When do you relax around finances? And what's too much?

A lot of us here have a high level of financial diligence, and it helps us live well and create financial security for ourselves, even when times are hard.

When do you all think is the appropriate time to relax a little, even if that means spending more and saving less?

What is your marker for – I really have let this go too far? I need to pay attention again and tighten up.

I know I was as hard core as I could be for only 2 years or so (even then I couldn’t resist a good latte at a local cafe). Then I had some level of paying attention to things that ebbs and flows. The last few years with a kid + illness has meant that I have let even more things go. I’m starting to pay attention a bit more and I’m thinking through what’s worth actually trying to do and what’s worth letting go of in this stage of life where time, attention, and energy is extremely limited.
– Search for a reusable water bottle I like that I can actually keep clean?
– Spend 3 weekends finding and fixing up a bedframe for my kiddo, or buying new in one day and just keeping it forever? Or watching for weeks for what I want used?
– Taking the time to find the cheapest grocery store and going to it (this one I do, this one is one time effort for saving $$ every single week.)

I could spend that time building my business or just you know… enjoying life, but it’s true that you can’t out earn a spending problem.

Love to hear your personal experience and thoughts!


Interesting topic!

I’m just approaching ten years since I first learned about FIRE, compound interest, investing, and general frugality. My husband and I were DINKS then, and living super cheaply in a house hack situation, and it really spoke to us. I’ve never been anything that anyone could call hard core, but we jumped on the ‘spend less than you earn and invest the difference,’ train with enthusiasm. I’m really grateful for those years of careful monitoring and habit building. We built a good foundation in the market, and now time is doing the heavy lifting.

I don’t know if there was a specific number for us as far as letting up off the gas a bit. I think it was more that we were ready to shift to a different mindset and lifestyle. As far as your examples, I think I research when it’s fun and something I want, but I just buy the thing if it feels like a hassle. We normally shop at the cheap grocery store but if I didn’t realize we were out of something I want for my recipe, I just stop and grab it at the closer pricey one. Currently we have some appliances that aren’t in great shape (two burners don’t work, take forever to boil/microwave with some settings that don’t work) and I could replace them but haven’t yet and am sort of just seeing how long we can manage without doing so. If at some point it becomes too burdensome or one fails then I’ll probably research and decide very quickly and in the meantime I’m mentally putting money away for them. I likely would not spend 3 weekends fixing a bed frame, but I might delay a bit and see if I find a good one at a resale store, and then if not and I’m getting aggravated with the current situation, I might just buy it.

For me at the moment, this is a phase of life where I casually monitor but do not beat myself up. We have two little kids and I focus on continuing to live below our means, and investing the difference, but that difference is much smaller than it used to be. In and around covid, we started shifting our life a bit to be able to spend more time at home with the kids and each other. I don’t expect we’ll retire anytime soon, but since we’re building an enjoyable life, that somehow doesn’t matter quite as much as it used to when we were ‘hustling.’


For me it’s more of a psychological problem than a numerical one. I’m at the point where I’m going to be ok no matter what, and I could spend a lot more if I wanted, but years of intense and awful scarcity have impacted me. I need to be constantly monitoring my money and looking for ways to cut costs even when it makes no sense.

I really wish there were more people talking about the emotional side of finance because it’s hugely important and largely ignored.


Loosening up in a situation where you think it could actually improve your overall life, but you aren’t used to it and have a scarcity mindset, is hard :heart:


Sounds like we’ve ended up in a similar place. If I run out of something, I go to the closest store, for sure.


The more I think about this the more fascinating it becomes!

Stuff I still do:

  • Try to increase income
  • Monitor constantly in YNAB
  • Put together a yearly spending plan for big purchases (so I can create sinking funds)
  • Monitor and optimize investments
  • Rarely finance anything
  • Try to buy something I love, that is multipurpose, and will use for a long time
  • Live in a smaller place that costs less than alternatives
  • Try to have the minimum amount of cars needed
  • Cook simple food and eat out at simple places (medical restrictions + simple tastes)
  • Cancel ongoing subscriptions
  • Use the annual kid’s consignment sale to get the vast majority of kiddo’s clothes - one stop shop!
  • Do a bare minimum lazy version of price comparing.

