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Home » Frugality, Save

Which is More Fulfilling: Saving Money or Making Money?

Last updated by on January 18, 2016

A penny saved is a penny earned” is not my favorite cliche, but it does contain the two fundamental personal finance components within its seven words:

1. saving money

2. making money

At its simplest level, optimizing each is what personal finance is all about.

The other day, I was thinking about which I found more fulfilling (because personal finance bloggers are sick like that…).

And I had a hard time coming up with an answer.

Savings Vs. Earnings: Fulfilling in their Own Ways

earnings vs savingsEven though they have an equal effect on your bottom line, the thrill of the act, motivation behind it, and sense of fulfillment can be completely different from person to person.

Doing things like cutting your electric bill, saving money on your auto insurance policy, or switching to one of the most fuel efficient cars can be extremely rewarding, kind of like winning a game. Call it the “thrill of the hack”. There’s also a minimalist appeal to saving money.

On the earning side, getting paid to build something from scratch, close a big deal, or make someone’s life better can be extremely rewarding as well. It is a form of validation or appreciation for all of your hard work. Providing for your family? Even better. And when your own money starts making money for you? Hot damn!

Taken to Extremes

At extremes, a love (or addiction) for one or the other can seem obvious:

An individual who turns down an income in favor of full-time extreme couponing so that they can store 200 tubes of Crest toothpaste in their basement is probably more fulfilled by saving money than they are by making money.

An individual who consciously goes into a field of work with the intention of making a ton of money while sacrificing personal time, relationships, and health so that you can afford a lavish lifestyle is probably more fulfilled by making money than they are by saving money.

But for everyone else, it is probably not quite as clear.

Which is More Fulfilling to you: Making Money or Saving Money?

I had such a hard time deciding which was more fulfilling, I thought it would make for an interesting reader debate. So debate away!

  • Which do you think is more fulfilling? (take the poll below)
  • Why? (comments)

Which is more fulfilling to you?

View Results

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Mike says:

    I think this topic depends on where you are in life. Right now in my life I have graduated college, have been working 5 years, earning a comfortable income (earning money), and getting ready to buy a house before the end of 2012, so I voted saving money.

    I’m frugal on some things, and on other things I’m not. I choose to buy mostly generic store-brand food, almost never buy frivolous junk, I don’t even subscribe to cable TV. On the flip side of the coin, I probably spend too much on apartment rent and I don’t want a roommate, rent alone is 50% of my monthly budget. Additionally, if someone I know wants to go out and do something fun, or go out to dinner, I am always up for it. I like the tradeoff of living simply on a small household budget in order to spend more on the large living expenses and fun experiences.

    I can definitely see my answer changing over the years to come after I have paid off my house and accumulated enough savings to feel comfortable. The wealthier I get the more I could see how earning money will be my main focus, as I switch my focus from micro-managing and penny pinching to calculating risks and accumulating multi-millions.

    • Ryan @ LifeFreshOut says:

      I agree with Mike about where you are in your life probably having a large impact on your feelings. I’ve been out of school for about 2 years, and to me earning more is always more interesting. I’ve been pretty good about keeping a lot of extra expenses down, but some things I’m just not willing to give up. I also live alone, and though I know rent is a huge part of my budget, everytime I think about finding a roommate, I cringe a little.

      I’d much rather keep my state of life now, and earn more, than earn the same and cut things out.

  • Bichon Frise says:

    Another thought is, if you save a penny, you have to earn 1.4 pennies to equal the one penny you saved.

    it’s all about priorities. Some people love making money. Some people love other things and money is only a means to an end. Do what’s most important to you.

    Too non-negative?

  • Saving money is nice, but there’s nothing more fulfilling to me than making enough money to put some aside and watch my savings account grow. Although there’s a thrill in paying less for something, for me it doesn’t compare to knowing that I’m better preparing for my future by making enough money to put some in a savings account.

  • HP says:

    Both, but at different stages. Up front, making money is more fulfilling. Saving isn’t as fulfilling to me until I’ve reached a specific goal in the end.

  • David says:

    I would agree with HP there is a balance. I like to think I am a good saver, but there is one thing I don’t save on and that’s productivity products. I don’t paying extra for things that will give me a edge at work and I am always looking forward to my next career move. I am definitely on the side of earning more is more satisfying. Also I’m a bigger advocate of the increasing your disposable income (which requires steps to improve both ends of the equation). My personal target is to make more and spend less, the best of both worlds.

  • David says:

    *don’t mind paying extra. I needed to re-read that one first, sorry.

  • Nick says:

    This is a very interesting topic, and it’s great timing because I was just thinking about making vs saving money today. For the past 3-4 years (since I graduated college) I have mostly been working on getting completely out of debt and saving money. I’m finally at a place where my expenses are reduced about as much as they can get, and I am saving 70% of my pay. I have a firm grasp on the saving money side of things.

    As for making money – I love my job (enjoy going everyday) because I feel appreciated and am truly helping people. The “problem”? I make just under 40k and there is really no room for advancement. I can basically expect to get a 2-3% raise each year.

    Saving is going great but I wish I could make more money, without completely changing careers or without knowing if I will actually like what I do at a hypothetical new, higher paying job. For me it has been more fulfilling saving money, but I’d like to know what it feels like to make some money too!

  • Brett says:

    Unfortunately, saving is very difficult without first making money (if someone has figured out a legal way around this, please let us know!), but I am sickly fascinated by saving money. I treat it as a game. I analyze my pay stubs to determine just how much I can allocate to savings (and to which buckets) and get great satisfaction at putting my analysis to action. Knowing that I have money set aside, and continue to put it there, is a great relief to me when supporting a family.

    • Kellie D says:

      I totally agree with Brett, I treat money saving as a fun game. I was a poor college student that accrued a significant amount of student loan debt and now that I am starting to get out of debt I enjoy seeing my savings grow a little each month and finding ways to save even more money is like a fun game where I win every time…sure making money is nice because it equates to the savings, but I get more enjoyment out of saving the money I make.

  • John @ Financial Planner Irvine says:

    I think these two both go hand in hand. Without the other, the other one is incomplete. Earn money to buy you your needs and earn money so you would have something to save.

  • Jason D says:

    Both. I work with people older than me that are so penny pinching that they don’t realize that some money has to be spent so you can earn the return on the capital. What is a Client lunch, a faster computer for work.

    I started my business in 2009 by buying a $1,000 L-shape desk. It at times is a mix purchase but in the end is the place where I work and earned $70K last year!

    I had a project turn south because of the timing and amount of work I had at the time focused on selling instead of working the projects. For $20 I bought the guy a bottle of Jack Daniels! I saved the $3,900 project with a bottle of Jack and some snacks for the secretary. Now only did the $20 Jack allow me to save a client, it allowed me to build my backlog!


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