Saving and Spending

A reader sent me this question via e-mail after reading our discussion of women and money:

I’m spending within my means and always pay bills etc., but I spend mainly on clothes and accessories and I don’t have any savings to speak of, which is worrying me. It doesn’t help that I’m a post-grad student on scholarship. I find that I’ve developed this attitude where I think, “When I start earning real money, then I’ll start saving,” which, of course, is a very dangerous one to have. (What if I never earn “real” money?!) I don’t own a house while most friends my age do, so I feel I’m a bit behind.

I was wondering if you can share with the benefit of hindsight with shopping ban, etc, what helped you to gain control over your spending? I really need help to shift my attitude from wanting new, nice clothes all the time, to being happy with what I have and getting my priorities right – but how not to “want” is my stumbling block. I can only go a couple of days/week or so before I want something new again, even if it’s just 10 or 20 dollars!

I could completely relate. If I’m being totally honest, my spending is still a little wacky, too. The constant influx of newness from the bajillion style blogs I read makes it hard to quench that want, want, want feeling.

I pay all my bills on time, save for retirement, save for personal reasons, have a Roth IRA, a pension, minimal credit card and no other personal debt … and yet I would never hold myself up as a paragon of financial responsibility. Mostly because I believe that every person should decide for herself how money should be spent or saved. But since this reader asked for my input, here are some things that I suggested to her, all of which I do myself and some of which might be helpful to some of you folks, too. Especially if you find yourself in a constant, unstoppable state of lusting and shopping.

  1. Cut back on blogs, catalogs, and mags: When the temptation of seeing new things is removed, the urge to shop diminishes. Simple as that.
  2. Make saving automatic: I have $30 per paycheck deducted and socked into a savings account at a credit union. It’s not my main bank and I frankly have no idea how to withdraw money from it! It’s building slowly, but it’s there. If you can take money right out of your paycheck, you won’t even consider spending it.
  3. Make a list of unworn items: This is a huge one for me. Whenever I buy something new, I add it to this list. And whenever I do outfit brainstorming, I go through my closet and add to the list any items that are underutilized. Whenever I get that aimless urge to spend on something, ANYTHING, I look over my list. Because it is long. I have lots of stuff. And remembering that I have fun, new or newish items that are yet to be worn curbs the spending urge.
  4. Create a savings goal: When I have no real reason to save, it’s much harder. I was able to sock away money for our Iceland trip fairly quickly and easily. Whereas just putting it aside for … a rainy day? Car repairs? The future? If you want a house, make a house fund. If you want to travel, make a trip fund. If you want lasik surgery, make a lasik fund. Imagining a larger goal can make saving less difficult.
  5. HALT: This is an AA trick that I’ve mentioned before. If you’re itching to spend, ask yourself if you’re also feeling hungry, angry/anxious, lonely, or tired. All of those emotions are triggers for addictive behavior and sometimes just identifying what you’re truly feeling can help you dampen the urge.

My shopping ban taught me that my money issues have to do with control. If I can’t control my money, I feel powerless, frustrated, and rebellious. So putting a “no shopping” rule on myself just backfires and I end up overspending once the ban has lifted. I’ve had to find other ways to work around my urges. If you’re wired like me, some of the ideas listed above may help.

But if you’re not, they may not. When you feel caught in a non-stop spending spree, how do you motivate yourself to step back and reconsider? What are you saving practices?

Image via giftmonger.

