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I am a Spender, but I am Changing

During NaBloPoMo, I wrote about an inner struggle I was having about smoking, and today another struggle is on my mind: controlling my spending.

I did not use to struggle with buying things because I’d just put whatever it was I wanted on credit cards and think nothing of it. This strategy work for about two years, and then I found myself chin-deep in debt.

It was depressing.

I balanced between having the payments under control and getting calls from creditors for another two year until Rob came into my life. He told me what I needed to do to get out from under that burden of debt, and within 9 months of living on $40-for-the-month grocery trips, no eating out, and very understanding roommates, I had less than $1,000 of debt on one credit card, which means one payment a month and a much more manageable cash-flow.

Since then, Rob and I have been working on my spending habits, and boy do I need that accountability.

Part of my problem with money is thinking about it. When I see something on sale, I only see what I am saving (50%! $20!). Rob sees what I am spending: 50% off still means it costs $50. $20 off doesn’t mean much if I still have to spend $80 to get that thing home. It took me several years to correct my thinking. And I still think my way first, but now I go one step further and realize that spending $50 on that thing that I want but don’t really need means less money for traveling or less money for saving. So I have my spending under control.

But I don’t have my thinking under control. When I find something to want, it consumes my mind. I think about how it will make my life better. I start imagining myself using it, which makes me realize how inadequate the current thing I have is. In my mind, I see how wonderful my life will be once I have that thing, and it feeds my desire.

Of course, all of that is crap. A new purse, new shoes, a new iPod, they aren’t going to make my life flashy cool, super smooth, mega-star perfect. But one-half of my mind believes it and believes it until I’m in a frenzy for that thing.

I am trying to change the way I think, which is why “I am content with what I have” is on my New Year’s Resolutions list every year. I control my thinking when I notice what I am doing. I tell myself, “Self, be content with what you have. You have a perfectly good purse that carries your wallet, phone, and camera just as well as that one will. You do not need that purse. You are content with what you have.”

It is hard to change the way I think, but I am determined not to let my material wants rule my life. I am more than my things, and if I truly believe that, I think half my problem will be solved. It is a long, hard battle, but eventually, I know I will successfully change my thinking and behavior.

3 thoughts on “I am a Spender, but I am Changing

  1. Zog

    22 Dec on 2008 at 21:25

    I totally can relate to this thinking — both the before and the after!

    Part of my problem went beyond spending into simply hoarding, too. I’d accumulate so much *stuff*, because I couldn’t let any of it go.

    I stumbled across a brainhack that turned out to work well for me. Any time I was about to buy something, or any time I would pick up some possession I already owned, I would ask myself “How can I justify having this thing in my life?” I forced myself to answer that question all the way from big things like a computer purchase to tiny things like peanut butter or coffee. If I didn’t have a really good answer, I’d forgo the purchase or chuck the already-owned thing.

    I’m not so rigorous anymore, but going through that exercise for months really got my own spending under control. It helped me detach from *things* in general, too.

    Anyway, I can really empathize here. Congrats, and thanks for sharing your struggle and experience!


  2. G

    22 Dec on 2008 at 20:56

    I think that spending has become much harder the longer you stay in the college environment. Even if I’m not the exact market of a lot of college type advertising, my students are and I see them everyday. Therefore, I still think I *need* many of the same things.

    My biggest problem is that I love sales. Lately, I have been try to save more (there is a whole new spend/save conundrum with a baby on the way) by giving myself a unreasonably low price for the item. Most of the time by the time I can find the item at that price, I lived without for long enough to convince myself that I didn’t really need it or if it is still really important to me it helps me decearn need from want.

    • xgravity23

      04 Jan on 2009 at 23:57

      @G: I never really realized it before, but you are right about the college environment. I like your “unreasonably low price” method! Clever mind trick, and I need those.

      @Zog: Ugh, the hoarding! I’ve been working on that at the same time. It’s a long, hard process too. “How can I justify having this thing in my life?” Good question. I think you touched on one of the main problems with spending and hoarding: It’s all stuff, things, that in the end, are not more important than the people in our lives.

      It’s always nice to hear that someone else understands what it’s like to be a spender. Thanks.