Finance

The Art of Mindful Spending

It’s important to make the most of your money. Up until last year, I didn’t think much about where my disposable income was going. As long as I was meeting my savings goals and not overspending the remainder, I didn’t think about how that money was spent.

I maintain a high level budget, meaning that I don’t have specific budgets for groceries, gas, clothing, etc. Instead, I take my net paycheck, then subtract any bills due over the next two weeks and all my automatic savings/investments. Whatever is left, I’m free to spend however I choose.

But we can do better than that. Since practicing mindful spending, I’ve found myself with a surplus each payday. How is that possible? Here’s how it works for me:

I make a shopping list for each week and stick to it.  Since I’m only making meals for myself, I can easily do all my shopping at Target. Everyone knows that place is a huge spending trap — how often have you been there to buy just a few things and then left with so much more? I got so tired of spending way more than I intended to so now I’m adamant about keeping a list throughout the week (on my smart phone) and sticking to it when I do my weekly shopping. Not on the list? I’ll add it and decide over the next week if it’s something I actually need. Meal planning is crucial for this to work and you must know what is currently in your freezer and pantry.

I only go to restaurants and coffee shops with other people. If I’m going to spend the money, I’d better get more than food out of the experience. It’s too easy for me to buy coffee or lunch at work, so now I’ll only do so if it’s with a coworker so we can chat as well. And I usually only along for the walk with my coworker(s) and skip a purchase altogether. As far as restaurants go, I love going out to eat with my friends and coworkers, but making a stop to get food for myself to eat at home is counterproductive. It takes far more time to make the stop than to make something from the groceries I already have at home.

I rarely drink alcohol. I no longer keep alcohol in my house, except for a few bottles of wine for when I host guests or need something to bring as a guest in someone’s home. There’s no reason for me to drink by myself. As I get older, the less my body can tolerate alcohol anyway.

I don’t set foot in brick and mortar stores or any kind of shopping mall. Unless there’s something very specific that I need, why tempt myself?

Save your online cart for at least 24 hours before completing the sale. I’ll usually forget about it, since I tend to browse online when I’m bored. There’s an additional upside to this: Online retailers don’t like when shoppers abandon their carts so it’s common for them to send you an online coupon code to help persuade you to make the purchase. If it truly is something you want and need, it can pay to play hard to get.

Large purchases should be special.  I only make large purchases to replace items (e.g. appliances or technology) or if it’s attached to something like a goal or vacation. For example, I like to buy a piece of jewelry when I’m on vacation and it’ll usually be under $150. Outside of that, I never buy jewelry. I’ll also attach a large purchase as a reward for meeting a specific goal. When I finished my MBA program and graduated with honors, I treated myself to something from Tiffany’s (which is the only thing I own from them) for around $300. All these purchases are made using money from a designated savings account, which I transfer money to each payday.

I’ve found that I need less disposable income each payday than I originally thought, and every cent counts when saving for a specific goal.

How you practice mindful spending?

2 thoughts on “The Art of Mindful Spending

  1. I ask myself, “Is this purchase going to bring me freedom?” And by freedom I mean out of debt. Obviously, every purchase prevents me from paying down more on my debt, but there are some things we can’t go without. This question usually steers me clear from ordering a coffee at breakfast, or a beer at supper. It usually keeps me from picking up something extra from the grocery store that isn’t on the list. Stuff like that.

    1. Very good point. Having a goal makes spending choices easier. Freedom is worth much more than the temporary enjoyment that comes with a purchase!

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