Found Money Creates Wants

Today’s post is not going in the direction of showing you strategies for battling the “wants” that spring up after finding money.  Rather, I am just going to share the experiences and struggles that have emerged for us in the wake of receiving some monetary gifts this summer, particularly in terms of our joint money mindset.


Kyle and I received a large gift for our second wedding anniversary in May, and this month we received/are expecting a similar amount of money in celebration of our birthdays.  We probably should have anticipated these gifts because they are the same as what we received last year, but we didn’t.  Last summer, we had a plan for every speck of found money that came across our path – it was going into our Electronics savings account so that we could buy two new laptops on NC’s tax-free weekend in August (which we did).  Probably the gifts didn’t stick in my mind as a big source of agonizing because we had that plan in place.


This year, we don’t have a specific plan for found money aside from putting it into general savings or maybe into our travel fund – nothing we’re working intensely on.  So when the anniversary gift showed up in the mail, the wheels immediately started turning in Kyle’s mind about what he could spend it on.  I managed to help him procrastinate his decision long enough to get the money into our general savings account, and it was a good thing we didn’t spend it because it went right back out to pay our security deposit for our new place!


But Kyle’s list of wants didn’t go away when the gift money did and they just resurfaced when his birthday gift arrived.  In the same intervening couple of months, I noticed a few “nice to have” items pop into my mind, anticipating that next little infusion of cash.  Two months ago I didn’t know I wanted this stuff but now I can’t imagine not buying them in the near future.


Kyle’s wants:

  • an audio interface – already purchased off eBay
  • a mic – already purchased off eBay
  • mic cords – he’s shopping for these as I write
  • a Kindle – probably will do it now that he’s written a clever little program to increase its utility


Emily’s wants:

  • a smartphone – the company I want to use is still in beta; the plan itself is very cheap but I have to buy the phone up front
  • Insanity – probably used from craisglist, it’s SO EXPENSIVE new!
  • a new bathing suit – unfortunately I’ve been looking at retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom (affiliate links – thanks for using!) so they are all like $100-150


I think the birthday money is going down a little differently than the anniversary money because half of it is named to be Kyle’s and half of it (not received yet but anticipated, now that Kyle had received his) will be named to be mine, instead of all being ours from the get-go.  I talk a lot on this blog about how we have NO SEPARATE MONEY and that’s true, but receiving these individual checks has made me think about this money more separately than I usually do.


Before we got married, Kyle bought toys for himself (electronics) every so often.  He was very responsible with his money, but after we got married we set up a few more goals for our family and there was much less room in the budget for these toys.  I want Kyle to be able to spend freely as much of his gift money as he wants as sort of a reward for denying himself so much more than is his natural inclination.  In this way, I want the money to feel like his to do what he wants with.  (And he has.  He’s let me know before he bought two of his gifts already, but hasn’t really asked for permission.)


My first instinct for my birthday gift is to put it into our savings, probably for travel, and be done with it.  But since Kyle is getting to spend his gift on himself, I’m feeling that insidious “it’s not fair.”  I deny myself, too, and I can think of things that I want to buy.  Shouldn’t I get to spend a bit like he is with “my” money?


I don’t like this feeling of having several hundred dollars that I can squander if I want or save if I want with little to no accountability to anyone else – it reminds me of being single, and I definitely prefer being married with that built-in accountability.  If we had any separate money through our normal budget I bet I would feel like this too – I would spend unnecessarily just because my husband is and I want to get the most personal utility from this money.  We don’t need any additional incentive to spend or any more me-vs.-you feelings in our marriage.  This is why we are fully embracing the joint finances mindset and structure.


As for the gift money, I don’t know if we’ll end up buying all these things.  We really need some extra money in our Travel account to go to the events we plan to this fall, so anything left over from these gifts needs to go into that account.  All of it should go there, actually, but now that we have these wants in our heads I think we’re going to give in to a few of them.


If you receive a birthday gift or something else individual to you, do you think of it as “mine” or “ours?”  Does found money spur your mind to create more wants?


photo from stock.xchng


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25 Responses to "Found Money Creates Wants"

  1. Found money always creates “wants” at my house. We usually try to save half and spend half.

    We are both savers at heart, though- so spending really isn’t that fun anymore. recently posted..My Biggest Financial Regrets

    1. Emily says:

      Save half spend half sounds like a good rule. Is putting down a security deposit spending or saving?? I would say we’re savers, too… Except in this found-money-plus-spousal-competition scenario!

