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6 Things Our Family Has Chosen to Splurge On

6 Things Our Family Has Chosen to Splurge On

Note: This post was inspired by Andrea Dekker’s post on

I think that many people have this idea that if you’re frugal, it means you’re miserable. That you save every single penny and hold onto it for dear life.

In my view, that’s not what frugality looks like at all. Yes, I’m an advocate of never spending more than you need to. Yes, I’m a firm believer in taking time to scout out the best deal. Yes, I’m all about making-do and doing without if you are in a tight spot financially.

But despite all of this, I do not believe that you should become a miser or a tightwad in the name of “frugality.” After all, I believe money is just a tool. The purpose of money is not to accumulate as much of it as you can; it’s to do as much good with it as you can.

This is not just about giving and making an impact, but also about investing and spending your money in a way that is in line with your family’s priorities. It means deciding to save money in areas that don’t matter to you so that you can spend more money in areas that do matter to you.

The purpose of money...

For the first few years of our marriage, pretty much every extra penny went to paying for making it through undergrad and law school debt-free. We had made a choice: 1) to invest our money into law school and 2) to try to do it debt-free.

By making these choices, it meant that other things had to take a back seat: we didn’t buy anything that wasn’t a basic necessity and we made-do over and over again in order to stay out of debt.

Choices can have either consequences or rewards. In this case, it turned out to be rewards because those choices put us in a position to eventually have wiggle room in our budget to make other choices — like being able to splurge on some budget areas that are important to us.

As our budget has increased, we’ve have lots of conversations over what areas are priorities to us and what really matters to our family long-term. These priorities sometimes change as our seasons of life change — and that’s a good thing! Priorities and needs change over time and so should our budget.

Here are 6 things we have decided are worth splurging on right now in this season of our life:

1. Giving Generously

This is paramount to everything we do and the driving force behind why we want to manage our money well. Truly, there is so much blessing in being a giver!

And the thing we’ve found is that you can’t out-give God. The more we open up our hands and let Him use our resources to impact others, the more fulfillment and joy we receive in return.

2. Children’s Activities/Sports

All of our kids are actively involved in one sport — Kathrynne is on swim team, Kaitlynn takes ice skating lessons and private coaching, and Silas just started baseball. Each of these costs a fair amount of money — from the cost of equipment to the costs involved with competitions and swim meets, to the costs involved with lessons and coaching.

For some families, this investment might not seem worth it — especially when you factor in the time investment (Kathrynne has swim practice/meets 3-4 times per week, Kaitlynn has lessons/coaching 3-4 times per week, and Silas has baseball once per week). For our family right now, we feel that this is money and time well invested because of the character we see our children developing.

Not only do these activities encourage our children to be more outgoing and brave in new situations with new kids and adults, but it challenges them to work hard, learn to listen and follow the instructions of their teachers and coaches, face their fears head-on, and have a good attitude even when they struggle or don’t place well in a competition. We truly believe that the lessons they are learning from these sports will be invaluable for them the rest of their life.

Case in point, just last night, Kaitlynn showed me a large bruise on her arm that she’d gotten from a bad fall in ice skating. I said something like, “Ouch! That had to really hurt!” She quickly responded enthusiastically, “My coach says that if you don’t have bruises, you’re not an ice skater!”

Instead of running from hard things, she’s embracing them as part of the process of perfecting new ice-skating jumps and maneuvers!

6 Things We Splurge On

3. A Cleaning Lady

I fought against the idea of hiring a cleaning lady for a long, long time. It felt so extravagant and just plain wrong for a frugal person like me to spend their money on.

But Jesse kept on encouraging me to just consider it. Finally, after much coaxing from him, I broke down and tried it one time.

And I was hooked.

For many people, this might not be a wise investment of their money and I honestly hesitated to even put this out here publicly for awhile because I know that some people might be a little put off by it.

But here’s the truth: Jesse and I both work 30-40 hours per week and we are committed to homeschooling our kids, so we’re learning that we have to look for ways to streamline and simplify our lives if we want to have breathing room and margin.

Having a cleaning lady come in a few times per month saves us at least 15-20 hours each month. That’s 15-20 hours we get back to invest in our kids, invest in our marriage, and maybe even to spend sleeping or just enjoying downtime!

