A few years ago in an attempt to better regulate how I spend my money I decided to take two weeks and write down everything I spent, cash and debit card, all of it. I know it’s all there online, but the physical act of keeping a list really was eye-opening to me. I mean, I live mostly by myself, I don’t have kids, I make good money and only have a few bills and expenses. I can usually buy most things I want or need without thinking twice about it. And, um, I was not thinking twice A LOT. After this little budgetary exercise I decided to spend a month with a pretty restricted budget on going out to lunch or dinners, shopping, and even tried to be more careful at the grocery store.
Ya’ll, it’s time for that type of “detox” again. I have decided that May will be a month of no additional spending. I have gotten very lackadaisical about keeping a discerning eye on my wallet and in doing a little math today I am horrified at the number of dollars that have been spent with very little to show for them as far as quality experiences, quality meals, or quality products. I’m not saying that all purchases need to be for the highest quality consumption only, but looking over my account history I have WAY TOO MUCH low-quality spending.
So, I’m making changes. And instead of thinking about this for a week or two and then selecting a perfect day to start (you know, a week or 10 days in the future so I can “stock up” before the spending freeze), I’m just going to change. Immediately. Starting right now and going through the end of May.
A few luxury categories where I feel I can really save some pennies:
1. Food. Of late I have become really lazy about meal planning and have spent far too much money (and calories) in lunches and take-out for dinner. I need to buckle down and watch what I eat a little better, this will benefit my bank account AND my waistline. Those white jeans I bought last year will be worn much more frequently this summer if I don’t feel like a stuffed sausage when I pull them on.
2. My feet. I really don’t need another professional pedicure; I’m pretty good at doing them myself and already have all the supplies. Also, I need a new color of nail polish like I need a hole in the head, so that is being cut immediately. (Side note: WHY DO I HAVE SO MUCH NAIL POLISH!? Oh. Because I keep buying it.)
3. Books. It hurts my heart SO MUCH to have to list this here, but I went back for the last six months to calculate just how much I’ve spent buying books…and it’s kind of exorbitant, more than $100 a month. Now, I read voraciously, but I already have more books than I can probably read in the next two years, even at my 10 books/month average pace. I can probably go a whole four weeks without buying any new ones, and I can probably cut my monthly spending down significantly without feeling any real cramp in my style. (Sob!)
4. Car washes. Months ago I signed up for an unlimited car wash service that costs my about $35 a month. Honestly, I use it about once a week, so it’s not like it’s wasted cash. I like Miss Persimini to look her shiny best and my long blonde hairs need to be regularly vacuumed out of the carpet. But at $35 a month that is about $250 worth of car washes until I move to Arizona…and that suddenly seems really, really expensive. I’m going to try canceling it this month and re-evaluate in June to see if this expense is truly justified, and perhaps see if there is a less expensive overall option.
5. Impulse shopping. Again, this has been my downfall. A cute v-neck t-shirt! (just $12 bucks!) New chapstick! ($3 bucks) New nail polish! ($8 bucks) Cute cloth napkins with birds on them! ($10 bucks) A comedy show with friends! ($30 bucks) An “It’s been that kind of a Monday” sushi lunch! (only $25 bucks) Followed, of course, by Taco Tuesday ($7 bucks) and Burrito Thursday ($12 bucks) and…well, you see where this is going, don’t you? I don’t need any of these things, and while I am not willing to cut little luxuries like this out of my life and budget permanently, I could really be better about paying attention to how I am spending my hard-earned monies.
Um….Hi, my name is Harriet and I have a super first-world spending problem….good hell, this list is depressing in its admission of enormous levels of economic privilege. Blergh. I kind of hate myself right now. The best we can do is admit where we are falling short, make changes, and move forward with a new perspective and new habits, right?
Okay. Here it goes.
From now until the end of May I am in major curb-my-spending mode. Of course I will still be paying my bills and I’ll be going to the grocery store every week and if there is some kind of medical emergency I will not for one minute choose not to use my health insurance and HSA card (hiiiii, economic privilege!). BUT, I won’t be shopping aimlessly; I won’t wander around Target or Etsy or the J. Crew Outlet website; I won’t waltz to a sub-par food-court type restaurant for lunch four days a week; I won’t be buying new makeup products to experiment with; and I won’t be adding to my bookshelves in any way.
Honestly? This probably won’t be easy for me. I hope it will be the kind of budgetary cleanse I need to keep my spending more in check. Have you ever done a month of no spending? Or more? What did you think? Did it help curb some of your habits? Did you find you could overall live with spending less after your little experiment? What was the hardest part? Easiest? Most enlightening? I’m so curious about your findings and overall results.