This post is inspired by one of my favourite fellow finance bloggers, Lily from The Frugal Gene. She writes a recurring series about her frugal wins and frugal fails, and it got me thinking about how my own saving vs spending plays out.

You guys know that I’m not going be winning any awards for my frugality; I’m a bit of a spender. I counteract those spendy habits by finding things I’m willing cheap-out on. Balancing the splurges with the scrimps keeps me on track with my savings goals while still having fun in the present.

The Scrimps

1. Eating at Home

I like food, a lot, and I love going out to eat, but restaurants are a budget killer. I’m lucky to have a partner who is a fantastic cook (I’m terrible), and I take full advantage of that. We have a deal that we can have dinner out once a week at the most, and that often drops in the winter when staying in the warm house is so much more tempting. To some people, eating out once a week might still sound like a lot, but they’re not always expensive dinners. We save the fancier places for special occasions (aka birthday dinner when the parents are paying).

To make sure we stick to the plan, I plan out all our meals for the week, and we do one big shop every Sunday. Having the fridge stocked makes it so much easier to get dinner on the table and makes me feel guilty to skip any planned meals.

2. No Gym Membership

I used to pay for a gym membership for years but when I got more serious about saving money it was one of the expenses I nixed. The gym was never really my thing, so it didn’t make me sad to let it go. It did mean that I had to find cheaper ways to still stay in shape. For that, I turned to the internet…because YouTube solves all problems.

The two YouTube channels that I turn to again and again for free fitness videos are Yoga with Adriene and Fitness Blender. I have a yoga mat and a set of free weights at home, and that’s all the equipment I’ve needed to follow these videos and get a good workout.

3. One Car Household

Earlier this year the bf and I got rid of our second car. We live centrally, he takes the bus to work, I walk as long as the weather isn’t too terrible, and that meant we had two cars sitting at home the bulk of the time. Such a waste. It’s been almost five months since we sold the Jeep and being a one car family hasn’t been a problem at all. There was one close call when we both booked haircuts on the same day, but other than that it’s been smooth sailing.

Only having one car to pay insurance, registration, gas and maintenance on has saved us hundreds of dollars, plus the initial lump sum when we sold.

4. Using the Library

If you’re not a library user than I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Seriously! The library is fantastic, and so much more than just books. Here in Edmonton a library membership is completely free and gets you access to books, movies, music, audiobooks, research journals, events and more. One of my Twitter friends recently mentioned that her library started lending out board games…how cool is that!

5. Skimping on Home Decor

There are a lot of personal finance bloggers out there who are also minimalists; I am not one of them. I have a closet packed with way too many clothes, an overflowing basket of make-up, hair, and skincare samples, and enough yarn to crochet toques for all of Canada. But, when it comes to decorating my house, I would pass all the minimalist tests.

I have a few pieces of art on the walls (random finds from Winners and a couple of shots from a local photographer), but there are very few knick-knacks cluttering up shelves and tables.

And the Splurges

1. Concerts and Sporting Events

My best friend and I often joke that our hobby is ‘drinks and a concert’. Unlike both our spouses, we don’t have an expensive hobby, so instead, we go to shows. I’m all about spending money on experiences over physical things, and concerts are always a good time. If you enjoy live music but can’t justify the cost of tickets, keep an eye out for deals. I bought a ticket to Halsey on Groupon for only $20, and LiveNation had a Summer sale earlier this year where I snagged Kings of Leon tickets for the same price.

The bf and I are also big hockey fans, so we try to make it out to a few games every year. I’ve found that buying resale tickets (I just use Ticketmaster) and waiting until the last minute can snag you cheap seats. Oilers tickets here are pricey, but we got a pair for $54 each earlier this year.

2. Travel

I love to travel and wish that I could do more of it, but money doesn’t grow on trees! I’m also not the person who is willing to slum it when I’m travelling. I’m willing to go low-cost on flights, but I’ll spend a little extra to stay in a decent hotel in a good location. Food costs also get me when I’m travelling. One of my favourite things about visiting a new city is trying out the local restaurants, and that comes at a cost.

At this point, I’m ok with taking fewer trips but doing them without making sacrifices when I get there.

3. Pets

As I’m sure most of you know, I have four fur babies (2 dogs and two cats). They are not cheap, but they are deemed a necessary expense in my world. I try to find the best deals on pet products when I can, but am not willing to sacrifice quality.

For example, I just bought my Boxer a $100 winter jacket, so he doesn’t have to suffer through his winter walks. I didn’t even spend $100 on my own winter jacket (thank you Costco)!

4. Christmas

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’. I couldn’t agree more. I embrace everything about the holidays; the food, the gifts, the decorations…But those don’t come free. By Christmas budget for this year is sitting at about $600, and that’s a cheap year. We’re not travelling or hosting so that only includes gift giving. Neither of us has huge families to buy for, but after purchasing a gift and a few stocking stuffers for the fam, plus gifts for friends, the costs start to add up.

