This time last year my husband had just left a job that had been paying him prevailing wage. Our budget was already smaller than it really needed to be because we were still saving for a house, but once that income was gone we decided to minimize our spending even more.
The main thing we did was cut out our “shopping budgets” which was essentially $25 a month we both were allowed to spend however we wanted. (I broke down how I spent my $25 in a couple of posts here.) Once he left his job we decided it would be better if we cut that extra unnecessary spending out and focused on only buying what we needed or had to buy.
At first I was pretty sad. I agreed we should do this but I also hated the idea of not being able to buy any clothes for awhile (My $25 was most predominately spent on clothing!) and mourned the loss of Saturday afternoons spent thrifting.
Though I still wish at times I could go and spend a little dough it’s been about a year now of living this way and it actually has completely transformed my perspective on money, shopping and spending in general. I’ve always been cheap or “money savvy” but going to minimal spending has really challenged everything I thought I knew about money. I decided today that I would delve into those changes and what exactly I learned from this year in hopes to either encourage you to do the same or give you the insight I learned without you having to go a whole year. Because, I’ll help a friend out! ;)
What I Learned From A Year Of Minimal Shopping
1. I don’t need it.
When you can only buy what you absolutely need. You quickly realize the definition of need. Sure, you can twist every item into somehow serving a need of yours and therefore defining it as a need. But when you get honest, like really honest, with yourself guess what you realize, you really don’t need it. I continually spend a good ten minutes in the Target one spot isle having those conversations with myself before ultimately putting the item back on the shelf.
But after a year of doing this I’m trying to think of something that I had wanted to buy back then or thought I needed that I didn’t buy that I still want or “need” today and I’m coming up blank. The truth is we don’t need it. We never do. They tell us we do. Other people have it and we want it. But we don’t need it. At the end of the day or month or year are we going to still be wishing for that item or are we going to be focused on bigger things that life is made up of.
I’ll tell you for me it was the latter. A year later I can’t remember all the things I wanted to buy because they changed and ultimately they didn’t matter but I still have the same goals, (with the money I needed to achieve those goals) aspirations and values. Those stayed the same and those deserve the time, money and energy I own, not more things I don’t need.
2. I don’t want it that bad.
Workers probably have a code name for me in some of my usual stores like “the-girl-who-stares-at-items-and-lingers-in-isles-but-never-buys-anything” or maybe something more catchy. The point is I’m definitely not their highest paying or best customer. Case in point: I tend to stare at items I’m interested in for longer than the usual customer deciding to buy or not to buy. Which usually ends in the ladder. It’s also one of the reasons I can’t really go shopping with other people. Why do I take so long in stores? Let me run down the timeline of my shopping experiences for your amusement:
First minute: Item catches my attention and I pick it up with intent of purchasing.
Next five minutes: Telling myself why I need it.
Next ten minutes: Rebutting every reason I just gave myself for needing said item.
Optional next five minutes: Take a picture and send to a friend asking opinion on item or validation for needing it.
Next fifteen minutes: Hold it in my hand/cart/basket as I walk around the store looking at other items.
Last five minutes: Go back over my past reasons for not needing it, put item back and leave.
You can see why store workers don’t like me. For basically forty minutes I lay claim to items so that no one else can buy them but in the end I leave empty handed.
But I don’t regret the way I shop because this process is how I started realizing that I don’t actually want that item that bad. Sure I really liked it enough to carry it around basically pretending that I was going to walk out the door with it but in the end when I weigh it up against the other things I want to do with my money, the big scary goals I have, it can’t even compare.
Now here is the thing, I’m sure if I had really really wanted an item and came to my husband with my want (assuming it wasn’t off the wall expensive) there is a very big possibility that he would agree and let me buy the item. The things is, in this year of minimal shopping I realized there were very few times where I wanted an item so bad that I came to Greg with that request. Again, when you put even the best “thing” up against your goals or ambitions how could it ever compare?
In the end I learned that I really didn’t want my “wants” that bad. I didn’t want them bad enough to ignore my goals or try and talk someone else into letting me guilt free buy it. The “things” I wanted weren’t more important than reaching those goals. And even if buying that one item wouldn’t completely sabotage my goal in my heart I knew it wasn’t worth even the small negative affect it might have on it. Which leads me to my next lesson learned..
3. Good deals can still waste a lot of your money.
Let me tell you something friends. Before this minimal shopping thing I was the master of the good deals and good finds. I could find those diamonds in the rough at thrift stores for $1, and though my entire wall closet and dresser was busting full of clothes, the dollar amount of my wardrobe was probably in the low hundreds. I was queen of the $3 fill a bag at my local thrift store (a title I graciously gave myself and humbly accepted) and would mostly shop under $5-$10 for new items. I have high standards as far as what a “good deal” is and I wouldn’t just settle for buying something because it says it’s “clearance”.
Because of this it was definitely hard to stop shopping altogether, especially when you feel like you don’t spend that much money anyways since you are always getting said “good deals”. But what I realized in this year is that good deals can still waste your money, and a lot of it. No matter how much money you saved by an item being on sale doesn’t change how much you spent on it. So if you buy a shirt for $12 on sale, it doesn’t matter if it was originally $30, $65 or $120, you still spent $12 of your money on that item.
Even though I always shopped smart and got good deals, I still was spending a lot of money unnecessarily in the grand scheme of things. I now have realized that if I’m going to spend money on something I have to be okay with the amount that will come out of my pocket for it. No other number matters.
BONUS! 4. It didn’t take away from my life, which means it never really added to it.
Finally I’d say that the biggest thing I learned over this year is how little things actually changed. My life probably looks incredibly similar yours. I still dress nice, eat out, hang out with friends and do fun things. My happiness and well being isn’t dependent on being able to shop or buy things whenever you want.
In this year, sure there were moments where I wanted to go buy myself a little something for no other reason except to have a pick me up. But in the end not being able to do that didn’t affect me in a major way.
Imagine that guys, you can’t actually buy happiness! It’s true! I experienced that in real life this last year and I wanted to share all of the things I learned with you guys during that process because what am I on this blog if not an open book!
I hope you feel encouraged in your financial endeavors and I hope you challenge yourself to minimize some of those unnecessary expenses! Don’t worry I won’t make you go a whole year! ;)