  • Nanina

    LOL, this could have been me! I work a part-time job at uni, too, and work on my PhD. I don’t own a home yet, and I’m all-around insured, but both these things are common in Germany, which is where I live ^^ Ok, I have minimal savings. But the phenomenon is international… Every few days, I get the impulse to go somewhere and look for nice things, lately it has not so much been clothing but rather makeup. I don’t over-spend, I keep things on the cheap side, but I still wonder if it’s too much. I definitely have too much in my wardrobe and my makeup drawer(s)… But it’s so much fun! And then again I sometimes wonder why I don’t put more effort in things that push my career further, or are a little more “appropriate” for the brainy girls, if you know what I mean. Like reading (even) more or working more on that book I just signed a contract for… *sigh*

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  • http://inprofessorialfashion.blogspot.com/ Dorky Medievalist

    I’ve mentioned this before on our blog but I take a shopping emissions approach to my spending. Having finished school, I now have a substantial loan to repay and I am required to make a minimum monthly payment on my loan that has an uncomfortably long amortization period. Having this hanging over my head makes me feel like I shouldn’t buy anything until I’ve repaid the loan, but that is perhaps too Spartan. Instead, whenever I want to buy something, I agree to put down the same amount that I spend on a new item onto my student loan, over and above the regular monthly payment. This way, if I feel that an item is really outside of my spending comfort zone, having to double it makes this abundantly clear. OR I can feel somewhat justified in my spending because I am also paying down my loan while I buy pressies for myself. It’s a trick, really, but it’s one that works for me.

    • http://www.rubybastille.wordpress.com Laura

      Ooh, I like that idea! I can see it backfiring for me, though, because I’d use the savings portion as an excuse to buy even more stuff. :) It’s for a good cause!

  • http://www.decisionsonmargaritas.blogspot.com Associate Girl

    I had to stop opening the emails from katespade.com. When I got laid off but hired elsewhere, my salary was cut by 1/2. Kate Spade is no longer an option, so I don’t even tempt myself.

  • Ekatherina

    What great tips, Sally… I can vouch for the automatically socking money out of your paycheck into a savings account. I’ve also been thinking about taking pictures of outfits utilizing under-used pieces for when I want something “new” to wear but lacking inspiration or can’t remember exactly what I have. I went through a phase a couple of months ago where I bought a TON of new clothes (granted, I really did need warmer winter stuff) and for a couple of weeks was so excited because of all of the new options I had… but since then stress (I’m also a student) has had me forgetting all of the outfits I thought up before. I’m gonna do that this week, I think :D

  • Ekatherina

    Oh, and I’ll post the pictures on a board on my closet door. :D

  • http://laughbutnotloudly.blogspot.com Jill/laughbutnotloudly

    My personal rule # 1 is NO CREDIT CARDS. Psychologically speaking, the average person is apt to spend 20% more if they charge rather than pay in cash. I cut my cards up about two years ago and haven’t looked back. Now I absolutely can’t buy something if I don’t have the cash to pay for it. I use a debit card for on-line or catalogue purchases. I have student loans and a mortgage, so I haven’t really found lack of credit cards to be a hinderance to getting credit.
    Besides, the credit card industry is pretty evil, so I garner a certain amount of personal satisfaction out of just not participating in their circus of annual fees and changing interest rates.

  • benny

    This is an issue that affects all of us. I have a great job, as does my husband. We have plenty of money, we own several homes, and our kids are grown and educated. But I have a lot of stuff ! And every time I buy something new, I still feel bad and guilty ! I try to tell myself that I work hard, provide for my family and deserve things, but it doesn’t work that well. So I just live with the reputation as the hospital shopaholic. And when people or organizations ask for donations, we give.

  • Cynthia

    I load up the cart, then leave for at least 24 hours. When I come back, I’m frequently amazed at what I *thought* I wanted, and most often end up deleting the whole thing. And doing this also helped me realize that I love the shopping part more than the getting part – kind of like when my kids were little, and I tried to help them understand the distinction between “I want that toy” and “I want to play with that toy for awhile.”

  • Mikaela

    i am still a student, and have no credit history. therefore, the only way i can get a credit card is to pay for one for a $20 annual fee. um, no thank you.

    i only use my debit card because i believe that it helps me curb my spending, and helps me keep track easier. i do the online banking, and every week I double check the balances with a pocketbook so I know how much i’m spending.

    but it’s definitely hard to stick to a budget, since my budget is so much smaller now that i am not working at all.

