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How we spend our money


Since we started paying off our debt, we’ve been talking about the kind of party we’ll have when it’s finally paid off. We also talk a lot about what we will eventually want to spend our money on. I know many things about the way we live probably won’t change, but sometimes a little bit of dreaming about what WILL change helps me get through a “feeling sorry for myself” stage. Keeping a list of all the things we’ll do and buy once we’re debt free helps me, even if its unrealistic, to hold off a few more years on things I’d rather have now.

Here’s my list of things we’ll spend money on AFTER we’re out of debt:

1. Vacations as a couple. We only travel for family, friend, or work obligations or holidays. A little time to ourselves would be so nice.
2. Dental care. We could both use quite a bit of work, but even with insurance it’s expensive.
3. Healthcare. We both avoiding spending money on healthcare as much as possible.
4. Healthier food. I’d love to buy only local/ organic, but it just doesn’t fit into our budget yet.
5. Having clothes tailored/ buying shoes and clothes that are comfortable and fit well. I day dream about flattering, well-fitting clothes and shoes. One day!
6. Just a few home improvements. Even the littlest things are expensive! I don’t want any huge improvements, just a few things here and there that are bound to add up.
7. Charitable giving. We have a few friends in missionary-type roles and I would love to support them financially. It will also feel great to give more to our church as we’re able.
8. Birthday/holiday/wedding/baby gifts. I LOVE giving gifts. Even if it’s just money, I like giving as much as I can. This is challenging on a tight budget, but I’m looking forward to having more freedom in this budget category.

Things that probably won’t change:
1. New cars. We’re both committed to running our cars till they’re done.
2. Buying new clothes. I’m happy to shop at thrift stores and garage sales for clothes. Buying new clothes that are not on sale is just not something I think I’ll ever be ok with.
3. New furniture and housewares. I could be wrong about this, but I’m not into spending a lot on new furniture. 90% of what we have is used, which makes me more comfortable using them myself. There’s nothing worse than being a clutz in a home where expensive things can get damaged, stained, broken, etc. I would rather have inexpensive things that can be replaced easily and not worried about.
4. Jewelry. Adam had to talk me in to getting a wedding ring. I’m just not into flashy things.
5. Luxury items. To reiterate every other point, I’m uncomfortable with things that cost a lot that can be ruined or broken, for instance, sunglasses, handbags, clothes, cars, furniture.
6. Cable. Don’t have it, don’t need it.
7. Cigarettes, expensive alcohol (Adam might disagree with me here- he loves a good bourbon) lottery tickets, other drugs.

What are you looking forward to spending more budget dollars on?


  • Reply Chitown |

    Such a great post! I may do something similar. For now, I am definitely looking forward to traveling and doing different things for entertainment like wine tastings and cooking classes. =)

  • Reply Honey Smith |

    You are begging for a world of hurt if you put off health care and dental care. Those should be top priorities, even above paying off debt (unless you are talking about cosmetic dentistry or maybe orthodontics, which may not be necessary for healthy teeth).

  • Reply Adam |

    I think Emily meant “altered” clothing, not tailored. We may have clothes changed to fit better but I don’t think we’d have a custom-made wardrobe.

    Neither of us smoke so I don’t see us spending on cigarettes. I don’t think we’ll ever have much alcohol in the house.

    This is so good to see what Emily wants to prioritize when there is extra money. See how her values of thriftiness, family time, and giving come through?! way cool.

  • Reply Steve |

    I had the impression from your early posts that you are people of faith. Does your $300 charitable giving represent a tithe? See Malachi 3:10 in the Bible. Best wishes on your journey!

  • Reply Bethlehem |

    I would have to agree with Honey’s comment re: putting off necessary health care and dental care. I work in the dental field and have seen too many patients postpone dental treatment. Usually patients are waiting until they have insurance/FSA money/extra money, but so many of their needed treatents end up turning into very expensive, not to mention painful, emergencies before they ever get those extra funds.

