Two weeks ago I decided to try my first spending freeze. I read around online and decided to do it for 2 weeks, not include basic groceries, and give myself $100 for important things that came up.
I kept an ongoing list of things that I wanted and didn’t buy – I saw that as a tip in articles I read about this exercise. I found that very helpful. I forget which site I read but she said she’d usually find she didn’t want most of the things on her list once she was done, but she did go to Chipotle for her favorite item there. I’m looking at my list thinking that while I would like several things on my list, most of them could wait another two weeks.
The predetermined decision aspect was quite helpful. When we were at my in-laws and a friend was running to Panera, it was easy not to ask them to bring me something. It made it easier to stay off my favorite shopping sites on my phone. I just put my idea in my list instead. It also kept me out of the stores. Similar to dieting, I like the way a spending freeze takes much of the decision making out of day-to-day life in a positive way. However, I think I am a bit of a natural for the spending freeze. It comes easier to me than giving up chocolate. If you’ve heard of Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies (I’ve already pre-ordered the book, it comes out in Sept!), I am much more of an abstainer than a moderator. I think in some areas it is easier for me to not do something at all. It’s harder to let myself spend money which I actually need to but it’s not very exciting, such as for new seasonal clothes for my boys – how many pair of shorts do they need? How often will I wash them? What should the budget be for that?
So if you try a spending freeze, I recommend keeping a list of what you don’t buy, and journaling about how you feel. I’ve been on and off with dieting strictly during these two weeks and I’ve found that I personally feel much more strongly about food than shopping. I like that the freeze kept me from impulse buying, it made me wait and think, and plan. Now when I buy a few things from my list I will feel confident that I really want them and am spending my money strategically, weighing the opportunity cost.
I think the next time I do it I will pick budgets for each category. I bought gas and gave the boys lunch money we’d already agreed on, and I bought a portable potty seat because we’re going to potty train soon. I’m trying to find the right window of several days to stay home, and when I get it I want to have what I need. Things I didn’t buy include more stock photos for this blog, a new journal, more cotton shirts for summer (I like the ones I just found and I want more while the store still has them), my favorite summer dress at bodenusa.com has new prints and it’s on sale, and new sunglasses to replace the ones I broke a few months ago.
When I think about the next phase of decluttering my house (which is going to be harder than the one I just finished), and doing another spending freeze, I think about revisiting Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy, by James A. Roberts. If you’re looking for a book on this topic, I highly recommend it. If you’d like for me to post about it, comment below and I will find time to write a summary.
I was going to give myself a day and then do another spending freeze for two more weeks. But I realized while that’d be fun, it’d be a costly distraction; my most important goal for the year is the same as my biggest struggle: weight loss. So I’m going to focus on that for awhile and revisit some of the books that were most helpful in the past, as well as some new ones I’ve heard about.
I do love the spending freeze as a great exercise to help you monitor your behavior and become aware of your thinking. I’m going to do it again later this year for sure.
If you decide to try it, let me know, it’d love to hear how it goes, or what reservations you have about trying it yourself.