An experiment in non-spending…

Well…I did it…I went an entire month without making a non-essential purchase.  It wasn’t easy…there were actually quite a few things that I wanted to buy.  But I stuck to my goal and I made it through the month.

I ended up spending more money than I thought I would.  At the beginning of the month, I’d kind of assumed I would only spend money on gas and groceries.  Anything else, I’d decided, was not essential.  Turns out I was wrong.

One of the things I’d originally decided was an absolute indulgence and was off-limits this month was taking a taxi from the train station to the office.  There was no reason that I couldn’t walk or take the subway.  That is…until I got sick and had to drag myself to work anyway.  On those days when I probably should have been in bed, I gave myself the present of a ride the 15 blocks to the office.  Totally worth it.

I also ended up driving to work a few times…twice because I had to go out after work and it didn’t make sense to go home first.  Another day I was just too sick to get onto the train.

There were also a few other things…like the crazy expensive fruit from the deli.  I don’t know what kind of voodoo magic they are working at the deli, but the fruit is super sweet and delicious and far superior to what I was getting at the grocery store.  So I spent the extra money on it.  Then there were the scones…the amazingly fresh and delicious scones from Alice’s Tea Cup that had been calling to me for weeks. I treated my coworkers to breakfast last Friday and those scones were possibly the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  I bought a few books…but with two hours of commuting each day, books are a necessity.

And, of course, there were the lottery tickets.  It was a record-breaking jackpot…I couldn’t not take a shot.  I won $2…which is not the same as winning $640 million…but at least it wasn’t a total loss.

The thing is…there were a bunch of things I didn’t buy.  The dress I saw that was cute, but totally not practical.  The somewhat expensive desk I liked to replace the perfectly functional desk in my craft room.  The gorgeous Marc Jacobs bag that I spent a week staring at online.  I also didn’t set foot inside a Target, Michael’s or Christmas Tree Shop…my top three favorite places to buy all the things I never even knew I needed.  I swear…I walk into those places and it’s like the money just gets sucked right out of my wallet.

It was a really good lesson for me.  By forcing myself not to shop, I took a second look at the things I had around the house.  I got to cross a lot of things off my to-do list with all the extra time I had.  If I wanted to do a project, I used what I had on hand…which forced me to be more creative.  Making dinner was also interesting because instead of running out for fast food or takeout, I used what I had in the fridge…and I definitely threw out less spoiled food because of it.  And stopping to think before making a purchase made me realize that the dress was something I’d never wear and with a few slight modifications my desk will be perfect for what I need.

It also made me realize that not all purchases are bad and it’s ok to splurge on myself.  So I’m still contemplating that new bag.  I don’t really need a new bag…but it’s just so pretty.

This was a great experiment for me and I think it has really changed the way I look at spending money and buying new things.  I’m not sure I will go back to mindless spending.  I see a future filled with less impulse buys and less buyer’s remorse.