A Brief Step out of Frugal Mode – Good for the Long Term Goal

  • DD1 = Dear first daughter
  • DD2 = Dear second daughter
  • DD3 = Dear third daughter
  • DH = Dear husband

Don’t they look happy up there? They are DD1 and DD3. It’s been a time of relative extravagance around here, and it’s been lovely.

Travel (and dreams . . . )

Shortly after last Christmas, DH and I realized that it would be best to cancel our planned trip to Orlando with our three daughters this year. We were going to piggy-back a family vacation onto DH’s annual business trip in July, but with the plummeting Canadian dollar, it just wasn’t turning out to be a good idea. Consolation prize? We gave each daughter a round-trip flight:

  1. DD2 flew to Alberta to compete in Nationals/Olympic trials for track & field. (Unfortunately, she pulled her hamstring.) While DD2 wasn’t a contender for the Olympics, it was wonderful for her to meet and compete against Olympians and to get a taste of her dream for greater excellence in her sport.
  2. DD3 flew to British Columbia for two weeks to visit with DD1 (who has lived there for 5 years going to school and working). In the photo above, DD1 and DD3 are on a ferry on their way to Salt Spring Island. I LOVE it that they’re getting this time together. And I’m thrilled for DD3, taking her first big trip on her own. Although we provided the flight, she’s paying for everything else with money she has earned and saved. A little while ago, she filled me in on her ever-changing plans for her future: “Mom, I think what I’ll do for a few years is work to save money to travel, and then travel, and then work to save for more travel . . .” Now, she’s getting a little taste of that dream.
  3. DD1 will fly home in August for a week. DD1 recently made the decision to go back to school, and she’ll be starting law school in September. Her trip home will be like a bookmark between the end of one chapter of her life and the start of the next.

DH and I didn’t fly anywhere, but with our nest empty, we did take a road trip to visit DH’s brother and sister-in-law in a city 7 hours away. While there, we visited a theatre town called Stratford (also famous for being the birthplace of Justin Bieber), where we watched Shakespeare in Love. We have only seen two plays in our 4 years of debt-reduction. It was so nice to just sink into the wining and dining my brother- and sister-in-law treated us to, and to take in such a fun and wonderfully staged performance. Some day, I dreamed, there’ll be a whole lot more of this . . . 

The guitar (and more dreams)

DH’s brother is a collector of guitars, and one day while we were going for a walk, we went into a music store. DH and his brother went to the acoustic guitar section and started sampling. They were having a brother-bonding time of it, and I wandered around the store to try out some digital pianos.  When I came back, my brother-in-law’s eyes were shining, and DH looked overcome with emotion. “That,” said DH’s brother, “is a picture of a man falling in love with a guitar.” He had an empathy for DH in that moment to which I just couldn’t relate.

Apparently, DH had found the one. A Taylor 810CE to be exact. About $5,000 worth of guitar. And DH has a plan to save for it – all according to budget (of course!). DH is much better with his discretionary money than I am, and now he’s got a goal for it. Within a year, he hopes to bring his new love home. Since we returned from our trip, he’s been practicing with new purpose. He wants to be worthy of his dream guitar.

“Can you imagine . . .”

J. Money recently wrote a post over at Budgets are Sexy about our ability to dream: “Can you imagine . . .” Responding to the incredible imagination of his 4-year-old son, Jay said, “The truth is though, this dreaming is SO GOOD for us – especially as we get older . . .”

We’ve taken a brief step out of full-on frugal mode around here – to travel, visit, indulge, and dream. And I think it’s been good for all long-term goals involved. I CAN imagine how life will be once we’re debt-free. And I’m looking forward to it. At least as much as DD3 is looking forward to her years of travel . . . and DD2 is looking forward to competing internationally . . . and DD1 is looking forward to a change of direction and a new start . . . and DH is looking forward to that guitar. And just as DH is practicing more diligently, I’m ready to frugal down again – with a determination that only comes when you’ve tasted what it is you’re after.

Do you think it’s a good idea to “step out of frugal mode” on occasion? Do dreams always have a positive impact? Or can they be a negative force? Your comments are welcome.


