Evolving money priorities

How have your money values & priorities changed over time? What stayed the same? What prompted the changes?


I care much more than I used to about home upgrades. I mean I bought a house which was part of it, but have been pushing off upgrades until recently. I got out of debt, and am having a strong urge to treat myself and make my house the way I envision it in its ideal state. I think being at home all the time has contributed too, as I want my home to be a sanctuary if I’m here constantly.

Going out to eat, even pre-pandemic, dropped massively in priority. I attribute this to learning how to cook. It’s really only legit ethnic food cuisine traditional to a culture outside what I grew up around or very labor-intensive foods that I crave going out to eat for. Going out to eat was definitely more appealing when my idea of a difficult meal to put together had more than three ingredients.


If we’re really thinking over time, like 2 decades, some of it is changing priorities, and some of it is coasting on things purchased earlier. We spend less on restaurants - a combination of me disliking the cost and the shadowy one disliking basically every other part. We also spend less on media - we used to buy a lot of books second hand, and we use the library now. Which is good because 5 book cases + the cookbook shelf aren’t enough even at our slower accumulation rate.

Even given that we have paid off our mortgage, our housing cost is pretty similar in the number to what we were spending on our first apartment when I graduated university. Except that number doesn’t include the sinking fund for house repair. OTOH, inflation.

Since we are coasting on a lot of earlier purchases (the red chair is at least 15 years old, as are all the bookcases) and family things (our kitchen table), we’ve become more intentional about the new things we bring in because we’re also thinking about what needs to leave. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t buying at the big stores - after a bunch of searching we ended up at CB2 for a mirror.

Clothing swings wildly based on my personal confidence and my job context and I wouldn’t say that has stabilized at all.

I’m more accepting these days that gardening money is mostly wasted in my space, but I continue to spend it.

I am willing to spend more on cheaper cuts of higher quality meat or sustainable fish where I used to be all over the map.


Long term:

  • Comparing my early 20s to now (late 30s) my main money priorities are still the same: enough to live on, enough for retirement, and enough mid-term cushion to not feel tied to any job. Early on I thought it could be grad school. I ended up using some to spend a year at a nonprofit with an 80% pay cut, and a couple years getting a business off the ground. Now it’s more likely to be used for a sabbatical.
  • A few months ago I realized that with the passage of time I should be dialing investments/mutual funds back a little from “crazy young and super risk tolerant” to “moderately young and moderately risk tolerant”
  • After buying a house 7 years ago we didn’t know how long we would stay in the area so initially took the cheapest route for everything. Our wood floors are ridiculously “rustic” because the refinisher was the absolute cheapest and you can see it in the results. Now that we’ve been here a while, have been more willing to put time and money into quality and bigger projects. Considering an expansion which would include replacing the cinder block kitchen walls with properly built & insulated walls. Who knew I’d lust so much after insulation?

More recently (combination of covid, more time on my hands, pregnancy, protests):

  • Spending lots more on groceries and okay with it
  • Had a couple years of minimal clothing spending, but just exploded due to changing body
  • Less flying. Between carbon footprint guilt and an awesome outdoor-loving dog, was already planning to space out flying vacations to every 2-3 years. Covid shut everything down and for the next couple years I think I’d be happy doing road & bike trips in the region.
  • Increased & organized donation budgets

Yes! Plenty of this for me these days.


Donations: I place a higher priority on donations now, not just leaving everything to charity in my will. Reading about effective altruism and hearing Peter Singer interviewed helped that along. So did being more involved in activist communities. And so did accumulating money faster than I predicted.

Recent change: food. I’m spending more on food due to covid. I used to get a lot of food for free, but those groups can’t operate now. Plus, htbf likes eating out more and has more expensive food preferences.

Oldest significant change: booze and restaurants. I stopped spending money on alcohol and drastically cut back on restaurants. Even now, pandemic spending is a fraction of what I used to spend back in the day.

Biggest mindset change: FIRE. I went from

saving money is important, but there’s nothing really urgent about every dollar because I’m working into at least my 50’s


retiring early is possible but I gotta reevaluate everything in my life


retiring RIGHT NOW is critical and I am going to obsessively track everything down to the penny until it happens so I can never work again.

Current, incomplete mindset change: anti-FIRE? For the last couple of years, I’ve been herky jerky moving from a hardcore focus on ER to believing early retirement is selfish. I should work at least seasonally or PT on causes I care about and for more money to donate. This is incomplete because I really really don’t want a job again. But I also know this is selfish.

I’d reconsider your use of this phrase:


Oh dear, I had no idea, thanks for cluing me in! I wish the article gave suggestions… Perhaps I mean to say food well outside what I grew up with my family making.