  • http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/ Trystan

    Automatic savings is the BEST thing to ever start. Most any direct deposit pay system can split off some amount into a savings account & the rest into checking. This has saved my bacon many a time; I’ve been doing this most of my working life!

    Another thing, when you are absolutely jonesin’ for a shopping fix, head to the thrift store first with about $20. Either you’ll spend forever looking & find nothing or you’ll score the most amazing thing for a steal. The first option resets your priorities & the second satisfies the “wants” ;-)

  • http://mimismartypants.com mimi smartypants

    Wow, I had no idea HALT was a 12-step thing! I always thought it was a parenting thing, as in things to consider when wondering why your child is being a poophead.

  • GingerR

    All very good ideas.

    I particularly like the idea of paying a similar amount down on the student loans. Those boots or whatever will have come and gone and you’ll still be paying for the loans if you don’t accelerate the repay.

    I’ve taken to withdrawing cash and using that. When it’s gone it’s gone.

  • Cass

    For me, the two things that help are just limiting the amount of money I have access to in the first place and budgeting out what I’m willing to spend. I don’t use my credit card without first pulling out my checkbook register to make sure I have the money already. About double my theoretical student loan payment (which is in deferral, but I want to pay it off as fast as possible) automatically comes out of my checking account, as does $200 in savings for two separate accounts–emergency fund, long-term savings– and $50 for the plane tickets I want to visit college friends this summer. When I’ve reached my vacation target, that money will go into one of the other two. Since I don’t touch my savings accounts (they’re in a separate bank, which takes a few days to transfer), the amount of money I have lying around asking to be spent is limited.

    Then I budget a set amount of money for non-necessary stuff every month–clothing/shoes, kitchen gadgets, drinks/dinner out with friends a couple times a month, and coffee drinks being the big ones–and once it’s gone, it’s gone. (For the coffee, which is my biggest temptation, I put money on a gift card to my local coffee shop and once it’s empty, I can’t refill it until the next month.) I very rarely go over, mostly because the math of taking it out of the next month’s budget would be more hassle than waiting.

  • Mar

    I could have written the original inquiry myself. I am a grad student, and while I don’t rack up credit card debt, most of my spending beyond rent/bills/food is on clothes and accessories. I’ve had times when I really feel like that spending is out of control, but that I can’t stop also lusting after new pieces. I’ve tried setting arbitrary spending limits, but this just stressed me out, and even if I adhere to it temporarily, I am very likely to then overcompensate once the ban is lifted. I really liked Sal’s tips – I too have a savings account with a special purpose, which makes it easier to put money away there. Second thing which has helped me, is decidedly spending more time in my closet, putting together outfits – writing them down so that I can consult them later – and discovering items I haven’t used that much, but could utilize to make interesting pairings. This “time in my closet” makes me excited about my existing pieces, which I otherwise forget about, and it makes the desire to have something new less urgent – it’s easier to say, hey, let me wear these outfits I just came up with this week, and I’ll reassess again next week. Especially as I pretty much daily browse and/or develop the outfit list. And the other thing – I realized that what often contributed to my shopping sprees was this uneasy feeling that “I have nothing to wear” in the mornings. And so I went and bought stuff and still occasionally “had nothing to wear”. I took to writing down specifically when I was having these feelings – what was the day like for which I thought I can’t dress for, or what kinds of outfits I really wanted to wear but felt couldn’t. And it came out for me that casual outfits were a challenge with my current wardrobe- like super casual comfy dresses for layering, and flat boots. While before this analysis, I tried to buy more heeled shoes and more formal dresses. This also has reduced the “urgency” to go out and buy. And like Sal suggested – I limited my blog intake, and online catalog browsing of shops where I know I will have trouble not buying. (I now like to sometimes browse super expensive stuff for styling ideas that I know I will never afford right now :)

  • http://the-coveted.com jennine

    i also think taking the time to get dressed in the morning (or at night) helps. I was thinking that I had no clothes and I needed all new ones when I moved to NYC because everyone looks so good here. I thought I needed all new stuff, but it turned out I have a lot of great clothes, I just wasn’t taking the time it really takes to put a proper outfit together. No, it takes longer than 20 min for me to decide what to wear, and no, i RARELY get it in the first try. But it’s that patience that will save me a trip to the market.

