I recently read an article about a woman who did a shopping ban that eventually spanned two years. Now, this was in 2014-2016, so the early days of KonMari decluttering mania. By now, many people have tried all kinds of quirky, extreme experiments like this, for financial or anti-consumerist reasons. Many a website is devoted to the “spend nothing”, “buy nothing” “waste nothing” warriors and their journeys, bless their minimalist hearts.
[Sidenote: In my non-exhaustive experience, none of these experimenters have children. I’m not saying you can’t do it with kids… actually, yes, I am. It would be a totally different ballgame, and parenting is stressful enough as is! But, there are loads of helpful learnings that come from their experiences, even for parents ;)]
Anyhow, one of Cait’s biggest takeaways after year one?
“the toughest part of the ban isn’t that I’m “going without” anything; it’s simply the act of trying to change my habits”
When we’re on spending auto-pilot, how many mindless habits are informing our purchases?
I’ve rounded up some everyday spending habits/triggers below. KEEP IN MIND that this is not a wholesale rejection of spending in these areas! Absolutely not. Values on value (in spending) can be totally objective; what is worth it for someone may not be worth it for her friend. (e.g. I don’t want to go to the spa, but my spa-loving friend would spend all her spare pennies there, gladly).
The point is: do I want to spend money this way? Does it align with my financial goals? Do I feel good about the dollar spent?
If the answer is YES — excellent! Well done, you.
If NO, then no problem; paying attention is a great place to start. Then, small steps in the direction you want to go!
Maybe some of these resound with you:
Cait said, “my habits were that if I was really tired in the morning, I’d tell myself it was OK to get takeout coffee. Not being able to do that [during the ban] was eye-opening, realizing how many times in the past I’d justified that purchase when it takes two minutes to make coffee. Also, if I was going to run errands, I would always buy a latte beforehand.”
For me, back when I was commuting to my office job, I felt like if I was ready and out the door ahead of schedule, I would go to Starbucks as a reward. I think at that time (pre-kids), I just had altogether too much disposable income!
On the flip side, my friend Christine shared with me that a highlight of her year has been spending Saturdays, about once a month or more, with her son who is soon graduating high school. They have a whole routine where they buy coffees to start, and tour thrift shops throughout the city, with lunch in the middle. I’m certain that in this case, the value of the coffee & meal expense is thoroughly intentional... and worth it to her for the shared experience & time together.
It's Friday. I'm tired. I don't want to cook, and I don't even care what we eat, as long as I am not in charge of producing it. Sound familiar?
Some families have a standing night out or takeout dinner plan, and account for it accordingly. But, if left to spontaneity, we can WAY overspend out of convenience, exhaustion, or simple habit. If paying for a meal out (or in) is a relief & celebration to enjoy — sounds like a perfect way to spend money. If everyone is tired, cranky, and difficult, maybe those bucks would be better enjoyed on a different night, or on ice creams on Saturday afternoon.
Fancy Christmas party coming up, but you are a mom who mostly wears jeans or yoga pants? Time to head to the mall...
Or, not! Besides a good investment in a multi-use LBD, dropping huge coin on a dress, shoes, & jewelry that you will have very little occasion to wear... is kind of crazy. My suggestion? Check with your friends, first. You may not collect the entire outfit, but you may find some items to take the sting (and waste) away from the splurge. Once, I mentioned to a group of girlfriends that I needed an outfit for an out-of-town wedding: in the end, I went to the party with a dress from Erica, Earrings from Meghan, and shoes from Susie!
This habitual thinking (I need this thing, I will go buy it) is particularly crazy when it comes to fancy clothes for little kids — those dress-up shoes that are only required once a year will be the wrong size for the next go-'round!
During Cait's shopping ban, one of her biggest challenges was not buying books; her previous habit had been that if she saw a book she was interested in reading, she would purchase it, in hard copy or on her e-reader.
Big entertainment purchases (like concert or festival tickets) may give us pause, but what may hit the bottom line even harder (unnoticed by us) are the smaller, regular purchases: cable, streaming subscriptions to tv/video/music, movie rentals, album releases.
Which do I use most? Am I reading the books that I'm buying, watching the movies I'm renting/buying, double-paying for the same services? Great questions to ask to review the value of these expenses.
Maybe not a habit exactly, but in this modern age of research and choice, we can sometimes assume that the lower or more inexpensive versions of things are not even worth having. Of course, as I’ve said before, I am a big fan of investing in better quality goods that need to be replaced less frequently; but, like the Canada Goose jackets, we can way overstate our "needs", buying the most highly technical, exceptional products that way exceed our level of requirement.
When I was in the market for a new bicycle, it was hard not to be swept up in all of the hoopla of features. Shouldn’t I get disk brakes? What about xyz? (I don’t even remember anything else technical about the bike, which should be a hint of how this story ends).
Wayne had to remind me a few times: What exactly are you going to be doing with this bike? Riding paths with the kids, maybe some more trail riding in a few years. Are you doing any Olympic training with this bike? No.
Ok, well, every single bike on the market today is wildly better than the one we’re replacing from 20 years ago, so… if you get a mid-range (or even low-range) bike, it is going to be fantastic!
Have any of these habits caught you in spending that would surprise you? Any others that I haven't mentioned? Share in the comments below!