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Saving and Self-Deprivation, Do They Go Hand in Hand?

Does saving equal self-deprivation? If you try to save too much today, are you depriving yourself for an uncertain tomorrow? And really, does saving money mean you can’t have as much fun now?

These are some of the questions I have after I read the comment responses to an post featuring Kimberly Palmer of Generation Earn on Bucks Blog (New York Times). In that post, Kim talked about how she was able to save 1/3 of her income during her 20s.

Kim managed to save so much because she had a decent income, kept her expenses down, and was knowledgeable about money. Some comments noted that her lifestyle sounds pretty depressing, or that it was based on self-deprivation.

I am lucky enough to have a decent income, a reasonable debt load and otherwise manageable expenses. So like Kim, I am also able to save a third of my income right now.  99% of the time, my lifestyle doesn’t make me feel deprived.  After all, I have all the necessities met and enjoy many luxuries (small and large).

But if I am really honest, I will admit that on those few days when I am in an ungrateful mood, I have lamented why I can’t go on all my trips around the world, right now, or why I couldn’t frequent my favorite sushi restaurant as often as I want. (Or, why can’t I just win the mega millions lottery and render all these worries moot!).

Savers, have you ever felt deprived because of your saving goals? What do you give up that makes you feel the most deprived?

*By the way, I am holding a Q&A and a book giveaway. Enter for your copy!

  • Financial Samurai - I have a secret for you, if you are in the position to do so to cure your toro sashimi cravings. That is, to simply seek out clients and take them out for lunch and dinner at your favorite Japanese restaurant! That way, your meals and drinks are free. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Now we're DINKS again, I'm lucky enough to be able to save as much as 50 per cent some months. For T, it's more like 25 per cent.

    But it does mean I don't spend much on clothes or beauty products. I don't drink much (by choice). I DO wish I could eat out more and travel more, but food is EXPENSIVE here – both groceries and dining out. As for travel, I'm first saving up for a car fund before I really go gazelle on my travel fund. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - 50%?! You put my savings game to shame. Have you traveled much in New Zealand? I was looking at different tours online and they are all $3K or more per person. ReplyCancel

      • eemusings - It's not USUALLY 50, but I'm certainly able to save a lot more than the 20 per cent goal I set at the start of the year. I have to work wacky hours, but the money is worth it.

        No, not at all. My parents never took us anywhere, and for the last three years I've been at uni (working holidays and summers). And T has been unemployed for so much of the last 1.5 years. We soon hope to be thinking seriously about embarking on travel both domestic and global :)

        I don't really think you need a guided tour at all to make the most of NZ. Lots of great guidebooks and I'd be happy to chime in! And of course show you around Auckland :)

        Right now I'm trying to decide whether we should first tackle our South Island road trip (exploring on our own, either byc ar or campervan) or our US road trip. I'm starting to lean towards the latter – cause we're young and able to save more right now, and whatever I do next is almost certainly going to involve a pay cut. ReplyCancel

  • sense - I think deprivation is the name of the game, esp. when you first start saving. you NEED to figure out what means the most to you and what is worth spending on, and i think that requires a blanket deprivation to realize exactly how much you can handle, and for what items. Because before you reach your tipping point, where you realize that you have to get a handle on your spending, you are justifying every purchase and think it is worth it–why would you do it otherwise?

    i definitely want to blow all my cash sometimes, and go travel the world and have nice clothes and get facials and massages and personal trainers, etc. But in the end, my other wants are the priority–security, retirement, etc. So I deprive myself of now-wants that I have deemed less beneficial (trendy clothes, manicures) for my future-wants, like travel to Australia next year.

    I do think it can be taken to the extreme–where you deprive yourself so much that your health suffers, or you stress about spending an extra dollar or two here or there. It's a balancing act, and no two people will agree on what is 'necessary spending.' You gotta figure it out first, and deprivation is the way. It also teaches you the self-control you need to keep the savings game up! ReplyCancel

    • FabulouslyBroke.com - Hear hear.

