I really like to look on Craigslist for one-of-a-kind furniture. I remember finding a cabinet and telling Doug, “It’s VINTAGE! It’s made with real wood! And they’re practically GIVING it away!” It didn’t matter that we had no place to put it. I enjoyed finding it even if I didn’t buy it.
Looking around my home, I started thinking about the improvements I could make. I should find good things for my family and make our home nice, because it was my responsibility. And how much better that I was finding good things for my family in a responsible, budget-conscious way! The walls seemed a little empty and needed some sprucing up. Perhaps we could replace the night table with something with storage. And didn’t we need to improve the kitchen?
I gradually noticed that I was spending more and more time thinking about things to buy. I wasn’t spending a lot of money, but the idea of adding more started to consume my thoughts. We weren’t lacking anything, but I could always think of one more thing that would be nice to have. I was using shopping as easy entertainment.
Let me say that there is nothing wrong with having nice things. I appreciate what my family has. But sometimes we need draw the line and say enough. And that’s how No Spend Month began.
Resisting the desire to acquire requires strategy and awareness:
1. Don’t tempt yourself. We rarely think to buy something that we haven’t seen first. That’s the strategy of catalogs and weekly ad inserts mailed to your home. I have a friend who decided to call and request that catalogs not be mailed to her, because she realized the photos were making her less content. It takes just a few minutes to opt out of catalogs and junk mail. It doesn’t hurt to watch less tv and avoid the commercials too.
2. Picture something in its used form, rather than the pristine store display. Have you ever noticed how clothes on store mannequins are often cinched and pinned in the back to make the fit more flattering? Be realistic and picture that new shirt with the tags cut off, sitting in a rumpled heap at the bottom of the closet or the laundry pile. Suddenly it’s just another shirt, and it didn’t make you better, smarter, or more likable.
3. Know your weaknesses. I can rarely pass up a tote bag without feeling an impulse to buy it. They’re so appealing and useful! I also like vintage cake stands. So when I see one I like, I just remind myself that even though I feel like buying it, that doesn’t mean I need to. I can appreciate it without actually owning it.
4. Find something else to do. Do something fun and productive. Go outside and enjoy nature. Use your time to help someone else. Volunteering doesn’t make me feel like I need to buy something new.
5. Think about costs. How many hours will you or your spouse have to work to pay for it? What about maintenance, considering money and effort? Will you have to dust, clean, fix, move, insure, upgrade, and store it? And if you’re buying on credit, what will the interest cost?
6. Wait for it. Sometimes when a few days pass, it doesn’t seem quite so important. Maybe you already have something that will work. Rarely is something so unique that you’ll never get another chance to buy it. Let a few bargains go — you’ll find other opportunities.
7. Declutter your stuff. Whenever I make the effort to get rid of stuff, I want to keep my home open and spacious. I don’t want to fill it back up with more things. I also don’t need to buy storage containers and organizers to hold everything.
8. Buy quality the first time. If you carefully choose what you want and buy something that will last, you won’t feel the constant pull to upgrade. There’s a time and place for temporary purchases, but generally, quality items save time and money.
9. Avoid buying unwanted gifts. Ok, so you’ve decided not to buy anything for yourself, because you really don’t need anything. Extend the same courtesy to your loved ones. Ask yourself if they would really want it, or do you just want to buy something? Gifts are wonderful, but sometimes help or time spent together is even better.
10. Be accountable. Talk about it with someone who will be honest with you. Share your experience with a friend so they can give you encouragement and cheer for you when you make good spending choices.
What ideas work for you?