Budget, Family Finances

Can You Be Both Spontaneous and Frugal?

July 20, 2015
Can you be both spontaneous and frugal?

I rarely spend money without first planning for it. Having been on such a tight budget for so long means that I usually have to pry my wallet open. I don’t go shopping unless I need something in particular, and I hate when unexpected expenses pop up.

Even grocery shopping entails about 30 minutes of clipping coupons and writing a list of items by department. Saving $20 at the grocery store could be the difference between being able to pay the utility bill on time or facing over-draft charges. Every purchase for our home is usually calculated, literally and figuratively, into our finances, because we don’t have much wiggle room in our budget for error.

A bunch of home-bodies

What this boils down to is that, as a family, we aren’t very spontaneous. Both because of our tight budget and my husband’s erratic work schedule, we don’t just pick up and travel on a whim. We’re very much home-bodies who would rather rent a red-box movie than go to the theater. Most of our day off activities are free or really inexpensive and planned in advance. Now that I have kids, I have a tendency to equate spontaneity with wasted money and poor financial choices.

Ditching the deliberate and dull 

As newlyweds we did a fair bit of spontaneous travel and made impulsive purchases. While not always the most responsible, spontaneous use of our money was fun. Spontaneity keeps life interesting and fresh. Being willing to jump up at a moment’s notice and take off helps rub the sheen back into a dull life. Until last night, we hadn’t done anything spontaneous in a painfully long time.

Last night we had finished the post-dinner routine, and the kids were watching a cartoon. Since I had a free minute, and inspired by an article by Carrie of Careful Cents to create a productive work space, I got on Craigslist to see if I could find an inexpensive desk or entry table that I could buy to use as my own work space. We have a desk in our office, but my husband’s desktop computer takes up the whole surface, and it’s in the den where the kids tend to spend quite a bit of their time. I have a hard time getting work done in that room while the kids are awake.

After only about 10 minutes of different search terms, I found a beautiful, solid wood desk, with the exact dimensions I needed, listed for only $25. At 7:30 last night I called the sellers to see if the desk was still available. It was, but they were selling it out of Richmond, and they were moving so they needed it gone immediately. She sent me the address, and I told her that we would be there by 9:30.

Spontaneous frugality

So, instead of quiet, lazy bedtime routine, we quickly got our kids in their jammies, brushed their teeth, and piled everyone in the van for a three hour round trip to Richmond and back. Since it was his bedtime anyway, our son fell asleep before we even reached the highway. Our daughter chatted our ears off from the back seat the whole way to Richmond. Getting in the car that late, with no prior notice, was like a shot of adrenaline for her. She was so excited to watch the sunset come down over the trees and watch the deer grazing the edge of the tree line. We danced to music, talked, and enjoyed this spontaneous adventure as a family.

Our daughter fell asleep after we had gotten the desk, so my husband and I had a solid hour and a half ride home uninterrupted by kids, phones, computers, or the television. For $25 for the desk and $20 in gas, round-trip, I have a beautiful, solid wood desk and a fun memory of that time we allowed ourselves to be spontaneous again.

My new  work space

My new work space

Being spontaneous can save you money 

Sometimes you can still be frugal while also being a bit spontaneous. Not only did life unexpectedly give me the opportunity to save some money, but going for a late night trip to pick up a desk off of Craigslist was like a breath of fresh air for the whole family. The experience put a pep in my step, I don’t have quite as bad of a case of the “Mondays” today, and I have a beautiful desk to organize as my own work space.

Do you ever allow yourself to break away from routine? Do you think that you can be both frugal and spontaneous?

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25 Comments

  • Reply Hannah July 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    We try to be both frugal and spontaneous by building in “fun splurge” money into our monthly budget. It’s usually not a ton, but it’s enough for us. We also always budget for a full tank of gas even though we don’t have any daily driving responsibilities. This way we can drive all over town for some low cost fun without breaking our budget.

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 20, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      Budgeting in “spontaneous excursion” money is a great idea, Hannah. That’s a nice way to have your cake and eat it too!

  • Reply Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore July 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I like the desk Kristi! Do you have any plans to change it’s color or look to make it your own? I had my desk re-done by a lady in town in a pretty gold color to go with my room and be a little more fun. Maybe you can DIY-it?
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays Ninety Ninth EditionMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 20, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Thanks, Kayla! I’m not sure yet what I want to do with it. My husband and I are still bickering about where it should go, haha. I want to be able to have it in a room where I can close the door and work while he is home to watch the kids, but he doesn’t want it in our room (the only viable room option with a close-able door at the moment) because he works nights every other month and doesn’t want my computer lights to keep him awake. If I get my way, I might paint it a robin’s egg blue color, but if I keep it where it is right now (in the dining room) I will keep it the way it is, because it matches our dining room table.

  • Reply Lisa @ Try A Simple Life July 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Your new desk is beautiful! And what a fun memory you will have every time you sit down at it! I too equated spontaneity with wasted money, especially since there were many years when our kids were younger that we had only one income. Now that we have a little extra spending money, we are a tad more spontaneous, but definitely still frugal – McDonalds has really good $1 sundaes and even cheaper cones :) I am learning though that the spontaneous moments make good memories!

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 20, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Thank you! I agree that spontaneous decisions make for the best memories!

