Finances & Money

Saving Money versus Avoiding Spending

I won’t count the number of times I use the phrase “save money” on this site, when in reality, I’m not saving a single penny at all. In fact, my whole Ways to Save Money series is named completely wrong. So what should it be called?

Ways to Avoid Spending Money

But that phrase doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Ways to Save Money”, does it? But why even comment on the difference? Simply put, it’s just a different use of the language, right?

What is “Saving Money”?

Basically, saving money means to stash it away somewhere. Kind of like saving acorns before winter. When people say “I saved money on this sale”, I doubt they actually went to the store to deposit money into their savings account.

Rather, they should have said “I avoided spending more money than…at this sale“. In place of “…”, you can insert other phrases like

  • “other shoppers” or
  • “the manufacturer’s suggested retail price” or
  • “what the store wanted” or
  • “what I initially expected to spend”

When you avoid spending money, that’s not saving money unless you stretch the meaning to say “I saved my money from falling into the hands of the evil salesperson or corporate giant”, much like you would save a damsel in distress or your toast from falling buttered side down. And perhaps that’s what people, including myself, really mean by “saving money”.

Will I change my writing?

I don’t know a single personal finance blogger, or even any financial writer, who uses the phrase “spending avoidance” over “saving money”, and I have no intention of correcting myself unless I’m consciously thinking of the difference at the time I write an article.

So what’s the point of this whole article? I don’t know, maybe an English lesson? Maybe just to make sure you, the reader, is aware of the difference between material gains in your savings account versus immaterial “savings” over what you spent and what you could have, but didn’t, spend.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I love it! I’ve actually been a nerd and said, “I avoided spending $x.xx” on a purchase.

    When shopping with my little sister who gets excited about saving money at a sale, I’ll tell her she’ll save 100 percent by not buying it at all. She’s not so impressed.

    Anyway, I linked back to this post because I think it’s important to remember you only save money when you actually put it in the bank!

  • I can see your point about avoiding spending. If I don’t buy a pair of shoes but buy a pizza instead then I have saved nothing. However, if I put the money that I was going to spend on the shoes into the bank then it is saving. I was watching a TV programme last night where a woman was shown how to reduce her families food shopping bill by £700 a year and she said ‘that’s a years worth of shoes’ – wow, I spend about £50 on shoes a year if that!

  • Nice post Clever Dude – I was actually debating the EXACT thing in a previous post of mine…but, like you and the others, i still catch myself going with “saving money”….it’s just so much easier/quicker to get a point across 😉

  • When I see a sign saying that I can save 25%, I keep telling myself that if I do not buy it I will save 100%! I am terrible at saving so have decided that when I get the itch to spend extra money it will go right to the house payment. Because I get my “fix” by writing a big check I no longer have any debt and have even started writing checks to charities. It is a really good feeling!

  • Since you mentioned about putting the money in the bank then I CAN say that I save money when I buy something on sale because my money is in an interest bearing account. I have all my money in ING, most in the savings and some in the interest bearing checking account.

    I use (cash back) credit cards to buy things and then send the money from the interest bearing account to pay for the purchase before any interest comes due.

    I don’t have to ‘go put the money’ I ‘save’ from a reduced purchase in the bank because it is already in the bank earning interest. If the item is on sale then the difference is already in my savings account because then I would just transfer the smaller amount to go as a payment.

    What do you say to that? 🙂

  • @lulugal, You’re still not truly saving anything. You’re avoiding spending money. I could say I avoiding spending 2 million dollars because I didn’t buy a Bugatti Veyron.

    As for earning interest, you don’t earn interest on money that’s no longer in your account because you spent it to buy something.

    The only way to truly save money when spending is if the difference between the original and actual price paid is sent directly to your savings account. But then you’re also losing money because you’re taking out money for the expense, regardless of what you’re putting in.

  • I am a recent subscriber to your site and I find your style of writing and insight some of the best in the blog world.

    I must admit that one of my more common thoughts is just this – wealth is not predicated on how much you earn but on how much you don’t spend. This is clearly identified on one page called “the tally”.


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