Not the way we planned it. Our dining-room set joins the items to go on Kijiji.

John’s diet and planned “cheat”

I remember my friend and colleague John (who is featured at Fruclassity this week) telling me about a Sunday morning visit to the pancake house with his daughters. He had been following a strict diet for a prolonged period, and this pancake breakfast was a planned cheat. He was looking forward to the indulgence, and he ordered the option that had been his regular choice before he had started his diet. Yum! A stack of pancakes! So different from the apples and cucumbers I’d seen him munching at work.

He couldn’t make it through half of them. They made him feel gross.

Not a nice feeling, but a good sign! It meant that John’s “normal” was changing. The foods that had tempted him all through his life were not so tempting anymore. There wouldn’t be quite so much effort, so much “self-denial” required for him to continue his healthier diet.

Our renovations

Our ongoing (but almost finished) renovations have been the big deal around here lately. To give a bit of context, we’ve been on a focused mission of debt-reduction since June of 2012, and although we have wanted new furniture and new flooring since even before that time, we’ve been on a “diet” – of budgets, tracking, earning extra income, saving, and putting as much against our debt as possible. Our diet did not allow for new furniture and flooring . . . until June of 2015 – when we paid off the last of our $102,000 non-mortgage debt.

Having hit that milestone, we gave ourselves permission to “indulge” – in the form of renovating. DH had long since outgrown his home business office, and for at least a year we’d planned “some day” to switch things up and give him more space.  But it wouldn’t just be a practical move to address needs; it would also be a move towards getting what we wanted. “Some day” had come!

Great! (at first)

Like John and his planned pancake house excursion, I looked forward to this “cheat”. Wooo-hoo! My initial endorphin rush was alarming, but I got it under control. We would go about everything without rush, taking frugal measures along the way. Yes, we would get what we wanted, but we wouldn’t go crazy.

The first several “bites” were delicious! After the practical work of moving DH’s home office to its larger space had been accomplished, we replaced the stained-beyond-reason carpet in his old office with hardwood, and bought furniture for a cozy new living-room (10′ x 10.5′). Here’s how it unfolded:


Stained-beyond-reason carpet from DH’s old office space.


Hardwood in same room.


Cozy little living-room.

The final step was the biggest. Our old family-room, a 17′ x 17′ space, was to become a combined dining-room and sitting room. Carpet was ripped up, hardwood installed, and we bought a new love-seat and two chairs along with an ottoman and tables for the sitting-room part. Here is how it went:


DH’s hardwood installation work in progress.


Sitting-room furnished.

The problem with our dining-room set . . .

We put our dining-room table and chairs in the other half of the combined room . . . and realized it didn’t work. Our table was too wide for the space. The chairs were too fussy and big. Could we put up with it? Like good soldiers of frugality fighting for debt-freedom? No. After devoting so much effort and money (that we’d saved in advance) to this plan, we couldn’t stand the idea of it being not-quite-right. So we’re buying a new dining-room table. I know!

Our old table and chairs are in fine form, and will hopefully fetch a good price on Kijiji. We have picked out a new table – one that is thinner, more rustic, with simple chairs and a bench – and the price is better than we’d thought we’d find. But this is not how we had planned it. This move will bring up our renovation expenses another significant notch. I feel like John must have felt by the time he got to that 3rd or 4th pancake in the stack on his plate. Enough already.

Unlike John, however, I can’t say that I regret the indulgence, and I don’t think we’d do our renovations any differently if we could. The point is, I’m longing for apples and cucumbers again. I’m looking forward to switching our focus back to our mission – to finish saving up our emergency fund and to start our assault against our mortgage. I’m a bit shell-shocked by all of the decision-making we’ve done for big-expense furniture and flooring. I want to get back to things like figuring out ways to come under budget in our groceries.

This is a new sensation for me. And just as John was taken aback by his inability to stomach his “normal” pancake house breakfast, I’m surprised too. But I recognize it as a good sign. “Normal” has changed for me – just as it did for John – and I’m eager to slip back into the patterns of our healthy financial diet.

Have you ever felt gross about spending? Have you ever become aware of a new normal? Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


  1. I love this and have totally felt that way, even very recently. My “apples” has been picking up the millionaire next door (which was FINALLY available at my library) and I’m feeling “healthier!” Even though the spending I’ve done recently was with pretty good intentions and reasons, I still have to remember the basics. I had a brow wax scheduled that I promptly cancelled. It didn’t feel right.

  2. A brow wax? What is it with the eyebrow obsession lately? My youngest daughter has a crush on a boy for no other reason than that he has nice eyebrows! I’ve never so much as plucked mine, but I’m sure that you can Youtube it and find a way to DIY your eyebrows so that they’re on fleek. (I’ve been taught the lingo.) I haven’t read The Millionaire Next Door. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about it. (AND what you have to say on Monday!)

  3. This is a very honest post. Thanks for sharing your renovation experience and your thoughts about spending and saving. Let’s face it, renovations are fun. And if you have the money to do it without using emergency funds or retirement savings, then I say go for it. By the way, it looks AMAZING! Your home is your castle and hey, we want to come home to something that makes us feel happy and relaxed.

    There’s nothing wrong with that! I think you have your financial priorities in perfect order, and it sounds like you recognize it’s back to business as usual…saving and creating wealth.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Laura Beth

    1. Thank you very much, Laura! I am very happy with the way it all looks, and it’s all the sweeter for the wait – and the not-paying-on-credit, but with money saved for this purpose. I lack some confidence in spending on certain wants, and this was one situation where I had self-doubt. Your words echo my take on it all, and it’s very reassuring to read them : )

  4. It’s so nice to take little undisciplined breaks. We traveled for 3 months back in ’04, and it was wonderful. No cleaning, no cooking, just lots of hotels and eating out. When I realized I was ready to stop was when I actually looked forward to cleaning and cooking again. I never thought that would ever happen! I think we kind of crave routine and structure. Kids do. In the larger scheme of things, aren’t we just kids in adult costumes?

