My friend, Cami, did a spending fast one month last year, meaning she didn’t buy anything but the absolute essentials (mostly fresh food) for 30 days. I was impressed by her restraint. The main thing she learned from her experience was that making a list of what she wanted helped her stick to her goals since it gave her time to ponder if she really needed an item. Most of the time she found she didn’t want it after all.
I’m not much of a shopper, but I soon realized that the concept of not buying could be quite a challenge to undertake. This was evident by my response to the recent opening of Ross Dress for Less in our town deprived of bargain shopping. I admit I was hungry for an opportunity to check out the glorious shelves of marked-down items.
One morning I found my excuse to visit the new store. I was only going to window shop because I didn’t have much time before I had to run another errand nor did I really have the money to spend. I dragged the kids inside telling them it would only take a minute.
Before I even knew what happened, I had placed three items in my cart and was still scouring the racks. There was no list of “needed things” I was consulting; I was simply impulse buying and, I admit, it felt a little thrilling.
Warren, eyes wide from viewing the new toy display, begged for a monster truck. He said he had half the amount in allowance money back home and could I please make up the difference so he could by it right then. I agreed to credit his purchase and placed it the cart with the other non-essentials.
The whole time I kept thinking that I shouldn’t be buying any of those things. But I started rationalizing. A childrens’ read-along cd/book combo. That was noble, right? A collection of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The kids need to have that strong literary foundation, no? I rationalized all the way up to the front of the line and then realized I had forgotten my wallet.
Irked, I restocked my contraband items and rushed the kids out of the store and into the car to go home and get my bank card. I hurried more than usual so that we could return and buy them before someone else snatched them from the shelf. But something happened along the way. Removed from the lure of the florescent lighting and fancy displays, I decided that I didn’t need those four items. They seemed less important. Before I reached the garage, I decided I wasn’t going to go back.
Warren took it better than I thought when I told him we were done. Surprisingly, there was little whining about what he was going to be missing. Turns out, he didn’t have enough allowance money anyway. I didn’t want to teach him that going into debt for something trivial was the way to go through life. I guess I needed that reminder, as well.
But just in case you (like me) need a little more reassurance once in awhile, here is one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits to explain it more clearly:
And by the way, Cami decided for the Year 2011 she would try not to purchase anything new. Just reused, recycled, or created items for her family. Yeah, she’s pretty much my frugal hero.