When we divided the cost by the number of hours it saves us, we realized that it was very worth this expense for this season of life. Because we make a good income and because we found a cleaning service with good rates, it really only costs us a few hours of our time working to pay for the cleaning service each month. Right now in my life, I’m all about spending a few hours of time working in order to save 15-20 hours per month!

We still have to keep up the daily maintenance — and we all pitch in to help with laundry, pick up, bathrooms, kitchen cleaning, etc., but it’s been incredibly helpful to have someone come in and clean our floors, dust, deep clean the shower/tubs/toilets, and clean our windows.

4. A Good Hair Stylist (for me)

I’ve mentioned this before, but this is probably one of my biggest (and one of the few!) splurges I make on myself.

There’s something about a good hair day that just makes the whole day so much better! Having a good hair stylist means that I have mostly good hair days instead of constantly fussing and being frustrated with my hair when I mostly cut it myself.

When I started going to get my hair done at a more expensive place about five years ago, I quickly realized what a difference it made. My hair looked much nicer. It was much easier to fix. And it needed very little maintenance from me on a daily basis.

In addition, Jesse loves it when I spend time and money on my appearance (he’s the spender in our relationship, remember?!), so investing some money on my hair every other month is actually a way that I show my husband that what’s important to him is important to me.

5. A Gym Membership (for Jesse)

When we moved to Tennessee, Jesse signed up for a guy’s fitness group at a small locally-owned gym here. Honestly, this has been one of the best things he’s ever done for his health!

He’s faithfully gone to the gym at 6 a.m. 3 times each week almost every week since signing up and it’s been so amazing to see the impact it’s made in his life. Not only has he gotten a lot stronger and fitter, he’s had so much more energy and zest for life as a result!

I love to see how healthy and strong he’s becoming and how he’s pushing himself and excelling. The accountability and motivation he’s received from going to the gym and being apart of this group for the past 10 months has been life-changing for him!

6 Budget Areas Our Family Splurges On

6. Traveling as a Family

We keep things pretty simple at our house and don’t spend a lot of money on Christmas or birthdays. Instead, we’ve decided to prioritize traveling and giving our children experiences versus things.

Since we homeschool and Jesse and I are both self-employed and can work anywhere, this allows us the flexibility to be able to travel regularly. And we all love doing so!

We’ve found a lot of ways to travel inexpensively: we look for great deals online and book things when they are at their lowest rates, we almost always use the same airline and hotel chain so that we can rack up points and use these for free tickets and hotel stays, and, as much as is possible, we utilize credit from Swagbucks to cover the costs of some of our travel expenses.

While these tricks allow us to spend as little money out of pocket as possible each trip, we still do invest a fair amount of money on travel each year. However, for our family, the memories we make, the things we get to the see, the history and geography we learn together, the experiences we get to share… are all worth the investment.

Your turn: What does YOUR family splurge on? Or what do you hope to splurge on when you have the wiggle room someday?

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167 Comments

  • chelsea says:

    I love this list Crystal! We do almost all these, except the cleaning lady. But now that my kids are getting older, they help out in this area. Its awesome!

    The area we “splurge” on the most is definitely food. High-quality food is worth more to me than high-quality clothes, appliances, or anything else really. Our food budget is higher than most, but I would bet our eating-out budget is much lower than most, too. Plus, our overall health this past year has been incredible, without anyone getting sick, and I attribute it to us keeping our bodies healthy.

  • says:

    I really love this post! I’ve just made the decision to invest in a full diet CSA that provides vegetables, eggs, meat, and grains straight from the farm. This is going to involve a fair amount of cash, and i’ve been feeling guilty about it because how hard I’ve had frugal living drilled into me (as a kid) and then drilled it into myself (as an adult). But eating this way and challenging myself to only eat this way (this will take up all of my grocery budget) is worth it to me and it’s good to be reminded to spend on those things. Thanks for sharing!

  • says:

    Great choices! I splurge on essential oils every month, but they replace a lot of things I used to buy. We also splurge for a gym membership for my husband, but he doesn’t go as faithfully as yours does! I really wish he did. Having a hard time justifying the cost since he falls out of habit with it so much.

