How Can We Splurge but Still Save?

I confess I’ve been feeling quite unfrugal recently. All this spending on our house makes me wonder if I’m losing points in the thrift department.

I mean, would a big saver pay an interior designer? Would a savings expert buy a house in one of the most expensive cities? Would a thrifty person renovate — wouldn’t she figure out ways to make do?

But then I thought about it: I have always valued home. I don’t just spend a lot of time at home because it’s frugal. I’m a domestic person. Instead of playing sports or going on nature walks, I love being at home with my kids, cooking, doing crafts, organizing, having people over. The home section is my favorite section of the newspaper. Instead of handbags, antiques are what I love shopping for. And having a haven that is both comfy and pleasing to look at is important to me. Creating a beautiful abode is what my sister, Jenny, would call “functional art.”

Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

We chose Farrow & Ball's Skylight color for our new front room.


J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly says the essence of frugality is spending as little as you can on most things so you can spend lavishly on a few things that you love.

All these years of marriage, while my husband has been in training, we have not been able to spend lavishly. Not spending has become such a way of life that I have almost convinced myself that spending is wrong.

The thing is, it’s OK to spend money responsibly. Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich says, I don’t care if you spend thousands of dollars on shoes, going out, or organic food. As long as you are on-track in meeting your long-term financial goals — whether it’s repaying student loans or setting aside 20% of your income for the future — then it’s all right to live a little.

Plan for the Future, Then Live in the Present

Mark playing in our still-unfinished front room.

We eat almost all our meals at home, we clean our house, we drive used cars. Since spending less is just one side of the coin, we are working hard to boost income too. My husband recently went from part- to full-time at the hospital; he works most evenings in his private practice; and he has just taken on a third job doing weekend calls. And I’m trying to do my part by ramping up to advertising on my site (thank you for responding to my survey!), and reducing my extraneous work commitments so I am not spreading myself too thin.

Fine wine, luxe trips, and high-end appliances are not important to us. But the one thing we do want to spend our money on is the house. The only reason we were able to afford this house is because it needed some work. And now we’re doing it. And it’s fun and overwhelming and all-consuming and exciting and stressful all at once. But it’s what we wanted — to create a place that feels like home.

In this article for Parentables, I talk a little bit more about what conscious spending means, the 3 things you need to do it, and how I grew up from wild and troubled 20-something to the more evolved (but still imperfect) mother and wife who is trying to make the right decisions for her family and herself:

Do You Practice Conscious Spending? I Learned How, and You Can Too.

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  • Anna April 25, 2014, 11:31 am

    Hi I am really struggling to come up with a perfect colour for my front room and have found it on your site..F&B skylight it looks loveky can you tell me wgat colour accessories have you used e.g cushions I have a choc brown leather sofa and chair and cream curtains but am still struggling really want skylight but friend thinks clunch would be warmer thanks for your advice

  • emily young March 6, 2012, 4:59 am

    LOVED this post!! Also love the color you picked for your front room. quick question. did you have it color matched into benjamin moore paint? i think i want to do the same color. can you send me specifics? thanks!!!

    • Amy March 6, 2012, 8:51 am

      Hi Emily,

      I’m glad you like the color! It was hard to choose one that felt just right. This one feels feminine and old-fashioned, and it’s light enough that it’s almost a neutral (without being beige).

      Yes, I matched the color with Benjamin Moore paint. Partly because my contractor preferred Ben Moore, partly because F & B is expensive, and partly because we were in a rush and there was no time to even get the real thing.

      That said, I do feel a little guilty not using the Farrow & Ball product, because they have helped me so much with their edited palette. Plus, I’m sure that there is a richness and depth to their paint due to the natural materials they use.

      If you do the color matching, make sure you bring a color card or book with you, because we tried to match a light gray for our attic floors (Skimming Stone) and it didn’t come out right, so I ended up going with a darker gray (Elephant’s Breath) that I knew matched well. In general, I think it’s harder to match lighter colors.

      Good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions!


  • Jen @ Jen Spends March 5, 2012, 10:55 pm

    That wall color is divine! I may have to copy that in my next home. Home tends to be my place to splurge, too. We’ve spent a lot of money fixing up and decorating our house, but we do without a lot of things that other people consider must-haves, like expensive clothes, tech gadgets, etc.

    I am feeling REALLY unfrugal this month because my husband decided it was time we adopted a puppy. I’ve been wanting one for years! He has been working overtime to cover the initial costs, and we will be paying off all of our debt other than our mortgage this year, so there will be plenty of money…but, still. It’s so weird spending a lot on something that isn’t purely essential. We adore our new little guy, though, and it’s an experience we wanted to enjoy at this point in our lives. It feels crazy, but fun!

    • Amy March 6, 2012, 8:33 am

      Hi Jen,

      Yes, you are right — after so many years of just trying to survive, it’s weird to spend on something that is, as you say, non-essential. But I’m so glad you are having so much fun with the puppy! It sounds like an adventure that will make you laugh and warm your heart. Of course puppies can be as much work as a new baby, but it’s all worth it, right?

      Also, so great that you’ll be paying off all your debt this year. Yay, Jen!

      Thanks for writing in,

  • mildred lane March 5, 2012, 10:40 pm

    I am frugal so that I can spend on what is important to me..Home is very important to me…

    • Amy March 5, 2012, 10:50 pm

      So you get it too! That’s great, Mildred. I’d love to hear what kinds of home things you spend on. Everyone has different taste and lifestyles.

      Thanks for writing in,

  • Noelle March 5, 2012, 2:22 pm

    I love home too! My passion is homemaking, taking care of my family, and making my home inviting and welcoming is important! I love your color choice, it is beautiful!!! I hope all your home dreams come true!! :))

    • Amy March 5, 2012, 10:48 pm

      Hi Noelle,

      What a beautiful message. I’m so glad you get where I am coming from. And thank you for your vote of confidence on the paint color!

      Take care,