Most people spend money every single day.
I’m not talking about your day-to-day necessities like house payments and fuel for the vehicle. I’m talking about those little impulse buys that most of us make without thinking twice about them.
We spend more money than we realize on silly things. If you spend money on the following, you could go a lot longer than you think without spending.
- Drive-thru coffee
- Delivery or takeout pizza
- Lunches out with friends from work
- Buying a drink while you are out
- Buying magazines
- Going for manicures/pedicures/facials
- Driving places just to have something to do
It’s these little things that add up and can take an enormous chunk out of your budget. We’ve become a nation of consumers that think nothing of plunking down 5 times the value for something because we’re out and it’s convenient.
Instead of the above, you could make some small one-time investments and…
- Bring your own coffee in a big thermos from home
- Make pizza from scratch
- Organize a workplace potluck
- Keep a small cooler in your vehicle with drinks from home
- Read online (free with a Prime membership)
- Change to a simpler beauty regimen
- Stay home
By doing this, you could save thousands of dollars per year.
My favorite calculation is this: If you went to Starbucks every morning before work and purchased a $5 coffee, you spent a whopping $1300 on that morning routine.
One thousand three hundred dollars.
And that is just for one frivolous expenditure. What if you added them all up? My guess is, you’d discover you were spending far, far more money than you realized.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying we should never have a treat. We tend to go out to a nearby city for supplies once a month, and we often grab a coffee out when we do so. That day is our big outing, and picking something up then is a treat. That’s because a treat is, by definition, something outside the norm. When you do something every single day, it’s no longer a treat – it’s a habit, and an expensive one in this case.
Consider these big questions. How deeply ingrained is your spending habit? Could you institute a personal spending freeze for an entire week? For a month? How long could you go without spending money?
Breaking the Spending Habit
Spending itself is a habit. If you can break the habit of thoughtless spending, you’ll be much further ahead. You can put that money towards large investment purchases that you never realized you could afford. If you took you $1300 in Starbucks spending at the end of the year, you could make one large purchase that could help your family be more self-sufficient – maybe you could build an outdoor kitchen or put a solar pump on your well. Now imagine if you corralled all of that frivolous spending what you could do.
It might be more than just saving your pennies for a large expense. The way the economy is going, it might be a matter of survival to learn to limit your spending. Prices are going up, incomes are staying the same, and jobs are getting lost and not replaced. It’s better to start now on the road towards non-consumerism, than when you are forced to do so in order to eat. I’d rather these things be my choice, not just the effect of a personal financial downturn.
Here are a couple of different ways that you can start a spending freeze:
First, give yourself an allowance. That’s right – give all of the people in your family who spend money an allowance. Make it cash, and collect the bank cards, credit cards, etc. This doesn’t mean that purchases cannot be made, but it will take some effort to do so, and that effort will give you time to think it through. Do you really need that pair of shoes that goes with that one outfit in your closet? You know, the outfit that you wear once every two years? By giving yourself a little cool-off time, you’re less likely to make regrettable purchases that just don’t add enough value to your life. By having your spending money in cash, you have a very tangible way to see how much you’ve spent. Your goal should be to finish the week with a little money left over, instead of ending the week trying to dip into next week’s money. This also helps to limit the amount of frivolous spending that any family member can do.
Second, challenge yourself to see how long you can go without spending money. Once you’ve gotten your food for the week, paid your bills, and fueled up the vehicle, see how long you can go without spending anything. Nothing will make you more aware of your normal habits than stopping them completely. Because I work from home and I have to drive half an hour to get to anyplace to spend money, this is a little easier for me than it is for someone who goes to work outside the home every day. But it’s possible. I know, because I haven’t always had this lifestyle, and as a single mom with no other financial contributions, it was a matter of survival for us. I tried to make it a game and came up with all sorts of creative ways to avoid spending money. We’d walk instead of driving, have movie night at home with stovetop popcorn when something good was on network TV, and read books from the library. Life without spending money does not have to be grim and miserable.
