Big vs. Little Savings: Which is Better for Your Finances?

by Reader Contributors

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Is it a waste of time saving small amounts? Should you just focus on big-ticket items? Our frugal readers debate big vs. little savings and which can be better for your financial future.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
My husband says it’s not worth spending lots of time paying attention to little things that save a dollar here or there. Instead, he prefers to look out for the big bargains such as travel specials and such.

I’m horrible at that. I’m much better at the little things. Needless to say, he thinks I’m wasting my time, and I think he’s missing good opportunities. Although I must admit it’s disheartening when I’ve managed to save $25 on a weekly shopping trip, and in one swoop, he dances in and says, “I got a ticket to Wherever for peanuts!” (A place we really wanted to go, BTW.)

Can any of your readers comment on this balance?


My father is a marriage counselor and this sort of thing comes up all the time in differing scenarios, not just money and savings. The financial one is much simpler to deal with than many of the other more common ones. Being a man myself I love to “hunt” for big game, I mean, um… savings. See, he’s trying to bring home “the big one,” but he needs to realize that that is an expenditure rather than a savings. It may be a steeply discounted expenditure, but it still is one.

So, in reality, you are saving, and he is bargain-hunting. Both are vitally necessary. If you didn’t save it, he couldn’t spend it on the “tickets to Wherever.” Instead, the answer would have to be, “That’s great, Honey, but we really can’t even afford those.” This is a much worse position to be in. Your savings allow him the freedom to go for the kill on these good deals. He needs to realize that he can’t do that without your work. You are a team and need to start formally acknowledging that since you are doing it anyhow.

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Different Methods, Same Goal

You obviously have a gift for finding bargains, aka penny-pinching. I think that’s great! You’re doing so much for your family, and I’m sorry that your husband doesn’t see that. Your method of small-bargain saving is very effective, requiring much insight, attention to detail, and self-control. Those are very important qualities, and while your husband may not feel they are worth your time, I can assure you they are. $20 here and there can add up very quickly.

Chances are, without your cost-cutting methods, your husband wouldn’t be able to afford any vacations, no matter how wonderful a bargain. It takes an effort from every household member to acquire successful savings. Your methods may differ from his, but they are no less important. In fact, I am willing to bet that your methods are more effective in the long run.

Each Contribution Helps

I say, “Keep it up!” Between you and your husband, both of you are doing great! You’re both contributing to the household as long as you can get your husband to recognize that a little bit of savings adds up to a whole lot when done repeatedly.

In our case, I save on groceries while my husband saves on auto expenses. Between the two of us, we do all right and we are each contributing what we are good at to get the household ahead financially. Who cares how much it is as long as it’s something? Good luck – convincing the husband, that is.

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Seeing the Value

Your husband is missing good opportunities by not saving on the “little things”. Those little things add up and you need to show him. Keep track of what you save over a month. At the end of the month, multiply by 12 and you will see how much you can save in a year. Then, show your husband the results.

My husband didn’t think it was worth the time to find coupons and send in rebates until I showed him that we saved an average of $35-50 per month. Now, you may not think that’s a lot, but it adds up! That’s just from groceries. When I included other store specials and coupons, it almost “paid” for the insurance on one of our cars for a year! Ask your husband how he would like “free” car insurance! My husband has become a true bargain shopper and can even find better deals than I can now!

Join Forces

I guess it must be about perspective because I read your note and thought to myself, “How perfect!” I think it’s terrific that both you and your husband have an interest in saving money even though you choose to exercise it in different ways. Rather than trying to determine which of you is “right”, I say join forces! Imagine how much money will be saved if you concentrate on saving $20 on your groceries every week (in addition to the other “little things”) and your husband concentrates on the “big things” like vacations, etc.

To you, I say – keep up the good work! $20 a week means that you save $1040 over a year. If you put that money in a separate savings account for “play money,” then I’ll bet at the end of a year, your husband can work his particular brand of magic to get you somewhere great for that amount. It will feel almost like a free vacation! And you will have the money from doing what you’re already doing anyway.

Reviewed October 2023

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