What’s A Lot?

I love disc golf.

There’s just some­thing super peace­ful about wan­der­ing around a park play­ing fris­bee: sport edi­tion.

Low start up cost, end­less enjoy­ment (unless you chuck your disc in a stag­nant creek full of goose poop), no fee to prac­tice or play, a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent cours­es to play.….. talk about a great first date activ­i­ty. You get to wan­der and talk, and if you don’t like the date all you have to do is quit after 9 holes. If you like the date, you can con­tin­ue on to the back nine. If they don’t like wan­der­ing around a park for free with a pret­ty lady, they’re not worth dat­ing.

Like I said, great date activ­i­ty.

How­ev­er, there’s one thing about disc golf I don’t like.

It’s inher­ent­ly unfair.

When­ev­er I play against guys, I invari­ably lose. Not because guys are just bet­ter at disc golf. Not the case. How­ev­er they are stronger than me. Unless I throw the disc way bet­ter than them, which is pos­si­ble, 9 times out of 10 their disc is going to go a lot fur­ther than mine. An ex boyfriend of mine and I played all the time and I lost every sin­gle time. We still had fun, but it got frus­trat­ing after a while.

So Gwen,” you say, “that’s cool and all.…. but how does this relate to mon­ey?”

I’m so glad you asked.

Life is kind of like a disc golf course. Every­one gets the exact same course to play, but some might be lim­it­ed from the get go and some might be bet­ter. To fur­ther the anal­o­gy, you could equate my lack of strength with a lack of parental sup­port for things like cars and col­lege. Some­one who is strong and throws the disc far down the course is equiv­a­lent to some­one who had every­thing paid for in life and got to lever­age their parent’s net­work for an entry lev­el job.

What are you to do if you’re not the strongest at play­ing fris­bee golf?

You learn to play smarter.

Par­ents can’t pay for col­lege? Get schol­ar­ships, take class­es that trans­fer in high school, and lever­age the local com­mu­ni­ty col­lege dur­ing the sum­mer where it’s cheap­er. Dri­ve around a cheap­er car and put the mon­ey you’ve saved on insur­ance and loan pay­ments into a Roth IRA. Put as much as you can into your 401(k) from work to min­i­mize tax­es paid. Buy a house and rent out the oth­er rooms to cov­er your mort­gage.

These ‘hacks’ will help you get ahead in a world that seems to keep want­i­ng to push you down. I’ve found peo­ple take a very strong stance on things mon­ey relat­ed ear­ly in life.

Of course she can do ___________, she has a good job/no debt/no kids/inheritance from her grand­ma.”

One of those strong stances I’ve dis­cov­ered relates to what peo­ple con­sid­er to be a lot of mon­ey.


I’m not talk­ing about this alot.

I signed up for Camp Mus­tache SE 2018 (week­end two) and once again, peo­ple com­plained about the cost. [side­note: If you’re going to either week­end, let me know in the com­ments!] It costs $300 plus trav­el to the camp. For me, com­ing from the Mid­west, trav­el will run me a bit more than some­one who lives in Flori­da and can dri­ve to Gainesville.

Relat­ed: Read my recap from Camp Mus­tache North­west 2016 and South­east 2017 to find out why I keep going to these events!

I con­sid­er $300 a small amount to cov­er an entire weekend’s worth of lodg­ing, food, and activ­i­ties at a beau­ti­ful camp. Just get­ting a hotel room in most places would cost you $300! Obvi­ous­ly this can be less­ened by using cred­it card reward points for hotels, but we’re going to dis­re­gard that angle for now.

I asked sev­er­al peo­ple I knew both in real life and through the FIRE com­mu­ni­ty. Every per­son, after ask­ing what all that cov­ered, said it was rea­son­able.

That being said, there were sev­er­al peo­ple who just couldn’t imag­ine any­one wast­ing Three Hun­dred Whole dol­lars on one week­end trip. If they went to this event, they wouldn’t be able to go on any oth­er trips.

Not only am I going to Camp Mus­tache SE in Jan­u­ary 2018, I’m trav­el­ing to both Fin­Con and Ecuador for the Chau­tauqua this year.

