Shopping Ban Update: One Year Later

Here goes …

One year ago, I began a 6 month shopping ban. You can read the epic saga right here, but, in a nutshell, I was shopping and spending unchecked, causing financial damage, and feeling utterly lost and out-of-control. So – as many style bloggers have done before me – I decided to create a self-imposed ban. I knew quitting cold turkey would just backfire, so I allowed myself $10 per week to spend on used clothing, shoes, and accessories. Nothing new for 6 months besides gifts.

It was fun and it was hard and it was weird and Already Pretty readers had varied reactions. Some were supportive of my project, some fascinated by my progress, and some mean about my slip-ups … which is why it took me until now to give a real update. And when it was all over – back in April of this year – I went to SF and shopped my little heart out with Audi to celebrate my freedom.

And then I continued to celebrate.

And seem to be continuing, even now, to celebrate the end of the ban. Which is to say that, although I have not dented my savings – the $1,300 that I wanted to keep as my safety net – I have not actually saved. Which means a LOT of money has gone out the door and a LOT of gorgeous things have been procured. And a LOT of guilt and anxiety over it all has been experienced.

To be clear, a portion of my paycheck goes directly into retirement accounts. I have a pension. HM and I have a joint savings account to which I have contributed faithfully, every month. My credit card is still hidden in an undisclosed location, I have been paying it down, and will not retrieve it until it is paid off and an emergency arises. Lest you think I am utterly incapable of fiscal responsibility, I share with you these facts.

And yet, I have not put one thin dime into my personal savings account in six months. And despite the aforementioned guilt and anxiety, neither has eclipsed my desire to spend. I feel like I am still rebelling against those self-imposed restraints, still panicky at the idea that, any minute now, my ability to buy things I want and love will be stripped away.

I said to Cal, “I think I need another ban.”

And she said, “Um, I think what you need is ANYTHING BUT another ban. You purged for six months and have been binging ever since. Try another tactic.”

I said to Trinknitty, “I have such issues with shopping.”

And she said, “Seems like you’re fine with shopping. You love doing it, it’s your major creative outlet, you’ve got the space for your acquisitions, and you’re not putting yourself into debt doing it. YOUR problem is with saving.”

And it’s good to have friends with brains, who understand me and can lay down the law. Talking to them forced me to do the thinking I’d been avoiding for so very, very long. So here comes the really personal, confessional style stuff.

Cal and Trin are both right. Although I learned a lot from my shopping ban, and it was a journey that taught me about my reasons and triggers for spending, and it put me in a better financial place, the bottom line is that it didn’t actually CHANGE my behaviors. It gave me insight, but it did not change me. And another ban will not change me, either. The root of my problem isn’t shopping. I love shopping and have the financial and storage capacity to shop regularly and allow myself to enjoy it. I express myself through my style, and making that activity forbidden just makes it all the more tempting.

I have money problems. I have had money problems since I was 10 years old and discovered the power of money and started taking $20 bills out of my dad’s wallet on the sly to buy candy. The main problem I have is that the act of spending money is strongly linked to both independence and power in my mind. I love to feel independent, love to feel powerful … so spending whenever I want to is a behavior I find hard to keep in check. Whenever I make a large or unnecessary purchase, just before I hand over the debit card or click “buy,” I actually do hesitate. But then an insistent voice pipes up, saying, “HEY. It’s YOUR money. You can do whatever you want with it.” And I buy. And I feel momentarily in control, and independent, and a little rebellious. And I have not figured out what, if anything, can be done to create balance.

Other contributing factors:

  • I don’t get a lot of buyer’s remorse: I LOVE the stuff I buy, and only return it if it doesn’t fit. I’m not buying willy-nilly, I’m buying quite mindfully.
  • I don’t enjoy saving. I get no pleasure from seeing a big balance in my savings account, and am yet to feel like my savings are a great accomplishment or asset.
  • I am not emotionally in touch with any savings-related goals. I’m in a place where building my wardrobe and exploring my style is pretty close to top financial priority. (I realize that will change as I age, but for now … that’s where I’m at.)
  • Two years ago, my house was broken into and both our cars stolen. I was in NYC visiting friends at the time. I am STILL scared to travel for long periods, freaked out about leaving my home unattended, which means a fairly normal savings goal for someone in my position (travel) is actually a bit repellent to me.
  • I am stubborn and have a hard time changing my own behaviors.

Trin also said, “Just pick an amount to put into savings every paycheck. Anything outside that, you get to spend.”

It is a simple plan, and for a while it worked. I have backslid since then, to be completely honest, but I still think this is still my best option. And I am doing it now.

I don’t need to shop less. I am the only one who gets to decide when I have enough shoes and dresses and necklaces. And as someone who regularly donates clothes to charity, gives items away to friends, repurposes items, and sells on eBay, it is likely to be an endless cycle of things I love coming in and things I’m done with going out. And that’s completely fine, considering my life and lifestyle. What I need to do is spend the money I have earmarked for SPENDING, and save the money I have earmarked for saving.

So that’s where I’m at. I am yet to connect with my emotional motivator to save money, but I’m going to try to just make saving a habit. Not necessarily conceptualize it as saving “for” something, but just saving to be wise and prepared. I want to make my peace with this aspect of being an adult that has simply never clicked for me, but I don’t really know how or when that will happen. Still, I need to prime the pump and become accustomed to regular, uninterrupted saving. And the plan of simply saving a chunk of each paycheck and spending the leftovers seems simple and makes sense.

So here goes …

– – –
Not to be repetitive, but while constructive comments are always welcome, spiteful ones are never welcome. You may think any number of nasty things about me because of how I’ve handled my post-ban behavior and finances, but I will not publish those nasty things here under any circumstances.

  • Meli22

    Oh Sal, I love how you have thought this through so thoroughly! The ban was great- it got you into thrifting more, which was neat all in it's own. It did teach you about yourself. I don't think you need another either- the self-imposed stress is too much!

    I have been thinking about my own self-imposed ban (and I did worse than you did, it agitated me and made me spend MORE than I did pre=ban!). I need to do the SAME THING you do (save and pay bills).

    Only thing is, the savings account does have an emotional motivator for me- One day, I want a family. I want to have children, and I want to have a serious savings account for the benefit of said child/children and family. However- how is that a good motivator, when I scrap money together just to pay bills?! The only tiny amount of'extra' money I have is MINE, and just as you I feel I can spend it how and where I want. I work two jobs just to HAVE that tiny tidbit of $, and while being 'responsible' sounds great, I do want to reward myself somehow. I don't shop every week, and I hardly get time off of work.
    Besides- I am changing and growing and learning, and I need the ability to do so with my clothing. I do NOT want the 'it' items of the season, or to have designer items just to show off on my blog. I want quality items at a good price, and I ENJOY clothing and style and dressing myself.

    What IS better? Amassing a huge savings account, never enjoying life, and perhaps leaving the money behind because we can't take it with us? Or enjoying life (while still paying the bills and having an emergency fund) and the fruits of your labor? I vote the latter!

  • lopi

    Dear Sal,
    Personally I think you did great with your ban. I believe your motives were more to learn about your shopping behavior patterns and less about money. But I so agree with Trinknitty's advice and moreover, it seems like it helped you realize some facts. You love shopping and you are finally embracing that fact. You just need to find the balance between shopping and saving. And being the responsible and mature person you are, I'm sure you will!

  • GLC

    If you don't mind me suggesting something, I'll share what helped me build up a savings account.

    I got a savings account from a bank with the stipulation that one day a month, $20 is taken from my checking and automatically transferred to my savings. I don't have to do anything except make sure there is $20 in my account on a certain day of the month. Then I make myself forget that I have a savings account so I will leave that money alone.

    $20 a month is not much admittedly but I don't make much either. Previously, I was only putting gift money from birthdays into my savings and keeping my paycheck only in checking. However since I started this arrangement, my savings account has stashed away a small yet healthy amount that earns a tiny bit of interest. However when you make as little as I do, it's really great to make the tiniest bit of extra money just by leaving some cash alone. I've gotten into my savings before to pay for emergency things when I've run out of money (oh hello unemployment in a bad economy).

