediately thought of booking a cleaning service. I LOVE having cleaners. And I know that if I have biweekly cleaners, my home will be clean nearly all the time (I will still maintain it in between cleanings). It relieves stress because it’s so nice to have a nice clean apartment, especially because I work from home. I can host more consistently, which might save some money in the long run. And I love hosting, so cleaning lets me splurge on menu-planning and cooking for people I love.

Another thing I love splurging on is massage. I used to get monthly massages in my 20s because I’ve always been a really tense person, and I store that tension in my shoulders and face. Of course it’s luxurious to go to the spa every month, but it also paid dividends. My posture improved, it probably saved my muscles and my teeth (TMJ, natch), and it eased my stress.

Finally, I love that I can use my money to help others. I’m very fortunate to be in a position in my life where I don’t have to worry about money constantly, but certainly other people are not there yet. With inflation rising rapidly, this is an excellent time to think about using money to make tangible differences in other peoples’ lives.

Altogether my splurges amount to $10,000/year or so. It’s a fair amount of money. But for me, the benefits far outweigh the cost. Or at least I think they will. I’m willing to give it a try to test it out. And honestly, this is less than what people spend on a new car. I’ll happily drive my 24-year old SUV a few more years in order to be able to splurge like this.

Balancing Saving and Spending

So much of personal finance advice is about deprivation. You can’t have this or that because you have to think of the future. But, really, money is best thought of as balance. Historical Me spent a lot of time preparing for Future Me. Present Me wants to have some fun, so why can’t I? Money and effort should be allocated so that my past, present, and future are all good. And if I spend my money in certain ways, like perhaps taking care of myself, that money may be being put to better use than being saved for a rainy day.

We need to stop thinking of money as something to hoard. Money is meant to be used. The future is uncertain. I have no interest in dying with a lot of money leftover. I don’t have kids and my family doesn’t need my money. The money won’t do me or many other people much good when I’m in the grave.

Conclusion – Can You Save Too Much Money?

It seems anathema for a personal finance blog to ever say that you can save enough money. It’s like a fashion blog saying you can have enough clothes or a travel blog saying you can travel to enough countries. Sometimes the quest for more is too much. I think there is a level of enough that we should aim for. And for some people, that means spending more and saving less.

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