Tag: Budget

January Accountability: Oops

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 
― Epictetus

It all started when I had to purchase some items for a work trip. It was a legitimate need as a very specific style of dress was required and I did not own any of the items, nor could I find cheap or easy ways to rent them. I spent a couple of hours researching sales, warehouse sites, and even eBay to find the most reasonable and cost-effective options and got what I needed at heavily discounted prices that I am happy with.

But…the thing about shopping is that once you put your card or cash down, it becomes frighteningly easy to do it again, and the algorithms are unnervingly adept.

I have this ambitious goal of seeing if I can strictly limit the items I buy this year. I have a short list of stuff I have wanted or identified as a longstanding need or reasonable desire. For example, I wore my past pair of black ankle boots to absolute shreds, such that even a cobbler suggested that between the cracked leather, ripped sole and missing heel…I should just maybe replace them… Because I wear this kind of shoe more than any other, I felt that replacing it was a reasonable exception to my No Buy, and bought a nice pair on significant sale (post holiday sales in London tend to be good places to find bargains).

Then, because I had been searching on eBay for those work items, the internet sent some other “suggestions” my way–all items which legitimately happened to be on my shopping list. A cashmere or wool sweater dress and a summer dress. Scary. The internet knows. Because my mental pump had already been primed, my weak will kicked in and I put in bids…and won! Both were about £15 each, which is a bargain for the brands (The White Company and Ralph Lauren), but facts are facts and the truth is I think this means I’d well and truly broken my No Buy challenge for the month.

And then! Because I’d already “failed,” I allowed myself to buy a chunky knit from & Other Stories. Once again, this was legitimately on my shopping list for the year, and I found a lovely piece that’s thick, very warm, modern looking, and on trend while being something I will be happy to wear for several years to come.

I am not counting the items required for work individually, but in the spirit of honesty I’ve decided to count the whole order of work gear as one of my approved 2019 purchases, and I’ve also added the two dresses and jumper to the list. Which means we’re three weeks into the year, and I’m already down five spaces on my limited shopping list. That’s a bit sobering. My consolations are that all of these were items I had actually projected to spend money on this year and considered for several months, none of what I bought is expensive, and only one item is full price…but that’s not really the point.

Spending is, and is designed to be, a slippery slope. If I had not had to buy those work items originally, would I have ended up purchasing other items? I’m not entirely sure, but probably not.

I’ve been very disciplined in other areas this month, especially around food and exercise which both ended up saving me money as I bought significantly less food on the go and saved on travel costs by walking more. All in all, I think this month balances out so far, but in February I think my priority will be to not even open the door on spending. If an event or function requires kit that I don’t own, I will turn it down rather than incur unanticipated costs and will find cheap or free ways to socialize rather than default to eating out.

What goals did you have for this month? Have you met them? Where are you putting your focus next? 

 

Thursday Poll: Wants v. Needs

“I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.”
― Jackie Mason

Let’s have moment of radical honesty together. Following an earlier post, and in the interest of full disclosure, here’s a by-no-means comprehensive list of things I don’t have and shamelessly want. Some are silly, some are serious, some I clearly don’t need, but if money were no object, these were the things that first sprang to mind:

All debt paid off in an instant

A suddenly, fully furnished apartment

A new pair of high waisted jeans that don’t have holes in the knees

Always more lipstick

Over-the-knee boots

A fully outfitted kitchen

Multiple media subscriptions

A realistic path towards owning property

A TV

Houseplants

An iPad to make work on the go easier

A spa day

Gucci loafers (second hand of course)

A cleaning service

An immediately available annual travel budget

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Literally everything I took with me for a long weekend abroad once. 

But were I not on a shopping ban and suddenly had more spending money for the month, what would I get tomorrow if I had to prioritize? I gave myself a mental exercise and actually thought about this for a while: what do I feel like I actually need right now? I consulted my running lists of personal and home good wants before writing another list down:

A larger monthly payment towards student loans/credit cards. Eliminating these suckers would not just free up income, but reduce a lingering background stressor, and allow us to start saving more.

A monthly contribution towards NPR and PBS, given the current political climate. I classify this as a need, because I am very seriously feeling a need to contribute time and money to the causes I care about moving forward. Talk is cheap!