Things I no longer do:

  • Live far away from work
  • Go to a second cheaper grocery store (run out of time before nap)
  • Time yearly purchases around a big sale (don’t tend to wait that long)
  • Use coupons (unless I find them in 5 minutes)
  • Go out of my way for Buy Nothing things

Things I spend $ on:

  • Kid books, activities
  • Clothes that I like (relatively)
  • Childcare
  • Business investments
  • Medical care
  • Ubers (currently having some mental health things around going in the subway)
  • Books (this is me just wanting the book that I want sooner.)
  • Convivence or enough space with travel (but we don’t travel often)

Things I never did or tried briefly:

  • DIY reno things (I’m just …not that person. I end up wasting time and $ because it doesn’t get done or done right.)
  • Biking (Mr. G biked for two years to one job but that’s it)

Complex question.

I’ve noted that I sometimes walk because I don’t want to waste the 3.20 to take transit home.
Otoh, in Dec I spent over $300 on a pair of boots I liked.
I still buy meat, and I try to buy the higher quality meats (no hormones/antibiotics, higher welfare butchers), but I try to buy it on sale, or I buy the cheaper cuts (pork shoulder not rib-eye)

It really comes down to value for money. Is my time/effort worth the savings/the spend? I like going to restaurants, the shadowy one doesn’t really, but when I look at what we’d get for a $60 night out vs. what I could buy at the butcher, the value of the meal is rarely worth it. So meals out tend to be for times it is convenient for seeing a friend (since I’m on a different transit spoke than most of them), or it’s part of a broader trip (we’ll be out for 6h and I don’t feel like doing the prep for a meal to be eaten on the go).

How much am I robbing my future self to have current joy? Is it a one-time cost, or an ongoing inflation? Do I really enjoy the thing? I have a number of very cool hats, if I buy another cool hat, will I really use it, or will it be worn less than 10x a year because I’m already switching between 10 and it isn’t as flexible as other ones? Is this just another attempt at a peak experience and I’ll need to spend more later to make the next time even more awesome?

And how much am I being miserly to save money for when I won’t really enjoy it? (My mom is having trouble walking a km atm, so it’s a good thing that she splurged on her trip to Machu Picchu approx six years ago)

I will buy a new winter coat eventually. I’ll probably also take my current coat to a tailor to see if they can put in a new lining with actual R value. I am looking at the kitchen again, but that is probably because the market is up, and if it dropped again I’d tighten up so that my future self isn’t regretting that I retired early. I need new runners before my knees start complaining that I’ve killed these. I’ll continue to use the library because the cost of buying books at the rate we read would be a challenge.

So I don’t relax atm. I do spend more than I need to. I pick up dimes on the street. I don’t do resell because I can’t be bothered - the emotional cost and annoyance aren’t worth the extra cash.

I used to say ‘this purchase pushes off FIRE by 2 weeks’. Now I can’t push out FIRE, that’s done, so it will probably take a few more years once we know what the sequence of returns were for me to relax.


This is an interesting discussion and I think it will be so different for each person, depending on their goals and situation. I have accepted that I’m never going to hit FIRE. I live in a higher COL area and while I have a decent salary for a public sector employee, we only have one salary plus a small amount of SSDI for income. I love my job and I will have a decently robust pension when I hit minimum retirement age, so trying to super-save outside of the pension just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I used to be really focused on trying to save as much as possible. I wanted to be able to FIRE by 40 and I daydreamed about how wonderful and relaxing all of my days would be if I didn’t have to go to work. But then I had kids and I had to start giving myself some grace.

Would it be cheaper to scour facebook marketplace for weeks and weeks and put out asks on buy nothing for weeks and weeks until I got something I needed? Yes it would. But, I don’t have time or energy for that. Depending on what the item is I will check on amazon, target, etc for the cheapest price and then I buy it. If it’s a kids thing I might check once upon a child, but the closest one is 10 minutes outside my normal driving radius so I only go a few times per year. If it is a “want” that isn’t time sensitive I will ask on buy nothing or maybe look in other places, but my time and sanity is worth more to me these days.

If my goal was still to FIRE I would have to change a lot of things about my spending habits and do a lot more work. At this point in my life I am willing to pay for convenience, because my goal has changed from FIRE to “retire at 52.5 with a robust pension”.