      I think you've hit it right on the head — making sure you know what the priorities are for "deprivation", counts.

      I'd never buy food from the dollar store, even if I earned much less. I just don't want those health problems and I would pay for healthy food.

      I also don't stress out about spending, because I know I want to spend on what I want, like traveling or that iPod Touch I'm thinking about.

      Necessary spending is so personal. ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - More travelling. Sigh.

    If I wasn't saving money, I'd spend it travelling. Little side trips everywhere all the time. :(
    Everytime my friends plan on a trip to Calgary, Cuba or some place, I always have to decline. I won't feel comfortable with travelling til I have a good amount in my savings for emergencies. ReplyCancel

  • SP - I can never even come up with how to compute percentages. Retirement savings counts? Pre-tax? Post-tax? it is all confusing. So I save as much as I can, and… that's about it.

    I saved much much less cash than usual this year, for a lot of big reasons, and I'm totally ok with it. What I'm less ok with is the little things eating into the bottom line! ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I usually figure all my savings (emergency fund, retirement accounts, money for vacations at least one year out) as percentage of gross income because the gross number is an easier number to calculate. I hear you on the little things – eating out is eating into my bottom line. ReplyCancel

  • Money Pincher - I don't feel deprived because of my saving goals because I view things I want or want to do as "priories." Right now, I am 20 something and my priority is to save money for more education and if I can afford a vacation, great, if not, then I can always wait! :) ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - First off, I'm truly grateful for everything we have. However, living in Las Vegas, I'm surrounded by so much bling, I am very jealous of those who have so much more than us. The thing that I give up and makes me feel most deprived is not having a nice (50k+) car. Everyone says cars are a waste of money, but I truly appreciate them and value them.

    The worst thing about saving is that it never seems to be enough. Hard to find balance because of that reason.ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - What would be your favorite dream (but still realistic) car? I'd get a Skyline just for the looks. 😀 ReplyCancel

      • StackingCash - Funny you mentioned that, the SEMA convention is in town and I just saw a Nissan GT-R decked out with killer rims and cool LED accent lighting. Right now I'm liking the performance luxury cars like the Audi S5, BMW M3, Mercedes C63, Lexus IS-F, or maybe show my age and go for the Jaguar XJ. Dream car is the Audi R8, it's only 115k…Cheaper than the Lexus LFA which starts at 375k…

        I need to go play Megabucks right now…ugh…


  • FabulouslyBroke.com - Crap. What are they going to think when they see that I save 95% of my income?

    (I'm being a little sarcastic here)

    Honestly, if you don't feel like your life is being deprived of anything, then it isn't. People who say my life is boring and really really tiresome (I can see their points), are seeing it from their bias.

    Me, I'd probably see their lives as exhausting and painful, to have to go out every weekend, party.. I'm more of a homebody.

    To each their own!! ReplyCancel

  • Shandril - I suppose there's inherently some level of deprivation involved, but I prefer to think of it as delayed gratification. I'm cutting back now so that I can spend it later. (Although this mindset only works really well when I'm cutting back on small spendings now to spend on big things later… not cutting back on big things now to spend on small stuff later.) Which just comes back to the above comments… I should eat out less so I can take those vacations more often. ReplyCancel

  • CityFlips - I don't know that I agree that deprivation is the name of the game. Only because I associate it with negativity. I do believe that you can't just give in to every desire and expect to save! It's the same thing I suppose, but the attitude is different in my opinion. Sometimes I'd like to spend more money on coffee. I like the routine of getting a nice latte from my favorite coffee shop. For now, I choose to enjoy coffee I make in my office. I have a little french press and yummy coffee and I'm happy enough. I use 30-35% of my take home for paying off debt. Then about 25% goes in the travel fund. I'm a grad student, so there's not much left over after that! It covers all my bills and a few luxuries a month. I live with my mom which makes this all possible! ReplyCancel

    • Marie - I prefer to think about it more positively, as well. No one wants to be deprived! But, there is also only so much money to go around (for most people, anyway). So, the goal is to figure out what you really, truly desire, and to slash your spending in other areas. Changing it from "I can't afford X" to "I choose not to purchase X, because I prefer to save for Y," is a big difference. ReplyCancel

  • Margo - The best comment in reply to the NYT article pointed out that frugality affects your ability to "date" regularly (whether this means actual dating or just hooking up is up to you). Savings is a whole lot easier when you're in an established relationship. The pursuit is what kills so many of us!