A stock pot for the purposes of more winter soups and the ability to make larger quantities of food during meal prep.

A new and better quality duvet for our bed. Winter ain’t coming any more, it’s here!

Possibly the unwripped jeans…but I have other trousers to wear so then again, probably not!

And…that’s it. I’m serious. What I want and what feel I need have next to no overlap at the moment. I have a place to live, means to get around, pretty hood health overall, and the ability to buy food. I’m up to date on my health appointments, a huge amount of quality media is available to me either free of charge or relatively cheap, and clothes on my back. Everything else would be nice to have but I’m either working towards it, I can get by with what I’ve got in the meantime, or I frankly don’t need it.

Which leads me to conclude, in spite of a good overall sense of how much I spend, I’ve underestimated how much of my life I’ve framed in terms of “wants.” It’s very easy to want things, it takes discipline to determine actual needs. And I’ve clearly been less disciplined than I’d like to admit.

If you made a list of needs, what would be the top three right now? What about what you want–and remember, this is a judgement free zone! 

Bans, Budgets, and Cutting Myself Off

“To be really mediæval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes.”
― Oscar Wilde

What’s your relationship with shopping and consumption, kittens? I’m curious because I’m in the process of resetting mine, and that’s primarily what we’re going to be chatting about this week.

Towards the end of last year I did the first of three shopping bans as part of my 101/1001 project. The self imposed rules were simple: regular expenses, utilities, and things for the house were permitted, but all personal purchases (with the exception of toiletries or replacing an item if damaged beyond repair–RIP cheap, shredded tights, hello Heist) were verboten. I’m not a massive clotheshorse or a major spendthrift, but I’m also not immune to consumer culture and its emotional traps, hence my goal to push the pause button on self-centered consumption at least once a year.

Rather sneakily, and perhaps not fully in the spirit of the challenge, as previously mentioned, I timed it so that the first ban would end in time for Black Friday. My motives were partly altruistic (Christmas shopping for other people) but not entirely. However, after three months of not buying anything for myself…it turned out that I didn’t want much.

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Stuffocation?

One of the things I started doing last summer and during my first shopping ban was to start and keep a “To Buy” list. If I spotted an item I like, a trend I wanted to try, or a piece that appealed to me, I wrote it down rather than whipping out a card/cash or trying to justify buying it. I sat on the idea for a while. Shock surprise, it often turned out that a trend played itself out in a matter of days or weeks, the appeal of a piece faded, or…I just didn’t think about it again until I consulted my list and remembered, “Oh yeah, I did see that. Guess it wasn’t as memorable as I thought.”

By the time my self-imposed strictures lifted, I took a look at my list and asked myself what I really wanted. The answer was a handful of shirts/sweaters that would be good enough for work but also dress up my casual clothes (an ongoing project), a bag to replace my day-to-day one that was ripped and stained, one new accessory, and one trend piece (a velvet blazer)–plus beauty buys. So counting Black Friday and excluding Christmas presents, my end of year personal shopping comprised the following:

Glossier/Pestle & Mortar – skincare and not really part of my ban, but I’m counting it for the sake of full disclosure (discount codes)

Sephora – makeup (Black Friday deal)

Everlane – two shirts and a sweater (discount code)

Nepheliad – a pair of earrings (discount code)

Brora – two sweaters (Black Friday deal)

282 Portobello Road vintage – a blazer and a coat (discounts from shop seller, and the coat was my Christmas present from Jeff)

Portobello Road vintage seller – a bag (haggled down price)

And that’s it. I decided that was going to be the total of my fall/winter shopping for this year and I’m considering my wardrobe updated for two seasons. Almost on the heels of one shopping ban I dove straight into another and the list above will represent everything personal I purchase for six months total…if I don’t screw up. The timing of this second ban also isn’t entirely altruistic because I’m publicly documenting my spending this month and don’t want to be disgraced in your eyes; I consider your oversight a way to keep me honest, kittens.

Your turn: talk to me about how you spend and why. Do you have regular luxuries you allow yourself? Are you tightening your belt, and if so, how? I’m very nosy, but genuinely want to know!