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Tom Scotus

Should You Be Frugal Or A Big Spender?

Chest - Flickr Image - Ben BeardI’ve always liked to save money, but recently I splurged a little. My snow blower needed a major repair. I had bought it used and it had served me faithfully for 17 winters. I could have had it repaired for about $300, instead I treated myself to a new one for almost a $1,000. When I told my wife what I had done, she said, “It’s okay. You deserve it.” Seeing that brand new, shiny machine nestled in my garage makes me feel really good. I can’t wait until it snows!

So, I can understand why many people spend too much. The “high” that comes with buying new things can be very addicting. But the down side is often debt, money worries, stress and depression. And have you noticed that the “high” quickly wears off? The shiny new car, television, or fridge soon becomes stale. If you are an addicted consumer, you need to buy again!

Corporations spend billions of dollars a year to get us to buy, buy, buy. A big part of their strategy is to convince us that our older stuff, even if it still works well, is obsolete. Also, owning a flashy car, a large home, and designer clothes can give us the social status and the feeling of success that we may crave. Therefore, many of us routinely replace perfectly good things, simply because we want something “better.” Obviously, materialism, hedonism and egoism impede our spiritual progress and a lack of savings is unwise. However, being too frugal is also bad.

“If you deny yourself in order to accumulate wealth, you are only accumulating it for someone else … Don’t deny yourself a single day’s happiness. If there is something you want to do and it is lawful, go ahead! Some day all that you have worked for will be divided up and given to others” (Sirach 14:4, 14-15).

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” That is true. However, “You only live once and you can’t take it with you,” is also true! There is an obvious contradiction here, so how can both be true? The best approach is a balance between the two extremes. Being very frugal may give us a fat bank account but will make life a lot less enjoyable. Extravagant spending will destroy our finances. The bottom line? It’s good to save. Just don’t overdo it!