What’s a Favorite Thing That Money Has Allowed You to do?

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what has money done

If you’re a reader of many personal finance blogs you know that we enjoy talking about money. We talk about things like the evils of credit card debt, budgeting, planning for retirement and frugality. Essentially, these all boil down to being wise with money or looking for ways to getting back to a better financial status. Interestingly, what we don’t always talk about is what money allows us to do. Now, before you think I’ve left the ranch, please know that while I do believe in the need to do many, if not all, of the things I mentioned above, I also think that we need to allow ourselves to enjoy life from time to time and discuss what things money can allow us to do.

Life is too Short to be all Consumed With Money

As I shared in my post last year about losing our dear son Isaac shortly after he was born, I have come to grips ever more so with the fact that time is fleeting. We all have a certain number of days, some longer and some shorter and we generally can do nothing to get more time. On the other hand, we can almost always find more ways to make extra money. You can either pick-up a side job, sell things on Ebay/Craigslist, work overtime, etc. They may not be enjoyable, but you can almost always find more ways to bring in more. As much as we can get caught up in the fact of being wise with our money, I think we also lose sight of the fact that money can be used to do some very good things, enjoyable things that create memories that can last a lifetime. While I want to be able to pass on a financial legacy that will benefit our children and their children, I also want to make sure that I do not do that to the point that we’re sacrificing time together to create those memories that our family can cherish. There is a balance to have and one that I’d rather be on the side of enjoying life as opposed to getting blood out of a turnip.

Life is Meant to be Enjoyed

Jen wrote a great post a few months ago about the show “Extreme Cheapskates” and some of the individuals on that show who embrace frugality to an extreme – so much so that there are those who would wipe their butt with a used napkin. Call me crazy, but there is being frugal and there is being ridiculous…but that’s just my opinion. I honestly wonder how those individuals enjoy life. At the end of your days will you be happy that you managed to save a few extra dollars because you chose not to buy new TP, but chose instead to use your already used hand towels? I am sure that some may say yes, but overall I would seriously question those that claimed that they did. You see, just as we can be enslaved to money by living unwisely and spending like crazy, the flip side is also true – we can be enslaved to money when we make completely irrational decisions when it comes to being frugal and saving a few cents here and there. I know it can be easy to fall into that trap, if you allow yourself to, but I’d rather use money as a tool to allow my family to enjoy life as opposed to being a slave to it.

For Me, Money Allows Us to Create Memories

This really was meant to be an inspirational and light hearted post – it really was. 🙂 That said, while I do all that I can to manage our finances wisely I also do all that I can to use our money to create memories. If you take a look at that picture at the top of the post, it is one of my favorite pictures of our two oldest kids. There’s nothing really spectacular about it, and was really nowhere exotic – it was at the Minnesota State Fair last year. However, they had played their little hearts out at the Fair for two days. It was crazy hot both days, over 100 degrees if I remember correctly, and they had the time of their lives. This picture is an image that I plan on taking with me for years to come. It is the picture of contentment, a picture of fun and most importantly a picture of a love between a brother and a sister who’re sharing something as simple as a bag of popcorn. All of that came about because we made saving for summer vacations a priority where we can get away, spend time together and enjoy things we normally may not and all of that takes money to create. I could be miserly and choose not to do such things, but I’d much rather look back on life 30 or 40 years from now and remember that time we had and the fun our little ones had as opposed to having that money we spent on the trip in our retirement account.


What’s something fun you like to use money on to enjoy life and have you ever regretted it?


Photo courtesy of: Nicole S

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • GamingYourFinances says:

    Travel/vacations are also what we use our money for. We’ve been a bunch of places like Iceland, Ireland, Newfundland (Canada), Italy… And this year we hope to visit China and Japan. We’ve created a huge amount of wonderful memories on our travels.

    A simpler way we enjoy our money is just some good food and friends. Some nice cheese/meats and a glass of wine or beer!

    • John says:

      We like to use our money for travel as well. There is just so much to see in this world that we’d be remiss not to see as much of it as we can.

  • Thomas | Your Daily Finance says:

    I agree that having money is pointless if you are always consumed with never spending it. I think I read that its because people fears losing it and not being able to earn or get the money back. I enjoy going on trips with the wifey or the entire family. We went to Mexico for a week and it was the best time we had in a long time. We plan to do more weekend vacation type trips and living close to S. Beach we are going to check out more Miami Heat games. Seeing the smiles on the faces of your love ones is something money cant replace. Have those in photo albums and on your phones make it worth while to work hard and play hard.