This is a very interesting question.
Personally, I have a lot of anxiety about money, mostly because of what I saw my parents (diligent savers but not really investors) go through. Dementia care for my father wiped them out. The rate at which they were hemorrhaging money gives me pause.

Factors such as, we are not yet homeowners and we are very very behind on retirement savings well into middle age, also gives me pause. I do not want to work until dead but I don’t really see myself affording retirement at this point, especially since all my accounts are going down and not up. And Boyfriend being currently unemployed makes me nervous even though we have savings.

That being said, our spending habits at the moment do not really support these concerns.

Stuff I don’t do that I have done in the past:

  • completely avoid socializing/dining out
  • completely avoid spending on clothing unless there was a true need (ie, winter boots fell apart)
  • Use coupons
  • Have a real budget? It’s hard because utility costs swing wildly here and do not seem to be based on usage at all, and the cat’s health concerns mean that pet spending is also out of control at the moment.
  • Live in a neighborhood I don’t like/apartment that doesn’t serve our needs but is cheap
  • go completely car-free
  • do my own taxes (though if I close my business down then I will go back to this)
  • hustle constantly for additional income - my side business, selling stuff on ebay, doing surveys and product testing. yard sales
  • always choose public transport over uber/lyft. (I do this about half the time but don’t do it late at night any more or if I’d have to transfer in an iffy neighborhood)
  • avoid buying convenience foods at the grocery store

Stuff I do:

  • BYOB and BYO snacks to events like Mardi Gras parades. (note: it helps to live in a city with no open container laws, drinking publicly is perfectly fine as long as it is not in a glass container, and everyone brings stuff to events. Big potluck culture here which is nice)
  • Check Buy Nothing or post on Buy Nothing if I need something, before buying.
  • Try and combine online purchases to avoid paying shipping costs (to reach minimum spend)
  • Price compare and shop around, though sometimes I just say fuckit and get it in the most convenient way
  • Mostly cook at home and drink coffee at home.
  • Generally try not to spend on Stuff.

I do think it so personal! My list is basically … what’s easy for me? Kind of interesting to look at a personal $ greatest hits list though.


now it’s “how much will this spend increase the odds I need to find another job or decrease lifestyle beyond what I would be comfortable with in the future should I not be able to find another job?” And the odds are impossible to calculate, because that is literally the sequence of return risks.

I spent $120 on better airplane seats because my knee dislikes long periods in an acute bent position. I spent $90 on massage therapy because that helps my knee. I spent $250 on the dentist because I don’t want to spend more later to deal with teeth problems (difficult to replace). I spent $$$ on yarn because (not really justifiable).

Other people would say $$ on yarn is silly, but my gym membership or convenience food or nail jewellery or private school for my kid is what makes me happy/is required for my life situation/reflects my long term values.

I think we relax in stages, and it is noticeable when our life changes and the values change, so we add new things (sometimes dropping others because of that change) to the budget, which requires “relaxing” of the prior guardrails to make it work. I could drop yarn and replace it with a gym, which would be a bit of relaxing the budget. If I kept yarn and got gym membership, that would definitely be ‘relaxing’. Spending on my knee reflects a change in my life circumstances and that calculation of what I can spend money to fix or ameliorate.


Very interesting Q! I may come back to this later more on my laptop for the sake of a keyboard. One of the big things I’ve noticed is that my frugal behaviors that do or don’t stay are often based on other values, too. I try to get hand me down clothes whenever I can for my kiddo because there’s such a clothing waste issue. I try to be mindful of food waste because it’s also a huge environmental impact. But this also pulls me in the opposite direction- we probably spend 4-8x the price of cheap meat to get locally sourced, ethically raised, land regenerative practice meats where we can (all beef and chicken- sausages are harder here because I’m picky about flavor lol). I walk a lot because it’s healthy, connection to nature is my spiritual practice, it build community, it reduces gas use, etc. So I think it’s a push on pull between my values and frugality is just one of many and isn’t like… standing by itself as a relational? If that makes sense?

I definitely still track all our money. Even if I’m not being tight with it, I want to be deliberate with it. It helps that we’re now settled into a career that DH adores so there’s no rush to retire, and our parents are doing well financially so there’s no pressure to support them soon, and we have enough in investments that if we didn’t add anything we could retire easily somewhere around 55-60.


