I live a pretty minimal lifestyle. I don’t go shopping often and don’t generally buy things that I don’t know. It hasn’t always been this way, though. For a long time, Andy’s and my free time was often spent walking the mall or hitting nearby stores. It was our hobby. Until three years ago when we made a radical decision. To save money and pay off some debt, for three months, we would go on a spending freeze. No spending any money on anything unnecessary or unplanned for. Not only did we save a bunch of money but surprisingly, we completely reframed the way we viewed money and were able to change our spending habits for the better.
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A New Perspective
Sometimes we need to get a new perspective to change bad habits. In the case of our spending habits, we had developed a lot of bad habits that we weren’t even aware of.
We would regularly buy things we didn’t really need or want. After month, or years in some cases, of items sitting around that we’d purchased and never used, we’d end up donating or selling them. What a waste of money! We started noticing how much of this stuff was around our house during those three months.
We also realized that we had a tendency to spend more on unplanned purchases like sales. Had we not been in the store to begin with, we never would have known there was a big clearance sale. Spending $20 doesn’t seem like a lot at the time, but in hindsight we did that a lot. Spending $20 repeatedly that we didn’t intend to adds up!
Another bad habit, not only for our wallets bu also our waistlines, was stopping for fast food. Since we would be out shopping, it was always more convenient to just stop for lunch or dinner at the mall food court or fast food place. When we stopped spending money for three months, just being home more caused us to eat out less.
We didn’t realize how much all of this was impacting our finances. That is, until we stopped doing it all for three months and were able to see it with fresh eyes.
What changed after those 3 months was amazing.
We didn’t just change our spending habits after those three months. We completely reframed the way we thought about money altogether. In turn, this made changing our spending habits a lot easier.
After the three months of no spending ended, our shopping trips and spending habits started to look different.
We would go to a store and if I saw something I wanted, rather than just tossing it into the cart I would ask myself if I needed it. Did i have space for it? Or would I rather keep the $10 that it cost instead? 90% of the time, I chose to keep the money instead.
Another change was that we stopped going shopping “for fun” or when we were bored. After three months of shopping not being an option we found other things to do. Now, whenever we go to a store, there is always a reason. We can go weeks sometimes without doing any shopping other than groceries if no needs come up.
We also started shopping at different stores.Seeing how much we were able to save in three months really opened our eyes to how much we were spending on things. We’re fortunate in that we live in a town with a lot of shopping options. So we started utilizing the fact that we had options. Instead of buying something somewhere because we were already there, we started making extra stops to ensure we’re getting the most for our money. Things for parties or organizing the house we now buy from the Dollar Store. We try to buy lots of stuff second hand from thirft stores, estate sales, or rummage sales. And since we have Amazon Prime we compare prices to see if it might be cheaper there than whatever store we’re shopping at.
Finally, in addition to buying less we actually started getting rid of more stuff. Seeing all of the space that was being taken up by things we never should have brought in the first place made us want to get rid of everything unnecessary in our home. It’ so freeing to be rid of all of that junk. As a bonus, having a cleaner and better organized home helps fuel our desire to buy less because we want it to stay that way!
Tips for Success During your Own 3 Month Spending Freeze
Let’s be honest here. Choosing to stop spending for three months isn’t easy. Especially if you shop as a hobby like we did. It’s going to be really difficult at first. But it’s something I firmly believe everyone can benefit from. And it does get easier as the months go on.
The plan is really simple to follow. The only spending that is allowed is that which is necessary. Food, gas, bills and any immediate needs that come up. That’s it. Everything else needs to wait until the three months is up.
You will find some gray areas. Here you’ll really have to hold yourself accountable. It can be difficult to draw the line between “need” and “want,” especially in the beginning. If you started a new job that requires khakis and you don’t own any, then that’s a need. If you have an event you need a new outfit for, that’s a want. Unless for some reason you legitimately don’t own anything appropriate to wear-like if you’re pregnant and just outgrew all your clothes. Otherwise, find something in your closet, suck it up, and wear it. Same goes for other household needs. You need new tires if yours are bald and it’s winter. You want to get your car washed every week. Start honing in on those differences. The sooner you do and hold your wants at bay, the better off you’ll be.
To make it easier on yourself to determine if it’s a need or want, ask yourself this question:
Is there a negative consequence to not buying this?
If the answer is undeniably yes, like in the case of the tire example, than it’s a need. If your answer is no, it’s a want. Not sure? It’s a want. If there were a true negative consequence-like no heat if your furnace breaks down-you’ll know. Questioning it means you want it to be a need but it really isn’t.
Finally, start coming up with alternative things you enjoy doing. We started walking more, including going to new areas instead of just around our home. Board games, home projects, craft projects, and visiting the library are some more things we added to our list of free-time activities. Think about what you can do as a couple, as a family, and see if you can find any free options in your town. Lots of museums have free days, take advantage of them!
Change your Spending Habits, Change your Life
What started out as a way for us to just save money temporarily ended up changing our lives. Give it a try and change your perspective on your spending habits. I bet you’ll see amazing results.
Have you ever done a spending freeze? How did it go? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Let me know below!
-To your Better Life-