Think it's easy to keep spending under control? Even when you have a big goal you're working towards? Guess again. It requires constant vigilance, the ability to forgive when you don't mindfully spend, and the willingness to continue trying.
In January, I had given myself a $200 budget for clothing and other non-essentials. As I was going to Salt Lake City for Alt Summit, I knew there would be baggage fees, so $120 of the $200 was immediately gone. (I can't carry a fully packed suitcase up and down stairs; to avoid the inevitable never ending stairs I go with two carry on rollerboards that I can carry up and down stairs. Depending on the type of the plane I'll carry on one or check both. They wouldn't fit in the overhead storage of the regional jet I was flying and in SFO we board from the tarmac so checking both was the easiest option.)
I planned to use the remaining $80 on tights that were replacements for ones that had gotten snagged and on pens and journals for note taking at Alt. The three pairs of tights (dark grey, navy, and black) that I budgeted for cost $42. Field Notes had a limited edition pack of notebooks in red, so I stocked up, buying two additional sets of three notebooks (I filled two completely at Alt) for a total of $32.85. I had spent $74.85 of my $80 budget. I opted to use pens that I'd gotten for free at a tradeshow I attended rather than buying new ones.
Here's where I got in trouble. I have a few favorite designers, Anne Fogarty, Helen Rose, and Hannah Troy. I regularly search for clothing from these designers in my size and found a green velvet dress in my size from Anne Fogarty. This was a completely unplanned purchase. My justification? It's my birthday in February and oh it's green I could wear it to the Clue party at Alt (let's forget for a moment that I already had a perfectly good Ms Scarlet outfit). I don't regret buying the Ms Green outfit for the Clue party. The items that I think I could have skipped and do regret are the shoe clips.
For the past year, I've talked about getting a keyboard for my iPad as well as a camera connection kit. So, these were "planned" purchases, just not budgeted for January.
What's your approach to budgeting and to making purchases?
I'd thought I was doing really well, buying only what I needed with a few luxuries. It's true that since November's Mindful Consumption Challenge I've cut down on purchases that I later regret and have completely eliminated purchases that I get and never use. But I'm not doing as well as I want. When putting this month's tally together I went back through December's purchases and realized I spent $220.98 on home schooling supplies and books for Gates, ending up $103.73 over my $200 budget.
How better to get back on track? With another Mindful Consumption Challenge. Next week marks the start of Lent for Christians. Growing up, I attended four Catholic schools -- two elementary schools, high school, and college. Teachers would always ask us to give up something for 40 days. I always challenged why not work on improving a bad habit, that's just as much or more of a hardship in some cases. (I'm supposed to limit refined sugars so for me it was easy to give up sweets for Lent.) If you're looking for something to commit yourself to for Lent, join me for the Mindful Consumption Challenge. If you're looking to curb your current spending while you pay down bills from the holidays, join me. Or, if you just like a challenge, join me.
Challenge GuidelinesEach time you're tempted to get something you don't need or that's not in the budget, remind yourself of what you have. During Lent (February 13 - March 30),
- Record each personal or nonessential item that you buy and its cost. Clothing, makeup, accessories, home decor, gadgets, etc. are counted. Food, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, etc. aren't counted.
- Keep yourself accountable. Each time you're tempted to get something you don't need:
- Tweet what you want with what you're thankful for with the hashtag #havenotwant
- Share a photo collage of what you want with what you're thankful for on Instagram use the hashtag #havenotwant
- Share your "true" savings for Lent. Record each item that you wanted, but didn't need and didn't purchase, write it and its cost down. Remember to include sales tax. Tally the avoided purchases to calculate how much you saved. Unlike "savings" from retail sales, this translates to an increase of actual money in your savings account.
- Share your purchase history for Lent similar to what I did in this post.
If you add your name in the comments below along with your Twitter handle, I'll add you to the Mindful Consumers Twitter list. And then throughout Lent, each Friday, I'll feature a few of the participating blogs.
Essentials for Blogging on the Road: Logitech Lightweight Keyboard for the iPad, $99.99 and Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit, $29.00, Set of 3 Redblooded Field Notes Memo Books, $9.95.