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Should I Live My life for Today or Save for Tomorrow?

By Victoria Rolfe

This unprecedented time has gotten many people to rethink how they have been living their lives and spending their money. Whether it be due to a loss of income with a lack of savings, or a forced spending “diet,” spending habits have changed and compelled people to wonder if they should be saving their money for the future or enjoying life now. It is a point worth contemplating and here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

I’ve seen this question posed in many different ways throughout the years. I’ve heard the argument that you must live for today because you could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Young people have screamed YOYO!, as in, “You’re Only Young Once.” (Did I just coin that?) They maintain that they must spend and live for today while they are young enough to enjoy it.

But I don’t see it as a black or white, an either/or situation: save OR have fun. I believe that if you are wise with your money, you can do both. Saving your money does not mean that you have to be a miserly scrooge sitting in your lonely attic, counting your money and never having any fun. In fact, with a little planning and wise money management, you can easily have a very pleasurable life and also save for your future at the same time.

The one equation that people need to let go of is Spending Money = Fun. There may be some correlation sometimes, but it is certainly not a given. You can spend lots of money on something and have a terrible time, and even more importantly, it is very possible to have a great time spending no money at all. I’m sure you can think of examples of both these facts in your own life.

Let’s start with the young (my newly coined YOYO philosophy). Yes, they can certainly save and also have fun. First of all, they have one huge advantage in their favor: the magic of compound interest. The fact is that if you start saving (investing) early, you will only need to save a fraction of your own money in order to build up a very tidy nest egg for retirement. Most of the money in your IRA at retirement will be growth on the returns you accrued through the years, not the money you actually put in. Pretty neat trick, huh?

With a little prioritizing and forethought, young folks can also be saving for their other more near-term needs and wants--a car, a house, a wedding--by putting those savings on automatic pilot and just living on what’s left. The prioritizing comes in as you make the conscious decision to forego Instant Gratification X, which is not really adding a great deal of joy to your life, in order to save up for that something that will bring you great pleasure indeed.

One joy that seems to be mentioned a lot is traveling. And here is where the young have another distinct advantage. They can travel for practically nothing, staying in youth hostels, or other low-cost accommodations. There are even many temporary internship/job opportunities overseas that would allow them to see the world while sometimes even making a little money. The possibilities of low-cost travel are only limited by the imagination for the young (or young at heart). Google “traveling on next to nothing,” and see what you come up with. I read a great memoir on the subject a while back called No Baggage – A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen.

What if you are not young? I see people of all ages squandering their money on daily instant gratification pleasures without even realizing that they are doing it. Once, when I was telling some friends about a trip to Singapore that I had just returned from, somebody asked me “I don’t understand. You can’t afford cable TV, but you can afford a trip to Singapore?” My answer to that is you can afford anything (within reason, of course), but you can’t afford everything. I chose to forgo all those channels at $150 a month in order to save my money for something better. I’ve even found a way to get TV for free--an old-fashioned roof antenna. I also put my frugal skills to use to make the trip possible without breaking the piggy bank.

My son Jesse and I on our Singapore trip
My son Jesse and I on our Singapore trip

If fun is your priority, then go ahead and have it! Have as much as you want. Live!

Take advantage of all the free fun that is out there for the taking. If there is some kind of fun you must have money for, then just look at your spending habits and give something up that does not bring as much joy and save up for what you want.

I see absolutely no reason why you can’t do both. Save and have fun! After all, you only live once!

Wishing you a happy life today and a bright future tomorrow!


Victoria Rolfe is a family budget coach who has had a lifetime of experience in the art and joy of frugal living and its resulting financial freedom. She spent many years as a stay-at-home mom and home economist and rose successfully to the challenge of raising a family of four kids on a modest income without incurring debt. She did crazy things like paying for all their cars with cash, paying off their mortgage in ten years, buying their next house for cash, and sending all her kids to college with no student loans, while building a comfortable retirement nest egg for their own bright future.

She is now passionate about helping others to enter this beautiful world of peaceful and simple frugality and to achieve their own financial goals with the knowledge and personal finance skills that she has acquired. She writes a monthly blog, teaches via a series of light-hearted group presentations that she created, and sees clients in one-on-one personal meetings.

Visit her website and blog at, or email her at

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