33 comments on “A Brief Step out of Frugal Mode – Good for the Long Term Goal

    1. DM : ) Thanks, Kay. Despite DD2’s disappointment about her hamstring, it has been a time of happy anticipation – and dreaming (which I think is one of the reasons why a break is so important once in a while). My goal in writing is to be transparent through this journey out of debt – for both the struggling times and the good times. “Extraordinarily happy” always? Definitely not. In the last couple of weeks? I’d have to say yes : )

  1. I think a break is just what you all needed! It gives one incentive to finish the race after that breather. We had just such a break in our radical debt repayment mode when someone gave us $300.00 and I redeemed points for a couple of $100.00 gas cards – mini-break here we come! And we did enjoy the road trip thoroughly. I had to laugh about your husband’s guitar wish – since our debt freedom my husband has been teaching himself Spanish guitar (from the Internet) and saving his discretionary spending money to buy a good Spanish guitar also lol. I love Stratford too, so pretty and lots of theatre to choose from. Since the end of our debt repayment we have gotten summer theatre ticket subscriptions as well as concert series tickets to use over the winter season – debt freedom is the BEST!! Enjoy your summer vacation.

    1. “summer theatre ticket subscriptions” . . . Sounds lovely! I love it that your husband is also saving up for a guitar. DH is also learning guitar pieces via internet. So many similarities here! It sounds like you are thoroughly enjoying your debt-freedom, Nancy. Your example is a wonderful inspiration : )

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s so great that you all got an adventure in this summer! Your daughters looked like they were having an amazing time (and they’re beautiful – thanks for sharing!)

    And yes, I do think it’s okay to take a break and “step out of frugal mode” now and then. If not, burnout may ensue! We definitely stepped out of frugal mode on our last vacation to Florida – and it super nice to just relax and enjoy (especially the fresh seafood – we don’t get that in the Midwest, so we took full advantage!)

    1. Thank you, Amanda. There’s a bit of a mind-game involved in being intentionally frugal and avoiding burnout. I find myself self-questioning at times: “Can’t I do without this? Is this a cop-out?” But now, I have no doubts that a little “extravagance” was in order for us. So glad you enjoyed your trip to Florida! (We’ll make it there some day : )

  3. Haha, at first my brain defaulted to reading it as DD3 (3 yrs old) and I was wondering, how is a 3 yr old flying? Oh, riiigght…. lol

    That’s awesome that you guys are having fun and everyone probably got a WAY more meaningful life experience out of the changed up vacation plans. That’s excellent! As far as your husband’s guitar love, I can empathize. I’d started a sharebuilder account to lock away my discretionary funds from myself and when I found “the one” at a good price, I had almost all of it in there already. Of course, I got a banjo, a Stelling Red Fox, they’re beautiful, and sound amazing and play well… ahhhh.
    We stepped out of frugal’ish mode recently with the kids playhouse/swingset purchase and I got into the spreadsheet analysis and convinced Mrs. SSC downgrading my car to a cheaper to maintain car that gets better gas mileage and is more of a commuter car is the way to go. It ended up being that I got a new car for only $2k more than a used one, since that is a years worth of commuting miles, I went that route. It was a little cash up front that we weren’t particularly planning on spending, but it’s been great, and my mileage has gone up 13 mpg.

    1. I hope that you are finding the time to play your beautiful banjo : ) I think it’s an instrument that lends itself to fun songs your kids would like – is that right? Interesting that you chose to buy a new car instead of a used one. We are on the look-out for cars as well (since our 17-year-old van won’t last forever), and we’re finding that gently-used isn’t necessarily that much cheaper than new. Enjoy the swing-set and play-house! Before you know it, your kids will be big – like mine. (I kind of got a heart pang at the thought of DD3 being 3-years old.)

      1. The banjo definitely lends itself well to kids songs, and my daughter (3 yo) loves the Grateful Dead “Monkey and the Engineer” song, you could probably find it on youtube if you get the inclination. I found the same as you with used cars and new prices being close. I wanted low miles since I put about 15k miles per year on the car, and a VW dealer had $5k off on a Memorial Day sale which put it within $2k of a <20k miles used car. That was the main reason I went new, because on my spreadsheet it still saved ~$1k/yr. I've also found if you're not too picky waiting closer to year end or around the new year can be a good time to get deals on new cars because it's slow and they want to get rid of their inventory.
        A few days ago, we were looking at some videos of our oldest (5yo) as a baby, like few weeks old and I was thinking, "it doesn't feel like it's been 5 years already…" sigh…

        1. Good tip about waiting for year end re. car buying. My husband said that he looked up your Stelling Red Fox banjo and said it was beautiful. It’s sweet that your daughter has her favourite banjo song : ) That’s a memory that will keep. And here’s the good thing about kids getting older (since I made it sound so heart breaking): As a parent, you never stop being excited by what’s next in their lives. It’s always so interesting!