Third, turn off your “consumer” button. It’s time to stop being such a consumer. Think about that word, “consumer” – it always makes me think of a horde of locusts, descending on a field and picking it clean. I don’t want to be one of those locusts, consuming just because something is there, until it’s gone. Whatever it is you want to spend money on, you might not even need it. If you do need it, instead of buying it, try making it. Not only do you save money, but you develop skills too. Learn to entertain yourself without spending. Teach your kids to be entertained without electronic devices. Develop hobbies that are productive instead of expensive. Truly give thought to where your money is going when you purchase things created by multi-billion dollar conglomerates. Do you want to contribute to some executives annual million dollar bonus or do you want the satisfaction of doing something yourself?
How to Become a Happy Non-Consumer
So how can you switch gears and become happy about making changes that might initially feel like a step “down” or a punishment? When you change your mindset, you can successfully change your life. Start with these 8 mental adjustments.
- Be grateful. An “attitude of gratitude” is the most vital part of embracing your cheap side. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, you will find that you “need” far less than you did before. That’s because you aren’t seeking some momentary hit of joyous adrenaline by purchasing something. That rush rarely lasts and you’re just left with more stuff and less money.
- Be creative. How can you make something, save something, or repair something in a totally original way? Embrace the challenge and tap into your creativity – you may just discover that, in your originality, you’ve come up with something far better than the purchased alternative. (We’ve found this to be especially true with fashion accessories, home decor, and birthday parties!)
- Give. Don’t let your pursuit of frugality make you stingy. There are always people who are worse off than you. It’s important to give a hand up to those people. If your kids were hungry, or cold, or without shelter, wouldn’t you hope that some kind person would help them? Even at our absolute rock bottom financially, we donated one can of spaghetti sauce and a package of noodles to the food bank every week, which hopefully provided a warm comforting meal for someone who needed it. It isn’t really necessary to debate whether people are truly in need or just milking the system. That is a subject for them and their consciences. Just give. You are responsible for your intentions, not theirs.
- Spend your money where it really matters. We opted to move to a very small community into a drafty little cabin in the woods. We made this decision as a family, in order to reduce our monthly output. By getting rid of “city rent” and all of the bills that came with it, we cut our monthly output in half. This means that I can spend a little extra on high-quality meats and dairy, for example. When my daughter needs new glasses, it’s not a problem to pay for them. It means my older daughter can get through college without crippling student loans.
- Less need equals more time. Not only does a thrifty lifestyle mean that I can refocus where my money goes. It means that I can refocus where my time goes. I don’t have to work quite as hard on stuff outside the home and can focus on farm and family. I have the time to make hats and scarves instead of purchasing them. I have time to garden and can the harvests. I have time to perform money-saving tasks like cooking from scratch, which goes into a big happy circle of having more money to put towards important things.
- Stay home. When you stay home more, you are tempted less. You aren’t thirsty, requiring a beverage. You aren’t hungry, requiring a snack. You aren’t using the car, requiring gas. You aren’t tempted by all the colorful and wonderful things in the stores.
- Hang out with like-minded people. It is so much easier to embrace your cheap side if you don’t have people telling you how deprived you are all the time, or berating you for being too cheap to spend $27.85 on a movie ticket, popcorn, and a soda pop. Most of my closest friends are thrifty. We swap clothing, we borrow and lend tools, and we cheerfully hang out without spending a dime. Instead of going out to sit in a boutique coffee shop sipping a $6 latte with whipped cream, we sit in the garden at one of our houses sipping a coffee that one of us made, along with a nice fresh blueberry muffin. We enjoy the same conversation we would have had at that coffee shop too. Instead of heading to the mall, we chat on Skype. When your nearest and dearest are on the same page, life is a whole lot easier.
- Turn off the TV. People go to school for years to study how to make people want what they don’t need. That great big brainwash box sitting in the living room is a direct pipeline into your brain. From the beautiful homes on the TV programs, the fancy clothes and cars, and the ads for food, recreation, and new cars, the whole racket is designed to make you feel you what you have now is inferior to what you could have. Kids are the biggest target of product placement advertising in popular shows. If you watch TV, limit it. Become aware of the scams and discuss them with your kids so that they can easily identify how marketers are attempting to manipulate them. (Confession: we do watch a little bit of TV in our home, and when we do, it’s a big game to identify the hidden ads. While this may sound contrary to the advice to turn the TV off, I believe that some limited viewing coupled with an awareness of the marketing techniques inoculates my children against the sales pitch.)