    You could talk to your bank to see if there is such a program that would automatically transfer money into a savings account.

    I'm glad that you found out the root of your problem and have been working on your financial problems. I know a lot of girls my age who are up to their ears in credit card debt and simply just don't care or do anything about it. So I'm really happy for you. You're a smart, clever woman and I know you'll be able to do whatever you put your mind to.

  • Anne

    Thanks for sharing that Sal. I'm sure it was extremely hard to open up in that way, especially since you have received negative feedback in the past. I am writing (instead of just lurking for once) to suggest a couple of things.

    Have you considered learning to sew? That might give you a less expensive way to indulge in your love of fashion and give you another creative outlet.

    Have you thought about getting counseling for your need to spend? I'm not saying shopping is a bad thing, but I think the emphasis on materialism might be not so good. One of your quotes resonated from a previous article "Do not beat yourself up for liking stuff, or letting stuff help you feel good. That is what stuff is for." This quote reaaaally worries me, because "stuff" shouldn't be a main factor in making you feel good.

    Again, love the blog, read every day and thanks for letting us complete strangers in on your private thoughts.

  • K.Line

    Sal, as with everything, you have given this some terrific thought! I love how you understand that spending, for you, is about power. Amazing. I have got to consider what the hell spending is about for me. I feel so disengaged!! :-) Also, I think Trinknitty is on the mark (well so is Cal). You obviously love your wardrobe – and you are kind enough to share it with others (to exponentially multiply the pleasure it provides). I also see you parlaying it into new career channels (TV, styling) – so it may actually contribute to your overall monetary success. Now, having said this, I hear your concerns and I think it's laudable to understand yourself.

    Let me just say, life is short and little thrills are the backbone of pleasure. You have shown us that you are rather responsible financially – despite your declining to save for the past 6 months. I'm really not worried about you. You're a girl with a head on your shoulders. And a Capricorn, for goodness sake!

  • Sal

    GLC: Husband Mike has maintained bank accounts that he more or less cannot access, and found it to be effective. I've toyed with the idea, but in an ideal world, I'd like to do this without having to trick myself. But definitely something to consider.

    Anne: Thanks for your input. I do lots of crafty things to create clothes and accessories from items and materials that I already own. Sewing isn't much of an option for me because I simply don't have the time or patience … and given my habits and how I'm wired, I wonder if it would just become ANOTHER thing that I spend, spend, spend on.

    Additionally, I had no intention of implying that the ONLY thing in life that makes me (or anyone) feel good is stuff, or the acquisition of stuff. Or even the main thing. It sounds like you've been reading this blog a while, so I hope that's fairly clear. My argument is that those of us who like shopping, and who can shop within our actual instead of imagined means, shouldn't feel like bad human beings for enjoying shopping. Or enjoying stuff.

    I have accrued minimal debt, have never defaulted on a bill, am able to buy gifts for my friends and family, pay for any repairs on my home or car, and can essentially handle any fiscal draw. I love to shop, so I do. I need to learn to save, so I will. I appreciate your concern, truly, but don't feel like this is an issue that merits therapy for me. I have been through years and years of therapy for far more difficult and life-damaging issues and behaviors. My penchant for purchasing – even if it means I haven't saved any money in six months – just doesn't feel dire enough. If it ever does, believe me, I'll seek out that help! But right now, I want to see how I do on my own, ya know?

  • Anonymous

    I'm one of the readers who asked about your post-ban life because I struggle with the same stuff. Thanks for writing this.
    I buy myself something pretty every week, and I feel guilty about it even though I can well afford it. I think it stems from growing up in a blue-collar family where we only bought the things we needed, and not the things we wanted. I wish I could just say to myself, "Aren't you lucky now!"

  • lauren

    This made me remember a nifty set up I used to have with an employer (a University) during a time when I really needed to save money: I hope you don't mind me sharing! I was able to nominate a few separate accounts across which my pay could be divided. Each month, my rent went straight into my landlord's account, a large chunk went into my current account, and then a proportion went directly into a hard-to-access savings account (one of those ones with high interest, and high fees for withdrawals, etc etc). This worked really well for me. Because the money never came into the current account, I didn't have to think about whether I wanted to spend it or save it.

    I don't know if that option is available to you, but thought I'd mention it just in case it was something you could take advantage of.

    But, really, as lopi said above, based on how you come across in the rest of your blog, I am pretty sure you will find an equilibrium with this: it's all one step at a time, just like everything in life. The solution isn't going to come immediately, but you will find something that works for you, and it seems like you've already got amazing self-awareness. Good luck!

  • Lisa

    You mentioned in your post that spending money makes you feel independent and powerful; saving money isn't giving you much satisfaction. My suggestion is to stop putting money into your personal savings account (keep adding to your joint account and retirement funds though). Instead, pay off your credit card debt more quickly. I think that maybe you can't derive satisfaction from saving when you have the burden of debt. Just a thought.

  • nurmisur

    I was reading and I can relate to most of it.
    The idea of 'I will not spend money so by the end of the month I can save some'doesn't work for me.
    I started thinking why is it that I can pay my bills and always have money aside for that but not for saving.
    So I'm starting to adopt a similar routine. Each start of the month I will put some money aside and spend what's left.
    Turns out that I'm wonderful managing the money I have but not saving from the portion I consider as my spending money, if that makes sense.
    Also, like you , I get more satisfaction doing things with my money than seeing my bank acount grow.
    I guess in the end is always a question of balance.
    I think you were brave being so honest about your relation to money.

  • Sal

    Lauren: That IS smart. I never have trouble contributing to all the household stuff, really, but having the paycheck automatically parsed like that certainly couldn't hurt.

  • evanadine

    thankyou sal. for your honesty! it would be easy for you to have kept these foibles/weaknesses to yourself + simply present yourself as this flawless fashion guru. but it is knowing about those slip-ups that help me as a reader connect with you. it makes me think "hey, ive got issues like that too!"
    i have been wanting to save up money for a while, and now i have a wedding to start planning (and saving!) for. just reading your post reminded me to go transfer some money from my checking account (which i sepend as needed or desired) to my savings account (which only ever gets touched in case of emergency or planned-for spending).
    even if your struggle to save continues, know that you are helping others in sharing your own story!

  • Anonymous

    I have a lot of the same issues. One of the things that helped me was the book "All Your Worth" by Elizabeth Warren. She is a professor having studied why people go bankrupt. She points out that pinching pennies doesn't work as a way to keep financially stable, you have to get your major expenses (rent, transportation, utilities) to a managable proportion of your income. She says to get your budgeting in line and then don't worry at all about how you spend your "personal" money.

    Anyway, I'd highly recommend the book – setting finances up so that things are automatic and you can spend all the money in your wallet does make things easier.

  • Mona

    Thank you for your very honest and well written post, it must have been difficult to write. I've been reading your blog for a while, and was wondering how you really felt about all the purchases in the last months. It is hard to realize how much one can spend (with a normal income not much) and what is worth saving for.

  • metize

    wow…what a thoughtful post… i'm so much like you when it comes to shopping, i REALLY did a number with my credit cards a while back and it's painful.

    i also did a 'ban' in sorts, though i didn't really declare it, and it went on for two years, i didn't buy anything new…and while i didn't spend any money, as a fashion blogger it got increasingly difficult to talk about my style as i was even down about it.

    so does that mean shopping equates to happiness? to style? no… not really… it's a luxury… and really, that's all it is.

  • Alicia – Sea Of Ghosts

    As GLC has said, the easiest way I ever found to save was to get myself a high-interest bearing savings account that direct debits my account automatically each week.

    I never had to think about saving – each week the money was taken from my normal bank account like clockwork. I chose a relatively small amount that I didn't miss much, but it grew rather quickly!

    My savings account was through ING, and this account was an online-only account which meant that I did not get a debit or EFTPOS card attached to the account for quick and easy access.