I’ve been fairly relaxed around money for mental health reasons. I still tracked, but our budget was flexible enough that it didn’t feel constraining. Our life situation has changed recently, however, because we both fell in love with a wonderful woman out of state and we’re strongly considering moving there rather than have her come move in with us. (And both households have considerations around not wanting to disrupt kids’ lives affecting timing.)

To make that option possible, we need to find ways to increase our savings rate, but I also don’t want to make my financial anxiety worse. So I think we’re going to mainly make sure we’re very intentional about our spending, making sure that something is really worth it versus going towards our big financial goals.


IMO this is still very much in FIRE range!


I think it’s been pretty intuitive and natural for us. In our early marriage we were low income so we really only spent on necessities and small savings. I never had the goal of maintaining that because it was extremely difficult!

I guess we lean towards our strengths when it comes to savings. Our food spending is lower than many because I’m an avid cook. We don’t outsource any household tasks. We don’t have kids. We’re happy renting rather than owning, and that saves us money, and we’re happy in a moderate sized space (around 800 sq. feet). We only have one car and it’s super old and paid for, and when it dies we’ll get another old car and pay in cash. Many of our weekend outings are free because we love hiking in parks and stuff, and we started camping last year which had some start-up costs but is pretty cheap going forward. We only go on vacations every few years. So in those areas I think we’re pretty typically frugal.

On the other hand, we want to enjoy life in the here and now rather than live as cheaply as possible for the earliest retirement possible. For example, we could pay a lot less for housing if we moved out of the city, but we are not doing that. We could never go on fancy dates, but we do. I have a larger wardrobe than I strictly need. We buy each other gifts for special occasions. We have a kitty cat. We pursue our hobbies, which are all pretty modest but have some expenses attached- I belong to a climbing gym, DH buys books here and there and has more subscriptions than I do. I go out with friends for lunch here and there. I go to the Korean Spa once a month ($29 day pass). And I’m going on a once in a lifetime trip in July!

I would become worried and feel the need to seriously clamp down if:

  1. We stopped hitting our retirement savings goals.
  2. We had no emergency fund.
  3. There was a job loss.

As it is, I feel like we’re saving enough for husband to retire at a reasonable age if he wants to and I know he hasn’t hit his peak earning yet. I’m not sure why it’s not difficult for me to adjust and spend more or spend less as the conditions change, but for me it’s been pretty easy. Maybe it has to do with my personality? IDK.


We oversaved for retirement, and I think it’s because we looked at it as a game rather than a chore.

The concept of life energy in Your Money or Your Life helped a lot. What things were worth it? I once bought a St. John Knits suit at full retail at Nordstrom’s for an appearance on The Today Show. (My card was initially declined because it was such an unusual purchase for me, LOL.)

That suit wore like iron. I could stuff it into a suitcase for travel and it always looked perfect. I got it with pants but frequently wore it with a $1.99 skirt I bought at a thrift store and Frye boots I got on Ebay. A friend calls me “The Queen of High/Low Dressing.”

I almost always carried my lunch to work. So much cheaper and healthier. When I traveled on a per diem, I would pack a collapsible cooler and stop at a grocery store for food for the day. $100 for meals meant $90 in my pocket EVERY DAY.

When we took DH’s kids clothes shopping, I would put cash in an envelope and hand it to them. They could do miracles with $100. For college, we said we’d pay for 4 years at a state school. If they wanted something more expensive, they needed to fund the difference. We put aside $10k for each of their weddings, but let them use it for grad school instead, with the understanding there would be no more $ forthcoming.

When we went to buy a house, we looked for structurally sound but cosmetically bad. Paint is cheap. We always bought a smaller, less expensive house than what we qualified for.

For cars, we bought econoboxes new. Our credit union would negotiate the price if we took out a loan, so we did and then paid off the loan quickly.

Investments were index funds at Vanguard. Insurance had a high deductible.

For me, this was FUN. How do I get the best possible deal? The Game of Life, baby.



For me, not spending money is pretty easy - it saves time to not buy stuff, and there’s not that much stuff that I need or want.