  • says:

    Love this post. When we were homeschooling with little ones, I could not afford a cleaning lady, BUT I could afford to hire teenage girls in the neighborhood to help me with my laundry mountains. Never regretted it!

  • says:

    Great post, Crystal! I actually have a similarities in my list to yours. I splurge on good haircuts for myself (I have crazy hair), “clean” meat and produce, good vacations for our family, and sports for our kids, and giving to our favorite ministries. We also homeschool, so we’ve made a monthly “homeschool needs” budget this year, and it’s been so freeing to go ahead and buy another book, art supplies, etc, because the money is already there! I am actually considering a cleaning service because I have 5 kids ages 19 mo. – 8 years, and with homeschooling, I am getting kind of desperate about the state of my house! Ha! My older boys are very helpful, but it’s still so hard to hit the whole house with a good cleaning. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy says:

      I know this is almost 2 years old, but I really hope you decided to get some cleaning help! 5 kiddos – it’s worth every penny!!

  • Christine says:

    Good for you! It’s exciting to see your hard work pay off so that you can now enjoy these things. I too splurge on my hair and travel. You’re right, a good hair cut makes all the difference!

  • AC says:

    I do all of these but I don’t like thinking of them as a splurge. To me the word splurge implies something you shouldn’t do but are doing anyway. If it fits within someone’s budget, it’s not a splurge, it’s an investment that has been budgeted.

    One area for which we have allocated a larger budget than many is food. We can afford to buy more fresh produce and higher quality items so we do. It hasn’t always been that way but it’s a change I’ve been happy to make.

  • says:

    I think it’s awesome that you hired a cleaning lady! I used to clean homes before getting married and was very grateful for the income. 🙂 And it’s jsut plain comforting to know you don’t do it all!

    “What do we choose to splurge on?” —

    High quality larger purchases: we don’t make big purchases often, but when we do, we research a lot and then choose good quality, even if it means a higher price tag.

    Healthy food/ quality supplements: thanks to Aldi, our grocery budget is pretty low, but we do splurge on non-homogenized milk, good beef, whole grains, etc. I also choose good quality herbs/supplements, because the difference in quality seems worthwhile.

    Family outings: my husband works a lot. As the frugal person in the family, I used to stress out when he wanted to take the family on a fun outing. Now I see it as a way for him to bless us with all the hard work he does.

  • Kim says:

    I don’t mean for this to be negative so I hope it does not come out that way. I just recently found your blog and have spent time reading through older posts (which I really like). I congratulate you on how hard you and your family have worked to get where you are and the sacrifices you have made. You made some very wise decisions from a very young age that many take years to learn.
    Of course I only know a part of story…what is on your blog. It seems to me that there could be more acknowledgement in your post like this one about readers, purchasers of your books and attendees of your speaking engagements. They are a large part of why December212012 is so successful.
    Without those devoted followers you would not be where you are today. Yes you made very wise decisions, but you also stumbled upon something that is very lucrative. Anything with the internet can be here today and gone tomorrow. Its not like medicine where you always going to have sick and/or hurt people and need physicians.
    Again from what I have read you are an amazing person, parent and wife who is extremely smart. I am not writing this to get posted just to hopeful give you some feedback. If you are not already doing it, I would encourage you to reach out and speak to young adults. As you know, decisions you made in those very early years can impact you for a long time. I hope you a have good weekend!

    • Jo says:

      Welcome! And you are absolutely right that I am forever indebted to my readers. As I often say (but it cannot be said too often), without my wonderful readers, there would be no blog. I LOVE this community here and am eternally grateful for all that everyone means to me and how you all have impacted my life. One of my very favorite things in all the world is to get to meet readers face-to-face so that I can personally tell them thank you for how they have been such a support, a cheerleader, and an encouragement!

      So thank YOU for being a new reader here. I’m so grateful to have you joining us in this journey!

    • Cindy says:

      In my opinion, Crystal has done an AMAZING job showing how thankful she is to all of us who follow her blog and purchase her books 🙂 I’ve seen much more about her gratefulness on this blog and emails than on any other site. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I think it’s obvious she isn’t taking any of this for granted.

    • Gina says:

      If you have the Periscop app Crystal is often on there talking to us and answering questions.

