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.
- Cut back on blogs, catalogs, and mags: When the temptation of seeing new things is removed, the urge to shop diminishes. Simple as that.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.