    It also meant that if I wanted any money from the account I had to transfer it online and wait 2 working days for it to clear – much longer than the urge to buy that little black dress lasts.

    Then I used that money to buy a car without needing any finance! It was very exciting and I love being debt free because of it.

    You might not have a goal like a car to satisfy the need to save, but consider that you could be saving to help pay off your current credit card debt and be debt free! Now that is an exciting thought.

    However, the most important thing to remember is that IT'S JUST MONEY. You can't spend it when you're dead!

    If you've worked hard for it you deserve to spend it however you like. And you can always get up tomorrow morning and go to work and earn some more.

  • Work With What You’ve Got

    “And I have not figured out what, if anything, can be done to create balance.”
    “I am yet to connect with my emotional motivator to save money”
    I don’t talk about it much because with Nathan unemployed I had to halt therapy (I just CANNOT afford it, which is kind of ironic, really) but I have a shopping addiction. I really cannot recommend enough that you consider seeing a therapist who can help you navigate the two issues above. Sure you have to pay up front but in the END, it’s worth it, and I really did learn things about myself I never would have figured out on my own. I am mid-therapy, and this stint without it has been rough, and I have lost some ground, but I CANNOT wait to get back as soon as I can. I am NOT saying YOU have an addiction, I am only saying you have an ISSUE, I recognize a LOT of what you said as my own issues, and a therapist can help. Really, try it.

  • Kathryn

    While I think it's good to examine these things, I think that you have more than your fair share of guilt over this.

    We all have things that we spend money on frivolously. EVERYONE. The person that says they don't is lying. Or being needlessly judgemental.

    For example, even though I know that I could save $20 a week by eating breakfast at home, I need a moment of silence on the other side of a long commute to enjoy a bagel. I know if I could live without it, then I could buy a Birkin bag at the end of the year. But I prefer to think of it as the incidental cost of commuting.

    When it gets out of control (oh Starbucks, you cruel mistress), I spend a week with boxed oatmeal at my desk – as penitence.

    You might need a similar thing… a way to check yourself and regroup when you start to feel like you are buying too much.

    But I also like GLC's idea of $20 going to an undisclosed location. Like the Netflix account I pay for and never use – except eventually you could use it! I myself have two piggy banks – one for charity, one for travel. Other savings, 401Ks etc exist, but I need something just for me.

  • ShopKim

    You could think of it this way, all the money that you put in "savings" is just money you're holding on to to use to keep shopping if times get a little rough!

  • Sheila

    Sal, take the pain and guilt out of this! Make an appointment with your bank to take X amount of money out of your main account and put it in a savings account – time it with every paycheck so that you don't even notice that it's gone. I've been doing this for 2 years – I have $100 taken out of my account and I truthfully have not missed that one bit.

    My husband and I have personal budgets and each of us has a $ amount for discretional savings. And that's MY money, to spend on whatever I want. When L complains that I'm shopping AGAIN, I point out that he fritters his money away on coffee and muffins every day. MY money is there for when I feel like spending it.

    If you're building up too many clothes, try doing a "one in, one out" system to help you. I know I question every purchase, knowing that something that I own is going to have to go to make room for that new thing.

  • Trinity

    Yay! Way to go, Sal. I'm glad talking it through together helped a bit.

  • Stephanie

    If you don't like to save just for the sake of saving, why not try saving so you can spend? Since you have your bills and necessary savings covered, and just spend what's left, why not set a limit that you can live with and start putting that into an account that you allow yourself to use for your indulgences – perhaps even link it to a debit card. I'm someone who does enjoy saving (the climbing balance makes me feel content), but you can save too much and feel deprived. One trick that works for me is to have savings accounts that are for a specific purpose, such as clothing or travel. I put in an amount that is comfortable for me (about $500/mo, YMMV), and whatever is in that account is mine to spend freely and without guilt. If you give yourself a few months to build up a nice chunk of change and then start using the account you'll feel even better about what you have available. This approach gives you some control over your spending, but still gives you the freedom to spend as you like. Also, when you have an impulse purchase, you can decide whether it's worth depleting your balance or not.

  • Anna

    If you don't mind some advice from a conpulsive shopper, here's what's worked for me.

    My husband saves obsessively. He is the sort of person who feels thrilled to see a big balance in our savings account. He is also the person who gets stressed if I spend too much (I'm with you; I love what I buy!). So we worked out a deal. Every purchase (including groceries and gas) goes on our one shared credit card. We (ok, he) budgeted a set amount to spend on the card each month, considering our monthly income, how much we want to save, what we're paying for mortgage, utilities, and other fixed costs. The throughout the month we can check the credit card balance and know how much money we have to spend. As long as we don't go over our set amount each month, we're ok. It's really helped me to be accountable to another person, because I seriously would spend all our money on sweaters and shoes otherwise.

    Now, obviously, your situation with Mike might be different. And maybe you don't want him babysitting you financially. I know that I've felt that way. But in the end, saving money is kind of like working out: it sucks and sometimes you really don't feel like it, but it's good for you in the end. Well, probably.

    I really, really admire you for thinking so carefully about this. I can't imagine going on a shopping ban in the first place, and it seems like you really learned a lot about yourself from it. I hope that you find some balance in this situation so that you can feel more comfortable with your spending and saving habits :)

  • Kathy

    What an excellent post! You were able to put into writing my exact feelings. I am the same way. I don't have a spending problem either. Mine is a saving problem. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  • Melanie

    I've often thought that someone needs to write a financial management book for women called The Financial Diet.

    If you want to get your eating under control, one of the most highly recommended things is to keep a food journal.

    And if you are 'good' about healthy eating 80-90% of the time, it allows you to splurge for that other 10% without too much of an impact.

    I remember you reading that you don't necessarily like to exercise, but that you do it because it is good for you. And once you're actually doing it, you feel better.

    The same may be said about savings.

    I'm guessing you've already thought about this, but having money direct deposited into a savings account so that it is never available to you in the first place may be a good way to discipline yourself.

    You may not be able to change your internal programming, so why try to force it? Just acknowledge that savings isn't exciting or fun. But it's something you find important. So, if you're not as discplined as you'd like to be with setting aside money after the fact, try setting it aside ahead of time.

    And it sounds like you're pretty fiscally responsible, so you deserve to enjoy your life and your shopping! Everyone has hobbies, right?

  • britta


    I completely understand where you're coming from. And I agree with you.

    As long as you've got money to pay your bills, for emergency, etc….then enjoy.

    Life is short. And you can't take it with you.

  • Jingle Bella

    I agree that it doesn't sound like you need therapy about this. You're a sensible, wonderful person, and you're not putting yourself or HM at financial risk; you're doing just fine. But you recognise your issues with money, and want to do better, which is great.

    Lisa made a good point I think – would you get emotional satisfaction from seeing that credit card paid off more quickly? Maybe that would be a better aim. Plus, now that you have a safety net, it probably makes financial sense to pay off the credit card rather than save money (because credit card interest rates are higher than savings account ones). Then once the card was paid off you could think about things again.

  • Deja Pseu

    I can definitely relate to the feelings about money. For me, it's all tied up with entitlement (of sometimes making up for a lack of entitlement), prior feelings of monetary deprivation, a way to assert independence, and probably a whole host of other things I haven't figured out yet. Finding the balance between enjoying for today and preparing for tomorrow is never easy.

    I think it's great that you're thinking about and analyzing this stuff. Even what fails can teach us. Thanks for sharing this journey so openly.

  • CB

    Sal sweetheart,
    1) You are AWARE of what you are doing.
    2) You mentioned that you use clothing to express yourself, and that you are able to spend the money to do so, so it's all good.

    I sometimes worry that I spend too much on clothes and shoes and makeup and crafts, and that I'm wasting money. But I also think that I'll learn to balance expenses (and my life!) soon enough.