  • Ann says:

    THANK YOU for this post. My mom was visiting this weekend. My parents investments are now worth several million dollars, mostly because they scrimped and saved every (and I mean every) penny. We never took a family vacation, they have never upgraded their house or anything in it…and my mom regrets it. She would rather have more memories of fun (or at least less stressed) family togetherness than the estate they now have to figure out what to do with.

    • AC says:

      This is a great comment. A dear friend of mine growing up had parents very similar to how you’ve described yours. They aren’t millionaires but they are doing well now. Now that their kids are in their late 30s and early 40s. They help their kids a lot now by buying for the grandkids, etc. but I don’t think that can ever make up for the first 20 years of not being around much because of business commitments, not taking vacations, scrimping on every little thing. I can tell you my friend, while frugal, has chosen to do things differently because of that.

    • Elizabeth says:

      @Ann,
      Thank you so much for this comment! My husband and I just finalized on an offer for a new house. We looked for over a year and had a very low number in mind. When we found the perfect house 5 minutes from my son’s school we debated spending the money ( it was about $50,000 more than we wanted to spend) even though after being frugal for many years we could easily afford it. Our old house is very small and has never been updated. It still has the original 60’s kitchen and bathroom. I never let my older boys bring their friends over. I regret that. Now they can all have friends over and we are looking forward to creating fun memories with them. Thanks again!!

    • Steph says:

      I realize this comment was made 2 years ago, but it popped up at the perfect time for me. Thank you for sharing.

  • Claire says:

    I love this post. It’s so important to think about how we allocate our money and how we allow splurges on areas that are of high value to our specific families. Every family’s splurges will be different based on their values and their current life situation. In our family we “splurge” on Catholic school for our kids. A high-quality faith-based education is a priority for us. We also allow for a higher grocery budget in order to eat healthy (not entirely organic, but healthy). We buy a lot of fresh produce, nuts, organic dairy products, high quality meats, etc. Investing in our health will save us money on healthcare in the long run and improve our quality of life now. We also love to travel and share “adventures” with our kids as we have the money. It’s not exotic at this point in our lives, but every adventure, no matter how far or near is a learning experience and a memory making opportunity for all of us. And finally, after fighting it for a while (like you, Crystal), I am finally allowing us to get a housekeeper (after my husband pleading for one for a long time). We can afford it right now and it will save us a lot of time and anxiety on the weekends. If my husband’s income changes (and it does fluctuate), we will re-evaluate later.
    We do not splurge on eating out, clothing, or new/expensive cars. We also chose a more modest home than we could have purchased. These choices allow us our chosen splurges. 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    Right now we are splurging on buying organic foods, dental insurance for my husband . He didn’t want to pay extra but I think teeth are so important !!! We are also splurging on better non toxic products .

  • says:

    Right now we are splurging on stuff for the baby. Wife is due in 2 weeks – its down to the wire.

    A cleaning service is something we have looked into as well…we really do spend a ton of time cleaning.

  • says:

    Right now, we’re trying to get our small credit card debt paid down and set aside funds for inevitable hospital bills, since we’re having a baby in about 3 months. But so far in our marriage, the main things we’ve splurged on has been travel and cable. We took a trip to France last fall, and even though that’s where most of the debt originated, we both agree that the experience was worth it. The cable has actually been a good investment for us right now, too–I’ve been nauseous for this entire pregnancy, and the first several months in particular were so bad that pretty much the only thing we could do to spend time together was watch tv! My husband is also a huge hockey fan, and not of our most local team, so we haven’t found a good alternative to the hockey package that allows him to enjoy watching his favorite 2 teams. We’re talking about dropping cable for the summer to save a little money, but that will probably still be a splurge for us in the future. That, and the occasional fabric/craft supplies for me!

  • says:

    I like the fact that you decide to splurge mostly on experiences and that those priorities change over time. Imagine if we all take that stance and spend on what really matters to the family. We, as a couple, kind of do the same and spend more on traveling. Another bucket that we’re proud of is our gift and donations. Cheers to meaningful spending of your life energy:

  • Heather says:

    Love this post! We “splurge” on faith-based schooling for our daughter, sports for her, a gardener vs a house cleaner, milkman delivery to my porch of local dairy goods, organic fruits and veggies from a local farmer, since my hubby wears a strict uniform every day he likes one pair of nice sneakers, I have one favorite clear lipgloss I rock and we travel like you on deals, but make it happen. All this while we invest 100% of my income from my 30hr/week job while our daughter is in school and over half of my hubby’s income too. We lived lean for years to have some breathing room now.