  • Yakezie Carnival | The Saved Quarter - […] Well Heeled Blog asks, Do Saving and Self-Deprivation Go Hand in Hand? […]ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - There has to be a balance. You don't want to put those trips off for too long. Some things you have to do while you're young and healthy. My dad died at age 66. There's no guarantee that you will live to use all of the money you've saved for retirement. That said, I'm saving as much as I can, but BF and I take a nice trip every year (granted, not overseas every year, by any means) and travel for several long weekends throughout the year, too. Right now we don't have kids and we're doing OK, and my dad dying made me realize that we DON'T have an endless amount of time and health and freedom to go where we want to. ReplyCancel

  • Redeeming Riches - I'm sure we all feel conflicted some times. Sure, we want to save as much as we can for that "big day", but we also want to enjoy our lives now. I think as Bonnie said, there should be some balance. I love what Trent from Simple Dollar talks about in his book with regards to spending money on experiences, not on items. The experiences will build memories and happiness moreso than the latest gadgets and devices. ReplyCancel

  • Tea - I'm not nearly as great a saver as you, but as I've growned financially this year, cutting off my dependence on credit cards and actually keeping money in my savings account I do feel deprived. What's funny is that I make more and do more than I did when I was using my CCs so heavily, but I still feel like if I take that bit of money I've saved out of my savings account and spend it NOW, I'll be a happier person.

    After typing this all out, I see that that's ludicrous. I always feel better about saving than I do about doing the thing that I would have used my money on and my blog readers keep me accountable too. Great post! ReplyCancel

  • Wheels17 - Having just retired at 56 in a position where, if I'm careful, I shouldn't HAVE to work again, I'm very happy with the "privations" I've taken. I was fortunate to have a good job as well.
    The best thing I did was to divert any raise I received to tax sheltered retirement accounts. After some years pass, you're saving a big percentage of your income without feeling the bite, since you never saw the money in the first place. Your lifestyle adjusts to what you have in your check(which I tend to spend completely). 20 years of the maximum 401K contribution, at a 4.17% return will give you half a million. When you hit 50, you can add another $5,500 per year. ReplyCancel

  • @asparrow16 - It depends. Are you digging grocery money out of the couch between paychecks? Are you starting fights over the last loaf of bread in the the 25c rack because Miss Mink Coat just bought it to feed the squirrels and you need it for your kids?____I've been in the "We're saving $100/week and eating PB& ramen" stage. I hate it. I'd rather save $50 and eat hamburger. ReplyCancel

  • kevin - I really don't understand why everyone is always so intent on traveling if they have extra money. Traveling is waayyyy overrated in my opinion. I'd much rather had a bit nicer house/condo that i can enjoy everyday than spend the money on a trip that lasts a week. ReplyCancel

  • Starshard0 - To be perfectly honest, I've found that I'll never be happy so long as I have a job. If that means that I have to deprive myself of things now to quit working sooner, then nothing in the world would make me happier. ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - no way dude, I try to save 30% of each paycheck, last year I was spending each paycheck,this year I'm saving so I've improved yay! You know with each paycheck I spend it on something so I don't feel deprived as I save. Whether its a dinner out, an e-book, a coffee at starbucks, etc. I do something that makes me feel happy and not deprived. You can spend as long as you save along the way. My rule is at least 30% because 10% savings isn't enough. ReplyCancel

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