As some­one who both earns a decent salary and pri­or­i­tizes trav­el, I have a hard time grasp­ing spend­ing $300 for one week­end could be con­sid­ered a lot of mon­ey. I rec­og­nize that I am very blessed to be in such a for­tu­nate posi­tion.

So it made me think.…. what is a lot of mon­ey to me?

$5 was a lot of mon­ey to me when I was a lit­tle kid get­ting a $2 allowance each week.

$20 was a lot of mon­ey to me after I start­ed to earn mon­ey here and there for odd jobs.

$100 was a lot of mon­ey to me when I start­ed babysit­ting and work­ing dur­ing the sum­mers.

$2,000 was a lot of mon­ey to me when I was in the mil­i­tary and earn­ing a low wage as an enlist­ed pog.

$6,500 is a ton of mon­ey to me now that I’m work­ing at my full-time W2 career.

Why did my per­cep­tion of “a lot” jump so much in just a few short years?


I start­ed earn­ing more.

5, 10, 20, 50, 100 bucks doesn’t seem much when you’re rou­tine­ly get­ting ten times that every oth­er week.

How­ev­er, I’m weird that I rec­og­nize I’m get­ting paid a lot, AND don’t waste it. So many peo­ple see their income increase and inflate their lifestyle accord­ing­ly.

Fight­ing lifestyle infla­tion is the num­ber one step to achiev­ing finan­cial inde­pen­dence. I know how hard it can be to see those direct deposits go up and not spend them.

I think it’s also worth men­tion­ing my per­cep­tion of “a lot” changes depend­ing on whether or not it was an expect­ed expense. $500 for new tires that you’ve known you need­ed for awhile and have some mon­ey said aside for? A lot, but not unbear­able. $500 for new tires that came out of the blue? A LOT, and STRESSFUL. Spend­ing $6500 on my house exte­ri­or project doesn’t make me hap­py by any means, but it’s an eas­i­er pill to swal­low since I knew it would need to be done from the get go. Also help­ful is not pay­ing it all at once. I coughed up $2275 to start and will pay the rest upon suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of the project.

Even though my def­i­n­i­tion of a lot of mon­ey keeps chang­ing, I’ll nev­er for­get what it was like to not be earn­ing mon­ey. Much like those I’ve encoun­tered recent­ly, my stances on mon­ey were also ingrained in me ear­ly in life. I was lucky to have good mon­ey role mod­els to give me sol­id stances in life!

So tell me friends, what’s a lot of mon­ey to you?


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35 thoughts on “What’s A Lot?

  1. Great post! Its inter­est­ing how our per­cep­tion of money’s val­ue changes over time and as you may take a high­er salary career.

    For exam­ple I am cur­rent­ly in my last day of a busi­ness trip to Ger­many, where I get a per diem of 102 dol­lars a day for food and inci­den­tals.

    Even if I real­ly try, it’s very dif­fi­cult to spend that amount, but it also makes you feel like less that that each day is the equiv­a­lent of 0.

    It’s a habit I’ll have to nip in the bud tomor­row!

  2. Hey Gwen,
    I’ve been read­ing for a while, but don’t think I’ve com­ment­ed before (either that or I just have a bad mem­o­ry!!). But.…the Camp Mustache…brought me into the com­ments! My wife and I will be at the Jan 12 week­end. First time for us at one of these events. And, I’m com­ing from the mid­west, too (WI) — so Jan­u­ary is a GREAT time to soak in a lit­tle extra warmth and whole lot of great mon­ey dis­cus­sions and a bunch of fun! I think we’re there on the same week­end — look­ing for­ward to meet­ing!
    Lance recent­ly post­ed…IHG Points Breaks Hotels March thru May 2015My Profile

  3. I LOVE THIS. I LOVE IT. Also, I love the Mew pics and the Alot. 🙂 Oh good lord, I love this. Any­way, yes, you’re so on point with the anal­o­gy. A lot of peo­ple get the upper hand in life; we can’t blame them for the advan­tages they have. We have to make the best with what we’ve been dealt and say “Good for you” to the peo­ple who have it a lit­tle eas­i­er.