    • http://www.mischiefmydear.com Ashe Mischief

      That’s such a good tip, Jennine! I’ve been thinking a lot how I don’t take enough time getting ready in the morning… and I go to a lot of fallbacks, and a lot of jeans and tops. It doesn’t make me feel good about myself though!

  • Deelee

    I found that moving apartments curbed my shopping like nothing else. Once I had to pack it all in boxes, and transport the heavy boxes by myself, I stopped shopping for a few months.

  • http://www.mischiefmydear.com Ashe Mischief

    First of all, thank you– I’m so glad to see the issue of finances & fashion blogging remaining on people’s minds (and therefore, in their posts). It’s SO important to talk about because of EXACTLY this: “The constant influx of newness from the bajillion style blogs I read makes it hard to quench that want, want, want feeling.”

    That HALT tip is a great one– I’ll have to start using that more often (and more specifically, whenever I want a cupcake. Because chances are I’m doing it because I’m angry or tired.)

  • http://dashingeccentric.blogspot.com/ Steph tiny junco

    chiming in to agree with the efficacy of spending time in your closet and of planning. creating new outfits will help satisfy the ‘need for the new’. and by spending time in your closet you’ll have a better idea of what you have so you won’t buy doubles. you also end up finding out what you truly need and will use. for me, knowing that i actually need and could use a olive green cardi, for example, (and having some specific outfits that i know i could create with this new item) makes it much easier to resist other fun stuff that i ‘want’. i’m saving my $$$ for something in particular, not just ‘saving’ in the abstract.

    i also find it helps to create a list of wardrobe needs/wants 2-4 x’s a year. it helps me stay focused in my shopping, and i end up getting things that i use. and over the years i’ve tried to pay attention to what i want, what i need, what i end up using, trying to use and appreciate what i already have, and paying attention to what’s enough. it’s a matter of doing your best to watch yourself and what you’re doing and feeling. it can be done – and you feel a lot better knowing more about yourself! good luck! steph

  • http://newhues.blogspot.com Holley

    Wow – great post and great comments! I’m among all the others who spend money on clothes but has an already full closet. After reading through all of this, I have visions of Excel spreadsheets with a full closet inventory and evenings of building new and interesting outfits – I can’t wait to get home!! :)

  • http://thehouseintheclouds.blogspot.com Fabienne Jach

    That’s a very good topic. As a fashion lover and appreciator of All Things New To Me, it’s a constant struggle. Really, I love stuff! Cute stuff, smart stuff, practical stuff… I’ve been on a mission to get my act together this past year with quite a passion. Here’s one tip that’s really been working for me.

    I keep a list of things I want. I keep that list on me. Let’s say I’m already at the store to buy the bra I planned to buy and I see something I just Have To Have!! I put in on the list and plan to come back for it. Guess how often I return? Not very. And when I do, I get to enjoy thinking about it, how I would wear it, what does it match… I turned my instant gratification habit into an experience that also acknowledges anticipation and mindfulness. It makes each purchase more meaningful.

    It’s not foolproof but it’s pretty darn good. Also, I never shop when tired or hungry. That’s a disaster waiting to happen!

  • https://generationkvetch.blogspot.com Shari

    I am a work in progress on this, but DH and I just composed a detailed buget where I will have an amount for clothes and toiletries/makeup, but I will have to track it.

