How I broke free from America’s most common addiction: Spending

Break the cycle

Whether you realize it or not every time a purchase is made you get a little rush and a small amount of endorphins are released. According to my friends, I am very frugal and my family and I have a budget that we stick to. I didn’t think I had a problem with spending and I definitely didn’t think I had an addiction.

We recently traveled out of town to visit my in-laws for Christmas. During the trip it was rainy most of the days we were there, and being with family I was rarely online. I spent most of the days socializing or building puzzles. We then flew to my parents for the New Year. It was then that my husband said something that opened my eyes. He said, “Wow, it’s so weird not seeing any pending transactions for the credit card on our budgeting app.” That’s when it hit me that I spend so often that rarely does a day go by that there aren’t new charges on the credit card. A coffee here, groceries there, and Amazon supplies there. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Nothing that anyone would fault me for but it’s constant. Realizing this, I decided to go one month without spending a thing except for three scheduled grocery runs. It seemed simple. I decided to do it without much thought and told my husband my plans. He quickly agreed it was a good idea.

Day one: I thought, oh I want to buy another SD card for the camera. It will have to wait till next month, wow. OK .

One hour later:I wanted to look at something else to buy online. I had to tell myself to get my mind off of it. Instead, I would focus on getting outside to work toward my New Years resolution of one self propelled mile a day (of which I’m failing pretty badly). I drove to a favorite hiking spot and found that it was closed due to snow. Then I decided to walk around the town square instead. It was sunny and beautiful and my two year old loved the freedom to run around while basking in the attention from doting strangers. After about fifteen minutes, I thought, oh how nice would a cup of coffee be? I don’t usually have more than two cups of coffee in the morning and this morning I had already had two. Then I remembered that a coffee shop with a two year old and a 6 month old is not especially fun or safe for the trendy little breakables that seem to be everywhere. At this moment, the second shoe dropped. I realized that I couldn’t just enjoy time with my kids without feeling a constant need or subconscious desire to spend just a little money somewhere. I would always try to get the cheapest drink and still feel a little guilty about it, but it was there. A need for something new, a need to spend.

The fix for me was spending every other month, (groceries not included). So, one month I would spend and make purchases as needed but not excessively. The next month I would make it a goal to not spend on anything large or small unless absolutely essential. I made no other change, and special exceptions were permitted. This simple tip helped me to value the things I truly enjoy most. I love being outside, working in the garden, hiking with my family, and spending time with our family and friends. Since discovering this fix, I find myself doing more intentional things with the people I want to be with. It has changed everything and has made me feel more in control of my finances, my time, and my thoughts. Each month, I make a list of all the things I want to do and focus on things that will make me the happiest. More and more these things are free and not attached to spending at all.

I am not suggesting that this will work for everyone and I can understand the difficulty of trying to get through even one day or week for some. I am only sharing my personal experience and the fresh richness this spend-free hack has brought to my life in hopes that others can benefit as well. Although it may seem daunting I would suggest starting with one spend free day a week, and gradually build up to a week or a month. At the very minimum, you can benefit from just being more conscious to the trap of spending instead of actually doing something you enjoy.

Oh and your bank account will feel happier too.

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