Save More, Spend Less, or Earn More, Spend More?

Categories Reader Question, Saving Money

The question many PF bloggers debate over. I always thought it made for interesting conversation. Usually those in the “save more, spend less” camp argue for simplicity and minimalism. Do things yourself, save money while doing so. Those in the “earn more, spend more” group say that they are going to earn more to be able to afford the little luxuries in life. What side do you fall on?

Save More, Spend Less

This is the group I mostly identify with. It seems like I have been concerned with saving as much money as possible my whole life, and to spend responsibly. I am planning on writing a post on it, but since my dad lost his job twice when I was fairly young, I realized that money is limited and thus must be used in the best way possible. This means not spending it on silly things that we don’t need. Finding ways to cut expenses was always fun for me; analyzing my budget and crunching numbers was a routine activity. I always want to make sure I get the most bang for my buck.


There are quite a few people who ask why. When you leave this earth, you can’t take your money with you. What sense is there in scrutinizing every purchase you make? It’s honestly just been ingrained in me from a young age, and it’s the only thing I’ve known. I am working on getting better at this, because I do believe that you should be allowed to spend on fun things sometimes. I shouldn’t feel the need to punish myself for buying ice cream, but it happens. I have some feeling of regret 85% of the time I go shopping. Then I come home, look around, and ponder how much money I’ve spent on all the things that surround me. It’s not a great way to view things, and R is constantly telling me not to beat myself up over it so much. I do have more than enough in the bank in case something happened, but it never feels like enough. I always want more! It is easy to see why I fall on this side of the debate – I enjoy having money in the bank more than having fun sometimes. Again, something I definitely need to work on.

Earn More, Spend More

What happens if you feel like you’ve cut back as much as you’re comfortable with, though? That’s where earning more and thus being able to spend more comes into play. You might really enjoy cable, daily coffee stops, or a certain expensive hobby. You don’t want to give these things up. Instead of cutting back, you decide to find a way to earn more to cover these costs. I never used to identify with this group simply because the idea of earning more mostly revolved around receiving a raise or a promotion. Neither of these seemed too plausible to me after graduating college. I knew I’d be making an entry-level salary for a while until I could prove myself and climb the ladder.

However, since reading PF blogs, it is clear there are a wide variety of ways to earn more. You can monetize your site, become a freelancer, do tasks virtually online for a few bucks, have a little side business like dog walking or house-sitting,  or earn passive income with investing. The opportunities are endless, and it has really opened my eyes to having multiple streams of income. If you can do it, why not?! More power to you. This is definitely looking like something I want to pursue, though my motives are a bit different.

Experiences are worth the money
Experiences are worth the money

Earn More, Eliminate Debt

There are several bloggers out there using their extra income to pay down debt instead of spending it in the traditional sense. I think this is a terrific idea, and one I am particularly fond of. I don’t have many things in life that I am unwilling to cut back on, but I can totally get behind paying my student loans down faster with whatever extra money may come my way. While I can cut expenses and put the difference toward debt, there’s only so much you can cut. If you choose to earn more, the sky is the limit. Earning more is not always an easy option, and it may take time to build up, but I think that is time well spent!

I asked R and his response was the same – he would like to earn more to cover more of his student loan payments. I love it when our goals align, especially our financial ones :). He is well on his way to doing this. When we first started dating, he was working at a grocery store not making much more than minimum wage. He graduated to an office position that was unfortunately seasonal, but the overtime made it worth it in their busy season. Now, he gets overtime every week and works around 50+ hours. He says that the paycheck is worth it since it’s always taking us further to our end goal of being free from our student loans.

Are you a save more, spend less kind of person, or do you believe in earning more to cover the costs of things you enjoy? Or are you with those who wish to pay down their debt quicker, who save more in the end?

Erin is a total goofball who sucks at writing about herself (though she finds referring to herself in the third person amusing). When she's not editing videos, she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cats, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, sipping coffee, or any random combination of the above.

48 thoughts on “Save More, Spend Less, or Earn More, Spend More?

  1. I think it’s important to identify your goals first and then find a path towards them that works for you. We’re definitely working on a combination of the two. I don’t think it’s an either-or. Like you say, there’s nothing inherently bad with wanting to spend money on certain things. That’s part of what can make life enjoyable. But doing it with a plan is important and doing it in combination with cutting back on things that aren’t important can be even more effective.