  • Maria says:

    I just wanted to thank you for this post. My husband and I have been struggling with the balance between the “American dream” and giving all to the poor. Since I read your book, I’ve admired your servant heart. It’s nice to know that you do allow a few splurges. 🙂

  • says:

    Sometimes the return on a splurge is more than you can quantify. For example, I hate mowing the lawn. I mean, I *really* hate it. Just thinking about having to do it sends my blood pressure on an upward swing and anxiety grips my belly.

    So, spending to have my lawns mowed is very cheap stress relief therapy. Plus, my lawn guy gets the job done in a third of the time it takes me!

    Definitely worth the splurge.

  • Becky says:

    We have put music high on our list of priorities. My husband and I are both musicians, and it appears our children are following suit. Good quality instruments (and their maintenance), lessons, and ensemble and festival participation fees are all an important part of our budget. Also, our oldest daughter composes music, so a good Mac computer and accompanying software are included. On that Mac, she has composed a piece that will be played for the Offertory at our church on Easter Sunday…

  • Kim says:

    I have a few “splurges.” I have a gym membership ($36/month) and religiously go (5-6 times/week). I also look at it as an investment because I’m trying to take care of myself so I can take care of my kids (single mom). They also have childcare included so it’s worth it! This past year, I told myself that I would try to take care of myself so I try to get a massage every month. They have a deal at the local hospital when you buy a massage every 25th of the month, they take 20% off so it costs about $37 for an hour massage. It’s worth it to me and that’s one of the only things that really relaxes me! It’s so heavenly. Also, I use the child support money I get to allow my daughter to continue going to the Christian school she has gone to since she was in preschool (we also get some kind of aid to go). She also takes piano lessons. I look at it all as investments whether it’s time or in people! 🙂 Thanks so much for this post!

  • Rhvonda says:

    I have fibromyalgia and husband has some health issues so we splurge on young living oil products worth it feel so much better also organic as much as possible. We also prep so we save money by shopping resale goodwill yard sales

  • Erica says:

    I just love this post. It helps others to understand the balance that goes along with living a budgeted lifestyle. We have chosen to invest in Private school education for our daughters. Education is important in our household but a Christ centered one is number one. After much struggle I am reallocating some funds and increasing our grocery budget to invest in our health. Higher food quality as well as the products we use will have lasting health benefits.

  • Julie says:

    I enjoyed this post because I have often felt guilty about all the money (and time) we spend on kids athletics. 2 boys in travel hockey, 1 girl in dance/gymnastics year round is NOT cheap!! It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who sacrifices for this “splurge”. And a good hair stylist – I’m totally with you on that! 😉

  • Dani says:

    Thanks for this great post. I have read your blog for several years now. Your story is such a testimony of good stewardship. It has motivated many to make small changes that can lead to huge benefits. It has also motivated me personally to live with an eternal perspective. The advice, time, money-saving tips and help that you have given to your readers far exceeds the profits you have made on this blog. Your servant’s heart and kind responses to even your critics continues to point others toward the Savior.

  • Elisabeth says:

    LOVE your blog; it has helped and inspired me on many occasions (though I don’t often find the time to comment). You seem like such a great person in a number of ways. Thank you for being an inspirational force online and encouraging the best in others. Truly. <3

    P.S. I hire a cleaning person several times a year to do the deep cleaning stuff as well. I have small children, the cost is minimal, and it is such a relief to me to be able to spend that time doing important things for my family and not have to worry that I'm letting our home go. It is a huge positive for us as well!

  • Staci says:

    Good info. Do you still have a cleaning lady? Any comments or post on that in the new house? Season of life? I am looking into it.

  • Mandi G says:

    Right now our splurge is my staying home with the kids and homeschooling them. That experience is going to have to do it for my kids, as our budget is very tight. If I had a wish, it would be the ability to visit my parents and grandparents at least once a year, since kids grow so fast.

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