Why you could benefit from a spending reset

It’s easy to spend based on emotions or with a lack of intention, so a spending reset can help you reconnect with what’s important to you.

I’ve done some fun experiments with money over the years.

I’m thinking most specifically about the month I spent only cash. And—surprise!—I spent much less without even noticing or trying to.

But I’ve tried other things too, all in the service of learning more about how money works, and how to make money best serve me (as opposed to the other way around).

I’ve long been a fan of buying nothing on Black Friday, because going to stores on those days are hellish, and besides, do we really need to encourage consumerism any more than we actually do? Besides, if you truly want to support small businesses, don’t buy 20% off, buy full retail price.

But I don’t believe your goal should be to spend as little as possible. I want you to have a pleasurable and financially successful life today and tomorrow, not just tomorrow.

So, now that we’re finally past the holiday shopping season and into a new year, what about a spending reset? What about taking a look at what you spend (and how you prepare to spend it) and assess whether it’s really working for you?

Not a “buy nothing” month

My partner told me recently that she was thinking of having a “buy nothing month”.

At first, I was a little alarmed. While I know that she has a very positive relationship to money, I worried that this was a scarcity mindset of feeling like one “should spend less”, something that I generally don’t subscribe to.

But hearing more about it, I realized that the pithy way she was describing it wasn’t about buying nothing at all, it was about taking a step back and looking at what she was spending money on, as well as taking some time off from some specific purchases, and then seeing what she missed.

I love this idea, and it got me to thinking more about the emotional side of spending.

The emotional side of spending

We spend for lots of reasons, not all of them practical.

For example, in April, I bought a box of 36 bags of Herr’s chips. I grew up eating them, and they don’t sell Herr’s on the west coast.

Snyder’s? Rold Gold? Never heard of ’em.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt a strong urge to order some. It was clearly an emotional purchase. Getting the box and seeing all those brands I now only see when I travel back east was actually moving to me.

It certainly wasn’t the caloric content of the food that was the reason I bought them. Though, yum. 😋

So, the emotional side of our spending can sometime become more powerful. We’re spending to feel better.

You know what I’m talking about: retail therapy. Problems with your partner? You go out and buy a new pair of shoes. Difficulties with your kids? It’s time for a bigger TV.

But retail therapy only will take you so far, and has very diminishing returns. How many pairs of shoes do you need before the benefits stop really accruing?

Thus the spending reset.

Spending reset

So what if you looked at all of the categories of things that you spend money on, and see if there are some of them that you’d like to give up for a short period of time?

Not everything, of course. Keep buying groceries, and don’t stop paying the electric bill. If you need new clothes, get new clothes.

But think about your categories. I bet there are some that you, shall we say, lean on in times of stress. Or maybe there’s one that just dwarfs all the other categories. Could be anything. Could be alcohol, restaurants, clothes, electronics, even knitting supplies.

You know the categories I’m talking about.

What if you gave up one or more of those categories for a month? Or severely tamped it down? What do you think would happen?

Would it be easy? Would it be challenging? Would it start out challenging and become easier over time?

Would you, at the end of the time period, find that you didn’t miss that spending as much?

And it’s not just spending too, it’s also browsing. How much time do you spend scrolling through shopping sites?

It is certainly true that certain habits, once lapsed, aren’t missed. I used to drink a lot of Pepsi, and every day too. I stopped about a decade ago, and didn’t really miss it. (These days, a periodic mini-can of Diet Coke is about all I can muster.)

Spend authentically

I don’t want you to spend less. I want you to spend authentically and in ways that are fulfilling to you.

And that’s hard to do. We are bombarded with messages that are designed to confuse what will be fulfilling to us, from the beer commercial that says that you’ll be surrounded by beautiful friends, to the skin care commercial that tells you that somehow you’ll be more desirable.

And plus, it’s all to easy to get into mindless spending, to use your Amazon Prime account to click Buy Now on yet another thing, thinking in the moment that it will stave off those negative emotions for just a little bit longer.

Conversely, spending intentionally and authentically not only feels amazing, but also gives you more money to spend on what is important to you. You’ll spend less on all the other junk, and that too will make you feel better.

Now that we’re in a new year, maybe it’s time to reassess what you’re spending, and do a reset.

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