    These things have helped so far:

    (1) Be picky about what you DO buy. I’m hard to fit. And I’ve had it with cheap clothes that fall apart. Narrowing the universe down to things that really fit AND flatter AND are decent quality creates a small subset of things that are even worth buying. I’m now used to taking a stack of things into the fitting room and having nothing even worth consideration. It has curbed my buying significantly.

    (2) Unsubscribe from emails. To me, these are more tempting than catalogues, esp. when they tell me about the deal at my local B & M store. The next thing I know, I’m stopping by “just to look” and you know where that goes.

    (3) Related tip: stay out of stores. : ) I’ve started using my lunch hour for true errands only and for running home to do a few chores so that I don’t feel so overwhelmed in the evening. Added benefit: sloppy doggie kisses from my girl Lucy who is happy to see me. And I feel better not leaving her alone all day.

    (4) Use catalogs and magazines for inspiration from your own closet AND pencil in YOUR items. You can do this for outfits you love as pictured or for outfits that you would wear in a more modest/toned down/mature/real life way. I do that a lot with outfits from Lucky magazine (ie. too old to wear as is). I’ll rip out the picture and write “purple Lands End cardi” “black belt” “ATL floral poofy skirt” or whatever. This also helps when you get older and your memory is going, as in “Why did I ever rip out this page? Which item on the page did I like?”

  • http://sololisa.com lisa

    I definitely agree with your tips about having a goal and doing auto-deposit. Having separate chequing and savings accounts makes it much easier to see how much you can afford to spend, plus it’s a satisfying feeling to see your savings grow!

  • http://styleodyssey.blogspot.com/ Style Odyssey

    great post- a dose of reality in the blogging world (someone’s gotta do it, right?)
    i’ve inadvertently found a great way to shop that doesn’t put a dent in finances: consignment stores. i realize this is not news but bear with me. because all my clothes and accessories are now in one house (since recently moving back to the US), i’ve had a chance to gradually re-evaluated my entire wardrobe. i realized i had LOADS of nice (designer or upscale labels) things that no longer work for me. i got brave, and i edited and edited! (i don’t recommend doing this all at once- cold turkey is scary).
    then i found some awesome upscale consignment shops and started doing business with them. the last time i went there, i cashed out, opting to shop instead of getting the money. they had tons of gorgeous new arrivals that suit my style. guilt-free shopping!
    it only works if you have a bunch of barely-worn stuff you can part with, and if you’re not fussed about the latest trends or “brand new”. (i also love thrift store shopping, and have for over 20 years.)
    word of caution- consigning CAN be addictive- rather like shoe shopping. ;)

  • Becky

    I’m glad you posted this b/c for about 3 months, ever since I found style and shopping blogs, I’ve been spending far more money on clothes and shoes and accessories. And everyone has noticed my attempts at style and been very positive. I’ve spent about $300 per month, sometimes a bit more, but have no “budget” per se for clothes. I just buy what I want and find that my tastes and guilt keep me in an acceptable range. Anyway, there’s been something I’ve been curious about (NOT judgemental). I’m in my early forties and both I and my husband have careers that earn us decent money (I’d say we were middle to upper middle class). We have a mortgage and no other debt. Two relatively new cars, two kids. And I feel like I spend the upper limit of what I should on clothes. It doesn’t hurt our bank account per se, but I know I could/should spend it on more important things.

    Anyway, since reading all these blogs, I’ve been really curious how so many young women (most are in their 20s-30s) afford new (and expensive) purchases so often. I guess it’s making me feel a little inadequate with my income (and I felt pretty good about it before!). And I feel really naive about money. I think seeing their OOTD photos and reading about their shopping expeditions have both inspired me to make exciting and deliberate choices about my own style, but I also think it’s made me feel a little $ poor. Silly, I know, but when I was in my 20s, I was scraping by on a meager grad school fellowship and shopping on my mom’s dime when she came to visit. I feel confident about myself, my job, etc, but I guess I feel a little jealous of the 27 year olds who can afford weekly Anthropologie orders that must cost more than my month of spending.

