finance, Health, Living, Uncategorized

The Spending Bug Bit Me

I pride myself on being incredibly frugal. I’ve managed to save up a reasonably large amount of money by not buying clothes I don’t need, finding cheaper vacations (camping for the win!) and having a cash diet for fun money every month that in theory should keep the credit card bills down.

Lately, however, my brain seems to tricked into believing there is no connection between tapping a credit card and the numbers that I have in my bank account. For the first time in months I bought clothes at a store, and for the first time ever I bought clothes online (which I’m still waiting for a week later, by the way). I’ve been ordering food in and suggesting going out more, without really caring what it was doing to my wallet. It was only after I sat down at pay day and looked at how much would need to be sucked away by my bills that I realized that the spending bug had bitten me on the ass.

Nothing sadder than an ugly, empty wallet.

I can see why people become addicted to shopping. It’s so easy! You get instant gratification and maybe even a few compliments on your new things. It’s a fun way to pass the time if you are feeling lazy and don’t want to go exercise or hike, or if the weather is terrible. But trying to stop after you start is difficult. I was only going crazy for about three weeks and it really was difficult for me to pull away from the ease of buying things. There was also a mentality that was strange: “Oh well, I’ve already got a huge credit card bill this month, I may as well add more to it!” I also justified it because my birthday is coming up, and what better time of year to treat myself to things I’ll forget in a week?

After reading Your Money or Your life in January, I started tracking everything I spent and graphing the results alongside my earnings. January looks great, February was abysmal, and March is so far looking okay. Tracking turned out to be the lifesaver for me because when I looked at the chart there was no hiding it: if I continued to spend the way I was doing I would blow through my savings in about five months. This was after only a month and I will feel the consequences for the next couple of months as I scramble to make up that savings shortfall.

However, the spending bug is squashable. Here’s what I did to get over my momentary insanity:

  • Tracked everything. Every cent that was spent I put in a spreadsheet. It’s not as tedious as it sounds, because if you spend on credit cards it’s all right there for you to see. I also found it to be far more impactful for me to manually add it to a spreadsheet than to use an app.
  • Left my wallet at home. I live close to work and transport networks. I have food in the fridge and snacks in my bag. There is no reason for me to have my credit or debit cards with me during the day. This forces me to walk home, grab the wallet and walk back out if I want to buy something. The time and effort to do this often makes me decide whether or not I really want it.
  • Chilled out. I was beating myself up about all this for a few days, but then I realized that nothing overly terrible has happened. It’s okay to slip up, but moving forward after is crucial. I chose to focus on the good days rather than the bad and it’s making me feel much better already.
  • Planned. I don’t know if I went wild because I had been so strict for so long, or if it was just the lure of buying new things. Regardless, if I plan the budget ahead of time and incorporate clothes spending into my cash fun money I will be able to stick with that. I’ve added an extra $20 per paycheque to my fun fund, to spend guilt free. I’m hoping to whittle that down in the next few months, but if it prevents another spree then I am happy to do it.
Not today, bitches!

Many people may feel that I am overreacting to a few days of overspending, but to be honest it scared me how quickly I was able to overcome my frugality and spend with no thoughtfulness or caring. It reminded me of my teenage years where I have extra cash from working at McDonald’s and no bills. I would go to the mall all the time and always come home with something new. I’ve worked hard to try to bring mindfulness to my financial habits, and to see that brushed away at the prospect of a new printed t-shirt is humbling. The road to FI is bumpy, but I’ll take this as a learning experience and tell that spending bug to go shove it.

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