  4. What a wonderful post! SO happy for you guys as you experience some of this long-held off stuff. As you know, we stepped out of frugal mode to take a very much needed family vacation last summer, and while I sometimes cringe at the thought that that cash could’ve been a big extra debt payment, I also remember clearly the benefit that trip was to the soldering of our family even tighter together. I think stepping out of frugal mode during debt payoff can be a real necessity sometimes. Just do it with forethought, as you guys have so clearly done it here.

    1. Thanks, Laurie – “just do it with forethought” – that is key. Splurging / “treating” used to be something I’d indulge in with some of the same right motive – but with no planning. I would justify it with the word “spontaneity” – which has a good connotation. Really, it was part of the whole unconscious spending problem that got us into a mess. I’m glad you’re still enjoying your memories of last year’s vacation : ) A break with forethought is the best kind of break.

  5. Great to see and hear the whole family benefiting from the hard work of debt repayment and having a plan for your money. I believe you appreciate it more when you know how hard you’ve work to get to this point. I think it great to have a goal or dream you are reaching for, to push you towards. If not you just get stuck in the everyday mundane, and there’s no fun in that!

    1. Thanks, Brian. I find it tricky to strike all of the balancing acts involved in debt-repayment. One is the “enjoy your frugal life” vs. “enjoy your well-earned indulgence” balance. I would be susceptible to slipping too far to the “indulgence” side of that teeter-totter, so I generally avoid it. But I’m so glad we didn’t this time : )

  6. What a lovely gift for your girls!!

    As someone who simply can’t maintain long-term “gazelle intensity”, I think reasonable frugality breaks are a good idea.

    1. Thank you, Amy. You know, I think “gazelle intensity” looks different for different people. It’s all relative to your own normal way (which in our case got us into trouble). “Reasonable frugality breaks” – I think you’ve just coined a new expression : )

  7. I do think it’s OK to step out of frugal mode if it’s not putting your financial life in jeopardy and it brings a lot of meaning to your life! I’m spending a lot on a personal trainer, but I really value my health! I’m sure MMM would NOT approve! 🙂 OH well!

    1. Ha! I sometimes find myself thinking, “What would MMM say?” In reality, he’d probably say, “Whatever makes you boat float!” I once had a personal trainer for 6 sessions for a promotion. Although I didn’t go for it over the long term, it was great getting that kind of attention and help. Go for it!

  8. Someday that Disney trip will happen but in the meantime it looks like you’ve made a wonderful “most” of the changed plans. They look and sound so happy, I hope mine are so lucky someday.

    As to breaks from frugality, I think they’re good – for other people. I don’t get tired of austerity really, my dreams and goals are so big that it feels like any amount of austerity is just good, so I’m terrible at taking breaks. Also I’m terrible at the break-taking itself.

    I apparently only have one mode: full blast! So if in austerity mode, I can chug away for ages. But if I switch that off and start spending as a specific break from our routine frugality (which isn’t all that restrictive now IMO) then all the switches go off and my brain thinks up a jillion things to spend on. Much better for us all that I don’t take a break 🙂

    1. Thanks Revanche – “my dreams and goals are so big that it feels like any amount of austerity is just good” – That’s a great state to be in! So inspired by the goal that “breaks” aren’t even desirable. I think that basic personality type plays into this. I’ve written before about Type A pf types and Type B pf types. I’m going to guess you’re a Type A (tell me if I’m wrong). I’m a Type B – possibly B+. The whole “switches go off” thing sounds like me when it comes to desserts. Yet somehow, it doesn’t apply for the whole frugality thing. We’re all wired so differently, and it’s just really interesting! Thanks again for such a rich comment.

  9. I think dreaming grounded in gratitude for reality is wonderful and motivating, while dreaming without it can be harmful. Even if we don’t take extravagant vacations, we view them as a time to “pretend to be fancy” and do things we normally wouldn’t. That’s why it’s vacation! I’m glad you and your daughters got to travel, that you got to see a play, and that your husband found his dream instrument!

    1. Thank you, Kalie. I like your concept of “dreaming grounded in gratitude for reality.” Well put! Our road trip was not extravagant relative to what we’ve done in the past, but it sure did feel fancy : )

  10. Lovely picture of your girls Ruth 🙂 Yes, I think it is okay to step out of frugal-mode every once in awhile; human beings have a tendency to burn themselves out otherwise. Sounds like your family is having a good summer!

    1. I think everyone has a different “burn-out point”, and we can’t pretend it isn’t there. It doesn’t mean giving up though! Taking breaks leads to better productivity in almost every area. (And I love that picture! Thanks : )

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