    • Mar

      I am in my early thirties, in grad school. Not making weekly Anthro orders, but probably could to some extent fall into the category of young women you talk about spending on clothes. For me the important point to understanding is this: you say that you have recently spent money on clothes/accessories, but then admit “but I know I could/should spend it on more important things. ” I don’t own a house, so I have no mortgage, and I don’t aspire to buy one in the foreseeable future. I have a savings account (ok, it’s not too big) for emergencies. I pay my bills. I don’t have kids, and I am not saving up for one. I don’t have a car, and I don’t want one. There aren’t that many “important things” in my life I feel I would need to be spending on. I don’t think this is about absolute income, it’s about how people choose to spend their income and what are their priorities with that income.

      • Eliza

        I’m in my very early twenties, still in college, and I buy expensive clothing, even though I can’t afford much of it. I’d rather have two or three nice things, and stretch them out with thrifted basics. Last year, I had less than 20 items of clothing in my closet- including two coats! I’m trying to build a closet of things I love, but that takes more money than I have, and I’d rather dress frugally than buy things I’m not crazy about. So for the moment, I’m saving every penny I can, setting it aside for those couple pieces I just can’t walk away from. So to answer your question, I don’t know about others around my age, but I’m not buying that much! I’m budgeting, fudging, and making do, and end up buying about two big ($300) purchases a year. Anything else is thrifted :)

        • Becky

          Eliza, You sound so smart about your spending. I’m like that in every other aspect of my purchasing (but not clothes!). I suspect you’ll be very responsible with your funds when you are my age!

        • Becky

          (sorry for the double replies!)

          Mar, You make an excellent point. And I feel like kind of a schmuck for not considering this before. When I think about it, I realize you are right. We spend thousands of dollars per year on private school for our kids, thousands per year on home maintenance/repairs (UGH!), and have 1-2 year old nice cars. We could send our kids to public school, we could rent and therefore not have to pay for maintenance, we could have bought used cars or taken out car loans or picked less pricey ones. And I’d have a whole lot more to spend on clothes. I think the “more important things” I was talking about were the crap we need to do with working on our house that just keeps getting delayed or saving more (we do have a decent savings account but always have expensive emergencies for some reason…new frig, etc). So yeah, you’re right. THanks for prompting me to think about what I DO have. :)

  • http://www.thecheapchick.com The Cheap Chick

    Apropos of nothing – hey there! I’m sorry you’ve been sick! Are you feeling any better?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      I am! Thanks for asking, my dear.

  • mbbored

    Hi, I’m in my late 20s in grad school with a newly developed taste in fashion. Some things that have helped me:
    -Set aside cash each month for clothes shopping. I can let it build up, or let it go.
    -Before I buy anything, I have to think of 5 ways I would wear it.
    -Also before I buy, I ask out loud what else would i spend the money on. I also like to travel, plus I just bought a house and there’s always something that needs work. (My BFF now asks me that when I stare too long at anything.)
    -Buy quality, so it’s worth the price. To that end, I shop clearance racks, outlets, thrift & consignment shop. That way the hunt is awfully fun.
    -I deleted the passwords for all my online shopping accounts. I found it was really easy to rack up a bill that way, plus the clothes didn’t always fit, it takes a while to exchange, etc.

  • http://xoxotara.wordpress.com/ Tara Melissa

    These are my tricks:

    -Buy in cash. When you pay with debit or credit, you’re removed from the process – you just swipe and go about your merry way. When you get to watch the cash deduct from your wallet, parting with it seems oh so difficult…

    -Use the $10/day rule. When something seems like a splurge (a $150 pair of shoes, let’s say), give yourself a day to think about it for every $10 you’d be spending, so in that case, give yourself fifteen days. You’d be surprised how many things lose their have-to-have-it appeal – or get forgotten altogether – just after a few days! If you find yourself still longing for it, treat yourself.

