In the last post, we analyzed how we are spending our time, and whether our reality matched with our priorities and values. Now it\’s time to think about how we spend our money. Dig out your journal from the money tracking week to use in this post and be sure to hang onto it because you will find it useful in later posts when we discuss budgeting.
It’s time to figure out what you spent during your tracking week that was avoidable and try and figure out why it is that you bought it. Go through the list and analyze the items you purchased. Ask yourself, will the item be useful for you in the future, or will it just sit gathering dust in your garage or closet? In other words, was it something you needed, or something you just wanted? Was it an impulse buy? Why did you purchase it? How many things did you buy during the tracking week that were unnecessary or impulse items? Add up the cost of all these avoidable items. Is the total more than you expected? How does it compare with the total cost of unavoidable purchases, like rent/mortgage or food costs?
Financial problems can cause extreme undue stress in your life, and purchasing avoidable items may simply be compounding your money woes unnecessarily. We will come back to the idea of creating a livable budget in a later post. Clutter is also a major source of stress and your purchasing habits will directly affect the amount of clutter that sits around you. Many people unconsciously purchase things they simply don’t need because they have conditioned themselves to do so. For now, it is important to just begin to recognize when you are buying things you really don’t need and making an effort to stop buying those impulse items when you can remember. This won’t be easy at first, but stick with it. It DOES get easier with time.
Here are some tricks I used. If there is an item you really, really want to buy; don’t buy it immediately. Hold off. Wait a day, or a week. You will find that once you leave the store, the desire to purchase it will probably begin to fade. I know you’ll try to justify it by saying, “but it’s on sale!” Trust me. There will be more sales and if it’s not something you need, it doesn’t matter how cheap you can get it for. Try to avoid going to the mall or shopping centers if you find yourself being weak. Instead distract yourself with an enjoyable activity from your priorities list.
Start to create a list of everything you currently own. This won’t be simple. In fact, it will be tedious and frustrating and probably take you a considerable amount of time. It will also probably be a wake-up call. Like why are you buying more pairs of jeans when you already own over forty pairs? Do you really need those six television sets in your home when there are only two people living there?
Some questions to ponder as you make the list: Did you find that you had more than one of an item on your list that is really unnecessary? Did you find that you forgot that you owned some of what you had? How much of what you owned have you not used or even seen in years? How much (approximately) did you spend on these duplicate or unnecessary items?
Go through the list and decide on ten things you can instantly get rid of; things you no longer use or need. Sell them, give them away or donate them if possible. Next week, do the same with ten more things. You can continue this practice until you feel that you do you not have any unnecessary items cluttering your life anymore. If you find it more useful, sell the items en mass in a garage or yard sale. You will be amazed at how little these things matter once they are gone.
A good rule of thumb to start with: for every one thing you bring into your home; sell, give away or donate two items you already own to make room for it.
We will come back to the idea of de-cluttering again in the next post.