Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jedi mind tricks I used to cut down on my spending

Spending too much I think you are, Pamela.
I'm not a believer in stringent discipline.  I tried to go that route in saving money, staying fit, eating well, etc. and I would always fall off the wagon and feel terrible about myself.  Something had to change.

What I found was that once my thinking changed, my life changed with it.  Now granted, this isn't going to be applicable if you have no money coming in or are living in serious poverty (or are in a tight period and are even just taking the usual financial precautions).  There's a huge difference between choosing to cut back and being forced by circumstance to do so.  One feels empowering, the other feels discouraging.

Here are some mind tricks I use to avoid spending:
  • How many hours of work would it take me to have enough money for it?  How many of my work hours--based on the real hourly wage--would it take?  What about the costs associated with maintaining it?  How much time would I spend maintaining it? 
  • I would think, "Oh look! I'll be seeing these at every yard sale in a few years."
  • It's going to take longer to order out/go out to eat than it will for me to make something quick at home.  
  • I can make that better at home.
  • I know it's only $20, but that's $20 more in my savings if I don't spend it.  
  • How many resources went into making this? (I'm one of those tree-huggers, so this will often stop me cold.  Not always, mind you, I'm just as human as everyone else, but often it does.)
  • If it's an item of clothing: Is it dry clean only? Ugh, that's a pain. Is it hand wash only in the tears of heaven's angels? Also a pain. Forget it.
  • Use my credit card? So the CEO of the credit card company can take another million dollar bonus courtesy of people like me? I don't think so.  (I do pay the thing off but I don't use it very much.)

Things I do (or don't do) that help me avoid spending money unnecessarily:
  • I don't window shop.  I have found that window shopping leads to actual shopping.
  • I try to avoid places that have things that are or will become my weakness.  This is easier now that I don't take the train to work anymore--the station had a bookstore and an ice cream place.  I would invariably have about a half hour to wait for my train, and to kill time I'd brows the bookstore.  Then I'd find titles that sounded interesting.  Then I'd think, I should write this down and go to the library.  Then I'd think, But I'll be on the train for 45 minutes, why not just get the book and read it? Also, it's very new and I don't think the library has it.  And there you go, I'd own yet another book.  And sometimes, I'd have a craving for cookie dough ice cream, and the ice cream place was RIGHT THERE and I would think NO YOU CANNOT HAVE COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM YOU HAVEN'T HAD DINNER YET and my stomach would be all MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU ARE GETTING THE ICE CREAM CHICKIE and yes, I'd lose that battle.
  • I took myself off of mailing lists so I don't get catalogs anymore.  If I do get one, I toss it into recycling.
  • I don't read certain magazines anymore.  I used to have a subscription to Gourmet before it went defunct because it was great escapism.  The problem was, they'd feature recipes requiring some rare or expensive ingredient, or they'd rhapsodize about certain wine glasses, or they'd have ads glamorizing certain things and I'd feel as gross as a mud puddle for not having them.  No more.
  • I try to see what I have that would do instead.  Especially if it's something I am not sure I'm going to use/wear very much, I don't see the point in getting it and taking up more space.
  • I've developed an aversion to shopping.  I find it very irritating.  Stores are crowded and noisy, I hate waiting in line, and sales pitches irritate me.  Your mileage may vary with this--some people thrive in noisy, crowded places.  I'm not one of them.  In fact, it got worse after I joined a CSA.  Once the season was over and I had to do some serious shopping in a regular grocery store, I almost lost my head.  Oh lord was it irritating.
Don't get me wrong--I still buy things I like and want, and I'm not above the odd impulse buy.  And I certainly like going out for Chinese food--that's not something I will willingly give up.  (My life sans gyoza and ma po tofu and egg drop soup would not be a life worth living.  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but seriously, it's delicious.)  I'm not living like a monk.  But I've managed to scale it back a lot.

What do you do to help stop yourself from spending money unnecessarily?


  1. When it comes to clothing, I have limited closet/dresser space. So I always ask myself, "do I want to make room for this item? Is it better than something else that I already own?" Because, for the most part, to bring something new in, I'll need to move something old out.

    I've also just gotten pickier. If I don't just LOVE something, I really don't want to part with my money for it.

    1. That's so true! You do have to figure out if you even have the room for something, or if you already have something like it/similar to it. And ITA--you shouldn't get something unless you truly do just love it.

  2. Great minds think alike! I feel like I use every single one of your "mind tricks" to curtail unnecessary spending these days.

    In our case, I often ask myself if this is helping us get back to Hawai'i. If the answer is no (and it usually is) that puts an end right then and there to the spending urge.

  3. I hate shopping too! And I totally run from sales pitches and most advertising in general. Unless it's really funny/clever and actually provides some entertainment value, for the most part, ads and sales pitches make me want to NOT buy their product.

    And that's a great point you make about how sometimes, when you have to be more frugal out of necessity, it's not nearly as fun as when you don't have to, but make the choice too. Regardless, those are still some great tips to not spend money!

  4. Love your tricks. I too compare how valuable/wanted and item is versus how much actual work it would take to earn the money to buy it (usually I will settle for something comparable from a thrift store or Walmart to save money!).

  5. I am one of those who cannot afford to shop. However, I do have a piddling amount to spend and should not spend at all. Window shopping does not lead me to shop or spend. When I was a child, my parents window shopped on warm summer evenings when stores were closed. Very few times have I entered a store after window shopping....just not me.

    Your tricks sound very effective.

  6. These are great tips! Probably because I use most of them. It's amazing how much media affects your mindset about spending. I have noticed my kids don't typically whine for stuff ... I think it's because we don't watch much tv and what we do watch is usually PBS (commercial free). I am also less satisfied with my life when I make too many comparisons (media really can trigger that!) so I am learning to ask questions of myself, much like your questions, about what I REALLY want.