We did relax quite a bit after we paid off the house, but now that we are retired I would like to spend a lot less and I dunno that dh is really into it.


For me it has changed from being cheap to being frugal. I love to be generous to my friends/family/community, but save on things that we don’t value. I like to track spending so when I look at the pie chart of where the money goes those buckets are inline with our money values.

I think it will ebb and flow through life. Right now our net worth changes by 5 figures just based on stock market swings. Will a $5 bagel and coffee, a $6 toll, a $20 convenience item make any dent in our situation? Very unlikely.

I think life situations and goals have a big difference. For someone who wants to buy a house or move in a short timeline they may be willing to sacrifice those short term items and see that savings category grow. Each purchase is “well I could have a $5 bagel and coffee, or I could put that into house fund”. That tradeoff makes WAY more sense in my brain for something in the 1-3 year time frame and is tangible.

We do not currently have any immediate savings goals worth sacrificing for. We have retirement which is 15+ years away. But the equation of “this $5 bagel and coffee could make a difference in retirement timeline” does not seem as attractive when the value of our investments just changed by $10k+ from things outside of our control. It seems like the automated savings we do will be way more important than our spending, we put an appropriate amount of money into 401k’s, IRA’s, and taxable investments automatically and don’t worry about the rest.

I like to know what I could cut out if we had a job loss or a bigger goal to save for. And I know the extras that we are paying for right now are inline with our money values.

Thank you for asking this question! I think it is really interesting and will show how everyone is in a different spot in their journey. It is okay for priorities to change through life. Right now it seems like you can be relaxed and that you have other priorities worth investing your time and attention into.


Echoing a developing theme, I am definitely in the “keep what’s easy, loosen up on what’s hard” camp. And also spending with my values.

For me, after finishing grad school and getting secure in Real Job, I have entered a settling down phase. This has meant:

  • voluntary lifestyle inflation in meaningful ways (eg getting cats, planning a child)
  • investing in myself, shifting mindset to if I pay $xx for an indulgence like Netflix or wine, shouldn’t I be willing to similarly pay for a fitness trainer/class/membership or for berries, peas, protein pasta, etc? Rather than guilting myself for not using the less appealing free/cheap option(s)?
  • reframing convenience (semi-prepared or prepared food, going to closer grocery store, buying new) as buying time/mental health
  • being more selective about Stuff. I’ve become more aware of Stuff taking time to care for, clean, organize, etc. However, good quality Stuff for frequent or specialized use is an asset, makes tasks easier, faster, or more pleasant, etc. So I’m trying to mindfully upgrade where it matters, and importantly not letting myself settle (which leads to accumulation of unused Stuff)
  • recently upgrading housing by 1k/mo between us (goes toward: prep for child, invest in myself, pleasant to use/maintain)

Other things haven’t changed in this phase of life… I’m still not into concerts, sports, or Big Luxuries (designers, cars, $100/oz skincare, spas, First Class, etc). Or even movie theaters. But I’ve never skimped on going to see family or spend time outdoors (time is the limiting factor), socializing with friends, celebrations, gifts, getting good value on big purchases (computer, car, etc).

I think all the “frugality muscles” I’m still working on have to do with other motivators. Like eating habits: we enjoy meals out/takeout but mostly as a deviation from the norm. The pleasure per dollar rapidly declines when Thai delivery or coffee to go become a habit rather than a treat. Plus the health and environmental factors (which I am not perfect about, but I try!) We stick with one car because so far the times we’ve needed/wanted a second have been cheaper to compensate with Lyft. We haven’t gotten into more hobbies because timmmeee…

So, what made me relax? I think simple overwhelm, really. I woke up and realized that the lines I had been holding were arbitrary. And when I relaxed them I realized I didn’t want to go as all-out as I thought on what I was restricting.

This resonated a lot :grin:


Elle mentioned Covid and reminded me, Covid made me realize how one person’s indulgence was another’s livelihood. I’ve always been a good tipper because I remember my spouse being in a tipped position, but this took it further to where I see the importance of supporting the kind of businesses you want to see in your community/the world.

I still won’t go get my nails done because I don’t enjoy it, but it’s removed a moral angle from haircuts and takeout. And massages. Because those are all Good Things TM.