To switch over to a frugal lifestyle successfully, you really have to want to do it. If you’re constantly bemoaning what you don’t have, you’ll be miserable. If you are resentful that you can’t have “stuff” then you won’t stick to your frugal plan.
The most important thing of all is to switch off your personal “want” button. When you don’t want or need the things that the “elite” and the big corporations are selling, then you are suddenly free of their restrictions. You are no longer a slave to the wages you must earn to pay for the things they tell you that you should have. You don’t have a lifestyle built on expectations, debt, and the never-ending search for happiness bought from a store.
(This section is an excerpt from a previously published article, found HERE)
How long can you go without spending money?
If you put yourself and your family on a personal spending freeze, how long could you go? Here’s the challenge for the week ahead.
Make a careful list and plan out your meals, 3 per day, for the next week. Fill up your car with gas, and put aside money for more gas if you use more than a tank per week.
Then lock up your bank cards and credit cards and put away your cash. Can you go for an entire week without spending money?
Post your results here!
Boy, do I need this kind of discipline. I’ve been impulse buying more than ever lately, although in my defense it’s almost exclusively prepper supplies. A hurricane lamp here, a multi-tool there. A couple metal cans for a rocket stove, another flashlight, another knife, another water filter… I guess it’s better than grabbing video games and playthings, but it’s still a mindset that in order to feel safe and happy, money must be sent. Great post.
You could try baby-stepping it down at first, Maineuh.
By that I mean, look for used/second-hand prepper items at half price in places such as GoodWill Stores, garage sales and on websites like Craigslist.
Always tell yourself: “Self, Never pay full price. Stretch your Dollar further.”
It may be that after you do that for awhile it’ll ruin you for high priced store items?
Anyway, I liked this article a lot, except for this part (and only just a bit):
“Even at our absolute rock bottom financially, we donated one can of spaghetti sauce and a package of noodles to the food bank every week, which hopefully provided a warm comforting meal for someone who needed it.”
That’s a really tough one.
I had a friend who had a house right next to a food bank type of place. They gave out meals everyday, too. The people I saw who stood in line for the free food didn’t come across to me as exactly being “needy” or anything close to that. They didn’t seem to be what I’d call “nice people” either.
I don’t know what the solution is for that.
I know I didn’t want to help them at my expense.
I would say, “go out and find some people who are truly needy and help them”. But, you might get stabbed or something for your effort? …Or, not be able to find one?
I guess the key phrase when giving is, “which hopefully provided a warm comforting meal for someone who needed it”… instead of, which hopefully provided a warm comforting meal for some jerk rip-off artist,… oh wait, in the background there’s this guy complaining about his very nice warm coat being stolen and this other wise man saying to go out and find the thief and give the thief even more.
… And then there’s that whole, “What comes around, goes around” bit.
This ‘giving’ thingie would be a whole Lot easier if there weren’t minimum wage laws, then I could find all kinds of jobs for these people do to and they could lift themselves Up and feel good about it. … The, “teach a man to fish” deal, and all that. I could feel good about something like that.
/pointless rant /OFF.
How Long Can I Go Without Spending Money?
Ha! Probably three days.
… But now I feel challenged.
I know exactly what you mean regarding those who take advantage of the system. It’s really sickening, because they are closing doors of opportunity for those who really need help.
Once I had given some money to a “homeless” guy and then shortly saw him get into a a vehicle that was nicer than mine. I was very upset until I talked to my dad (RIP – a very wise and dear man.) He said to me, “You have no control over what other people do, only over what you do. Don’t let someone else’s bad actions take away from your positive actions. Do what you feel is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing.”
Ever since then, I try to disregard those who take advantage, because I feel that others who really need help sometimes don’t get it because of those fraudulent souls. I hope that when I try to do something to assist them, I am helping someone that needs it – but regardless of the recipient’s intent, I’ve done what I felt was right. I look at it almost like peer pressure – you just have to follow your own path despite what everyone else is doing.
I gave 20 to a kid with a sign stating he was homeless and needed work outside the home despot here, about 20 minutes later saw the same little asshole talking on a cellphone outside starbucks drinking a iced mocha, never giving any of these people anything again,
I was donating kale to the local food bank, around 200+# every few weeks,
Was told they didnt want it because they just threw it away.