    1. Sounds like ’04 was a good year! Your example is very much like mine. Like you, I find myself being surprised at a longing to get back to what is now normal for us. I wouldn’t call our renovations “undisciplined” though. It hasn’t been out of control at any point – not even with this dining-room bit. It has definitely been out of the ordinary, and it has definitely felt like a break and a treat. (I was thinking of you when I posted the photos. “The Barefoot Minimalist is going to hyper-ventilate with all of this stuff!”)

    1. Remember this was not our normal. The renovations were special – planned in advance and put into effect at a milestone in our journey to debt-freedom. But yes, the spending taps will be shut off. As for savings vs. mortgage elimination – we’re still figuring that one out.

  5. I resonate with Kay’s point — when I’ve traveled for a long time I always start to look forward to getting back to cleaning and cooking! Congratulations on feeling gross, hee. It does mean good things! Maybe silver lining is you’re getting this all out of the way in 2015 so you can start the new year fresh.

    1. Thanks C. I like the “Congratulations on feeling gross” part : ) I just can’t relate to you and Kay ever looking forward to cleaning again . . . Cooking I get. But cleaning? Ugh! I think we WILL have it all wrapped up by the New Year, and starting fresh in 2016 will feel great.

  6. I know the renovations were much needed, but will serve as a great reminder of just how far you have come in your money behaviors. It is nice to get a break from the routine, I too like getting back to the norm after being off track for a bit.

  7. Like you, I used to be happy about spending and spending until the time arrives when everything seems to gel together and spending extravagantly seemingly seems like a gross thing to do. I think that shows that we’ve grown up and probably truly know what we’ve become.

    Good job on that!!

    1. Thank you, B. I appreciate your comment. It’s true that so much of poor financial management is immature. It’s nice to know I’ve “grown up”! It’s about time!

  8. I definitely have renovation fatigue, but I’m not sure that I share the whole spending fatigue (perhaps because we still have a long ways to go).

    I tend to get spending fatigue when I spend a little each day, rather than when I make big purchases. Big purchases are kind of exciting for me.

    1. My renovation fatigue and spending fatigue are going hand-in-hand. Interesting that yours are separate. Like you, I find the big expenses exciting (though scary, given my poor history in money management). Perhaps my limited patience makes me quicker in getting to that “fatigue” part. You could break your renos up a bit to stem the fatigue – but I suspect you’d like it all done before baby #2 arrives : ) Thanks Hannah.

  9. That’s pretty neat that you’ve changed your financial metabolism for good. That is about as hard to do as changing your physical metabolism permanently! During home projects or other unusually high spending months we often feel that we are hemorrhaging money and it definitely bothers us more than it might if we were accustomed to over-spending, but it’s nice to know we’ve planned or saved for such times, and it’s not the norm.

    1. “Hemorrhaging money” is a very graphic and good way to put it! My history of over-spending makes me uneasy during this time of big spending, but what you say is true: we’ve planned, saved, and it’s not the norm. And we’re so happy with how it’s all turning out! A real smorgasbord of feelings going on with this renovation project! Thanks for your comment, Kalie.

  10. Yep, I frequently feel gross when I spend a bunch — even when it’s planned for. I spent a bunch of fun money the other day, and as happy as I was with the items, I was ready to be done shopping for awhile.

    It sounds like the new table will be good. Nothing like finishing a huge renovation only to be dissatisfied with things. And like you said, you should get some good money for the one you already had. Hopefully, that offsets the cost a bit.

    1. Thank you, Abigail! It is so nice to hear from another money-conscious person that the table decision is fine. My husband just put our old set up on Kijii asking $500, and we’ve already had two inquiries – so that side of things is looking good. I left a comment at your site saying that I hadn’t started Christmas shopping yet, and I think this whole “feeling gross from spending” thing is the reason why. Thanks again for your insight here. Much appreciated.

  11. I love this perspective. Everyone longs for structure (apples and cucumbers in this case). When we get a little freedom for a “cheat”, we realize it’s not near as fun as following a tried and true path.

    A big misconception about budgeting is that you will always be bombarded with temptations to turn back into the “real” you; temptations to spend on whatever you want. I’ve found that after some time, I no longer even wanted to do that. It’s not like I’m constantly using my willpower to budget and overcome the real me. Budgeting IS the real me! Bc it provides structure.

  12. I think you did the right thing, Ruth. That old set would’ve bothered you every time you looked at it. I’m feeling “gross” about the repairs that we’ve had to do here this year to get the house ready to sell. I know they were necessary, but I feel like I’ve spent several long months eating regularly at an all-you-can-eat buffet and gorging myself every step of the way. Luckily, all repairs are finished (I hope) and I can now get back on my diet. 🙂

    1. I am so glad you’ve given your thumbs-up, Laurie! I know it’s not supposed to matter,but it IS nice to have the understanding of other frugal people. “That old set would’ve bothered you every time you looked at it.” True! I’m glad that your own gorge has come to an end. All the best with the sale!

  13. I would personally save money before I make renovations so that I could carry out my plans well like you did. I like how you did it, prudencedebtfree. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Diana! It’s a no-brainer to me now to save first, but that is not the way we used to do things. Big-expense projects meant big growth to our monster debt. Not anymore!

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