You’re welcome! It’s small but I see it used a lot. Your phrasing sounds good to me. This article suggests:

But if the term “ethnic food” is clumsy and inaccurate, then what should a person say? O’Brady suggests being specific.

“If you’re talking about a culinary history, then name the country or name the region,” she says. “If we can talk about the difference between Southern American food versus East Coast food — if we can recognize that level of regionality — we should be able to talk the same way about food from other countries, rather than having to put these great big labels [such as “African food” or “Asian food”] across it.”


I’m from an “ethnic food” country originally, was a very tiny bit perturbed but also too tired to explain, and appreciate the 2-way dialogue here from both of you :heart:.


I am just realizing it’s a very white-centric phrase. Like, the German schnitzel and spaetzel is not a dish widely made in homes across the US, but people would rarely call it ethnic because it’s a white ethnicity. Which is pretty racist.

So yeah, my bad, I’ll cut that shit out.


This is on my mind a lot these days! I’m too antsy to quit work entirely, but my ideal FIRE would be seasonal/PT in my field for a certain public-sector-oriented type of organization.

Related but slightly different, I have a friend/colleague who spent 15 yrs getting amazing at her work, charges $400/hour, and works 25% time :exploding_head::crown:

I think Tanja Hester (Our Next Life) ended up there-ish, too.


For me, I think in the beginning it was all about reducing expenses as much as possible in an attempt to save anything and not have to put life expenses on credit (as I’d made that mistake once before). So weirdly, while it was a lot more stressful of a way to live, I didn’t really make that many money decisions because… there just wasn’t that much money to manage! Now that I have more than enough to live on (around $90k for two people in a MCOLA) I can actually make choices, so that’s definitely a change.

Some things I prioritize spending money on now that I didn’t even have as a budget item before (and got for free, extremely cheap, or just didn’t have) include: new furniture, much higher rent and so a much nicer apartment, more on clothes and furnishings, monthly couple dates and friend dates (pre-covid, lol), hobbies (which we didn’t have time or $ for before), a car, and a big vacation every couple of years.

Also investments, both for retirement and charity. I didn’t really do either when I was just starting because it felt like too big of an ask. I guess the biggest difference now versus even a few years ago (when I was making a perfectly decent income but less than now) is that I’m more comfortable spending more in the life category, and the investments category, and not prioritizing really early retirement at all.

Quality of life in the present, I guess you’d call it, has increased in importance for me and probably even more so for my husband. He was very intense about really early retirement (as was I) for the first 7-8 years of our relationship, but as he’s gotten a degree and a career and moved up at work he’s definitely changed in that area. He’s much less desperate to retire really early and much less willing to cut our budget to the bare minimum (which I would 100% do if he said he wanted to, but I’m glad he doesn’t, lol) to do it.


TL/DR - my life is pretty simple now, I sort of came full circle with very few expenses outside of bills and groceries.

Early - mid 80s: I paid for university via work study, grants and scholarships - there was no money. Pay bills and get groceries and that was it. Luckily, you can have a lot of fun for almost free at university.

Mid-80s - mid-90s: Early jobs in academia - low pay, but decent benefits. Started saving via direct deposit part of my paycheck into savings. Budget was still very tight - pay bills first, buy groceries, not much left. Pay increased some over the years, so some life-style inflation (better apartment), but still having the transmission go out on the car took out most of my savings.

Mid-90s - 2000: Got a job in corporate! I’m rich biatch! 50% increase in pay. Yow! Still saving, still living below my means, but lifestyle inflation happens. Not budgeting as tightly because now there is some extra in the system. Good benefits, bonuses (!)

2000-2015: change career at same employer. Big jump in pay band. Also my mom died and I inherited about 60k. Getting this inheritance really seeded the savings. That coupled with my 401k plan at work really rocketed my savings (2008-2009 dropped 401k 50%, but I let it ride so got caught back up and soared during the boom). No more budgeting, but still living under much means, more so than ever.

2014 - find MMM. work is getting shitty (M&A BS), I learn I could get out of there. Review all my accounts and options. Start tracking expenses. Start Roth, taxable investment accounts.

2015 - now: FIRE - still not budgeting, but still tracking. Retired with lots of cash. Old enough to tap into retiree medical benefit. Will have to tap into portfolio next year (probably). Portfolio has gone up about 40%, I still put money into a Roth, taxable accounts, and HSA.


I wrote a novel because this was fun but the TL;DR is my financial priorities have always mainly been community service and survival, plus 10% to charity but as my income rose I prioritized retirement savings, travel + clothing. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more okay with buying things I want. Also, when I’m in a stressful period of my life, I spend money on things that don’t bring me value.

