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Confessions of a Reformed Mindless Spender

Confessions of a reformed mindless spender

Hello, my name is Tanya and I used to be a mindless spender. Thankfully, it was never so bad that I went into debt, but nevertheless, I spent a lot of money on things I don’t even remember or care about. I bought things because I was bored or stressed, and a new pair of shoes made me happy until I realized they hurt my feet and no amount of heel was ever going to make me tall. Because I lived within my means, my mindless spending never bothered me much, although I did feel a bit bad when the clothes I donated to Goodwill still had their tags on them.

After my position was eliminated during the Great Recession, I had to tighten my belt, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Honestly.

I remember going into one of my favorite stores and picking up a few jackets to try on when it dawned on me that I didn’t need work clothes. I had a closet full of them and no job. I smiled at the salesperson, put all the clothes back on the rack and walked out.

It was incredibly liberating.

Sadly, it only lasted for a few weeks before I heard that little voice urging me to spend, spend, spend. I lost the battle and even worse—I can’t even remember what I bought. D’oh.

A New Joyful Spending Mindset

Fortunately, not long afterwards, I was chatting with my friend Shannon (yes, that Shannon) and she started talking about joyful spending. I was intrigued. I like to spend, but if I was being honest with myself, it really wasn’t all that joyful. It was more of a spend and regret cycle.

Her premise was simple. You ask yourself, “Do you love it?” before you buy anything. Now some of you might worry you would answer “yes” to everything. I initially felt the same way, because I am incredibly good at rationalizing my purchases.

But there’s the rub. I needed to rationalize my purchases because deep down—I knew I didn’t need it, want it or love it.

3 Steps to Mindful Spending

Today I’m a much smarter consumer. I’m not perfect, but I no longer immediately cave into that voice telling me to spend.

1. Know Your Triggers

I’m an emotional shopper. My biggest triggers are boredom and stress. I shop to alleviate those feelings. Now when I feel those emotions taking over and creating the urge to shop, I recognize what’s happening and do my best not to cave into temptation. This means having other free options readily available when temptation strikes. I read or watch movies, call a friend or play with my cat, Max.

2. Stay Out of Stores

I haven’t been in the store I mentioned at the beginning of the post in months, maybe even more than a year. I can’t remember. Why? Because I don’t need anything from them. Sure, eventually I may need some new clothes but right now I don’t so why tempt myself? Figure out the stores you are the most likely to lose control in and avoid them unless you truly need to go there.

3. Have Goals

I admit it took me awhile to get onboard with goal-setting as I have a tendency to discard them rather quickly. After some soul-searching, I realized that I set goals that didn’t mean much to me, so I wouldn’t feel bad if I didn’t achieve them. And of course, I never achieved them because I didn’t care enough about them. Lesson learned. You have to set goals that you truly want and are willing to move mountains—or save money for—in order to achieve.

Do You Love It? Then Put It on Your Save List!

It’s the question I ask myself all the time. You have to answer honestly, and have enough self-awareness to know when you’re not. It’s saved me countless times from mindless spending and filling my home with clutter and regret. It has also helped me build a save list of all the things I truly want, and it feels amazing to buy something I love AND can afford.

P.S. In honor of The Heavy Purse, I decided to make cookies to share with all of you on my blog Eat Laugh Purr. In the book, Lauren and Taylor buy chocolate chip cookies to share with their Grandpa. I took a little bit of liberty and decided to make no-bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies since it’s too hot to turn on the oven. These are seriously delicious! 😀

Tanya is a freelance writer and web designer. She blogs at Eat Laugh Purr where she enjoys simple pleasures every day. Her life is ruled by a ginger tabby named Max who also meows about his awesomeness on their blog. Please visit Eat Laugh Purr to learn more about them. And follow her on twitter where she promises to tweet more than pics of Max. Eventually.
July 26, 2013  •  26 Comments  •  Guest Posts