    • John says:

      I would tend to agree with that Thomas, though I think that fear can be a bit shortsighted many times. I also agree that seeing those smiles on the faces of your family members is something money can’t replace.

  • JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit says:

    With just about anything going to the extremes is risky. Spending everything you earn and more is bad, and likewise I feel that extreme frugality (using old napkins as TP, seriously?) is bad as well. That’s why it’s very important to have a plan. If you want to be able to travel the world, set up a travel fund and save for it every month. Travel and time with friends/family is more important to me than driving a new car every 2 years so I don’t get a new car every 2 years. Sure it’d be nice to have but it’s not a great financial move as you’re killing yourself through the depreciation. Being conscious about your money and what you want out of life is a huge factor in determining your level of contentment and how much you enjoy life.

    • John says:

      I could not agree more JC. As with many things in life, balance is so vital. Great point on having a plan, we do that ourselves and it gives me further motivation to work towards what we want.

    • JMK says:

      Isn’t it great that there are people who do value new car smell enough to buy them? Otherwise I couldn’t keep on buying 3yr old cars! I personally think buying a new car is nuts, but that’s because I don’t value it and couldn’t care less what I drive. On the other hand, I know many people think we’re completely nuts to take our kids on European vacations every year. Of course it’s travel is a necessity, but after carefully examining what our personal priorities are, it came down to retiring early and travelling now (not waiting for retirement on that). Yes, it delays our early retirement by three years according to my calculations, but it’s a tradeoff we happily embrace.

  • Mark Ross | Think Rich. Be Free. says:

    Just like you money made me create and enjoy a lot of memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Without money I can’t buy things I like, we can’t travel to different places that we enjoyed going to, those are some but I still believe money can help me get more fun and life-changing memories as I grow older. 🙂

  • pauline says:

    buy time. to travel, get out of the office, and do what I want. I have never been big on stuff, so money has mostly bought me freedom.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Pauline. Having stuff is one thing, but I’d much rather have that freedom and the experiences that come with it.

  • Adam @ Money Bulldog says:

    I just like being able to treat the kids really. I know that’s a bit of a boring answer but I’m quite easily pleased myself and I don’t want for all that much. Watching the look on the kids face when we treat them to a nice day out or a new toy is priceless though. Nice to have you Guest Posting with us today mate!

    • John says:

      That’s really what it comes down to me as well Adam. I have plenty of things, and do not really want for anything – seeing the kids enjoy something because we were able to provide it to them is priceless.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    What a heart-warming post, John. Love the pic too. Right now, in our crazy tight situation, honestly, we’re just thrilled to have a house to live in and food to eat. Being so financially tight has made, for us, the basics of life seem especially joy-filled, as we have come to remember that many people in the world don’t even have that. We’ve become a bit drawn to observing the truly poor, and it’s not only helped us to realize how important it is that we rid ourselves of debt, but it’s made us realize how very much we have as well.

    • John says:

      Thanks Laurie! That’s a great perspective to have and one that we all can benefit from in my opinion. When we compare ourselves to 90%+ of the rest of the world, we’re so much better off and should make us more thankful for what we do have.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I would definitely say travel. I love traveling, experiencing new things, and seeing new places. It isn’t always cheap! That’s for sure.

  • Keren says:

    We like to go on short (day) trips. On Saturday, we drove about 2 1/2 hours to a train museum and toured that and rode the train. We then went to the local mall there and finished our school shopping. It was a great day! We saved money by not spending the night in a hotel but still made memories with the kids!

  • Alexa says:

    My favorite thing in life is making memories with me girls. We take a lot of trips to Chuck E Cheese and the Aquarium. I would not trade it for the world. We have such a great time and I just love watching my girls faces light up. That’s something money can’t buy!

  • Matt Becker says:

    Having our finances in order allows us to choose to splurge without much worry on little things when we’re on vacation, having friends visit, etc. Because our daily lives are frugal, the special occasions can be a little more special. That, to me, is a trade off that’s well worth it.