I dont bother any more, let them eat sand!
If you have ever read the book “Nine Meals To Anarchy” by Farrell Kingsley which I think is the best prepper book I have have read by the way. He outlines how prepping supplies is an investment and you can always resell them if you need to. Having too much of something makes it great to barter with when needed and the price of the things you buy now keep going up and up and you can actually turn a profit later by buying them now. Which is true. Secondly if SHTF in almost every large scale cataclysmic event it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Its what you have because money becomes worthless really fast. And that is if the money wasn’t the cause of the collapse.
We live in a society that has been relatively financially stable since the end of WW2. That does not mean that people do not suffer or make big financial mistakes. They do. What it means is that over the years, “the good life” has been defined with more and more “stuff” rather than a quality life.
Being grateful is very important. Lusting after others’ money or circumstances will certainly lead to a dissatisfied life.
Making and doing not only produces a need, but can increase the quality of life and promote better health. Much as been written about the therapeutic value of knitting/crochet, etc. I am always shocked (you would think I would be used to this by now) to realize how many people do not wish to learn anything new or see value in making rather than buying. It takes work to learn new skills, but the rewards are priceless.
To give or not to give? We do not give beyond our Church. There are plenty of people who are having financial difficulties for sure. We buy grocery gift cards, and give them to the Pastor to give it to those who really need it. This means we are anonymous and we prefer it that way.
Our Church gets phone calls all the time for money. When the caller finds out that they need to get rid of cable, stop smoking (due to costs), and a number of things that most frugal people already do, they are horrified! Does the Church give money? No. If the person/family “qualifies,” meaning they are in a really bad bind due to circumstances beyond their control, they will pay, say the rent or electric bill, directly to the landlord/electric company as a one time donation.
What bothers me most about those who are always in a financial bind, is that they never learn. I have a relative who is in major debt, but spends a lot of money per week on things that can be done at home such as eating out at least a couple of times a week. It simply makes no sense to me, but evidently it does to them. When I suggest some of the frugal things I do, “it doesn’t go over well.”
We have found that being out and about constantly is stressful and prevents doing what needs to be done. We try to keep being out to a minimum per week.
We got rid of the TV about 12yrs ago. We have never looked back. We have no substitute except the occasional documentary on the computer. We do not rent movies or subscribe to anything. We have a small collection of movies we watch from time to time. Our decision was motivated by our standards. We could not justify the cost with the “lack of quality” of the programming and advertising. I am being nice. As with all of our decisions concerning our standards, we do not get into debates with people. They made their decision and we made ours. There are other things to discuss. Two of the six of our adult children have cable. The others do not. Today, we understand that there is something called mind control via the TV.
I get a small stipend at the start of the month. $130. This is my personal money. My personal bills are paid out of this, including gifts for kids and family members. I pay $30 in renter’s insurance – required by my lease. Another $5 a month to Pandora radio – minimal expense for huge service. I set $15 aside and try not to touch it. About half the time I am successful. The rest of the time, I have to use it to make sure Mom has medicine or something else vital. A variable chunk goes towards herbs and non pharmaceutical medicines and remedies. The rest goes towards non food preps. Sometimes fabric or patterns, especially around holidays and birthdays, it goes towards gifts. My small container garden supplies and seeds frequently come out of this stipend, too. It almost sounds awful, but I’m usually down to a few bucks within 2 weeks.
Trust me, I can go more than a week without spending. It’s my partner I cannot reign in. Rent is always paid, bills are always covered. But there’s the lunches out every day, the energy drinks, the LEGOs, the little bits here and there that keep us from building a reserve of any kind. Ah, well. Do more with less, yeah?
I am retired and living in a small apartment in a senior community. im alone so its easier for me than for most younger people. I have a fixed income, no credit cards, no car. after the rent and utilities are paid, I buy cat food and groceries – in that order. the girls are very important. I always put a set amount in my “stash” for emergencies and preps and then I allow myself just so much for an allowance.
it has taken me a lifetime to learn how to do this and still have a little bit of money left at the end of the month but it is well worth it. I have always been a hurricane prepper so I have a good supply of food, water, meds, etc just like my parents taught me. even on just social security, I have what I need and am comfortable with what I have.