    I love reading your posts and I know you will reach your financial goals. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply OC Budget |

    Vacation would be my top pick to save for after I am done with my debt pay off!

    I have the itinerary planned for Germany already. πŸ˜›

  • Reply Tehmina |

    It’s nice to see you guys are committed to financial discipline which offers huge benefits in return for a few bearable drawback. For instance, notice how you automatically stay away from unhealthy lifestyle choices (alcohol and unhealthy junk food).

  • Reply Cathy C. |

    I’m looking forward to just having peace of mind. We lived stupid for a lot of years, buying brand new car after brand new car and purchasing our dream home. We’re working a bit backwards since we only starting thinking about debt payoff about 2 years ago when we realized we had a lot of extra money every month and we were blowing it all.
    After we paid off our consumer debt, we didn’t treat ourselves to anything. We jumped right into building an emergency savings and figuring out a plan to pay off our house fast. I think I want to take a big vacation in a few years, but my husband wants to throw a bunch more at our retirement savings.
    We do have a joint goal of retiring before age 60 and buying a home in Costa Rica. It’s going to take a lot of focused energy to meet that goal! I’m sure it will never happen, but having big goals and dreams is a good thing:)

  • Reply m doats |

    Can you clarify the dental and health care comments? These expenses should certainly come before hair cuts, unless you are referring to cosmetic improvements like teeth bleaching. Let us know, a lot of your commenters are now alarmed!!

  • Reply Liz |

    Just wanted to let you know that the e-mail subscription cut off your post this morning – hopefully you can get the bug fixed soon!

  • Reply Lynda |

    When we initially set up our budget to pay off debt we had to make it livable so we would stick to it. That meant allowing for activities that were a priority for us and our kids. Life still goes on as you’re paying off debt. By doing this we learned to be really creative as have our kids. We are givers and have always given away between 12 – 15% of our income – just a desire for us as a family so it was factored into the budget. Now that all but our mortgage is gone ( and this will be out of the way in a little over 5 years) we have more to add to savings for those emergencies, future needs and desires like vehicles, orthodontics, property fixes, etc.. The lifestyle we created in working to get debt free, holds us in line now to prioritize our needs so we don’t get back into debt, and it lets us know there is a difference between wants and needs and how to determine what’s really worth the investment. Our priorities and interests are different from others. Everyone needs to determine what is worthwhile for them and as debt goes away it’s a nice treat to be able to easily put a few extras into the budget : ) Once the mortgage is gone I really want to set more aside for travel, particularly to be able to do China heritage tours for my daughters as they get older.
    It’s a good idea to dream like this to remind yourself that there WILL be a day that you have reached your goals and will have those funds to allocate to far more interesting things than debt payoff!

  • Reply Sylvia |

    Like many others, the dental/health care issues raised a red flag for me. My teeth were always perfect (straight even without orthodontia, first cavity at over 30 years of age) until, all of a sudden, they weren’t. A neglected cavity turned into a $2000 plus root canal/crown. Much like getting new tires/brakes for your car, a little preventive maintenance for your body goes a long way and can head off much more serious and costly problems down the road.

    We’ll finish paying off the house (the last of our debt) next year and will, in the short term, save the entire mortgage payment for an end-of-year trip to Australia to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. In the long term, instead of finding something to spend that money on (an extra $1200 per month), we’ll simply add it to what we’re currently saving toward retirement. We’re in the process of simplifying our lifestyle so that we can move from our house into a much smaller apartment/condo after the children leave the nest.

  • Reply Joe |

    Just to echo others, please don’t short-change routine preventative healthcare and dental care. Annual physical, and preferably two but at least one dental cleaning. These are co-payments well spent!

  • Reply SKM |

    A quick note on the dental care area … not sure how much that insurance would cover, or at all – but I know that my friends have saved money by utilizing the cleaning services at the local dental college that is in their town. Does your area have something similar?

    Seriously – when I was in debt, I put off going to the dentist for about three years. And I paid for it. Over and over again when I could have just allocated money towards that in the first place.

So, what do you think ?