    • John says:

      We do the same exact thing Matt. We’re more frugal from day to day so we can travel and spend more while on a trip. It’s another reason why being more frugal in our day to day is so worth it for us.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Gotta love the Minnesota State Fair! I think that having “fun” goals for what you are going to do with your finances really helps motivate you to save more/make more/manage your money better. Over the past few years I have traveled a lot more, and I definitely do not regret spending the money on it and hope to do more travelling in the future.

    • John says:

      Yes, we did! It’s crazy big, but was a lot of fun. I agree, having those fun goals does help motivate us and make that saving a little easier.

  • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    You need to be able to spend your money on things that are worthwhile as it is no good to you when you are dead. I plan on doing a lot of things with my money, but first I want to be debt free. Once that happens I expect I will have lots of great memories of holidays and other fun times where we spent our money.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Glen. Being debt free does create more freedom to do more things. It can still be done, you just have to be a little more creative about it.

    • JMK says:

      I once read a suggestion that when working to pay off debt, make another version of your budget – the one you’ll follow once those debt payments are done. It’s very motivating to see your future options in black and white.

      Also, IMHO, by all means think about how you’d like to reward yourself when the debt is gone, but also give serious thought to what the next goal is. When you’ve been focussed on killing the debt for months or years it can be such a relief to be “done” that you go a bit crazy. That’s fine within reason, but I imagine you aren’t paying off your debt so that you can then live paycheck to paycheck because every extra cent is now being blown on fun and nonesence instead of debt. Get that out of your system, but then have a new plan. For us it’s early retirement which means every spare cent is going toward retirement savings and extra mortgage payments. The only exception to that is our annual trip. For other people they might be content to work to 65 and use the extra funds to renovate/build their dream home, or fully fund their children’s educations, or start a business, or…….. Once the debt stops consuming all your extra income the world it your oyster.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    It just brings you back to that old saying about no one on their death bed wished they had worked more. Making the most of your time with your family is the most important thing to me, and something about almost being 40 really brings that home. Money spent on experiences is usually money well spent in my book.

    • John says:

      Yea, I feel the same way with almost being 40 myself. Which is why spending money on those fun experiences with the family makes it so worth it.

  • No Waste says:

    Travel, travel, travel.

    Those experiences last forever, the memory of a thing fades quickly.

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    Great post John. As you know, I am a car guy, so I like to spend my money on my hobby vehicle. It makes me feel good, teaches me things about cars, and lets me get away for a little bit. I don’t regret spending the money and will continue to do so.

    • John says:

      Thanks Grayson! That’s exactly what I am talking about. That brings you happiness which can’t be replaced because you saved a few extra dollars.

  • AverageJoe says:

    The older I get the more I’m about money = experiences over money = things. If I can buy a first rate experience, I’m up for it. A new big screen? My little screen is working just fine, thanks.

    • John says:

      I hear ya Joe! Those thing, while nice for a time, all wear down. Those memories, however, can be taken with you and not wear down.

  • Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    It’s moments where I calculate time vs. cost savings that I remind myself that old saying: pennywise and pound foolish.

    Saving a couple of bucks or working extra hours after work to earn minimum wage is not worth the loss of energy and time away from loved-ones. I’d rather live a life full of good memories and on a tighter budget than work my tail off without any time to see others.

    • John says:

      I could not agree more Tara. Those memories can be priceless and are much more valuable, in my opinion, than working a few extra hours to make a little more in coin.

  • Mr. Utopia says:

    The best approach to me is right down the middle. In other words, use your money to create memories, but do so in a reasonable fashion. For example, instead of spending thousands of $’s to take a lavish trip to Hawaii, instead spend hundreds on a family camping trip. The same amount of fun can be had either way and the memories will last just as long.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Mr. Utopia, and one that we usually use. This, much like mot other things in life, is well served when balance is kept in mind.

  • anna says:

    That was my first time reading about the post on Isaac – thank you for sharing such a personal and vulnerable story, John, I appreciate you even more now. I agree with you that money provides the opportunity to create memories and provides for amazing experiences. It’s definitely one of the reasons why I value traveling so much.

  • Kostas says:

    What it allowed me is to enjoy my freedoms while not being worried about falling into desperate situations out of nowhere. One still needs to be watchful though!

  • Budget and the Beach says:

    I’d say travel is the biggest one, but on a more day to day basis I think it’s spending money on spending time with friends doing things you really enjoy. I don’t go overboard anymore with eating out, going out for drinks, etc. but I also don’t nickel and dime myself so much that if a friend I haven’t seen in awhile asks me if I’d like to go have a beer, then I usually say yes. I already spend a lot of time home alone at my apartment. I don’t want to be hermit just to save $8. People and relationships are important! Great article!

