Today’s mantra: Frugality mutes the noise of unnecessary desire and consumption and instead focuses us on our priorities.
Today’s action: Write down all the reasons why you to spend money and reflect on whether they’re valid or not. For the not-so-valid reasons, brainstorm other activities you could do instead of shopping, such as volunteering, taking a walk, cooking a meal for friends, starting a new hobby, joining a choir, etc…
This is an interesting thought exercise. I never thought much on my reasons for spending. In Friday’s post I talked about HALT- not spending money if you’re Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired, but other than that I’ve never really examined my deep-seated motives for buying things.
On the first pass, my thought was that I spend money on knowledge, which is true, but it’s more than that. When I buy something, I’m buying into the promise that product is trying to sell me on. This book will help me be more organized, or that planner will help me be more productive or that top will make me look cute. These products are selling something to my values, and I want them because I value what they’re promising. If it’s on sale, and less than $5, the temptation is even worse.
Is valuing a product’s promise a valid reason for buying things? Not necessarily. Not every product follows through on its promise. And most products require input on my end for their promise to be fulfilled. That organization book isn’t going to do me any good if I don’t implement its system. And though I do want to be more organized, do I have the time and energy to put it into practice? Or even read the book in the first place?
I’m often tempted by books, especially ebook sales because I want the promised knowledge they hold. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at actually reading books that I impulse buy. Because they were an impulse and not much thought was put into their purchase, I usually forget I bought them soon afterward. The system I try to follow is to check out books I’m interested in out from the library first, then, if after reading it, if I do follow through with reading it, I can determine if I find the knowledge valuable enough to buy the book to have it on hand as a reference. I’ve also had to just cut myself off completely from online courses because I rarely finish them.
On the other hand, if I’m gearing up to plant a garden this spring and I hear about some gardening classes that would be helpful, I think it would be totally valid to spend money on helping me be more successful. It fits into something I’m already planning on expending energy on it, it’s a good deal and it’s from a trusted local source.
This is actually a real example from my life right now. As I talked about in a previous post, one of my long-term goals is to have a big garden and eventually grow most of our own produce. Right now our backyard is an overgrown mess, but a family friend is helping me get it to a blank slate and putting in a watering system.
I tried gardening one summer a few years ago and wasn’t very successful. Since then I’ve read and researched a lot and I took a fall gardening class this past year from a local gardener. I was keeping an eye out for more gardening classes from her for this season. I find this gardener such a valuable resource because she runs a CSA, so obviously she’s pretty successful, she garden’s organically, which I would also like to do, and she knows how to grow in this climate- we’re in the desert, so it makes things a little trickier. Her classes fit with my value system, they’ll help with my long terms goals that I’m actively pursuing, and they’re very reasonably priced. Also, I tried the cheap way- reading and experimenting- without success.
What are some of your reasons for spending money? What alternatives have you found to substitute for those not so valid reasons?