18 years old: I was determined to move out of my hometown before I turned 19, and I prioritized 100% of my disposable income to get to the threshold I thought I would need to safely move (that threshold was about $2000 to my name, I did not panic if I had $2000 in savings). I did succeed. I did not pay for internet in my apartment, a car, a bus pass, anything extra except a cell phone and once a month thai food after an activist meeting.

I was making $7.50/hr at my full-time job, plus time and half sundays, and made tips only at my second job. Picked up any overtime I could. I did start a nonprofit in my house that year, but was not giving to charity otherwise.

Late teens/early 20s: For more than a year, I had no rent expenses but also almost no income because I was trading labor for rent and food on intentional communities (catholic worker social worker and living on a hippie commune managing a kitchen). My biggest goal was be able to pay basic expenses and save enough that I could attend college. I did 2 terms of americorps during this time, which paid $800/month at the time and eventually got a raise to $12/hr. I lived in very cheap group houses - including in a geodesic dome made of cardboard - in order to save money. I made some of my income in cash because I worked as an exotic dancer on and off.

I donated 10% of my income to charity, but I also opened a Roth IRA at that time and put $50/month in it. I spent most of my disposable income on stuff for my bike, and beers + karaoke tips for my karaoke addiction.

Mid 20s: My priorities were 100% being able to get out of college debt free. This meant that income I had was being used to save for college fees and books (anything not covered by financial aid or scholarships), pay my living expenses, I made between $7.00-$12.00/hr at my 3-4 jobs, and received food stamps most of the time I was in school. I also during this time was trying to apply for every possible fellowship and paid internship I could get - which helped with the no-debt thing, and meant this was the first time I had funding to do travel internationally due to fellowships.

I also worked and studied abroad during this time (India + Berlin) thanks to fellowships, and my discretionary spending while living in Berlin could be described as “trains to other countries, booze at gay clubs, feeding other people (hosting weekly brunches at my house), and clothing from the hawker stall”. I didn’t eat out all week so that I could afford to host weekly couchsurfer brunches at my tiny flat and could get beers and clubmate, disco at the club on the weekend.

Still giving $50/month to the Roth IRA + still giving 10% to charity. My final year of college I had a lot of financial aid and scholarships and was also making the most money at some of my jobs ($13/hr), and I spent a lot more money on things like: an apartment for myself, whiskey, burritos, and the conveniences of life. I stopped really saving other than my IRA because of the stress of trying to finish a thesis and find a job and work 3 jobs, and the string of disaster girls I was dating.

Late 20s: My priority here was still: cheap rent, but also getting a job that paid me a living wage (which I set at $15/hr), doing “good work”. The pursuit of that was all my energy. I was working a ton of jobs and still making less than $15,000 a year. Once I found that job after 2 years of searching, I slowly started to build up my savings again, started saving money for travel, and I got health insurance due to the ACA, and then discovered MMM and began using YNAB instead of my own spreadsheets. I also took a picture of everything I bought for that year as an art project?

My two priorities became: saving money for FI (not RE), and saving money to spend on international travel. Went from that $50/month to the IRA to about 40% of my income in a 401K when I qualified after a year Started teaching personal finance to college kids. Realized my job was way underpaying me, got a raise to $19/hr and kept doing my two side jobs.

I did spend more on discretionary expenses than before (like clothing and burritos), but because my income was so much higher it didn’t matter as much and I was still able to increase my savings. Spent my lifetime peak on restaurants and bars during the year I was 28 - $60-120 per month.

Moved into a job that paid better, but was an unmitigated disaster, and thanks to saving tons of money, was able to quit it and figure out a new plan.

Early 30s: Entrepreneurship + Travel. Still contributing to the IRA ($100/month), but prioritizing getting my business going and keeping expenses low rather than saving for FI or giving to charity. Dropped charity to 5% of income. But any extra money was spent on travel; for either the business or myself.

Kept part-side temp jobs so I wouldn’t have to live off savings (between $11.50-$35/hr, depending on job).

This is when I started to realize that it is okay to invest in things that make your life easier, and I did start spending more on clothing that wasn’t from a freebox, and things like a nice couch, a desk for my home office, glass tupperware rather than reused containers, or furniture. Still a bit of a weird concept to me but honestly…it’s been working.

Right now I’m in the “save a lot of money, with the goal of travel and entrepreneurship” stage still, but I have increased my giving again, and I’m more okay with my day job not being a “giving job”. This is the first time I’ve worked full-time for the private sector in a role that isn’t a customer service job. It’s weird.

I am so much more willing to just buy things and not search for the used/free option that ends up not being quite what I need. I’ve reached that stage. I don’t know if it is permanent?


Past: wanted a hot tub
Current: want a hot tub
Future: will want a hot tub


Omg me too