I might have mentioned this before but it fits here I think. When we were in our early married life my DH was working in mill camps & we were about 3 hrs. from town. We went to town once a month and therefore planning was very important because if you forgot something you were out of luck for another month. DH was a bucker & scaler on contract so he supplied his own powersaws,gas, oil, files, chain etc. He bought by the case to be sure he didn’t run out. I had a kitchen budget of $65.00 of which $10.00 went for a 100 lb propane tank fill. My list was kept all month for things I would need or like. prices stayed somewhat the same so I would pair the list down a few days before our trip. Once there some things could vary with what was on sale but I always kept a running tab as things went into the cart so I didn’t go over. If sales were good & I was under I could treat us to a few extra things. To begin with it was a challenge but with practice it became much easier. Of course money went further in those days. It was easy not to nip down to the corner store for a qt. of milk because there was a small store an hour away & that was too far for frivolus things. When you are in town it is very easy for money to dribble between the fingers. I know that from experience too. It is amazing all the things one does not need if you are not out & about. Staying home really cuts spending so that is my best advice.
Three years ago I started my own version of the frugal spending “diet”. My plan was to spend nothing on weekdays and watch my spending on weekends. I wanted to see if I could live on my retirement income before it became necessary. All the excess would go into savings. When I finally got hit with layoffs, I already knew I could make it. Just the peace of mind was worth it.
Great comments and ideas. My partner and I would always donate food to the local food bank. Nothing fancy…pasta, canned veggies, canned fruit etc. We stopped donating when we saw many of the “clients” driving up in very nice cars/vans and SUV’s. Our car is 18 y/o and running on faithful prayers. Now, we donate to a local church that provides cooked meals several times a week instead of bags of free food. This way, they know the donated food is being consumed and not traded for drugs, alcohol or sold at a yard sale.
Lots of good advice here, both in the column and in the replies.
I give in to temptation far more often then I should, telling myself that what I’m buying is cheap, at least. Still, it would be even cheaper if I didn’t spend the money in the first place.
I’m going to start keeping bottles of water in my car for those times when I’m out and getting thirsty. I know I could pull into McDonald’s and get a large iced tea for a buck, and I probably will do that on occasion, but it would be better to save that buck for something else.
As far as donating goes, I’m with the people who are tired of giving things to people who are milking the system. I know we’re not supposed to worry about their intentions, only our own, but I’ve seen too many people take advantage of good intentions. When I know people are in need, I give them meals, clothes for their kids, that kind of thing. I offer help around the house or I’ll run their errands. I don’t just give money or goods to a charity and hope for the best.
Interesting comments and I like the article, another good one Daisy, thank you!
I do not own nor watch TV, have not for 4 years now. I do not miss it (if I followed sports I might, but I don’t follow sports, could care less about Football/Baseball) I do not own a cell phone nor have a house phone. I do not miss them either. Having worked as a Project Manager in the home building industry up until being laid off in 2008 I was tied to my phone like a leash. My life is much more peaceful now that I do not have to deal with everyone else’s problems starting at 6AM Monday-Saturday!
Not having a phone, or TV, means I do not have a contract or pay a monthly bill for them. I no longer have a mortgage on a home, I pay rent and utilities. My GMC 4×4 truck is paid for in full, although I do have insurance and registration costs. This internet connection is bartered. My neighbor has internet, and I surf the wi-fi in exchange for bags of my organically grown vegetables. It is a good deal for both of us, I do not have an internet contract, and my neighbor gets healthy, organic, and freshly picked vegetables on a bi-weekly (sometimes more often) basis.
This fall my job went from 5 days a week down to two. Such is life working for a Nursery. I decided to not look for another job and just go with the 2 days a week work and see if I could make it through winter. Like hibernating. (I am not taking unemployment. my rent is inexpensive. A 360 square foot house for $300 a month.) No problem. I have rather enjoyed my 5 days off a week, keep up with my bills and rent, drive the truck less often, do more walking around and hiking. I work on keeping my garden growing through the mild winter here on the Central Coast of California (Swiss Chard, Kale, Onions, Beets, Garlic.) So far so good.
I shop the sales at grocery stores, keep an eye on when Ham’s drop from $2.99 a pound when delivered to .99 cents a week later. I buy what I do not need today knowing it will be in my chest freezer when I need it later. In a month I will plant my spring garden, and by May will have more vegetables than I can eat. I keep back a lot in the chest freezer, and spread the wealth of the harvest among friends, family, and acquaintance.
