Life is slowly getting back to normal and I am so grateful I do not have to cut my own hair anymore!! I always enjoy going to the barber shop and having a conversation. I always learn something from the stylist. This morning Tonya cut my hair, and we got on the subject of spending money. Why is it so difficult to create and follow a budget? Tonya said she avoids spending money by not going to the store. Sometimes we go to the store with a purpose. We made our list. The mission is to purchase only the items on that list. And somehow we come back home with several items we never intended to buy!!
Several of my favorite books look specifically at this phenomenon which so many of us experience. One of my favorites is Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. Robin writes about the Gazingus Pins in our lives, the things we buy without thinking much about. Some of us have drawers designated to store them or closets overfilled. My Gazingus Pins were things like comic books, compact discs, and… Books!! Books I would buy and never read!! Gazingus Pins clutter our lives and drain our bank accounts. For some people its shoes, jewelry, sports memorabilia, or maybe its LED flashlights, fidget spinners, and candles. We won’t debate the intrinsic value of Gazingus Pins or try to justify one kind over another. The important thing to consider is, ‘Why do we own so much stuff?”
Your Money or Your Life explores the creation of the consumer at the beginning of the 20th Century. With the industrial revolution going full speed, we were starting to produce more stuff than we could possibly purchase. In fact, with many of our needs being met thanks to improvements in productivity we could enjoy a little more free time. What could we do with that leisure time? Spend more time with family? Read more, maybe even write our own book? Travel the world? As we all know that is not what happened. Economic productivity is the highest it has ever been. Somehow we ended up using our free time to produce more stuff and consume more stuff. Read the book, it is a fascinating study about “how we got to here” and prescient of how many people are beginning to feel about work and spending after the pandemic.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s George Carlin on the subject of stuff:
Having a budget and getting out of debt is not the solution to this socio-economic phenomenon. The topic seems to be counterproductive for many of us, only making us feel more ashamed of how we spend our money. Having debt makes us feel like failures. And the solution to our negative self image is marketed to us daily. From McWhoppers to M-Class Sports Truck marketers are telling us, “You deserve to buy this thing we are selling you!” Advertisements aren’t even selling you a thing, they’re tapping into an emotion for which there is no limit. Desire. Needs can be met, Wants know no boundaries. We can always say no to things we want, but we have no choice when it comes to needs. You can’t save money by skipping meals and walking around naked!! Marketers learned to make us feel hungry for the Gazingus Pins and naked with out that nice new car.
Not going to stores to avoid spending is one way to undo the desire to impulse spend. Some people won’t save their credit cards on their browser, or keep the their wallet in a separate room to inhibit the impulse to buy things online. I like to write things down, identify which purchases are needs and which are wants. I often suggest to friends to wait two weeks (sometimes longer) before making a purchase to avoid buyers remorse. If I still want something a month from now, I’ll likely still enjoy it a month after I make the purchase too.
None of these get to the root of the problem of how I ended up with so much stuff and not enough money. And this morning’s conversation with Tonya reminded me of the most successful tool I have in my tool kit and how I turned things around. It’s the reason I can delay purchasing things I want. It’s how I can go to a store and buy only the item I intended to purchase, even when something I kind of want is “ON SALE FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!!” I’ve been surprised to find the same item on sale again only a short time later, and usually have decided I didn’t really need it. The tool I’m talking about is Gratitude.
When I am grateful for the things I have I am less likely to look for things to feel great about. During the pandemic I lost sight of my gratitude list and fell back into some old habits. I bought a 4K smart TV a few months back to replace my twelve year old Hi-Def TV. I had wanted to get a newer TV for a long time, and the purchase seemed justifiable. The TV was even on sale!! But it just doesn’t seem as ‘great’ as I thought it was going to be and now that the weather is nice the last thing I want to do is sit in front of the TV. Thankfully, I haven’t bought a new car because I really love not having a car payment. But I NEED a new car, right!?
Try it out. Start your own gratitude list and alter the way you think about stuff. Keep the list nearby to remind yourself what you are grateful for and add to it as you begin to see how much you have to be grateful about!! It works!! I am grateful my car still runs. I am grateful I don’t have a car payment. I would be giving up something I am grateful for if I were to run out and buy a new car.
But wouldn’t it be great if…
Here we go again!! No need to keep thinking that way. I’m grateful for the way things are today!