    1. Agreed! Goals really matter. My current focus is primarily paying off my student loans, so of course I want to save where I can to make more debt payments. Once I am out of debt, though, I think my focus will be shifting to investing for early retirement, so I can be making a bit more, but passively.

      1. I’m with both of you! We’re on a combination of the two. We really need to earn more to meet our financial goals, and we’re working on it. But while we’re working on it, we’re spending less.

        1. Yes, that sounds like the situation we are in. We are both struggling to earn more at our day-jobs, what with overtime being cut, the payroll tax at the beginning of the year, benefits starting to be taken out of R’s can be rough, but we are making the most of it right now.

  2. EM!!! I like earn more, spend less really. We like our fun and will not be cheated out of it, so when we combine earning a bit more with spending a bit less there is $$$ for everything including FUN and savings. Have a pickle of a day!

    1. It really is important to make sure to have fun. I have been trying to do that as of late! Once a week isn’t going to kill us, but I’d like to earn more so I feel less guilty.

  3. I’m with CJ in the earn more, save more, spend less, but also enjoy life category. ha ha! I do beat myself up like you sometimes when I think about getting a latte or some other kind of “splurge.” I hate to go through life scrutinizing every freaking decision, but for me I’ve had to go through a growth process of retraining my brain to focus on saving because the little things add up. Before I’d just spend on whatever with no remorse until I saw my bills or how little I had in my bank accounts. It’s a balance thing, like everything else in life. :)

    1. Balancing money is difficult. I think it largely depends on your goals at the moment, which gives you the motivation to either save or spend. I try not to beat myself up too often because we’re all human and no one is perfect, but I know every cent spent away from my student loans is getting me further away from my goal.

    1. That’s the way to go! I think once I eliminate debt I will be okay with splurging more occasionally. Right now I’m always torn – “but I have student loans to pay off!!” is always in my head.

  4. Great post, E.M., thanks for sharing a personal story about your childhood – no doubt that impacted your life and has really influenced your decisions through adulthood, and it’s an admirable path to be on. I used to be an extremely spendy person and would just do so blindly, and since discovering PF blogs it’s really helped me reign in my expenses and analyze my purchases more critically. I still enjoy the splurges in life, though, and so I think I’m on the “Save more, spend less, splurge occasionally” category. :)

    1. I never really thought about how it impacted me until I joined the PF community. I had just accepted I was a natural saver and didn’t question why. It is interesting to get into the psychology of finances, though. I like your category!

  5. I’ll agree with CJ above…Earn more and spend less! I am similar to you in that I often feel regret for buying something even though I rarely buy anything. Frugality has been ingrained in me as a young child and I don’t know any other way. I definitely think that it’s okay to indulge a little bit sometimes as long as you still on track savings wise. You’re right that earning more can often be the harder option, and more time consuming. For me cutting expenses is usually not that tough…I’m not depriving myself…I have all that I need.

    1. Right! I don’t feel deprived at all. I wasn’t raised with anything fancy as my parents cut costs as well (even though they wouldn’t cut cable when I told them to). I do think it’s okay to indulge sometimes – I’m all for maintaining sanity. I just have a hard time with it!

  6. Right now I am most definately in the “earn more, eliminate debt” category because I think I have cut back as much as I can without feeling like I’m “missing out” in life. So awesome you and R have the same financial goals!

    1. Woohoo for earning more to get rid of debt! You’re doing a great job at it, too. R and I have the same goals for now, but he isn’t as keen on early retirement as I am. Fine with me, considering having one income makes those plans easier for me! :)

  7. I like the approach that if you are going to earn more, spend more once, then save it. This way, you can celebrate the economic windfall. I mean, if it is coming off a raise or a promotion, you did something right and should treat yourself for it. Afterwards though, the money should be put in savings or debt repayment. I believe this because once you pay off a certain debt, it’s the same as getting a pay raise because you will have more money in your pocket.

    1. That is true that by eliminating debt, you’re giving yourself a little raise. I tend to celebrate wins like that with a regular dinner out. Nothing extravagant, but that’s my version of “treating” myself (or my boyfriend). It’s important to keep lifestyle inflation in check when that happens, too, so spending once and then committing to get back on track is a good thing.