  • Reply Lee July 21, 2015 at 1:05 am

    I think absolutely you can be frugal and spontaneous. Some of our best memories as a family are when we’ve just decided to do silly things (go to the beach and have an ice cream on freezing cold, snowy days; go splashing in muddy puddles in winter; go for a walk on a summer evening that turns into a crazy, exhausting run). It’s all about your mindset.

    I think our society makes too much of a “thing” about what we spend and when. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun. I’ll be taking my kids fishing in the summer at a local river – it costs nothing, and we’ll have a great time. They also love going for bush walks and “adventures” – random journeys that lead nowhere.

    By the way, that desk is gorgeous :)
    Lee recently posted…Why I am privileged, and why I am thankfulMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

      I agree, Lee! You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have fun. We love muddy puddle jumping and fishing!

  • Reply Kirsten July 21, 2015 at 5:27 am

    A little off topic, but man am I worried about creating that work space I need when we move. I have a complete office in our house right now, but we are moving in to a small apartment. We are selling our desk and filing cabinet combo and Im worried about getting a set-up there. I don’t think there will be room. Which is a problem, since I have a desktop computer only, after my laptop died. Sigh.

    But I am glad you scored a great deal and I am hoping someone wants our desk quickly, too!
    Kirsten recently posted…7 Staycation Ideas for Summer BreakMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 21, 2015 at 10:21 am

      I’m sure it will be an adjustment, but you’re crafty, thrifty, and smart! I’m sure you’ll figure out a work space solution that may even be better than what you currently have.

  • Reply Anum @Current on Currency July 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Love the desk! I love spontaneity but also realize that it can be a huge money drain. I always budget for my excursions by leaving a buffer for things like that each month. I don’t always end up using the money, so then it goes into my savings. For me, it’s just comforting to know that I’ll be able to afford the odd spontaneous trip once a month.
    Anum @Current on Currency recently posted…These 20-Somethings Get Real About How They Live Alone on Less Than 40K a YearMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 23, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Thank you, Anum! Budgeting for spontaneity is a great way to cover the unexpected costs of doing something out of the ordinary.

  • Reply Jennifer @ WanderlustWallet July 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    What a great find on Craigslist! We still have furniture we bought on Craigslist years ago that has served us well and that we plan to keep for some time. It is interesting to think of spontaneity and frugality. I think frugality can make it harder, but definitely not impossible, to be spontaneous. It may just require a little more creativity.
    Jennifer @ WanderlustWallet recently posted…Seven Reasons to Visit Venice, With Tips to Help You Save MoneyMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 23, 2015 at 11:51 am

      I am a big fan of craigslist. Most of the furniture in our house was either free or very inexpensive like the desk. I agree, frugality does make it harder, but not impossible to be spontaneous.

  • Reply Chonce July 21, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I love the desk! And I love your take on shaking up your daily routine by being a little spontaneous. We’ve definitely sunken into a rather dull predictable routine this summer and I try to budget ahead for each outing but it’s nice to switch it up some time.
    Chonce recently posted…Hot To Stop Letting Money Control YouMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 23, 2015 at 11:53 am

      Thank you! I love it too. It’s perfect for what I was looking for.

      The dull repetition of our days made me more willing to jump up and do something new. I like routine, but when I have been in a rut, I need to “get the wiggles out” as I say to my daughter, lol. Sitting in one spot for too long makes me restless.

  • Reply Alexis @ Fitnancials July 21, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    I am pretty spontaneous when it comes to all parts of my life. I love to take last minute traveling trips whenever possible.
    Alexis @ Fitnancials recently posted…5 Reasons Why What You Eat MattersMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 23, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Spontaneity is great! It’s a lot harder for me to be able to get up and travel with two young kids right now, but in college I would frequently take last minute trips out of town.

  • Reply Alexa July 23, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I love this story. I need to be more spontaneous. My family is not spontaneous AT ALL. We are very routine, which is mostly my preference. I especially hate interrupting the girls bedtime routine. But yes, I think you demonstrated perfectly that you can be both, spontaneous and frugal :)

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 23, 2015 at 11:57 am

      Thank you, Alexa! I’m a creature of habit as well. I usually wouldn’t be willing to interrupt their bedtime, but It’s fun to spice things up on occasion!

  • Reply The Sunshine Blogger Award and What's Going On? - Shoeaholic No MoreShoeaholic No More July 24, 2015 at 5:01 am

    […] Can You Be Both Spontaneous and Frugal? – Moderate Muse […]

  • Reply Christina @ Embracing Simple July 24, 2015 at 10:19 am

    I feel like now that I have a kid, I am definitely able to be more spontaneous. And I’m much more willing to spend a few dollars to have a great time with her and create memories. It’s made me realize that it’s possible to still live a frugal life, but have some balance and be willing to spend a little here and there to be able to enjoy her childhood and do fun things as a family :)
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    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 24, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      It’s funny how kids affect people differently. I feel like I was definitely more spontaneous without kids, but I do like to pick up and do randomly fun things on occasion now that I have a family of my own. It’s hard to be spontaneous when factoring in naps and bedtime etc.

  • Reply Mariana @ Brooklyn Based Girlfriend July 26, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I like this post, Kristi. It is very true that being spontaneous usually means that $$ is spent. But on the other hand being spontaneous means being open to possibilities and getting a great deal that otherwise we may not encounter.
    Mariana @ Brooklyn Based Girlfriend recently posted…Last Week’s Frugal AccomplishmentsMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you, Mariana! There’s definitely a perfect balance that can be struck with enjoying spontaneity and keeping your budget in check.

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