Reflections on My No-Spend Lent – Part II, Moving Forward
Last week, I posted what felt like a big long essay with a bunch of reflections on what I experienced and what I learned during my 40 days of no shopping/spending. Thank you for the feedback and support on these kinds of posts. I’m always nervous to take a break from the projects and tutorials to chat about more personal stuff; and I’m always so relieved when it’s well received! This week, I want to share a few more thoughts, mostly about how I plan to move forward with a more mindful and less wasteful attitude regarding what I spend our money on and what comes into our house! (Pst – If you’re new here or just catching up, you can ready why I did it HERE and my Part I post HERE.)
I left off last week by sharing that my very first stops after my 40 days of no shopping were Target and HomeGoods. Truth be told, I was chomping at the bit to go shopping by the time Easter rolled around, and I felt like I had a list a mile long of things to look for or pick up. Clearly, Lent didn’t reform completely! That very first day, I walked away with one of the green boxes you see below (I went back the next day to get two more – you can read more about what I’m using them for HERE) from Target, and the elephant, “Ms. Phanny” as we call her, from HomeGoods. The box was $5 and the elephant was $16 (on clearance because her ear has a crack in it). The box from Target was admittedly an “I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet, but I love it, and it’s on clearance”-purchase. The elephant, however, was (kinda) on our “list.” You might recall that Henry’s big boy room has a subtle (maybe not so subtle!) jungle/wild animal theme, and I was specifically looking for some neat accessories to style a few spaces in his new room (reveals coming soon!). When we found this guy on clearance, I really loved him and Henry took to him right away. I knew he was coming home with us, and he’s made a great addition to his room (he even got a mini makeover, I’ll show you soon!).
So while I did walk away with $21 spent and two new things for our home, the reason I am sharing this little story is to actually talk about all the stuff I didn’t bring home! On this particular shopping day, I went to Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, TJMaxx, Target, a local fabric store and Lowes. In several stores, I had nothing in my cart, as I could see that anything I reached for was a total whim purchase and would eventually make its way to our garage sale pile. In HomeGoods and in Target, my cart had quite a few things in it. As I was standing in line, I talked myself out of everything but the green box and the elephant. So maybe I did learn something after all!
In the now three weeks it has been since Easter, I will admit my return to shopping has been a little bit like a post-diet binge. While I was really good that first shopping trip out, and overall I am much more mindful about what I’m spending, I found that I quickly fell back into my habit of making my usual weekly stops and hunting the end caps for great deals! In some ways, the shopping was necessary for some blog-related projects/deadlines I have coming up; but I am sad to report that I am still a sucker for the little red clearance labels at Target! I am only human, I guess 😉
But I will say this. With each shopping trip, I have evaluated what’s working and what’s not, what’s causing me strife/grief/regret/frustration, what’s setting me up for success and what’s causing me to fall short of my goals. I do my best processing and thinking while hunched over the sewing machine, so over the past three weeks, I have hashed out a plan for moving forward.
Look at home first. I touched on this quite a bit in my Part I post, but I just want to reiterate here because I’ve been sticking to this and it’s working really well. During Lent, I had to look around the house for supplies and use what was on hand because I couldn’t go to the store. Now that I can go to the store, I’ve been working really, really hard to focus on what I have to work with not what I need to go buy. In recent weeks, I have been getting really creative to use up what I’ve got to accomplish the vision I have in my head. My most recent example is I am making one more pillow for Henry’s big boy bed. I don’t have a pillow form the size I want. Instead of buying a new pillow form, I have sewn all my quilt batting remnants into a pillow form that looks and functions all the same. Sure a $15 pillow form is no big deal, but why spend the money when I can use up something already taking up space in my house?!? Sticking to this “using what I’ve got” rule is made all the easier by my next point…
No more weekly errands and “casual browsing.” I also touched on this last week. It’s really easy to spend money and bring home stuff I don’t need when I go run errands all.the.time. As much as I love wandering the aisles at Marshalls and Target during my child-free mornings, I also love to spend that time for running, sitting at my sewing machine, or painting furniture out in the garage. It occurred to me that not only was my weekly browsing habit costing me money but also time! Time that could be better spent creating projects, writing posts, or even exercising or relaxing. I have now stopped my weekly rounds at Target/Marshalls/Michaels/Lowes etc. It’s not that these places are off limits or that I’ll never go shopping again. But when I do go shopping, I’m going to exercise my next two new goals!
Shop with purpose and use a list. This absolutely piggy-backs off the previous goal. I’m a stickler about only doing my grocery shopping with a list so that I buy just what I need and don’t buy things I already have in our pantry/fridge. I also (pretty strictly) only by items to make the meals I have planned for the coming week. I don’t often get swayed by food sales or specials. I’m not sure why I’ve never applied this same concept and diligence to my other shopping/spending and my project planning. My reality is that I love to craft and create, and I’m home/craft blogger. There are going to be times when I want to try a new product or makeover a room or refresh my pillows with new fabric. It’s just part of who I am, what I do, and what brings me joy. However, making a list before I go home/craft shopping will help me out in several ways:
- Like my menu planning/shopping, if I make a list for the tools/supplies I need, it will automatically help me prioritize what project I am working on next. I am super guilty of having multiple projects going on at once and randomly grabbing supplies that I may or may not use for any number of those in-progress projects while I am out. Then, some projects are never gotten to and those supplies get added to the expanding “stash.” It’s time to start buying only what I need when I need it!