    I'm not brave enough to go on a shopping ban, and I think you're wonderful for having given it a go.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, what a great post. Thanks for your honesty and willingness to explore this issue, which I, frankly, prefer to ignore. I hate to feel manipulated by anyone — including myself! I can't offer any helpful advice, as I have an internal struggle along the same lines. But I'm so grateful to you for creating a space for dialog.

  • Leah

    I'm really impressed with your insights, as well as your bravery for sharing them here. Bravo!

    We don't struggle with the same things — I find a hefty balance in my savings account extremely satisfying. I do struggle with other things, however. One of the things I've found is that I work better with rewards than punishments. I'm much more likely to repeat "good" behavior if I reward myself rather than if I punish "bad" behavior.

    I have three goals every day: walk 20 minutes (or the equivalent thereof), eat veggies with at least one meal, and write either 500 words or 30 minutes (depending on if I'm doing first draft or editing.)

    Because I really am still 10, I have a calendar that I made up, and gold star stickers that I reward myself with every day I achieve those three goals. Again, the spirit behind it isn't to beat myself up for the days I don't get a gold sticker, but to encourage myself to be more consistent. It's worked so far this year. I also get gold stickers when I do my monthly cleaning of the house (it's always neat, this makes it clean), doing one of the big household projects (painting the doors, refinishing the chairs, etc.)

    I don't know if this is something that you could adapt to help you, but I thought I'd put it out there.

    Again, thanks so much for your insights!

  • Bianca

    It seems like you are kicking yourself for no reason. Here is my thinking, and I think a lot of people missed this. You ALREADY contribute to a retirement account, and you ALREADY save in a joint account with your husband.

    In other words, you are already doing the saving that people suggest you would do. Isn't the point of paying bills, and savings accounts first so that you CAN spend the rest? I don't think there is a person in the world that would say, you should save every penny. Well, Scrooge, but he is fictional.

    I don't think your recreational spending is bad behavior at all. We work to get ahead and enjoy life and things. If wanted to work just to pay bills, there would be no motivation to get ahead.

    If you really, truly think you are spending too much on clothes, increase the amount you add to the joint savings account. 😉 Maybe that will relieve some of the pressure/guilt.

    Sister, you are doing just fine. There is no law that says you need a retirement account, a joint savings account, and a personal savings account. And sorry, but you do not need counseling – there are no signs of spending money that you don't have. I think you have a hobby that you enjoy and it costs money. Some people like to vacation, some people build trains…you enjoy fashion.

  • Jilliebeanie

    Wow Sal, I've always thought you were really awesome, but this post has taken you to a whole other level of awesomeness in my mind :)

    I relate SO MUCH to your shopping/saving woes.

    And your note to mean commenters… seriously… Way to go! I also refuse to post anything like that on my blog.

  • Sal

    Leah: I LOVE IT. I definitely do better with rewards than punishments, too. I will have to talk to HM and see if we can work out some sort of system. I went back to school a few years ago and was amazed at how much I still ADORED getting As. Maybe I can just make HM give me an A in saving every couple of weeks!

  • Sal

    OK, I don't normally do this (for time reasons, no wanting reasons), but I think I ought to actually answer all comments here …

    Meli22: It can be so hard to find that balance. And it's SO personal!

    Lopi: Thanks, my dear. I certainly hope to.

    K.Line: You know, it's true. My wardrobe is an investment in my career, at least at this juncture. A sticky wicket, that, but still true.

    Anonymous(1): I HEAR THAT. I do try to take time and energy to feel grateful that I can even afford more than one pair of shoes … but that ingrained guilt over buying things for myself is strong. I also wish I could just celebrate my own luckiness.

    Lisa: My thinking on the credit card is this: The debt there is relatively small, about $1,900, and I have a lowish interest rate. I believe I am better served to pay for any emergencies that arise in CASH than have to up that balance again. I need to figure out how to save cash sustainably to make this work, but I'd rather work on that. Husband Mike agrees with this tactic, and he has far more fiscal knowledge than I. Your advice makes TOTAL sense – especially if I had bales of debt there – but I'm going against the grain on this one.

  • La Belette Rouge

    I am shocked to hear you have gotten guff about your shopping.
    I have to say that I am not surprised to learn that a ban creates a binge( I wrote about Jung's idea of compensation on Monday about this idea that any extreme action or attitude is compensated for by a swing to the other side). Whenever I ban anything I tend to want it more.

    I appreciate your candor about this subject. I learn a lot about myself through your brave and fearless introspection.

  • Rebekah

    This may seem off-topic, but what if you took a fabulous class of some kind? Dancing, learning a new instrument, painting, cooking, carpentry…. Any old daydreams you could fulfill?

    Personal style is very important to me, but I sometimes feel I'm becoming two-dimensional; if I don't keep learning and growing, then what "me" is there to express?

    Taking a class would allow you to learn a new skill, meet new people, spend a little money and stretch your horizons. Worth a shot?

  • Sal

    nurmisur: Thanks, doll. I think we are in EXACTLY the same place, mentally.

    evanadine: Hahaha. Oh, I've got issues in spades, m'dear! Glad to know sharing this stuff (which is, admittedly, pretty nerve-wracking for me to do) is helpful. And good luck with the wedding savings! How exciting!

    Anonymous(2): Ya know, a couple of financial advice books have floated across my radar, but THAT one actually sounds like it might resonate. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Mona: Thanks for your kind words.

    metize: EXACTLY. Shopping regularly is a total luxury, and one I don't feel I take for granted. I am grateful that I can, and mindful when I do. I just need a bit more balance …

    Alicia: That is quite a system! And my gosh, congrats on paying for your car in cash. My father-in-law does that regularly, and I am always so impressed.

    Work With What You've Got: You know I adore you, doll, and I so appreciate you sharing your own struggles. I know that's not something you bring up often. But you are taking my inventory, here. We may be experiencing similar urges and having similar thoughts, but that doesn't mean we need the exact same things to adjust our behaviors. See my response above to Anne's comment.

    Kathryn: Hahaha. Guilt is my SPECIALTY! Just ask HM. Seriously, though, thanks for the validation. It really is all about choices, ya?

    ShopKim: Ahhh, if only that worked for me!

  • spacegeek

    I love seeing a big balance in the savings area, and I love to shop. I don't have a solution for you, but know that you are in good company.

  • hillary

    I don't know if your work does this but you know how you have direct deposit option? Well you can split it up. I put 20 in a credit union weekly and the rest in our joint account and I only buy my fancy bags or shoes from that account. So if I want Marc Jacobs I have to save on it. That way too I tell myself I am not making Dave work for my desire for a smancy purse.

    I call it my "ladies nice things account"

  • Kelly

    I so admire your honestly and your self-analyzation, Sal. It helped me realize a couple things about me too – I love buying things because it confirms that I'm a self-sufficient adult. And as much as I try to tell myself "there will be other pretty shoes later, you can't buy them all" in my head I think "OMG what if I never find anything this cute again, what if I lose all my money and don't have the means to buy the next pair of pretty shoes, what if what if what if." It's kind of subconscious but it's there.

    I have a savings account and I automatically have money from my paycheck put in there, and I put in extra from time to time, but I don't really know what I'm saving for. I just know I need to be doing it. I'm not trying to buy a house anytime soon, or have kids, or travel around the world. There isn't some big goal I have ahead of me that I need money for. And that makes it easier to spend on clothing, too.

  • Sal

    Sheila: Sigh. I should, I know. It'd be easier to save if it was automatic. I'll give it some thought. As for the "too much stuff" problem, I just don't have it. I've got the storage, and am at a point where I buy stuff I love and want ONLY.

    Trin: Thanks to YOU!

    Stephanie: I like the idea of making a separate "shopping" account. Just parsing the money a little differently. Food for thought!

    Anna: Thanks for sharing your sitch! HM and I are BOTH really protective of our money and spending, so it'd be disastrous for him to monitor me. He helps me in many, many other ways … but that one would never fly. But I like your exercise analogy a lot, and feel like it's totally applicable. I worked out for YEARS before I started liking it – saving money may be the same deal.

    Kathy: Oh, kitten, you are very welcome!

