We make spending decisions every day. Should I buy the dress? Where should we go for dinner? Where should we take our vacation?

I’ve been asking people I know about their spending philosophies.


One of my Toronto Facebook friends is a stunning woman and I always enjoy seeing photos of her in Vogue-worthy outfits at various splashy events. I don’t normally ask her, “Hey, where did you buy that?” but I just couldn’t help myself the other day when one of her more colourful, sexy-yet-casual dresses jumped off the screen. Her reply? “It cost me $39.99 at Winners. Shhhh….”

Respect! I have always had deep admiration for people who have the knack of knowing how and where to find bargains. I somehow didn’t inherit that particular shopping gene. I asked her how she knows when to splurge or not, and, if she has a spending strategy for clothing?

“I guess if I were to sum up my purchasing habits, I’d say I don’t mind spending on pieces that last at least a decade, like classic purses, belts, blazers or coats. I spend cheaply on trendier clothing items, like cold-shoulder blouses, studded jean jackets or lemon-patterned sundresses. Somewhere in the middle fall great jeans. There’s no jean on earth that fits like a glove for $40. Trust me, I’ve looked.

Also, because my weight is in flux, this is where purses, belts and shoes come in. Luckily, we can’t gain weight in our toes! And contrary to how I might seem, I’m never an impulse shopper. I have a hard time dropping hundreds without carefully thinking about all my options. It’s just how I’ve always looked at money. So, in the post you noticed from yesterday, I paired a $15,000 purse with a $40 dress. One purchase I thought about for five years, the other was an impulse buy.”

Fine Dining

I have two rules when it comes to choosing a restaurant. First, it has to offer me something that would never be on our menu at home; second, no “frou-frou” food, such as foam!

Ann Richards is a seasoned investment advisor who lives in Toronto. She has an interesting perspective on dining out:

“After setting aside funds for savings and monthly obligations, we feel freer to spend on different categories such as travel and restaurants. We don’t budget dollars for restaurants, we try to budget time with friends. And with everyone having such busy lives, it is difficult to coordinate dates with people we want to see. Our restaurant “budget” becomes more of a spending target rather than a constraint. We try to book a dinner with friends every weekend. We find that our restaurant expenditures are generally offset by the economies of eating at home the rest of the week, and we can balance our social lives with our private time.”


My husband and I are both runners and one of our favorite things to do is to line up a half-marathon (21.1 kilometers, or 13 miles) while we are visiting cities around the world on our business trips. We’re not out to win any medals, it’s just a fun way to see the area while getting a good workout in…and for about one tenth the cost of a round of golf!  So far, we’ve had some amazing runs in Lausanne, Paris, Brussels, Paso Robles (central California), and Cape Town. Adding a day or two of pleasure to a business trip is a great way to both reduce vacation costs and maximize life experience.

We’re not the only ones who think this way!

Betty Jean (BJ) McHugh is a world record runner who lives in Vancouver and is better known as “The Flying Granny.” She has completed marathons around the world, including Honolulu, Victoria (BC), Chicago, New York, Boston and Big Sur in California, and frequently set new records for her age category.  Over the years, BJ has often combined marathons with vacation time. Her book “My Road to Rome” tells of her trip to Italy to take part in the city’s 2009 Maratona di Roma. The wildly energetic 90-year-old spoke with me about her spending strategy around travel:

“I don’t have a lot of money and travel can be quite costly. I run with a group and we treat destination runs as a holiday. We do Honolulu a lot! I would say that the marathon is sort of secondary to the good time you have there.”

How do you spend?

When it comes to clothes, dining-out and travel…how would you describe yourself? Are you a conscious spender? A strategic splurger? A ‘stick to the budget’ type? An impulse buyer?

What’s your spending philosophy?

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see www.barbarastewart.ca.