How To Stop Mindless Shopping

Examining why we shop online for things we don’t need, with some practical solutions to stop the mindless spending.

People go shopping for a lot of reasons…they are bored, they believed some wacky advertising, or, often, they really do need something. I am talking here specifically about mindless shopping for wants.  

I can be very, very bad about constantly getting myself my wants. I convince myself that buying this one more thing would complete my (house, garden, wardrobe, etc.) and then I won’t need to buy anything else. In a way, I think to myself, I will be saving money buying X, because it is the last X I’ll ever need.

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Frugality and Consumerism Are Not Opposites

If I have any readers with any actual knowledge of economics, please feel free to correct me on anything here.

There are *certain people* in my extended family who love to give financial advice. It basically is to live as cheaply as possible, save every penny, and invest it. Eventually, you will be rich, if you are still alive, and then you’ll be happy. Because buying things doesn’t make you happy. Only having a lot of money that you don’t spend makes you happy.

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A Realistic Grocery Budget

When I first started staying home, I was given an “allowance” of $80 per week to use on groceries, and I was able to keep the rest.  This was easier than it sounds, because most of our shopping was done at Costco, which did not come out of the allowance. We went as a family to Costco almost every week, got our meat, produce, and and dairy products. The allowance was used on little stuff needed throughout the week.

It worked when we were a family of two plus nursing baby. I was able to keep within the budget and have a little spending money to keep. I spent all my extra money going to Panera and Chipotle. Those were the days.

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Then, the changes began. The baby grew into an eating person. Another baby arrived. We cut our Costco trip to once a month. A third baby came. I stopped couponing.  And somehow my budget has stayed the same. I have, predictably, gone over every single month for years. So I charge things to our shared credit card, and get interrogated about it. I would use birthday and Christmas money from my parents to buy groceries, just to avoid the questions.

Obviously this is not working.

I am trying to find a workable number I can stick to, taking away the whole “allowance” aspect. (I have gotten my frivolous spending under control after years of having basically no spending money. If there is something I would like that seems like a silly luxury, I will just put in on a list to ask for as a gift.)

So…I am thinking $100 per week for my weekly trip, plus a monthly Costco visit of about $200? This comes out to $150 a week. When I look up the average for a family my size, this still seems pretty low, considering it includes paper goods, laundry stuff, cleaning supplies, and the whims of five picky eaters.

But, maybe it should be more than enough? It is $600 a month all together.

Plus it does not include the cost of starting or maintaining the garden, which gives us a lot of produce. It does not include the cost of feeding the chickens, which give us eggs. So those are free inputs for me. I also order diapers and wipes, Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and dish soap, and expensive skin care using our Amazon account, which does not come out of my budget. Also we tend to either go out or get takeout once a week. Again…not out of my budget.

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$100 per week for my weekly trip will still require some changes, because I go over that most weeks.

I already meal plan and cook from scratch. It is chicken and ground beef constantly. I  haven’t bought anything organic in years. I don’t feel that there are that many ways to cut back.

But then I think about the snacks and the treats.

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Some changes I can make to keep to $600 per month.

1. No chips for the children. My oldest doesnt like normal snack food. So like an idiot, I have been buying her potato chips. Then the others want some too. No more. Easy one.

2. Less out of season fruit. These kids eat berries almost every day, all year. Not affordable, or necessary. Apples, little dears. Grapes. Whatever is on sale. I won’t force bananas on them because they are disgusting.

3. A hard one for me… cutting back on Chobani Flips. I will only have one a day, and only get them when they are a dollar. I have been eating 2 or 3 a day.  Spending $80 a month on one person’s yogurt habit seems…totally nuts.

4. The biggest one… waste less food. We throw out quite a bit. Leftovers will need to be eaten. I am always throwing out lettuce. Need to find a way to fix that. Going to try this method.

5. Grow more potatoes. They are kind of expensive at the store, and actually filling, unlike peppers, tomatoes, and um…sunflowers.

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I will not compromise on Boar’s Head deli meat, delicious seasonal beer, or King Arthur brand flour. Certain things are just necessary.

Is this actually a really large budget and I am bring ridiculous? I mean it’s $600 a month, which sounds like a lot! Or is it too low and should I bump it up and eat berries with abandon? And why doesn’t my oldest child eat Goldfish?!

Do you have a grocery budget? Do you stick to it? Does your husband pester you about it? Help me!

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Spring Wreath Conundrum

The hardest part of saving money is that I continue to want things.  All the time. This time, it was a wreath for above the fireplace. Specifically, this one, from Frontgate:

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It is $149 for the thirty inch version. Of course I wanted the big version, we have ten foot ceilings and the proportions would be right. I was feeling very snobby about artificial flowers and figured an arrangement of dried herbs and flowers would be tasteful.

So I asked for it for Mother’s Day, and was told to go ahead and order it. I just could not actually bring myself to do it. It was too silly.  And then I learned that it would only last a year, or two if I were lucky.  Nope.  Not paying what amounts to over $10/month for a stupid wreath. I continued to stare at my mantel, which really needed a focal point.  Poor me.  We have a lot of beautiful, original art that Matt’s grandmother painted, but he did not want to hang a picture above it because it would require drilling into the stone.

Then, in my basement of horrors, I found this thing that I made probably six years ago. I’m sure at the time I thought it was beautiful. It is only 22 inches is diameter, but there is was, unused. I had even been wanting some more red accents in the house.

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It takes a special kind of skill to take a blurry photo of a stationary object.

So I took off the ribbons and flowers, and put them up with my wrapping paper to decorate presents.  I wired on dried cornflowers that were hanging in the mudroom. The old me would have run to the craft store for more tasteful fake flowers, but instead I pulled apart what I had and added tiny sprigs here and there.

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So it is done. It is small, and hardly noticeable because the flowers on it are so tiny.  No one has hung up a hook in the stone yet, and I am not going to ask.  So there is sits.

In the summer I will have statice and celosia from the garden, which both dry very well and will add a lot of life and color.  My sage is getting big, and I think that might look pretty too.  And in the late autumn I can just rip off the old dried flowers and start wiring on holly and ivy.  One less thing purchased, one less thing in the basement, and all throughout garden season I can have bundles of things drying in the mudroom.

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Very…shall we say… subtle.  But it is free, and good enough.  And instead of feeling yucky about spending a bunch of money on something stupid and disposable, I feel good about using what I have.  Happy Mother’s Day to me!

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