    Melanie: It's true. Shopping is my main hobby. At least, it's the main one that actually costs me money – biking, writing, singing are all free!

    Britta: Ahhh, bless ya. So true.

    Jingle Bella: Thanks, lady. I would really rather have a bigger safety net, if possible, is the thing. See my response to Lisa above … the credit card isn't super high on the priority list. Also because THAT is something I am never wishy-washy about. I pay it down every month, on time, more than the minimum.

    Deja Pseu: Seriously. It's the deprivation earlier that makes the behavior now so hard to manage, right? And I don't just mean shopping ban earlier … growing up, in college, making my way.

    CB: Awww, thank you, love.

    Anonymous(3): You are entirely welcome, my dear. Glad it's helpful to see this dialogue.

    Bianca: You rule. Thank you for pointing that out. I DO do a lot of things that are important to my fiscal well-being. I am certainly slacking on my personal savings, but at least I'm not screwing EVERYTHING up. 😉

  • Erin

    Sal. Warm waves of support heading your direction.

    I'm not much of a saver either, although I'm not really an over-the-top spender, so it's worked out. However, financial guru Dave Ramsey says (and I paraphrase): Don't lie to yourself. If you want to blow some money on [insert your favorite thing to blow money on] then go ahead and do it. But *plan* to do it.

    Have you considered allotting yourself a bigger weekly budget for spending? I mean, that way you have better control over how much you're spending as opposed to not spending at all. Even if you wanted to allow yourself $100 a week, if you make a point of saying "I'm going to spend $100 this week, but no more," then everything else can be saved.

  • Sal

    La Belette Rouge: I know. I should've known better! I figured that allowing a LITTLE spending would help … but clearly, not so!

    Jilliebeanie: Oh, thanks, beautiful! I'm blushing over here …

    Rebekah: I totally see what you mean, but I'm actually feeling pretty good about where my focus is right now. This summer I went to an alpaca farm, my first drive-in movie, a lumberjack festival, dachshund races, played frisbee golf, and did a 17-mile nighttime bike ride. AND I shopped and wrote about style and body image and did style consultations, etc. I actually feel fantastically well-rounded … and even a little exhausted by my life. Cultivating other interests might distract me from shopping, but I don't feel like it's the right path. Not now, anyways.

    spacegeek: Good company indeed. Hugs to you, doll.

    Hillary: A couple of other folks have mentioned this … I'll give it some thought!

    Kelly: OH YES. And it doesn't help that, oftentimes, those shoes that we adore and covet for weeks or months on end sell out and never get made again. THAT is a killer. Drives me nuts. I can tell myself, "This is not the last good deal in the world" when I'm considering an on-sale impulse buy. But when it's something I've coveted for ages? Much harder.

  • Sal

    Erin: Thanks, beautiful. The way my finances work out, there's not TOO much wiggle-room … there will be next summer when my car AND school loans are finally paid off. But for now? I've gotta keep the allowance a little lower. You're right, tho: Planning is the missing piece. I don't plan right now, and I need to learn how.

  • futurelint

    I have the same sort of problem Sal, so I feel you! I feel like since it is my money, and I have four jobs by choice, I can spend however I want. I'm 28 – and own a car, have a mortage I pay every month, and don't have any student loan debt… I feel like I'm so far ahead of the game that I don't really NEED to save… everyone else my age is still renting and paying off credit card and student loan debt… however, I KNOW better. I KNOW I NEED to save. I just have a problem translating the KNOWING to the DOING.

  • Hanako66

    I think that just recognizing what you just shared is an amazing first step in trying to figure out what you want to do and how to do it.

  • Sal

    futurelint: Too right, you! Where the hell IS that link between knowing and doing?

    Hanako66: Thanks, beautiful. Here's hoping you're right!

    Also, a big thanks to everyone for such thoughtful, constructive comments. Thanks for sharing YOUR personal financial struggles, and giving some great suggestions on how to cope with the spend/save dilemma. Also, so far, I haven't had to reject any troll-comments … and that ROCKS.

  • Mary Sailors

    Wow, what a great post!! I struggle with the same issue of spending/saving and feeling independent but then wishing I could exercise my true independence in racking up the savings so that someday when I need it I can be really on my own, whether by choice or not. I like Trinity's point too about your shopping not being the issue and that sounds true–it sounds like you are good with your money, using, delegating, paying off, just the savings thing. I think many people are that way…wow good post, good insight. I have to go now and work on my budget! :)

  • Annie

    This might sound cheesy (but I hope it doesn't): I read a Suze Orman book once where she asserts that everyone has a "money memory" that they can look back on that shaped their views and attitudes about money. Maybe you could think back to what shaped your attitude about savings? If you could tap into that, maybe it would be easier to change your behavior. I find her books to be quite accessible and helpful.

    I figure as long as you can save x number of dollars, what you spend the remaining money on is your business and no one elses. Sure, it's not about stuff but stuff is still fun! Also, maybe if you do start to build up savings, you'll start to like it and want to do more of it.

    There is always the zero accumulation rule…that one has never worked for me tho so I can hardly recommend it to someone else!

    The great thing about your willingness to talk about this is I think it's helping all of us, your readers, identify and maybe start to deal with our own habits. Thank you for being so brave and forthcoming.

    Oh and by the way, this stuff all seems totally normal and not at an extreme, and you are so reflected about it that you are farther along on your path to change than most. Again, thank you! Happy Friday!

  • tis serendipity

    wow I really really enjoyed reading this post… thanks so much for sharing with everyone in such detail what it was like for your and your thoughts about your shopping ban!!

    I'm pretty sure every single one of us has gone on (if not, at least considered imposing ;p) a shopping ban.

    I'm not at the stage where I've started to earn money yet so my words definitely don't carry much weight compared to the others but it's funny how so many women have started to feel guilty about shopping even though as you pointed out, you are 1. shopping within your means 2. already making provisions for the future and are constantly working towards it 3. shopping mindfully!

    I'm really most impressed by no. 3!! X)) that's the main thing for me actually… if you're spending money on things that you don't ever regret, what could be better! It's a pasttime/passion/hobby that you don't regret! How many people could say the same…

    Hmm and well am glad you're not too bothered by detractors! I'd like to see if THEY managed to keep to their own shopping bans.

  • SK

    I truly admire your honesty and the ability to put it all out there, even with negative experience you've had in the past with nasty comments (which don't really matter, but they still hurt).
    My two cents (no pun intended)- I agree with the automatic savings plan that a lot of people have mentioned. Just have some money automatically transferred from either your paycheck (if you have direct deposit) or your checking acct to an online saving account (ING is awesome). Have your husband set up the password and username for online access to that account, so you have no way to get the money out. Sometimes it is necessary to trick ourselves, esp for stuff that we KNOW is good for us, but can't get ourselves to do. Maybe a savings goal could be something like setting up your own business, or adding to your current business. So you're basically saving to MAKE more money. :)
    All right, I'll stop now.

  • Madeleine Miranda

    I admire you too! I'm still a student, so I don't have too much cash to spare… So my shopping ban is really essential, otherwise I wouldn't be able to pay my rent.

    Thanks for documenting your experience!

  • Make Do Style

    I think what you said – have a budget for saving and a budget for shopping. Make the savings budget fun, reward yourself for doing it even if it something really silly.

    Plus don't worry!!xx

  • Sal

    Mary Sailors: Thanks, my dear. Isn't it amazing how entwined money and independence can become?

    Annie: That's a good point. You know, I can barely remember how I thought about money early on. I worked from age 14 on, and must've socked that money away somewhere, but where? I'll ask my mom. I remember living in SF and making tons of money and not really spending much, then moving to MN and finally feeling like I'd found myself … and then the money started flowing. It's been a struggle ever since. I'll have to give it more thought. Thanks for your supportive words, and it helps me a TON to hear that baring this all may be helping others in turn.

    tis serendipity: Hee hee. It took me a loooooong time to get to the point where I only bought stuff I loved. It's actually a big relief. I look in my closet and feel joy over the abundance, not regret over scads of bad choices.