    • Becky

      OMG I love, love, love your $10/day rule. I might have to do $20/day but I think I’m going to try it…My biggest problem is that I am always shopping the online sales (b/c I want things I can’t afford at full price) and so I feel a sense of urgency that will make the per day rule really hard. But it is a great idea.

  • michelle

    Sal, I appreciate your observation about money issues = control. I’ve thought about placing myself on a short-term shopping ban, too, but fear that it would backfire on me for precisely the reasons you mention.

  • Smaug

    Gosh, I could have written that question. And i really, really appreciate your suggestions as well as your honesty. Thank you!

  • Kelsey

    In addition to an auto-transfer of $30 to my savings account as soon as my paycheck is deposited, I add an extra $30 to my taxes each month so that my refund is that much bigger when I get it back. I don’t really miss it each month since I don’t see it and, seeing as I’m in grad school, I get a pretty big education break also. It makes for a nice vacation fund that comes mid-March, just in time to book early for summer plans. And if I don’t have anything planned in the foreseeable future, I can spend half on whatever I’ve been eyeing and deposit the rest straight into savings.

    • andrea

      kelsey–by overpaying on your taxes, you’re loaning that money to the government interest-free! put that $30 in your savings account, or a CD if you’d be tempted to take it out sooner. Even a little return is better than nothing.

  • S

    All the tips I’ve found here are great! I’ve come to the conclusion that poor shopping choices are what lead to a “unfulfilling” wardrobe. It’s best to only buy what you truly love even if it means saving up and making just a few purchases per year. Or envisioning how many ways you can wear the garment. When it comes to shoes, I’ve learned that combining quality, style and comfort is essential. Buying something just because it’s cheap doesn’t work, you still spent $20 or $30 etc.
    I think one does not have to give up on style blogs, for me they have helped me use items I already had. They can serve as inspiration! I’ve also found polyvore’s “Ask” section to be a good tool for finding new ideas on how to wear stuff.

  • S

    Oops….I forgot to add that finding new activities to occupy your free time is so important! Many times people go to the mall or shop because they are bored, feeling depressed or both. Purchasing a new item gives us a temporary high. Start a new hobby or rekindle an old one, socialise with new or old friends. Exercise is also great, take a walk, run or hike, it keeps you in shape so you look good in what you already have!

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  • bluemoose

    Best spending curb I’ve ever found:
    When I was in grad school, which was a few years ago but not decades, I had $535 coming in each month. This averaged out to well below minimum wage, something like $2 an hour for the work I was doing (not factoring in that the job also paid my tuition, so it wasn’t THAT bad). Anyway, I just calculated how many hours of work an item would cost me. Had to do that for everything down to junk foods — a cheap night’s pizza cost 2 hours of work. Was it worth that time for me? Calculating in terms of time rather than money helped me rethink spending, and it’s stuck. Something that will last years is obviously worth more hours of my time.

  • Anonymous

    Wow – as the reader who submitted the original question to Sal, I’m feeling better to know that there are others in my position and who need to control spending, and that many of you have your own control measures in place. I still have a way to go, but I feel more positive and optimistic that I can do it. Thanks for posting Sally, and thanks to you all for commenting and sharing your experiences :)

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      So, so glad to help, lady! And thrilled to hear that the other stories shared here have provided you with further support and more ideas!

  • Anna

    I know this post is so late as to be almost useless, but this almost described me exactly (phd student, small scholarship, addicted to adding a new item every weekend, even if from the Old navy sales racks, and have found amazon prime to be a tad dangerous).

    So, what has helped me? Oddly, Pinterest. Pinterest allows me to think about fashion, create fictional wish-lists, and then really pinpoint what I am craving in my current closet. It has also helped me define my style and avoid impulse-type purchases of trendy items that I would rarely choose to wear in the morning. I’m going to look at clothes and style blogs, so this has been a better receptacle for my ideas than a shopping cart!