  8. EM! Great piece!
    It’s interesting. I think we somewhat fluctuate between the different modes based on life stage. I know when I was making the big bucks but working 16 hour days, paying for a house cleaner was essential — and worth it. Now I’ve cut back to a very efficient living mode but could still use more passive income so I’m looking for ways to build that up again.

    1. The stage of life that you are in definitely does matter. If you’re in the midst of buying a house, your expenses are likely going to increase, but hopefully temporarily. There is fluctuation depending on the events happening (marriage, baby, house, etc) so that’s a good thing to consider. Passive income is a great thing to have!

  9. Hrm, I’m not really sure which I am! I know I picked my degree based on knowing I’d get a job, that paid at least to above average (but not investment banker riches). I also am frugal – will avoid paying for parking, but I will splurge on what’s important to me – enjoying meals out and travelling overseas. I don’t actively seek to earn more money though, I try to make what I want to do fit with what I have, and therefore spend less. That being said, the nature of my job is that I get incremental increases all the time, so I’m lucky in that regard. The BF is a money chaser, always looking for more, and thinks I’m not ambitious enough. I’d rather be content with what I have than always wishing I had more, and missing out in the good of ‘now’.

    1. I agree with that – being content with what you have vs chasing money constantly. I think I would be happy with what I had, if I didn’t have my student loans. I just want them gone!! Other than that, I enjoy simple things, and then traveling. I think it’s great if you’re comfortable with what you earn; less stress for you! You can be ambitious in other areas of life, too.

  10. I am staunchly in the “earn more” category, at least for now. I’d like side income to cover student loan payments AND potentially my mortgage payment. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!? At least I think it would be. It would make it a lot easier to save and invest, that’s for sure.

    1. Yeah, that would be awesome!! Honestly if I picked up a part time retail job it would probably cover the minimum payments of my loans, but I’m not really sure if I am that dedicated to tell you the truth. I hated working retail and don’t miss it.

  11. Spend what you need to spend, make much more than that would be my approach. I don’t need more than what I have already and extra money wouldn’t mean spending more.

    1. I think your approach of living in a very low cost place plays a great part in this. You don’t have to sacrifice much as things are more affordable, and you can enjoy yourself a lot more without having to worry. It helps that the location is beautiful; I’d be outside as much as possible!

    1. Every month is a different story, that’s for sure, but as long as you have the big picture in mind (which I know you do) it works itself out! At least I am hoping so :)

  12. I loved reading this! I think you and I are extremely similar – when I was reading the “save more, spend less” section of your post, I was thinking, “yup, that’s me, I do that, I totally do that!” But we’re now at the point where we’ve cut our spending as much as possible without depriving ourselves. We’re very happy with what we have now, but in order to save even more it’s going to have to come from additional income. It’s definitely time to look into earning more, but as CJ said – additional earnings would translate into additional savings, not more spending!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thank you for stopping by! I honestly don’t have much to cut back on as cable and all that is included in our rent. It’s mostly groceries and dining out as we barely do anything for entertainment (yeah we’re boring!). However, we aren’t completely satisfied with the amount we are able to put toward our student loans every month, so that extra money has to come from somewhere!

    1. We are on the same page :). Though I’m really not sure when we will be ready to “settle down,” so the downpayment may not be top priority. R’s job requires some transferring around, which I am all for as I’d love to explore other areas, but it does make it difficult to plan for the future.

  13. Pingback: What's Your Money Mindset? | Budget and the Beach
  14. Earn more, spend less for me!

    From personal experience, the latter tends to be easier that the former and you (barring emergencies) have 100% control over spending less.

    However, it does depend on your current financial position:

    Whilst in debt: earn more, spend less.

    Whilst saving/investing: earn more, spend an amount which makes you happy without being frivolous.

    When rich: earn more, spend more.

    The only constant: earn more!!

    1. Agreed! I do think spending less is easier for most people (unless they’re already earning $100k+) but earning more can be difficult. Depending on what stage you’re at in life, you can alter your perspective as you showed.

  15. Saving as much money as possible in whole life and spend less amount. If we spend more than income, we will fall in financial problem. For a healthy lifestyle we need proper personal financing and cool financial plan. Opportunities are endless for passive income. Thanks for the post!

  16. EM – I am reading your blog from beginning trying to reach current. I really loved this post and was wondering if you mind me using it for inspiration on my blog sometime. Just let me know! Thanks!

    1. No, of course not! That’s what I love about reading other blogs – the inspiration gained from them. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts!

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