      1. Leigh says:

        Will you get a security deposit back from your current place? If so, it’s only half spending to put down a security deposit at the new place.
        Leigh recently posted..Levels of Financial Freedom

        1. Emily says:

          We likely won’t. I think it was only $50 or $100 to begin with, and apparently they pay our remaining water bill(s) out of that and return the excess (if any) some months later. So it probably won’t be a big factor.

  2. Leigh says:

    When my parents give me money, I feel like I need to spend it on something specific and helpful that I wouldn’t have otherwise bought. But bonuses and tax refunds go into my normal savings plan. I think I don’t feel a need to spend bonuses and tax refunds because I can already buy whatever I want from my normal salary?

    The way that I dealt with the last chunk of money from my parents was that I set it aside to use for all the stuff I want to buy for my new place, including paying the painter, and then used the leftover savings that I had of my own after closing to start making principal payments on the mortgage. So this way, I’m spending their money instead of mine, but still spending theirs on something I really want, and being able to save like I want.

    There might be some more gift money still and I plan on using it to start an art fund since that’s not really something I am naturally inclined to prioritize, but something I would really like.
    Leigh recently posted..Levels of Financial Freedom

    1. I always spend our Christmas bonuses to pay for our vacations for the year. That way, I don’t have to pay for them out of our regular budget or mess up our savings plan. Plus, I don’t feel as bad spending Christmas bonus money on vacation since it’s basically “extra” money that isn’t spoken for….so I know what you mean! recently posted..My Biggest Financial Regrets

    2. Emily says:

      Before I got married I had more of a “this is a gift, I should spend it on something fun” policy, but now our Travel fund is alllllllways hungry! That sounds like a good use of your last gift – plus you can show the result to your parents when they visit!

  3. You are so right — found money can derail things in a big way! Get that swimsuit, and call it good. 🙂
    Kathleen @ Frugal Portland recently posted..Frugal Fun: Adding joy to my living space

    1. Emily says:

      But… the phone… but… Insanity… but… I’ve added to this list since I wrote this post! The phone really is something I’ll put money aside for, because I’m going to buy one eventually, gift or not.

  4. I feel a little strange telling CB what he can buy or can’t buy (doesn’t mean I don’t do it… but I’d prefer not to). Usually I just lay out my reasons for my preference and he typically understands. If we both got separate checks, I like the system of spend half and save half.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..Stories of the Unemployed

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, Kyle and I generally don’t give or deny firm permission… Or even when I say “no” he still makes the decision he wants. 🙂

  5. There is still accountability. Kyle is spending his birthday money because you are okay with it. I’m sure if you had really felt that that money needed to be saved, or spent on something else, he would have acquiesced.

    So the same goes with your birthday money. If he has a problem with it, you aren’t going to get that smart phone or that bathing suit (side note, $100!?! I’m so glad I’m a guy! Mine cost $10 at Walmart and I’ve had it for the better part of a decade).
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? (Or Do I Want a Promotion)

    1. Emily says:

      I think Kyle has has accountability in his decisions – it’s myself I’m worried about! He’s already spent like 80% of his gift so now I feel like I can do whatever I want with most of mine, and I don’t like that feeling.

      Oh, you can spend very little on women’s bathing suits as well, but they won’t necessarily last. I’ve had my current one for 6 years and I think it was about $40. I’m just foolishly shopping online among fancy brands at fancy stores.

      1. Then re-frame the argument in your mind. Assuming he didn’t go off and make the purchases without telling you first, then you are going to do the same and run by your planned purchases before making them.
        Edward Antrobus recently posted..The Dave Ramsey $1000 Starter Emergency Fund

  6. Jessica says:

    Right now all of our found money is going towards our honeymoon fund. We received quite a bit of cash gifts from our wedding, and while most of that went towards our honeymoon fund, we each bought something that we wanted from the registry that we didn’t already receive. I’m not sure what we would do with the found money if we didn’t already have a goal in mind.

    1. Emily says:

      We did something similar. We bought an item or two off our wedding registry that we needed (a bedspread) and the rest of the cash gifts went toward our honeymoon. The cash savings we had from before our marriage became our emergency fund, our nest egg, and our investments to pay off my student loans. My recommendation is definitely to create another mid-term goal after your honeymoon is paid for so you have a plan for found money!

  7. Found money is like that. We thought we might be coming into some money and immediately the gears started turning. Piano? Siding on the house? Rental property? I like your idea of having a plan for the instance of potentially finding money. It’s like having a plan Z. 🙂
    Wayne @ Young Family Finance recently posted..Tips for Buying a New Car

    1. Emily says:

      We find money rather frequently but it’s not always cash and it’s usually in such small amounts that we don’t agonize over where to put it. We really should get another plan in place at least for the spend-half-save-half idea.

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