    I’m a cheap per­son, so $200 is a lot of mon­ey to me. It depends on what it’s spent on. For some­thing like Camp Mus­tache, I’d have no prob­lem shelling out $300 because the val­ue is so good to begin with.
    Mrs. Picky Pinch­er recent­ly post­ed…Stay Calm, Save Mon­eyMy Profile

  4. Alyssa and I have been try­ing to fight off lifestyle infla­tion since we start­ed our careers a few years ago. It’s so tempt­ing to see friends tak­ing lux­u­ry vaca­tions, dri­ving shiny new cars, and liv­ing in nice hous­es until you remem­ber that it’s all financed and the bill will come due soon enough. We’re very for­tu­nate to have great income from our W-2 jobs, but we real­ize that we don’t want to work for the rest of our lives on some­one else’s sched­ule. So we’re focused on using as much of our income as pos­si­ble to pay down debt and build wealth.

    As it turns out, $600 is a lot of mon­ey to me right now. Six months ago, if my phone broke I’d have swiped the Amer­i­can Express and had a brand new $600 phone the same after­noon. Now that I’ve changed my mind­set, when I dropped my phone a few weeks ago I opened our tech cab­i­net and pulled out my ‘old’ iPhone 5 and acti­vat­ed that; a new phone can wait until this cred­it card is paid off.
    Ryan @ Just Anoth­er Dol­lar recent­ly post­ed…The only bud­get work­sheet you need RIGHT NOW!My Profile

  5. There’s a cer­tain ele­ment to get­ting used to hear­ing the val­ue of things. I’ve found myself say­ing “the house is actu­al­ly rea­son­able at $1.2MM” . No! Bad! But that’s where we are. I’ve found that as you make more the amounts become friv­o­lous. But were break­ing that habit, or try­ing. $1 is still a dol­lar, so we keep that in mind.

    Regard­less, look­ing for­ward to Ecuador and Dal­las. Will be amaz­ing!

    • Yeah your hous­ing costs are freak­ing insane!! The day I start think­ing a tiny 900 sq ft house is rea­son­able at $1.2 mil­lion is the day you’ll know I’ve offi­cial­ly lost my mind!

  6. What is a lot to me has changed dras­ti­cal­ly since becom­ing debt free and pay­ing off things in cash. What’s worse is it is all rel­a­tive to how much is in sav­ings.

    To me $300 is super cheap but that would also come from my allowance and not the sav­ings.

    The time on the oth­er hand is expen­sive right now because of a fresh new baby (that is sleep­ing on my shoul­der right now).

    I hope I can get to fin­con or camp mus­tache next year! Maybe I’ll have enough saved by then.

  7. I def­i­nite­ly notice the same thing hap­pen­ing to me, although I’ve nev­er real­ly thought about it until now. As I make more, “a lot” goes up and up. I’d say a cou­ple thou­sand is “a lot” for me now.

    I won­der if this is relat­ed to lifestyle infla­tion where spend­ing goes up as you make more, or if it’s some­thing else entire­ly — like ‘psy­cho­log­i­cal infla­tion’, where mon­ey los­es it’s val­ue men­tal­ly as your income goes up. Either way, some­thing I’ll have to keep an eye on now.
    Matt Kuhn recent­ly post­ed…4 Most Com­mon Fears of Retir­ing Ear­ly and Why You Don’t Need to Wor­ryMy Profile

    • Ooh I didn’t even think about what object mon­ey was being spent on. I’m def­i­nite­ly much more like­ly to drop mon­ey on expe­ri­ences with friends as opposed to things for me.

  8. It’s fun­ny, a cou­ple of hun­dred bucks feels like a lot for me to spend but it depends… I just spent that get­ting my sewing machine and serg­er ser­viced and it’s total­ly worth it. I guess it still feels like a lot but I hap­pi­ly paid that because my hob­by is such a big part of my life that it was hard to be with­out my tools for a whole week! On the oth­er hand I’m slot­ting my extra pay­cheque (I’m paid biweek­ly) into sav­ings and that doesn’t seem like much at all but objec­tive­ly it’s way big­ger. This feel of “a lot” or “enough” is so close­ly tied to what you val­ue that it’s almost ridicu­lous when peo­ple define a sum in this way.