The kindness and generosity pay off, bartered internet, I have received 1/4 of a steer in trade, 1/4 of a wild hog (butchered) in trade, freshly caught (off a kayak) sea bass in trade, a friend who works at a thrift store sets things aside so I can get first pick of the good stuff, etc. I shop the thrift stores, and drive the alley ways where people leave out furniture and other items they are too lazy to drive to the dump or thrift store. My home furnishings were free from the alleys (all clean by the way).
If I see a homeless person I do not give them change, but will give them a bottle of water or an orange or two (which I found in an alley fallen off the tree, there is a lot of food waste around here). They need the Vitamin C and water more than anything, and on the flip side I can listen to what they have to say. Sometimes I glean interesting information about what is going on at the street level in my area.
I do spend money, but it is minimal compared to what most people spend on a daily basis. If I suddenly had no money, which is often the case 3-4 days before my next paycheck, I already have the fuel in my tank to get to and from work, and all the food I can eat in my pantry, chest freezer, and growing in my garden. Sometimes if I am feeling up to it I get out for a walk early in the morning and make breakfast of Nasturtium flowers, blackberries, walnuts, Oranges, Limes, and Lemons hanging over alley ways which have fallen to the ground. This breakfast walk is also my on food bug out route out of town to the river bed just in case…
I can go a very long time without spending money, probably a month, except for groceries. We do WM pickup and save money that way by not walking thru the store and ‘finding’ things we cannot live without. We are retired but do not go out to eat except for our once a month meal at Golden Corral with the 65+ discount (and since they are currently closed down, will not go out for at least 3 months), have the internet for life at $45/month and use it for everything. Do not buy books or magazines, use the library & go every 3 weeks – they now offer curb-side pickup while they are closed. Our car is electric so gas maybe every 6 weeks. At most we go out once a week and it is for something, not just to get out of the house. We do order some stuff on line – garden seeds, parts for the hydroponics, Amazon’s subscribe and save for monthly deliveries altho most items are on a 3 month schedule and are food. We do have Starbucks coffee at least 2x a day but it is whole bean that we grind at home and was a gift from our wonderful DIL. Only shop at thrift stores for clothes and anything that needs replacing. As we are in our 70s we are also finding ways to reduce what we own that is not consumable – thereby making it easier not to shop. After all, how much do we need? Coupled with how much do I want to dust, clean, wash? Plus, I do not want to leave my kids with a houseful of stuff to take care of when we’re gone – we live in FL, they live in CT, 1200 miles is a long way away to clean out a house.
I agree with Dana that donating to a food bank can be iffy, unless people have to qualify. We changed to donating to a church who make free meals available twice a week. What changed our minds was after Hurricane Charlie – a neighbor who was very well off, emptied her refrigerator and freezer because the power was off for about 3 hours, she then spent 4 hours in line to get money and free food to replace what she lost. She then discarded much of the free food because she didn’t like pasta, pb, canned soup. We kept our distance from her after that – she was so completely out of touch with reality of those who truly were in need (total destruction of homes was very widespread in our area) that we just felt we had zero in common with her and frankly, her behavior disgusted us.
Great advice on cutting the consumerism down to size… Easier said than done but good to be aware that most wants are implanted by outside influences not us. Marketers are skilled at parting you from your money.
Right now I have decided to see the positives in our lockdown. Less spending and less recreational spending. Not shopping online for anything except ordering groceries and son’s bday next month.. big adjustment I must add. Also enjoying the quiet, less eery as time goes on. Imagine birds in time square and cayotes spotted on golden gate bridge… Temporary but amazing too…
Soon enough the marketing machine will be on overdrive. I plan to not go spending crazy trying to feel better artificially when things open up.
Every three months have a no spend month. March,June,September,December.
Amazing how you can eat out of pantry and only have to pick up milk, eggs, fresh
produce etc. Shop ahead of December for Xmas. Even better give money for Xmas
and shop 2 months after. We noticed that when so many people give gift cards the retailers don’t discount after xmas like they used to. Now it is 2 months later. I don’t
give gift cards as sometimes the companies go belly up. Better to give money.