    • John says:

      I totally agree Tonya. I think it’s about finding that balance and prizing those experiences over a few measly bucks saved.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor says:

    Great photo; I’ve been to the Minnesota State Fair many times, and it’s well worth the money and time spent. One of the great ones.

    I’d have to cite airfare to visit family & friends as something I spend money on for fun and to enrich life. I can’t say I’ve ever regretted it. In 2009 we moved a fair distance and an international airfare from family and old friends, so it’s costly to visit. But worth it.

    • John says:

      Thanks Kurt! We had a blast and will likely go back again sometime in the future.

      I agree, paying to go see family, generally speaking, can be so worth it – especially when a long distance separates you.

  • Michelle says:

    I love being able to spend it on vacations. Spending time with Wes is always wonderful 🙂

  • Girl Meets Debt says:

    As much as J and I try to create fun, frugal, free memories, there are times when we do spend a pretty penny to have a good time and it’s all worth it! I think we may have spent a wee bit more than anticipated from our recent Portland/Seattle trip but that just means we have to be a bit more careful now and I don’t regret anything. Great post John! 🙂

    • John says:

      We do the same exact thing GMD. It never fails, we ALWAYS go over our budget on vacations. It’s a good thing we’re frugal in the day to day things, but it’s so worth it in the long run.

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    I love this post, John. My father taught me money was a gift. You needed to use it wisely and with respect but it was meant to be enjoyed. People sometimes confuse saving money for goals and hoarding money. Those are two very different things in my book. Travel is certainly an area where we set aside money for as well. And things for the girls. Chris has been trying to teach Lauren how to surf for awhile and seeing Lauren on her little surfboard just makes me smile. And I know it makes Chris really happy to share his favorite past time with her too.

    • John says:

      Thanks Shannon! I agree, they’re two very different things in my book as well. That sounds awesome about Chris teaching your daughter to surf. My wife loves surfing and did it for many years. Sadly, there’s not many places to surf in Omaha. 😉

  • monica @monicaonmoney says:

    Money has allowed me to buy a condo that I love and to enjoy life more! It’s not everything but money can make life more enjoyable.

  • Mr. 1500 says:

    “For Me, Money Allows Us to Create Memories”

    Brilliant! This is what its really about, isn’t it? No way I can improve on that, so I’m stopping now.

  • C. the Romanian says:

    Traveling has been my favorite thing money have bought me so far as we afforded to go in a honeymoon at an amazing 5 star all inclusive resort in Turkey and that really felt nice. Next on the list is to visit more exotic countries – that we still can’t afford yet – together with our child and get some amazing memories!

    • John says:

      We’re much the same way. We want to visit more exotic places as well, once our little ones get older so they can appreciate it more.

      • JMK says:

        Babies are very easy to travel with when they are small enough to be carried on your chest and are still being nursing. Just pack diapers and go! When they want to walk and are too little to go far or fast and you have to take a stroller everywhere, then it’s a pain for a few years and visits to family and friends with kids may be easiest.
        We took our kids to Europe the first time when the youngest was 7. She was in charge of her own bag everywhere except stairs, escalators and lifting it overhead on the plane. We only do carry-on so the bag wasn’t too large. She still remembers her first gondola in Venice, the donkey ride up the cliff in Santorini and oddly she loved the art gallery in Munich. Don’t wait until they are too old; ours are used to flight delays, unfamiliar food, strange beds and assume that’s all normal when you go on vacation. Get them involved in choosing the destinations and what to include on your itinerary (maybe narrow it down to ca few options and sthen ee which of those they prefer). I find it helped to plan each day to include something chosen specifically for each member of the family. I’d get cranky if I spent the entire day seeing only things everyone else liked!

  • E.M. says:

    Too true John! What’s the point of working so hard if we never enjoy ourselves? I like to travel and take vacation as many others do, though I haven’t in a while. Traveling to visit family is also something I enjoy doing, and I wouldn’t let anything stop me from doing that. My cousins are having a baby this fall and I definitely plan on making the drive up to see them! Experiences and memories trump money in the bank sometimes, but I still try to find the best deals and most efficient ways to have those experiences.

