Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Things Not Spending Money In September Has Taught Me

It's September 15 and I'm half way through my self-imposed spending embargo. I cannot take credit for this experiment as I saw a friend do something similar in August. I was intrigued by the challenge to only spend money on what was absolutely necessary - needs versus wants. 2014 has been a year of challenges for me personally, some self-imposed and others thrust upon me. I could not think of a better time to stop and examine how I spend money than now. This exercise in fiscal discipline has taught me two things about myself (and human nature)....

You Can Rationalize Anything defines rationalize as an attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate. Declaring to my family in August that I was not spending money on anything I (or they) did not need in the whole month of September did not elicit much response. I could see the "uh-huh, whatever you're doing works for us" malaise when I told the family over dinner one August evening. It was not until we were standing at an accessories stand a flea market on a Sunday that they truly understood what I'd meant that day. 

There were $1 hair flowers in a bin calling my name. Colors I don't have now and I have tons of colors.  When I refused to buy one, my kids pointed out that hair flowers were part of my wardrobe - my brand. They insisted that I needed those flowers. For about one minute, I considered their input. It was true. I wear hair flowers in my fiery red afro every day - most often matching whatever clothing combination I sport. The flowers were an essential part of my wardrobe and brand. Yet I vowed not to spend money I did not need to spend for the entire month of September. So as great a deal as the flowers were, I passed. 

Like everything else in life, we have to make choices. We have to honor and own our choices. I promised myself I would not spend money and while it would have been easy to justify or rationalize the small purchase, I would have let myself down. There was no room for that - not for a $1 hair flower. Or anything. I made a promise to myself and I cared enough not to rationalize breaking it.

You Can Do Anything

The toughest test of my spending embargo came this past Friday when I went to Geneva for a client meeting. My favorite popcorn shop is there and every time I visit the community, I buy at least $10 worth of popcorn. I, unconsciously, pulled up the the store front on 3rd street and parked my car. Within 10 seconds of putting my car in park, I realized that I could not make that purchase. Ironically, I had not eaten that morning, so my stomach started to growl at the sight of the caramel popcorn through the window and the buttery smell wafting in the air. As quickly as I stopped the car, I started it again and left. I arrived at my meeting where there was fruit, pastries and coffee. 

The rest of the day, I kept playing that moment in front of my favorite snack shop over and over in my head. Had I really resisted my favorite snack? Yes, I had. I'd also ignored all the Puma Friends and Family emails that inundated my inbox this past weekend. I tossed the Gap Outlet coupon that expires September 30. I'd also pushed away my normal "get a jump on Christmas shopping" urges that assaulted me when I was not thinking clearly one evening.  Each day that has passed has proven to me that I can and will complete my challenge to not spend money on "wants" the entire month of September.

You may be shaking your head at the $1 hair flower or the $10 caramel corn stories. But I am here to tell you that being faithful in the small stuff absolutely impacts your ability to be faithful when it really matters. Those small often unconscious purchases are the root of larger spending. And while, I do not have a problem with spending or keeping my budget normally, I've learned in 15 short days that changing my thinking on small things can make a HUGE impact on bigger things. I have not even set foot in Banana Republic Outlet, Gap Outlet, Target or TJMaxx - places where I most often make purchases without even blinking. I am excited to see how this thinking will impact my marriage, my relationships with my kids and my business.

So, I turn to you. What in your life needs your attention? Is it spending? Is it a relationship? A habit?

Where are you rationalizing thoughts/behaviors in your life? How are you letting yourself down? 

What are you not believing about yourself that's holding you back?

Take a moment today and examine your own relationship with choices. It will be worth every minute. In fact, you may find yourself on some sort of "embargo" of your own. October is right around the corner.

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