    • Bren­na what kind of sewing do you do? I will hap­pi­ly drop $50 at the quilt shop to get some cute fab­ric for a quilt. It’s addict­ing!

    • I have about 20 frolf cours­es in my town. They’re every­where! Then again, build­ings are a lot denser in Seat­tle I guess… see you in a few months!

  9. Great post Gwen! Jason and I will be back at CMSE 2018 (week­end 2 — woohoo!). We had some trou­ble jus­ti­fy­ing the cost last year. Now that we have gone once we are hooked, just get­ting to be around like mind­ed peo­ple and learn­ing from them all was price­less. Can’t wait to see you again in Jan­u­ary 🙂

  10. I think my mark for a lot changed as we start­ed earn­ing income but also as our net worth grew. In some ways it made it eas­i­er to be fru­gal. I just didn’t feel the need to prove with pur­chas­es that I was ok. And I have no idea how they could bring the cost down any more? An emp­ty fields with dig out own toi­lette and baby wipe show­ers and MRE’s? I’ll hap­pi­ly pay $300. 🙂
    Ms. Mon­tana recent­ly post­ed…Sum­mer Ready Par­ty! Essen­tial­ism: The Dis­ci­plined Pur­suit of LessMy Profile

    • As some­one who’s done the whole MRE live in the field thing, I’m not sure there’s any amount of mon­ey you could pay ME to do it!

  11. Great post Gwen, and great blog in gen­er­al – I’ve been fol­low­ing along the past few months and enjoy­ing it immense­ly, so thanks very much for putting your­self out there! For me deter­min­ing what is “a lot” of mon­ey is very rel­a­tive to what is being pur­chased… I’ve spent huge amounts of mon­ey through the years help­ing the peo­ple I care about, but I guess I’ve always leaned towards being fru­gal in oth­er areas of my life. I think $300 for an inspir­ing week­end of trav­el would be well worth it , and am sure it will pay itself back through fur­ther grist for the mill in your blog writ­ing, so enjoy!!

    • Thanks, Frosty FIRE! I’m glad you’re here! You hit the nail on the head.…… inspi­ra­tion for arti­cles is worth the $300 easy for me!

  12. I signed on for Camp Mus­tache SE (both ses­sions) because con­nect­ing with like-mind­ed peo­ple and learn­ing a few finan­cial hacks is worth far more than $300.

    Sure, we could camp under a free­way over­pass and dump­ster-dive for food, but some­how I sus­pect that the qual­i­ty of the dis­course (and the sleep) would suf­fer. The com­plaints about the expens­es are com­ing from a per­spec­tive of scarci­ty instead of the abun­dant ROI on the invest­ment. Even my spouse picked up a few tips from Camp Mus­tache in Seat­tle.

    After you’re FI, $10 can still seem like a lot of mon­ey. The fru­gal habits that get you there are hard to relin­quish…

    • That brings up a great point, Doug. Is my def­i­n­i­tion of a lot going to change after FI and the mon­ey is no longer rolling in from my day job?

  13. i’ve been try­ing to fig­ure out some­thing I call the “Hap­py Meal Ratio” to cap­ture the idea you’re dis­cussing here. Let’s take the ratio of the price of a McDon­alds’ Hap­py Meal ver­sus the aver­age net worth (or annu­al income???). If you mul­ti­ply your net worth by that ratio, you get a dol­lar amount that con­sti­tutes not-a-lot in your house­hold. Want to buy some­thing unnec­es­sary? Com­pare its price tag to the Hap­py Meal fig­ure. Recent­ly, FS advised lim­it­ing auto pur­chas­es to 1/10th of annu­al income. i think we should come up with mul­ti­pli­ers like this for every rou­tine non-triv­ial pur­chase.

