It’s been six months since I wrote an article for Spend Your Values. During that time we settled into a new place, rented a location for our business, designed and built the business, finally opened the business, marginally beat back the jungle that was/is our new yard, tried to carry a lot of 8ft. long pieces of wood in our sedan, gave in a bought a used hatchback in order to carry said wood a little easier, and seriously, seriously fell off the spending wagon.
It’s not that I started randomly spending money willy-nilly but more that I lost all shred of mental control I once had over my spending.
We knew that any business would be a black hole of time and money when it was just getting started, and we tried to prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally, and practically for this. We saw a financial blitz coming and saved up enough to fully self-fund the business. I also knew I was going to have to bite the bullet and buy things full-price (*gasp!*) and last-minute (*gasp!*). This would be a significant change from my previous spending life, but I didn’t realize exactly how different my spending habits would become. And it was worse than I expected. I felt like I was throwing money around! Like that night we went to Menard’s at 10:30 pm to buy a door. A whole door! Who am I ?!?! Why am I buying so much STUFF?
I knew in my mind that it was for the business, but it still hurt my soul. Even more importantly, it had a huge and unanticipated impact on my personal spending habits. I fell prey to four excuses that I thought I had given up for good. Pride goeth before a fall, and all that…
1. The House Excuse: When you buy a house you suddenly need a million weird and random things that you never needed in your apartment. Like a ladder and an extension cord and paint (because you can finally paint!). A few things are really necessary and many things are nice to have for home maintenance. But it became REALLY easy for me to buy things I definitely didn’t need, just because I was going to the hardware store all the time. I lost my intentionality when it came to purchases “for the house.” I didn’t think anymore – I just spent.
2. I Need it Now! Excuse: While we were (literally) building the business things would come up ALL. THE. TIME. that we needed RIGHT NOW. When you need more screws or more black spray paint or a wood chisel (seriously), the project is stalled until you buy it. I tried my best to anticipate what we’d need so I could look for things second-hand and order online, but we frequently had to make mid-day and late night runs to the hardware store. I started to internalize this habit of convenience. My percentage of personal rash purchases and impulse buys went WAY up. I bought more clothes, more décor, more candy and snacks, more STUFF.
3. It’s Just a Few Dollars Excuse: When compared to a necessary $1,000 purchase, a $2 bag of candy doesn’t seem like such a big deal. A new jigsaw puzzle, a new calendar, or a new candle just doesn’t seem very important in the grand scheme of things. But it is! Even though it’s just a few dollars, every purchase matters and I really lost sight of that. I fell into the trap of comparison and perspective and started to fritter away smaller amounts of money because they didn’t seem to matter much.
4. The Habit of Spending – Most upsettingly, I got back into the habit of spending money. I had to buy things almost every day, either in person or online. It felt unnatural after months of spending money once a week or even less. Obviously, a lot of purchasing had to be done and I had to get over it. But I got over it a little too well. I spent more time than I had to at Target and Wal-Mart. I went to the thrift store more frequently, and I spent hours at the handmade market, the book sale, and any yard sale I could find. If I wanted to buy something, I just went and bought it instead of taking a minute to think about or try to find another way to get it (can I make it? can I thrift it? can I borrow it?).
Ugh, it’s embarrassing to write all that out. But it’s a new year and it’s time for me to get back on the wagon. Because the most significant outcome of changing my spending habits was that I just started to feel bad. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin because I wasn’t being true to myself. Many time I was going directly against values that I had sworn I was committed to (simplicity, creativity, hard work, etc.) and embraced values that I had rejected (convenience, etc.). It left a bad taste in my mouth.
So it’s time to reinvigorate my positive spending habits, outline my new values, and implement new financial strategies that will keep me on the right track even when life gets in the way. Huzzah!