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  1. Friday, July 26th, 2013
    I have to say that I've never been a big spender on "things". For me it was more spending mindlessly on "experiences", anything from a typical weekend night out to vacations. I definitely agree that setting goals made a big difference, since it put my spending in opposition to something that mattered to me. Once I had purpose, managing things became much simpler.
    • Friday, July 26th, 2013
      Sadly, I was the opposite. I never paid mindlessly on experiences, which feels like it was at least a better use of money. Most weekends I would go shopping and always came home with something. I remember even feeling anxiety when I couldn't find something I wanted. *Head slap! I agree - having purpose or goals makes a huge difference.
  2. Friday, July 26th, 2013
    Great tips! I used to mindlessly spend on all sorts of things. In the past I almost felt cheated if I came back home from shopping without just a little something. Nowadays, I feel cheated if I do!
    • Friday, July 26th, 2013
      Me too! I would even go so far as to knowingly buy something I didn't really like - just for the sake of buying something. What's the point of a shopping excursion of you don't find anything? SIGH. The good news is I have an entirely different perspective now and it sounds like you do too!
  3. Friday, July 26th, 2013
    I definitely think being in stores makes you spend more money - why else would marketers try so hard to get you to physically go to the store? Online shopping is becoming just as bad. If you are browsing a site, the chances you will buy something increase dramatically. I definitely try to avoid stores and only go in from time-to-time because I end up finding new clothes I "need." Great write-up, Tanya!
    • Friday, July 26th, 2013
      Thanks, DC! Stores definitely work hard to get you into the store and know exactly how to lay it out to make things more enticing. Online shopping is great for the ease of comparison shopping but it can be far too easy to click the "buy" button. I love Amazon but I have to be careful. I used to love to browse clothing stores too, but I rarely do these days because it's just too tempting.
  4. Friday, July 26th, 2013
    Hey my friend, thanks for sharing your past financial woes.
    Its taken me a while to get on board with goal setting too. And to save before I spend. And I know what you mean about buying more clothes then you need. Been there, done that.
    We rarely go to the mall anymore unless we absolutely need to, and we are getting much better at saving before spending. Baby steps, I guess.
    Have a great weekend Tanya!!
    • Friday, July 26th, 2013
      Hi Sicorra! Glad to hear that I wasn't the only one who didn't take naturally to goal-setting. I completely understand why it's important but had a hard time doing it myself. I'm getting a lot better at setting them. And keeping them too! LOL! It is baby steps and taking it one day at a time. You have a great weekend too, my friend!
  5. Friday, July 26th, 2013
    I'm not a big shopper myself, my wife on the other hand!! I'll be making sure she reads this post tomorrow :-)
    • Friday, July 26th, 2013
      LOL! Absolutely, send her my way. We can commiserate together about the money we wasted. :)
  6. Saturday, July 27th, 2013
    Funny you should say something about how your goal setting was not working because you didn't actually care about the goals. I totally get that! I used to have "goals" that I neither cared about achieving or cared if they weren't achieved. For some dumb reason it took me YEARS to figure out why I never accomplished my goals.
    • Monday, July 29th, 2013
      I'm not glad I'm not they only one who did this. It's weird because I took work goals very, very seriously but didn't give my personal goals the same courtesy. Thank goodness I finally figured it out and I'm glad you did too! :D
  7. Saturday, July 27th, 2013
    Sometimes avoiding temptations can be your biggest helper. I know I never really spent a lot. Well except on sneakers but even then I flip them so I end up getting the pair I want for free. Its a learning process and even if its not on shopping we all tend to have had those things we spent money on that we needed to get under wraps. I think a lot of people can relate to this.
    • Saturday, July 27th, 2013
      I agree. Why make it harder on yourself? If you can avoid temptation, it makes easier on yourself. And after time, I've found that mindless shopping doesn't give me the same thrill it used to and I can even browse stores without getting that familiar itch or need to buy something. I can just enjoy it and dream.
  8. Greg @ Thriftgenuity.com
    Sunday, July 28th, 2013
    I definitely would be a big spender, but it is curbed by my constant paranoia that people are out to make me look stupid by spending too much. I know it sounds like I am making that up, but it really is true. After I purchase most things, I immediately start wondering if I could have gotten it cheaper somewhere else, even when I have done my research.

    Congrats on making some good steps towards not spending!
    • Monday, July 29th, 2013
      Thanks, Greg! Now days I enjoy bargain hunting and taking the time to get the best deal, which I wasn't terribly concerned about during my mindless spending days. I don't think I'm as paranoid as you, :) but I do get irritated when I find out I could have paid less if I would have done some more due diligence. I like knowing I found the best deal possible.
  9. Monday, July 29th, 2013
    I think staying out of stores has to the the biggest thing for me. I know that if I see something I really like and don't have the money in the budget there is little stopping me from buying it. BTW do you know how you created your "about Tanya" box at the bottom of the blog? I have one but it wasn't easy to create and looking for something simpler. Thanks lady!
    • Monday, July 29th, 2013
      Yeah, I fight those urges too, especially when it comes to shoes and jewelry! :) I actually created the "about Tanya" box but I hand-coded it. It's not a plug-in. I'm happy to share the code and help you create your own, but you would need to manually add the code to each post, which may or may not bother you. Just shoot me an email - tanya@theheavypurse.com.
  10. Monday, July 29th, 2013
    Staying out of stores has really helped me, as well as taking myself of the email lists from the flash sale sites I used to peruse - I don't even really miss it, and love how it's really helped in getting my debt down quicker. Great post, Tanya!
    • Monday, July 29th, 2013
      That a good one - unsubscribing to all those email promos. You don't miss what you don't know about!! I appreciate a good coupon but these days I need to do a quick gut check to make sure I'd still buy whatever if I didn't have the coupon. Previously, I bought stuff because it was on sale and such a good bargain. Of course, it really wasn't when I never used it. SIGH. Those days are the past!
  11. Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
    I've never been much of a shopper. Probably harkens back to the days my Dad used to make me pay 50% for a toy I wanted. However, these are really great tips for anyone. We all have triggers and budget leaks, so it's great to figure how to identify them! Thanks for sharing your story, Tanya.
    • Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
      Ah, I can see how that might turn you into a non-shopper. :) We definitely all have triggers and when we don't know them, we often don't realize that we're even spending money mindlessly. I know I didn't!
  12. Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
    Yes, foolish spenders should read your post. Staying out of debt is not easy to do since there is always the temptation to splurge. Value your hard-earned income. This can be a good motivation.
    • Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
      There is definitely always a temptation to splurge and I always find new things I want. So now being able to take that step back and figure out whether it's my emotions (or need to shop) or something I actually really do want - makes a huge difference in ensuring that I spend my money on the right things. And, of course, wait until I can afford them too. :)
  13. Vanessa
    Monday, August 5th, 2013
    I'm using PoachIt.com to curb my online spending. Now I just "poach" something that I really like and they let me know when it goes on sale or if I can use a coupon to buy it. And you know what? 90% of the time I get my email alert on something that went on sale and I don't even want it anymore! And this is all stuff that I LOVED when I poached them! Funny how we get caught up on buying stuff without rationalizing the purchase, just like you said!
    • Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
      That's so true! There are definitely things I think I absolutely must-have but when I step back, I realize that I don't. Great point!
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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