    SK: Yes, indeed. The REAL goal should be to further my business … and I've got to save to do that. Such a remote goal, I'm hoping to find a way to make it feel more immediate and real.

    Madeleine Miranda: You know, the shopping ban is a GREAT tool. Even though mine didn't change my behavior long-term, I know lots of folks who HAVE changed their ways based on bans. Best of luck with yours!

    Make Do Style: My new challenge is to make saving fun!

  • Linda

    It is amazing how analogous this is to food issues/diets/whether they ever "work," no?

    I actually am pretty free of money issues … I just wish I could transfer some of my money attitude to food.

  • Sadie

    Sal, I've been following your shopping ban with great interest. I'm fortunate enough to have avoided maxing out my credit cards shopping for clothes (and yarn, in my case, because I'm a knitter with a serious yarn habit!) but other than that the pattern of my spending has been very like yours. I don't really see the point of saving, there's nothing I want that I need to save for and it's kind of hard to get too worked up about the proverbial rainy day. Meanwhile, my husband spends very little and has built up a lot of savings, and it got to the point where I was starting to feel bad about having so much less saved, because if we have some big expense on the house I'd struggle to pay my half.

    What I've done is to set up a standing order with my bank and transfer a set amount to my savings the same day my salary goes in. That way I don't see it in my account, I don't miss it, and I can spend the rest as I please. I can get at the savings if I need to and I'm allowed to draw on them for Christmas and my husband's birthday, but other than that I don't touch them.

    Also, since I've been trying to shop more mindfully I've realised that what makes me really happy is the smaller purchases, rather than the big splash-out items.

    Good luck with managing your finances in future!

  • Sarah Von

    Sal, I love your honesty about this. I'm sending good vibes in your direction and I have nothing but respect and love for how you've handled this. <3

  • Amy

    I can't believe people would be so nasty to you! Actually, I can, because people are utter jerks, but I am sad it happened to you. You rock! Don't listen to the haters. They are just jealous of your fab shoes.

    I was just thinking, on my way home from the Gap (haha), "I should start a ban! Just like Sal!" My prob, like you, isn't that I have a ton of credit card debt (like, $900 on a zero interest card). I do have student loans that are massive, and I want to put more money to them every month (above the monthly payment, which hardly budges the numbers any) and I want to put money in a savings account every month but never do. Instead, I'll go see a play or buy myself a pair of shoes. I've become more fashion-conscious in the past year or so, but have become more particular about what I buy so it is thoughtful spending, as you said. The thing, while I like seeing money in my savings account, I like seeing a play or spending a day in the city with friends even more. It gives me things to look forward to, rather than sit at home watching TV and hoarding my dollars.

    Maybe I will try one of the suggestions posted, like an ING high-yield savings account. Or just transfer a set amount to my savings. Something will be better than nothing, right?

  • Sal

    Linda: Seriously. The parallels are mind-blowing. I'm opposite from you – I feel like I've got the food stuff fairly settled. Maybe we could trade for a while? 😉

    Sadie: The more comments I read, the more I think an auto-transfer like yours could really work.

    Sarah Von: Thank you, sugar.

    Amy: It's so hard to make saving a priority when the world is full of restaurants and plays and shoes and dresses … but you're right, every little bit helps. And if we can save slowly but surely, it'll pay off someday … right?

  • Anonymous

    A shopping "ban" is not dissimilar to a starvation diet. This strategy is bound to backfire, in many cases doing more harm than good. Staying with the food analogy, it's all just a matter of budgeting. You set aside however many calories your body needs to achieve homeostasis.

    A previous post recommends saving a certain "X" amount, then spending all the rest. NoNoNo. You simply must set the "Spending" budget at the "X" amount , and SAVE ALL THE REST. Perhaps there isn't a great deal of satisfaction that comes from the bank balance NOW…. But trust me, some day, when you can retire comfortably and securely, it will have been worth it.

    Go to one of those retirement income calculators. Stick the numbers in there and see what comes out. Determine what your monthly allowance for fun spending can afford to be. Then stick with it. Seriously, you are a charming young woman and it appalls me to think of you at my age living in some crummy apartment with all your baubles and bows….

  • Anonymous

    You are amazing, Sal! I wish I had the self awareness that you have when I was your age. You are on the right track.

    Remember when you did NOT like going to the gym? Think of saving like financial ab-crunches. You love the result and you get used to it.

    One thing that has worked for me is to try to go one day without spending anything. Then, try it again. If you can get up to 4-5 days a week without spending a dime, you will have a boatload of cash left at the end of the week. Spend half, save half (in a sock maybe so you can access it)against a future day when you do spend. I took a MAJOR paycut a year ago and started thinking this way. I buy what I want, but what I want doesn't have such a sugar rush attached. Talk about feeling your girl power!

  • bekster

    (I didn't have time to read all of the previous comments, so I'm sorry if I'm just repeating what someone else said…)

    I have great respect for anyone who can publicly share her struggles, though it sounds like you're already in a good spot. If you're hoping to get to a place where you FEEL like you WANT to save, that may never happen, BUT, if you feel like it is important, as long as you are doing it anyway (however you trick yourself into making it happen), you should feel good about yourself (even if you don't feel good about your savings account itself).

    However… even if your savings account never does grow, as long as you determine that your other financial needs are being met, maybe it doesn't matter. You may not NEED to save if there isn't some specific thing you're saving FOR. (I imagine if there WERE something in particular you were saving for, you wouldn't have any problem accumulating those funds because you would be excited about whatever that thing was.)

    Still, I applaud you for sharing something that obviously bothers you about yourself. (My comments are not meant to trivialize your declared problem but to say that I think you'll do fine in overcoming it.) I also applaud you for doing the ban in the first place and for continuing even after "cheating." A lesser person would have given up if they couldn't be "perfect." (Or, they just wouldn't have admitted that they cheated, which is even harder to do.)

    Even when you have struggles and slip-ups, I still appreciate you sharing all of these thoughts about your life on your blog. It is encouraging just to know that someone is trying to improve herself. It makes me think maybe I can too.

  • Suzanne

    I'm new here and don't know much about you, but here's my help for whatever it's worth to you. :-)

    Based on some things you posted, here were my thoughts…

    I love shopping and have the financial and storage capacity to shop regularly and allow myself to enjoy it.

    That's a great position to be when starting your saving plan. Enjoy it!

    My credit card is still hidden in an undisclosed location, I have been paying it down, and will not retrieve it until it is paid off and an emergency arises.

    For me, this would be one of my motivators. I would be angry about paying that company x% in interest every month when I have the ability (extra money) to make it go away much faster and for less money. Each payment would feel more empowering than the last because of its compound effect. It would become a game of sorts.

    The main problem I have is that the act of spending money is strongly linked to both independence and power in my mind. I love to feel independent, love to feel powerful … so spending whenever I want to is a behavior I find hard to keep in check.

    You can use the feeling of power and future financial freedom to full advantage with the above method because you’re not saving money just to have it sit there. If you’re into such things, there are some fantastic debt paydown spreadsheets online that will help you visualize the difference on paying as is, with a $10/month increase, etc.

    I don't enjoy saving. I get no pleasure from seeing a big balance in my savings account, and am yet to feel like my savings are a great accomplishment or asset.

    Can you turn this around so that it does motivate you? Maybe view having the balance as proof that you can exercise more power over something that is hard for you rather than it controlling you? In this way, the actual money doesn’t have value; it’s just the indicator that shows your success with your experiment. :-)

    Pretty much, I say that if you don’t want to save, don’t…just let it go and be free of this. Otherwise, if you do want to save, you will just have to keep being creative on how you can trick yourself into doing it. Good luck!!

  • Sal

    Anonymous(4): Thanks for your input. As I mentioned in this post, I put a portion of every paycheck directly towards retirement and have a state-funded pension. I also have a separate Roth IRA. HM mirrors my behaviors, including the pension as a former state employee. I don't feel inclined to divulge specifics, but I assure you that I will not be "living in some crummy apartment with all my baubles and bows." I am 32. I have another 30+ working years in me. I do appreciate your concern, but don't see the situation as being quite that dire. Not now.

