When You Should Save Money and When You Shouldn’t

“I missed a shift because my phone doesn’t have reception out here.”

I couldn’t believe what my friend was telling me. This confused me. I asked her why she didn’t do anything about her reception issue when she stressed about missing out on the shift. She told me that she went with a cheaper phone plan (about $40 less monthly or so) to save money but that the phone didn’t offer the best service. Her phone had no reception in most areas of the city. That $40 savings had just cost her a shift where she could’ve made at least $150.

It can be expensive to be cheap. I want to look at when you should save money and when you should never save money.

When should you not save money

I want to give you a rough guide to help you decide when to save money and when to spend it. Before we get into that, I need to address the purpose of money management.

What’s the whole point of personal finance?

“How do you afford to travel so much? Isn’t it at waste of money?”

I often get asked about my travel and if it’s worth it. I have friends who don’t travel because they don’t want to spend the money. I have friends who want to travel but don’t do it because they spend money on everything else and never have money left for trips.

Here’s my theory on money management…

Personal finance is all about priorities. You need to decide what your one thing is so that you can save on everything else to devote more time, energy, and money towards your thing.

Friends constantly think that I’m going to judge them when they tell me about what they spent money on. I’m not like that. I’m all about spending money on what you love while cutting back on the useless stuff in your life.

It’s your life and you get to decide what matters to you. Don’t let some weirdo on social media guilt you over enjoying a cup of coffee.

Here’s what you can do right now…

Find your one thing and run with it.

What’s your thing that you’re going to spend money on? What are you going to save on?

I don’t mind shopping less often, eating in, or working longer hours so that I can travel more.

When should you never save money?

“I save money by cutting my own hair.”

I read this advice on a blog one day and didn’t know what to say. Guess what? Some of us want to actually look presentable in public. There’s so much useless advice out there on saving money. Some of this “advice” will harm you more than it could help you.

I tried my best to think of the areas where I would rarely try to save money.

Your education/skills.

“I’m not sure if the course is worth it.”

A friend wasn’t sure if a course was worth the money. It was $1,100 for the entire program and it would almost guarantee him a higher paying position in his company. It wouldn’t be a 100% guarantee, but the odds were on his side to land a higher paying gig. Nothing ever is a 100% guarantee. What’s guaranteed is that he needed the course for the promotion and that the company was actively hiring for that role. The course was also a correspondence program so he didn’t even have to worry about commuting to a class.

I didn’t know what there was to think about. $1,100 is a lot of money to invest. However, it’s important to always try to think of the long-term even when you can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel.

No, I’m not telling you to go into debt for an expensive degree that you can’t afford. I’m talking about reasonable investments in your education and skills.

If you can take a course for $1,000 or less to upgrade your skills, it’s an easy decision. The basic math I try to do is to think about the money that I can make from the upgrade in skills.

Here are some other ways you can invest in your education:

  • Reading a book on a topic of interest.
  • Taking a successful person out to lunch or coffee.
  • A weekend certificate program.
  • Offer to work with a successful person for free so that you can see what they do.
  • Any course that will make you more valuable at your job.

Your health and well-being.

I hate getting into arguments about gym memberships. I spend good money on my training. I train in BJJ and I lift weights. I’ve always spent money on a gym membership (even when I was a broke student).

You have one body. Take care of it to the best of your ability. Don’t be afraid to take care of your physical and mental health. Spend the money on that gym membership if you enjoy training. Don’t even try to lie to yourself about training at home.

I’m also a firm believer in eating well. I know that I could save money by eating lower quality food, but I like to treat myself to a high protein diet to help me recover from my training (and to look good). I follow intermittent fasting to eat well without blowing my savings on food.

Cell phone service.

You likely spend your entire day on your phone. Don’t even try act like you don’t. You do. You’re always on your phone. You also need your phone to work.

Why not have the best possible phone with service that you can rely on?

This doesn’t mean that you should blindly spend money on the cell phone plan with the most upgrades. I just don’t want you to save $10 to find a plan that kills your reception.

Retirement.

Always be putting money away for your retirement because I have a feeling that you don’t want to work forever. Take advantage of whatever plan your company offers and invest on your own as well. It’s your future. You probably hate your job right now. Imagine working there until you’re 70 because you didn’t plan for retirement?

When should you be saving money?

There are things that I refuse to spend money on. I’m just going to list these out. Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Cable.

Does anyone watch cable anymore? I don’t want to sound like a hippie but you can watch everything online these days. Netflix is enough to entertain company and everything else can be found online. Plus, there’s so much more to do than sitting around watching the tube like a zombie.

Anything that you don’t want to do.

It’s YOUR life. Don’t let your friends bring you down because they want to party three times a week. Don’t let anyone convince you to spend money on crap that you don’t need. If you don’t want to do something, then don’t. It’s okay to stay in if you’re saving up for a house. It’s okay to say no to things that push you away from your goals.

This lead to the next point.

Trying to impress others.

I get made of constantly for not having a cool car. I’ve never cared for cars. I don’t spend money on things that I don’t care for. If you need a reliable car for work, then buy one. If you just want to impress others, you might want to hold off. It’s more impressive to have your own place than to be living at home in your 30s because you insisted on a ride that you couldn’t afford.

Useless fees.

There are many useless fees that we just accept. It’s time to stop accepting these because it’s your money and you have to do what’s best for you.

What are examples of useless fees?

  • Parking tickets. You can fight every ticket that you get. I once received a ticket when I slept over at a friend’s place out of town. I called to state my case and they actually erased my ticket over the phone.
  • Late fees. See above. Everything can be negotiated in life.
  • Entry into a club. Try to get on the guest list or find a way to avoid places that rip you off before you even get in the door.
  • Banking costs. Does anyone still pay banking fees?

Supplements that you don’t understand.

“It’s good for you.”

I feel bad making fun of people but it’s scary how many folks out there spend money on supplements that they don’t even understand. I got into the best shape of my life by simplifying everything, not through purchasing products that I don’t understand.

The jury is out on many supplements out there. My general rule is this: if you don’t know what the supplement does for you, then don’t buy it. I try to stick to things like vitamin D and fish oil that have been around forever and have scientific studies behind them.

When do you always save money? Where do you consistently spend money?

Personal finance is personal. I want to try to help you figure this stuff out without stressing you out. Planning your Friday night is already stressful enough.

4 thoughts on “When You Should Save Money and When You Shouldn’t”

  1. Great advice, I had to look back and see if you were really that young to have that much wisdom! One hobby of mine in my slightly early retirement is having cool cars that cost very little. My current sporty car, extremely fast and glued to the road on corners, cost me all of $7,000. I’ve even had people ask me if it was a 2018 model. They were only off by ten years. But by picking very small production number models that don’t look old it is possible to basically do the equivalent of having a ten cent Starbucks latte. I don’t do it to impress anyone, I just drive a lot and love the way performance vehicles feel, as long as I don’t have to pay for it.

  2. Great article. I started to rethink the whole concept of spending extra time to save pennies.

    For example, last month, I doubled the gigs on my data plan from 5g to 10g for just $15 more and now Iisten to various informational clips from YouTube on my commute to work.

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