  14. Aww Mew with mon­ey is adorable.

    A lot of mon­ey, to me, def­i­nite­ly depends on the cat­e­go­ry. I love trav­el too, but I pri­or­i­tize trips to/with fam­i­ly, espe­cial­ly since I live at least halfway across the coun­try (and at most halfway across the world) from my fam­i­ly. So I’m more will­ing to spend $5k on a week of scu­ba div­ing with my grand­par­ents (cost for me + Fer­gus) than $300 on a camp­ing week­end by myself (Fer­gus would not be up for an entire week­end of social­iza­tion XD).
    Felic­i­ty (@FelicityFFF) recent­ly post­ed…Why Did We Just Spend $1150 Repair­ing Our $500 Car?My Profile

    • Yeah you also have to think of the qual­i­ty of the things you’re spend­ing mon­ey on. I don’t like to pay for trips by myself, but I will pay for trips with peo­ple in a heart­beat!

  15. A lot is rel­a­tive to what I’m spend­ing it on. A lot of mon­ey on some­thing I don’t enjoy, like the the­ater, would be $20. For anoth­er per­son, who loves the the­ater, a lot might be $500+. It’s all rel­a­tive. That’s why I find it fun­ny when peo­ple com­plain about what things cost. Of course to them it might seem like a lot but to oth­ers it might seem like a steal.

    Spend­ing $300 for a week­end like that doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but that’s prob­a­bly because I’d enjoy it quite a bit.
    Owen @ PlanEasy recent­ly post­ed…The Sim­ple Retire­ment PlanMy Profile

  16. It is inter­est­ing how not only does your per­cep­tion of what is a lot of mon­ey change over time but also how you val­ue the items you can buy with your mon­ey once you have more avail­able. I have always enjoyed tak­ing pic­tures and cap­tur­ing moments. It used to be that when I got a new cam­era, which was not all the often, I was so excit­ed to try it out and see how great it was. At that point in time buy­ing a cam­era meant sav­ing up and a sense of accom­plish­ment when I had enough saved. Being able to pur­chase it felt like an event in of itself. Recent­ly we decid­ed to get a new cam­era that would be good to take on a trip (small, water­proof, okay if it got dropped). This time around though there was no sav­ing up for it. We already had the mon­ey and the biggest thing was just spend­ing the time to fig­ure out which one was a good buy for the fea­tures we want­ed. While there is some excite­ment we will have it for our trip it just isn’t the same as when it “cost more”.

    Like Gwen I think what we val­ue the most are expe­ri­ences. Hav­ing kids drove that point home. While toys they have received quick­ly get pushed to the back of their clos­et and are rarely talked about they con­tin­ue to bring up expe­ri­ences they had and places we have vis­it­ed in pri­or years and ask to do more stuff like that.

  17. A lot to me depends on the thing quite a lot — I can’t give a blan­ket num­ber of “$500 is a lot” because it depends on the thing.

    Talk­ing clothes, any­thing over $20 is a lot. I don’t go above $20 when I’m out for lunch / din­ner unless it’s fan­cy — then I spend big ($100 steak is amaz­ing!). I would drop $100 on safe­ty gear for roller der­by with­out a whim­per, but I’ll also com­plain about spend­ing $2 on a stick­er to dec­o­rate that same safe­ty gear.
    Lady­FIRE recent­ly post­ed…unF*ck your bud­getMy Profile

  18. My a lot changes based on the val­ue I think I’ll receive from it. Rough­ly $300 all in to spend the week­end with my now-long-dis­tance girl­friend. Not a lot. $300 for a bag is def­i­nite­ly a lot. One brings me joy and fur­thers our rela­tion­ship and one is just an item.
    ZJ Thorne recent­ly post­ed…Net Worth Week 62My Profile

  19. Hey Gwen! Found your blog through Red­dit (nice AMA btw).

    I think I’m in the same camp as Steve Pol­ing — won­der­ing what “a lot” would be as a ratio. Your def­i­n­i­tion of “a lot” grew over time, but main­tained a ratio com­pared to your over­all funds – I won­der how that impacts what a lot is defined as.

    My hypoth­e­sis is that for FI/frugal folks there is roof on what “a lot” is, where even­tu­al­ly that num­ber stops grow­ing. More con­sumer dri­ven folks let this grow for­ev­er based on avail­able funds.

    I feel like for myself, “a lot” is some­where around $5k — enough to buy a chunk of a new car, to make an IRA con­tri­bu­tion or fix a semi-major house issue in one swoop. Any more than that is a “whole lot” haha.

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