    • John says:

      That’s a good point E.M. We look for efficiency and affordability as well when we travel, though only do so to a certain extent. We save to be able to enjoy ourselves on vacation, though do try and be balanced about it.

  • Derek Chamberlain with says:


    I think money is best spent on family time – trips, traveling, games, entertainment where we can enjoy each other’s company.

    Terrific post!

  • Mackenzie says:

    Great post John! And that picture is too cute 🙂

    My husband and I like to take day trips with our daughter and try new things! Definitely worth it!!

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    I would say we use money on three things that give us pleasure: 1) being able to travel and experience places I never thought I would; 2) using money to hire services at times (like lawn service or house cleaning) to create leverage and space in our lives; and 3) giving to people and organizations we care about. Never have I regretted doing any of those things…no matter how much it cost.

    • John says:

      We’re very close to that as well Brian- especially with #1 & #3. Much has been given to us and thus we want to give out of that. We enjoy to do that, for a number of reasons, not to mention the lessons it teaches our kids.

  • canadianbudgetbinder says:

    Although money has allowed us to live a debt free life just recently we have always made sure to enjoy our money so we didn’t feel like we were being that cheap. We love to travel even if only in our surrounding cities and we don’t mind paying good money to see some beautiful sites. Next year money will allow us to go back to the UK, Spain, France and Italy are all on the agenda. Enjoy life while we can but doing it responsibly is even smarter.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Mr. CBB. We do what we can to be responsible as well. As with anything, balance is important to have.

  • Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa says:

    One purchase I have never regretted is travel. Its a great way to make memories that last a lifetime.

  • Travis @debtchronicles says:

    One of the most enjoyable things that money enables for me is my grilling / BBQ hobby. I love trying making new things, and sharing them with my friends and family!

    • John says:

      Nice! I like doing that as well Travis. There’s nothing like cooking something on the grill and have it be enjoyed by those who eat it.

  • Nell @ The Million Dollar Diva says:

    I would have to agree with most of the other comments that travel is my favourite way to spend money. When money is used to buy things, they are so often forgotten or become meaningless, but travel is remembered and cherished for years afterwards. Not to mention the profound impact it can have on our lives and relationships.

    My most memorable trip was an insanely expensive 5 star holiday to Bali that I went on with my mum and my honorary Aunt. We had a great time and it was so nice to be able to connect with both of these amazing women. Sure, I could have gone on a cheaper holiday or spent the money on a new computer or something, but watching my 50ish mother stand up on a surfboard for the first time was priceless.

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I’m not convinced that people who use napkins instead of toilet paper by default have a hard time enjoying life, but I do think you are absolutely right – money is a tool that helps us enjoy our time on earth. My favorite thing money helps me do right now is travel. I’m looking forward to more of it.

    • John says:

      I agree Daisy, I would not make that as a sweeping argument. That said, I think many who do that are much more predisposed to not enjoying things if anything has been spent for it. We love to travel as well. It’s one of the few things that we really focus on saving to have something really enjoyable.

  • Brad @ says:

    Having money has afforded us the opportunity to raise our girls in a fairly stress-free environment.

    We don’t fight about money, we don’t obsess over money, we just have some money. We spend it on things we find valuable and don’t spend it on frivolous garbage. There’s never an argument about money or even really major conversations; my wife and I are on the same page when it comes to our financial lives.

    Having money definitely allows us the opportunity to teach the girls things and to expose them to situations and experiences that they would not otherwise have any exposure to. My 5-year old likes to paint, so we enrolled her in art camp this summer for two weeks. She’s fascinated with “science experiments”, so we bought this great science kit. Little things like that…

    • John says:

      Your daughter sounds a lot like our five year old. She’s so curious and we love to give her opportunities to learn and connect with other little ones, which money allows us to do. I’d much rather spend money on something like that as opposed to some other trinket, Thanks for stopping by Brad!

  • The First Million is the Hardest says:

    As seems to be the prevailing opinion…it’s travel. Money spent on experiences always seems better spent than money spent on “stuff”.

  • Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life says:

    My mom never, ever spent money, even if it would make our lives easier. She hoarded it like it was going out of style. I learned to appreciate it and resent it at the same time. So, in consequence, money has allowed me to enjoy the simple pleasures that come along. Whether it be going out to coffee with a friend or being able to stop and try some new appetizer at my favorite restaurant. It may seem a bit wasteful to others, but being able to talk over coffee and pastries is a great way to journey through life.

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