- Similar to checking my panty and fridge before heading to the grocery store, having a list will help me cross check our indoor (craft room) and outdoor (tools/work bench) areas for supplies we might already have. As much as I think I do, I really don’t need another can of white spray paint as there are several out on the shelf right this minute 😉
- Lastly, shopping with a list will keep me focused on the items I need versus the ones I am tempted to buy. If it’s not on the list, I probably don’t need it.
But then what happens when I come across a great deal or something I looooooooove?
Gut check every item in the cart and walk away. I can’t be unrealistic and think that I will always shop strictly from a list and never come across a splurge purchase ever again in my life. Just the other day, I really wanted to buy those Nate Burkus gold geometric lamps at Target because they’re awesome and they were on clearance. But you can sure bet “gold lamps” were not on my shopping list. (I didn’t buy them, by the way 😉 This is where my “gut test” comes into play. I’ve noticed in recent weeks that there have been a few items that have stopped me in my tracks, I knew instantly I was going to buy them no matter how much they were, or (if I didn’t buy them) I couldn’t stop thinking about them until I went back to get them. I’ve realized that if I come across something I love so so so much, I’m usually willing to buy it without any hesitation (keep in mind, I’m usually talking lamps/picture frames/accessories…not cars, expensive jewlery etc!). The elephant from HomeGoods was like this. He was exactly what I was looking for and was a reasonable price, so there wasn’t a moment of hesitation or arguing with myself if I should or shouldn’t get him. All the other things in my cart that day? I was waffling. I was debating. I was hemming and hawing over it all. Sure, it was all stuff I liked and wanted; but none of them gave me a “gut” reaction that tipped me over into actually buying them. I’ve found that if I am even the slightest bit unsure, I need to put it back on the shelf and walk away. I can always come back another time if I really, really want it. I’m only three weeks in, but this technique is working really well for me. All those items in my cart at HomeGoods? I don’t even remember exactly what they were so I certainly didn’t need them! More and more, I am walking away from stores empty handed, telling myself that I can “think about it and come back.” It’s getting me out of the stores with nothing in hand; and more often than not, I talk myself out of it by the time I’m at the car!
Stick to a “new” budget. I’ve set a new budget for myself. I’m not going to share specifics here, and please note the graphic below is a stock image from online, not the numbers I am using! I shared a bit last week about how I do really well with a cash budget, but also that I was shopping and spending away my cash too quickly and too easily. While I think a lot of the above goals will help with my overall cash output, I knew I needed to take a closer look at how I actually make my purchases at the register.
I am still going to withdraw a specified amount of cash each week (less than what I was taking out previously). This cash will be used for lunches with friends, supplies for projects, ice cream dates with my little man, etc. No “big” spending. Each week, I will also get an “allotment” that can be put toward bigger purchases. No money will actually be set aside here, but I will instead track this “spending allowance” using my new favorite app, My Weekly Budget. What I love about this app is that I can set everything from what my budget is, to what I’m spending money on, and when it rolls over. The rolling over feature here is key for me. Because I am no longer going to be out shopping/browsing regularly, hopefully this total will accumulate week after week after week…and when I come across something I really want to buy, if I have the money “saved up,” I can buy it. It’s a way to save up for big purchases without setting up new accounts, setting aside cash, using a specific credit/debit card etc. I think this combination of cash and credit (only used when cross-checked with My Weekly Budget numbers) will set me up for success. I don’t do well with too-strict rules, so this will give me some wiggle room to shop every now and then but stay on track with my overall shopping and accumulating goals!
Be realistic about my blog and who I am as a blogger. In recent weeks, I’ve also given a lot of thought about how much time and money I actually spend each month/year on project supplies and home accessories compared to how much I bring in through ad revenue, free-lance writing work and my Etsy shop…and I was kind of astounded. So just for the record, I want to put this little thought out there (maybe more for myself than for you all out there reading 🙂 …….
I’m not a big professional blogger. I don’t make tons of money that I can in turn go out and spend on more supplies for more projects and do more makeovers all as part of growing my blog and ultimately running a business. What I buy and what I make is primarily for our family and for our home, not just to generate content for the blog. I cannot keep up with all the many, talented professional bloggers out there who can shop and accessorize and do room makeover after makeover because they are getting paid to do so! Admittedly, I’ve been caught up in the world of Pinterest and room reveals and magazine shoots, and I’m now trying hard to accept that I don’t have the same means and the same time to create equally as spectacular blog content. If I’m honest with myself, that was never my intention for this blog anyway. My goal has always been to generate solid and unique content, created solely with my own two hands, for the happiness and joy of myself and my family primarily, but also for my kind and generous readers. I love love love creating, snapping photos, and sharing my creations and hard work here on the blog. I do work hard to post content I am proud of, but whatever I create also has to be practical for me and my family where we are at in our lives. If I don’t have the right rug or the perfectly styled bookcase to make picture-perfect rooms, that’s okay. I need to be mindful that I’m not spending and splurging solely in an effort to keep up with company I will probably never keep. No pity party here at all, just a reality check for myself 🙂
Oh.my.goodness! I guess this is why I made a great English major in college – I can write some long-winded posts, huh? Another big fat gold star for you if you made it this far. This post marks the end of my babble on my no-spend experiment. It may come up here and there, but I don’t foresee anymore big posts like this one, at least not in the near future. Thanks again for lending me your ears (ummm…eyes) as I work through some of this stuff. Hopefully, there is some nugget here you can take away for your own life situation.
I will be back on Friday with a big reveal I’ve been dying to get up here on the blog! See you then!