You know that little American-ism about Target? The one that us middle-class gals giggle about. “Does anyone ever walk into a Target to buy the one thing they needed without a handful of other things they don’t?” The fact that we are privileged enough to say that and chortle at its ridiculousness is one thing. The fact that this kind of behavior is truly a hindrance to a lot of people’s paychecks is another. And something a wee bit more serious.
Now no offense to Target. I freaking LOVE Target. My lovely friend’s husband is a manager of a Target. And let’s be real—I do most of my shopping there. It is merely an illustration that when we aren’t mindful about money it can become something bigger and even a tad bid insidious. That’s not Target’s fault even if it is their desire or intention as a retailer.
I don’t even know how much money I’ve spent on things I don’t need. Not just at Target, but also Fred Meyer, Wal Mart, Amazon.com, whatever. The place doesn’t matter. The fact is, most of these purchases aren’t really even trackable without dissecting a receipt. And isn’t that kind of the point sometimes, ladies? (See Frozen MEME).
Food is probably an even greater point of waste in my life. From eating out to wasting food in my fridge, I know I’m hemorrhaging cash.
This recent study about how Americans waste money helps illustrate that fact.
SO I am taking control. One thing I loved about WHOLE30 was the very clear, very simple set of rules. It was easy to say “no” to things because there was no wiggle room. I do well under this kind of structure. I have been curious what that kind of rule system would do if I translated it to finances. I did a lot of soul searching these past few weeks and decided that in 2017 I wouldn’t spend needlessly. But what does that mean?
Let’s be real, I’m 100% Ariel on this topic. I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore. But guess what, I want moooooore!
I don’t NEED most of the things I buy. I DECIDE that I need them. I was very inspired by a recent trip my sister took to Kenya where one of her big take-aways coming home was that when your expectations aren’t based on privilege your reality can meet that level and you can feel content despite what some might perceive as suffering. Buddhist teachings are much the same—attachment to things or ideas leads to suffering.
These past few years MY expectations have been very privilege-based and my attachment to things is other-worldly. I feel like my house needs to be perfect, my outfits on point and trendy. My kids need 10 pairs of pants and my lunches need to be wherever I feel like going that day. No, I don’t buy everything new. But I’m still purchasing.
And I think one could argue that it has led to suffering. Perhaps if I was quite careful with my money other doors would be opened, retirement would be more secure, I wouldn’t have so much shit in my house, etc.
So I’ve signed a contract with myself. In 2017 my rules look like this:
- I am not buying myself THINGS outside of necessary toiletries. No clothes, no jewelry, no candles, no replacement gloves in a pinch. Nada.
- I will not spend money on my home or my children unless there is legitimate need. I will discuss said “legitimate need” with my husband so he can weigh in on that. (This is more of a litmus test. Vic is a frugal guy and if I know that I need to talk to him before I make a purchase, I will certainly consider if “need” is the right word.)
- I am giving myself a strict, monthly eating-out budget for the work hours ($150). Packable food from home the rest of the time to avoid wasting food we have. Convenience foods are substantially more expensive.
- I must use everything I have before I buy anything to replace it. Examples: Makeup foundation—I have about 5 in my makeup drawer. I will find a way to use ALL OF IT before I get any more.
- I will still have fun and DO THINGS. I just don’t need more stuff. I don’t.
These might seem silly to you. Or even a little crazy. But I am excited to see how I thrive within this rules-based structure. I am still purchasing gifts for special occasions and our family will have all of the experiences we can handle and afford. But this grand experiment, I hope, shows me something about the habits I’ve been giggling at for years that might actually be not so funny to my bank account.
p.s. This is not poverty tourism. Don’t get excited.