Sure, I could cut back, but I just don’t want to. There are other areas in the budget I’d rather cut out, and I save up for Christmas during the year so I’m not going into debt.

5. This Blog

Newsflash: blogging isn’t exactly a moneymaker. Some bloggers make tons of money off their blogs, but that is rarer than you’d think. I earn a bit of money, but I’ve still put more money into it than I’ve gotten out of it.

I guess you could say I do have an expensive hobby after all…

In the last couple of years I’ve been blogging, I’m paid for hosting, a couple of online courses, and marketing tools. The costs are huge, but they are a factor, just one that hasn’t discouraged me from.

Where do you fit in the frugal vs spendy scale? What are the things you tend to splurge on? And what are the things you scrimp on? 

Where I Splurge and Where I Scrimp to Keep My Budget Balanced

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Image Credit: Brigitte Tohm


  1. We are practically money twins!

    Concerts were once a splurge for me, but no more. Now I think it’s just pets, occasional travel, and house stuff – not decor but practical stuff (mostly small scale to date like setting up and dog-proofing our garden/things like extra coat racks for storage, and now big reno projects in the pipeline)

    • Sarah Reply

      A pipeline reno doesn’t sound fun, hopefully it goes smoothly! Those are the kind of projects I hate spending money, necessary and helpful but usually very pricey and you don’t get to see the impact like if you really renovated your kitchen.

  2. Hey, Sarah. I love your scrimps. I’m a no-gym person too. You can get a killer workout with body-weight exercises alone. (Mrs G by the way is a big fan of Fitness Blender.) And being a one-car family makes perfect sense. For the longest time, Mrs G and l were a two-car family. We’re now down to one car and it hasn’t been an issue at all. In fact, it’s made our lives much less costly and much less complicated. Oh, and your splurges are perfectly reasonable. One of my bucket list items is an Oiler-Flame game. Back in the 80s that was one of the intense rivalries in sport. Thanks for the great read, Sarah. It was a perfect way to start my day.

    • Sarah Reply

      Thanks so much for the comment Mr G, I really appreciate it. Oilers vs Flames is always a good time, just make sure you come to Edmonton, we’ve got the nice new arena 😉

      I’m so happy we went down to one car, it has saved us a lot and makes us focus in walking or biking more.

  3. I love the thought you have put into what is important to you and what isn’t. I am completely with you on the library and having a single cat! But for me pets and the gym are flipped.

    Great job figuring out what is most important to you and spending your money there!

    • Sarah Reply

      Thanks for the comment Laura. I think it’s an important thing, I realize where you are willing to cut expenses so that you can spend on the things you really enjoy.

  4. Hey Sarah! I completely agree when you say it is important to find that balance between things you can splurge on and things you then scrimp on. For me travel is a biggie when it comes to splurging even though I try and keep it as basic as I can. It’s not something a lot of people understand which is why when I asked a friend to meet over coffee instead of dinner I was met with the response that it was odd for someone who has the money to travel :-/. The point you make about a library membership is also a great win when it comes to substituting for the cost you would otherwise spend on buying books. Nice post.

    • Sarah Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂 I would guess that the reason you have the money to travel is because you make decisions like meeting over coffee instead of dinner. It’s all about spending money on the things you love instead of wasting it on other things. The library is a big one for me. I love reading and used to buy many books to support the hobby but it has been years since I’ve bought a book for myself.

  5. I still go to a few concerts (note: only of certain bands), but if I get a $20 deal to Kings of Leon then yes! Only reason why I didn’t go was it was a weekday and it was in Tampa – where my hubby lives during the weekdays.

    You should consider travel hacking. We travel almost once a month and don’t spend a lot because our points basically pay for most things

    • Sarah Reply

      I definitely need to get into travel hacking, I would love to be able to travel more!

  6. I spend on the home. I haven’t bought furniture or decor in a while, but when I did I went all in on many things. I can’t regret it because my home feels exactly the way I want it to and has all the amenities for a comfortabe domicile.

    I am all about concerts and will pay through the nose for good tickets. I’ve seen Jay-Z three times and every concert I spend hundreds on floor seats. I also pay for good sports seats. If I’m in the cheap seats it’s because someone else is paying. I’m scheming on Coachella right now. I’m trying to figure out how to get free airfare and save on the rental car so the tickets will be the biggest cost. I need to find a friend in Palm Springs too.

    • Sarah Reply

      When we first bought our home I did the same thing, spent a ton of money on things to make it feel like our own. That has definitely died off though and now it’s rare I buy home decor stuff.

      I’m willing to sit in cheap seats but usually for bands I care less about. I went to see One Republic and Kings of Leon last year and both were with $20 tickets…still a good time though. For acts I really want to see then I’m willing to splurge more on tickets for sure.

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