    Anonymous(5): Ahhh, one day at a time! I had never thought to apply that maxim to saving money … but I can see how it might work.

    bekster: Thank you, beautiful. I don't feel like it's important to save, but I KNOW it is. I can see that, by not saving, I am treading water a bit and would like to change that. You're right, I may never feel good about it. But I want to try to cultivate the habit. I hate flossing my teeth, but I REALLY LIKE HAVING TEETH. So I floss. I feel like saving money might be in that category of behaviors for me. 😉

    Suzanne: I think I will have to find a way to mentally trick myself to make it truly work, and stick. I don’t think that I can convince myself that a big savings balance is its own reward … but maybe once I’ve accumulated that balance, I’ll change my tune!

  • Hannah


    You are my hero. You're not only owning your behavior but you're making strides to be in complete control. I have no advise for you but just know you DO make a difference.

  • Middle Aged Woman

    All summer I spent money frivolously in order to feel better about going back to a job I didn't want to go back to! THAT'S a problem with spending. I don't need to spend money to be happy now. Clothes are not my thing. I need to suck it up and get a library card because I could put myself in the poorhouse with books.

    Saving may not give you pleasure, but you must agree that it's prudent, yes? I like your current plan very much, and bet it will be easier and more fruitful than the Ban.

  • LPC

    Sal, thank you for telling us all this. I do have a question though. Why save if you have no goal? Do you need to do it for retirement or danger? If no, do you feel there is an inherent sin in spending? I mean, you're a style blogger. A good one, with a pretty sizeable readership. Maybe it's not spending. Maybe it's investing in your knowledge base. Just sayin…

  • Audi

    But what, exactly, do you need to save FOR? If you're putting into a retirement account (which, if you're not putting in the maximum allowable, could always be increased), and you've got your safety net, then why do you feel the need to pile up additional money on the side? I think if you had something specific in mind it might make the exercise a little more palatable, but otherwise why not go on your merry way and derive joy from the shopping you adore? Why make yourself feel guilty about not saving for something you don't need anyway? I know a lot of people say you ought to save, but unless you've got a kid's college education to pay for or are trying to buy a house, I frankly don't see much utility in it. Within the obvious limits, there is nothing wrong with using your disposable income to do things that bring you enjoyment RIGHT NOW, in whatever form that may take.

    Now if it's travel you're interested in, then I'd say save for a good home alarm system, so that you can actually go away without stressing out. :-)

  • Courtney L.

    Dividing up direct deposit and having your bank just move the money to a savings account are great ideas, and many people use them with success. Lots of other people follow the same principle without automatic systems, putting a set amount or percentage into savings as soon as they get each pay check. (Paying yourself first.)

    My mom used to to "trick" herself into saving by rounding up the amounts she spent to the nearest dollar when she balanced her checking account. (She didn't have a computer, so no online banking.) Some people simply increase the amount of federal withholding taken out of their paychecks. A friend of mine refined the technique and combined it with automatic savings. He rounded up every purchase and had standing orders that anytime his checking balance went over a certain point, the bank would transfer the overage to savings. Every time his savings account hit a certain balance, it was rolled into either a CD or higher-interest money market account.

    I've also known people to make a habit of "tipping" their savings account when they spend money. Some add a percentage to their purchases–5 or 10% of whatever impulse purchases they buy goes into the savings jar to eventually be taken to the bank. Another way to do it would be to have a set amount–such as for every purchase I make, I put $1 into my savings jar.

    The point is to find the system that works for you. Try different ideas and stick with the ones you can do most easily and naturally. If the method is a struggle, dump it and move on because ultimately you won't stick with it.

    Good luck, and let us know what ends up working!

  • enc

    It sounds to me like you're more in touch with yourself than you give yourself credit for.

    It sounds to me like you're just right for now.

    I hope you will not flog yourself over this.

    You're just right.

  • Bianca

    Wow! This post has gone all around the world since the morning. It sounds like there are many perspectives here. I did read a note that you do want to start saving for your business.

    Something you can do here, is a make a master list (or spreadsheet) of everything that you are going to need and associate costs with it.

    Then, instead of trying to save up for the whole enchilada, spend each week on one thing for your business. If new business cards is on your list, buy it this paycheck, a new rolling rack, next paycheck etc.

    Once you have the smaller things knocked out you can work on the larger items – open a business account, and make a payment into that – but as soon as you hit the mini goal, buy the item. Then you won't see it – and you will be used to buying things for you business, so you wont miss spending the money either.

    This has worked for me as far as getting things for my house instead of spending on clothes, I just made a list of what I needed, and each check I bought a thing or two from the list. When it was time to get the bed and dresser, I was used to spending $100 bucks towards the house, and just stuck it in savings. I bought the bed, then went back for the dresser. 😉

    Maybe this can help you too? :-)

  • Sal

    Hannah: You are too sweet, my dear.

    Middle Aged Woman: Prudent indeed. And I agree, cultivating a saving practice will be more beneficial than another ban.

    LPC: Ahhh, this is the logic that traps me sometimes. It's true, there's no big goal right now … but I've learned that expenses arise whether you've planned for them or not. And my tiny safety net is a good start, but I do feel like a bigger one would be better. My car is aging, HM wants to travel and I'll need to get over that fear eventually, and you never know about health stuff. The pragmatist in me just knows that saving is a habit I should develop.

    Audi: Hahaha. Too right, we really should get an alarm system. Or a large dog. Or both. And I'm not maxing out my retirement contributions by any stretch … so perhaps that should be another focus.

    Courtney L: Huh. The "tipping" practice is brilliant!

    enc: Thanks, beautiful. You are a total star.

    Bianca: I generally have trouble parsing my saving/spending like that, but the concept is definitely a good one. I've got lots of action items on my business plan list, but none of them are money-related as of yet. I'm so focused on the work, I'm not really paying attention to the rest … especially since I don't have a lot of material needs for the biz. But I totally agree that beginning to work those expenses and practices into my general spending/saving is wise.

  • AumTattoo

    I so relate to this! My suggestion (which is something I have yet to do but its on my list!) is to have the bank do an automatic payline split where you put a certain amount of money directly into your savings account – so you never even see it in your checking account. Make it small enough that it won't hurt but big enough to make a difference if you ever need to depend on it. Not having the money in your checking account at all makes it easier not to spend it.

    The other thing that I actually do now (not always though!) is give myself and my husband an allowance. Each week we get XXX dollars that is ours to spend on coffee, clothing, CDs, books – whatever. And that's all the money we get. I keep that amount only as cash and know that is my spending money – when it's gone it's gone. Works most of the time, especially if you leave your ATM card at home.

  • Frances Joy

    This was so amazingly and shockingly honest, and I just love you for it, because there are SO MANY of us out there who struggle with the same thing. I love that you gave a name to it, because I know that I haven't thought it through as much as you have.
    I recently started a new job and decided to have about 20% of each paycheck go to an account that I rarely use. My debit card for that account is safely hidden away, and it's good to know that I'll have a nice chunk of change should an emergency come up. I'm not sure if that would work for you, but I'm hoping that it works for me.

  • Allie

    Sal, you are one brave lady for disclosing so much to us. Your careful and thoughtful analysis of your ban and its effects are certainly something to be spoken for. I don't really have much advice for you, it seems as though you've gotten a lot of good suggestions above. I just wanted to thank you for all of the insightful and thoughtful posting you do here :)

  • WendyB

    You have awesome and smart friends. I want to meet Cal and Trin!

  • Nadine

    Sal, I love your work. I really, really do. You are amazing! You have had so many wise and varied comments here that I don't need to add any more. You'll figure out what works for you.

  • Peldyn

    Wow, are you me or am I you? I have no savings and love to buy. I think I will do what you are doing and just start with a set amount and put that from each paycheck in savings. I have to start somewhere!

  • lizzle

    Hi Sal,

    Thank you (again) for writing this. Your honesty is really good to read, and you don't make excuses for the way you deal with money, and you really enjoy how you spend it.
    Following on from what GLC said, I know at my work you can organise for your pay to be split between accounts. Perhaps not even seeing your savings in your spendings account would help you not feel the need to spend it?
    Personally I am saving money every pay for an overseas trip next year, and I have found that having a goal really does help.

    Good luck, and thanks for your whole blog =) It's a really lovely, affirming thing to open up first thing on a Monday. I really enjoy it.


  • Sal

    AumTattoo: The split paycheck thing is something lots of folks have suggested and I'm more and more convinced it's a good plan for me! As for the allowance, I do that, too … but it's so easy to make wiggle-room.

    FrancesJoy: Wow, lady, 20% is a LOT! Kudos to you!

    Allie: Thank you, gorgeous. You're awesome.

    WendyB: Oh, I'm sure you will! They're even MORE fantastic in person.

    Nadine: Thank you, dearest. I so appreciate your supportive words!

    Peldyn: Right on! Any start is a good start, eh?

    lizzle: Thank you, kitten. It's so true. When HM and I were saving for our trip to Australia, it was hella easier to save. Since I'm travel leery now and don't have another goal like that, I struggle. But I'll find a way …

  • Couture Allure Vintage Fashion

    Sounds like the classic case of your inner Stern Taskmaster one one shoulder saying, "Don't be wasteful!" in conflict with your inner Wild Child saying, "I'll spend my money however I want!". It makes me wonder if your parents were especially frugal or if you grew up in a family that had to pinch pennies to get by? That could have a profound effect on how you deal with finances as an adult. Just food for thought.

    Thank you for continuing to share your story with us, Sal.

  • Amy

    Wow, this post and the subsequent discussion have brought up so many things I've gone through over the past year or so. You are spot on when you say that spending gives you a sense of power and independence. But I've discovered a hole in this thinking over the past year.

    I've had to layoff several good friends in the past year (I work in HR) Some of them still haven't found jobs, and their sole focus is not losing their homes at this point.

    I realized that it's not my ability to spend that makes me independent and powerful. It's my ability to take care of myself when things beyond my control spin out. I still have a job, but I've had two pay cuts in the past 9 months. But I have enough savings to ride out the next 2 years even if I were lose my job. I could pay my mortgage, buy food, and pay for health insurance. I feel more secure/independent/empowered now than I ever did when times were good because I now see that my savings account really is for something, even if that something never occurs. I mean, really, we're all kidding ourselves if we think we'll never need it just because we don't have an item to attach to it.

    That's not to say I don't still shop! I just buy in moderation and realize when I've had enough for now (like food!), particularly when people very close to me don't have that luxury.

  • Stacey

    Hi- I recently found your blog and am enjoying it! I have tried to read all the comments and apologize if I'm repeating, but I wanted to share what I do. It seems to be working.

    I am a planner by nature and personally abhor credit card debt. I've read your thoughts on that and won't try to change your mind!! But, for me, I feel less independent when owing something, and interest rates can contribute to increasing debt. If you've made peace with the cc debt- cool! Different strokes and all that!

    I use sinking funds, using multiple accounts under one main account at ING. I know "emergencies" come up, but most really can be planned for. I put a small amount in each one each month- for example car related (insurance, repairs, registration), medical (to cover co-pays and those things that insurance doesn't, eye care), gift giving, home repair (self-explanatory!), etc. Other categories are collapsed. Then, for another example (!), when it's time to pay car insurance, I just transfer the amount from savings to checking and pay the bill. If I need an unexpected home repair- again, just transfer the money and pay. I feel good about having the money already there and not having it affect that month's finances. Then, I really know that what is left is mine to do with what I please (for the most part). It takes some discipline to set it all up, but it has brought me some financial peace.

  • Sal

    Couture Allure: Honestly? I think it's that my family culture was always one of "we can't afford stuff and need to watch our finances," which was contradicted by the experience of never asking for something that I didn't eventually get. Don't get me wrong, I NEVER had fancy clothes growing up. But if I asked for a new boom box for Hanukkah? I got it. I was very lucky, but it was a bit confusing, ya know? And I think it gave me a "spend it now, because someone might tell you you can't" mentality.

    Amy: Your story illustrates EXACTLY why I want to train myself to save. You absolutely never know what life is going to throw at you. I am so fortunate to have kept my job this long, but who knows? And as things stand, I'd be pretty fucked if I got laid off. We'd make do, but it would be extremely hard. Most important reason I want to learn to save: To be ready should something big, bad, and unexpected strikes.

    Stacey: That sounds like a REALLY fantastic system!

  • a cat of impossible colour

    I completely relate to your attitude to money – mine is very similar. And I love how well you've thought this through; best of luck with it!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your great blog. This post resonates with me because I too am a spender, not a saver. I haven't spent myself into financial ruin or anything, I just don't save up for things- I seem to want it right now. I have not tried a ban- I just know that it would not work for me but my husband and I have made a budget recently that includes both money for spending and money for saving (both vacation savings and savings savings). I am hoping that by having the budget as flexible as possible while still planning responsibly for our savings I can have it both ways. Good luck with your battle. I think you are on the right track:0)

  • BAM

    Thanks for the update! I suppose it was very similar to a starvation type of diet, a little too strict in the end.

    It's been interesting reading your blog & comments about this topic. Money is such a personal thing, I'll be honest – I'd rather run around naked than show someone my bank statement (and I'm not even in debt).

    Thanks for honesty. It was really pretty brave!

  • Lain


    I just discovered your blog and like the addict that I am read all of the posts on your shopping ban. I found your honesty and thoroughness in covering the issue wonderful. As followers of fashion blogs, I figure many of your readers have either faced this problem at some time or are experiencing it now.

    I look forward to hearing how you progress on your new goal to save more. Off the bat it sounds better than spending less.


  • Cary


    I was rereading this post and I'm so impressed by your honesty and thoughtfulness in this post. From what I've read apart from not adding money to your personal savings account you're actually in a good position financially . I do have a few thoughts to add which I hope will help.

    Debt wise can you get a lower interest rate either through transferring the balance to another company or with a line of credit through your bank? Generally lines of credits offer lower interest rates than cards but I'm not sure if they're available in the states. Also while setting aside money in a savings account to pay off debt sounds like a good idea you would be better paying the money directly to the card as the rate on the card will be waaay higher than on a savings account.

    I'm with Stacey when it comes to setting aside money for predictable emergencies such as car or home repairs. Shelia Walkington from the Vancouver based Women's Financial Learning Centre is a big proponent of this system. There's a article at Incidentally for Canadian's I would totally recommend working with Shelia or with her partner Karin.

    For goal setting I found the best way to make them concrete was to sit with a piece of paper and write down what my ideal life would look like. Absolutely nothing is too wild in this exercise just let your imagination run riot. Afterwords you can get a little more practical and pick put three (any more tends to become too much) major goals that you can save towards but the point is to use your money to make you not just secure but happy.

    Finally my last piece of advice is to nickname your savings account. Most online accounts let you do this so you can have a new car account, a screw the job fund or a gorgeous winter coat stash. The point is once you name your account your far less likely ro steal from the account to fund other habits.

    Hope this helps.

  • Christy Sews

    Am I ever happy to have stumbled across your blog. I, too, seem to be harboring the same problem with spending. Of course, I realize where the problem originated — my mom (who is incredibly thrifty and a good saver) taught one thing and did another. So,what I caught was — when the going get's tough,the tough go shopping. Then was the rebellion against a lift time of clothes that only came from the $1.99 rack. I've only read this one post, but believe me, I'll be going back and reading your entire blog. I too tried a ban. I didn't shop for 3 years. And then this year — stand back. I was unleashed. At this point, I'm over the clothing splurge, but before the desire to spend with reckless abandon creeps into my psyche again, I feel the need for a change. So, thank you for sharing.