This is an embarrassing post for me to write…especially since I originally had thought my first year of financially focused simplicity and minimalism had gone so well. I have gotten rid of probably a third of our possessions, however…here is my confession…we have spent an average of $492 per MONTH ordering from Amazon.com for the last 14 months. Thanks to my accounting program, we can view how many purchases have been made at any given store for as far back as we want to go, which means we’ve made 264 total purchases in the past year at Amazon.com. Thanks to Amazon, I can also see that we have placed a whopping 94 separate orders with them in 2013. It doesn’t help that we have free 2 day shipping, making it way too easy to get what we want pretty much right when we want it… What have we been buying???? Well, here is a quick breakdown-
-Books, books and more books…books in print, books on the Kindle, books for the kids, books for my business, books on how to get rid of books!
-Gifts. This may seem to be a nice thing to spend money on, but, really, we’ve just been adding to other people’s consumerism and clutter.
-Toiletries. I didn’t realize how many products I have ‘tried’ out simply because it was so easy to add them to my online cart along with the other things I ‘needed’. New electric toothbrushes, makeup, different essential oils and facial lotions, aromatherapy neck pillows and more.
-Random stuff. How about some pretty floral cupcake liners? A vinyl-kicking mitt for the boys? Or wait, that Jillian Michael’s Yoga Meltdown DVD and football money bank seem really essential…Those are just a few of the random things I purchased this year, and, as a side note, none of the above are currently being used.
So, now that I’ve gotten this horrible confession out of the way, I’m going to tell you how I am going to NOT do this in 2014.
Simplifying Our Budget
Over the years, my husband and I have tried many methods to track our expenses, but most of them have ended up too time consuming, and let’s face it, most of us spend our money on what we want versus what we ‘should’ spend it on. We’ve tried the envelope method, apps, Mint and QuickBooks and a plethora of other programs. Usually, we start by allocating X amount of money to a certain category, be it food, clothing, household items, etc. But, by the middle of the month, we decide we want to go out to eat yet again, but we don’t have any more money in that category. We do have an extra $20 in clothing that we haven’t spent though, so, let’s use that! By the end of the month, we have really just spent the money on what we want by shifting money from category to category. Maybe we are just bad at money management, but I know quite a few people who operate the same way, so I’m thinking it might be more common than not. That’s why this year we are simplifying our budget. No more categories, we pay our set bills, and the rest is going into one big ‘pot’. The ‘pot’ consists of all our expenses that are variable, the ones that can change from month to month, the areas we trim down first if we need to save money. Doing this will help us see the bigger picture of how much we are spending each month as we separate our expenses into just two categories, ‘set bills’ and ‘everything else’. Our set bills will include set expenses like rent, utilities, car payments, insurance and healthcare costs. Our ‘pot’ will include all variable expenses, including groceries, household items, toiletries, clothing, gifts, etc. For me personally, having everything in one category will help me be more mindful of what I am purchasing, since I will want to make sure I have enough for groceries and toilet paper for the whole month.
Simplifying our budget will help, but, along with that, we have to minimize our purchases.
When I was a kid, we had no Internet, and I lived 22 miles out of the nearest town. My mom had one shopping day per week, if that. Most of the time she tried to stretch it to every two weeks to save gas. If I wanted something, I had a good amount of time to think it over before even having the option of buying it. There was no point and click purchasing options. I think that served me well, and I’m glad I grew up that way, but that way of life is gone. Our children will never know that kind of lifestyle with the ability to buy things instantly from pretty much anywhere you are in the world. But, we can intentionally teach them the mentality of waiting. Wait and see if you really need, or even want something. That is my one-year long intention for 2014, to re-teach myself the ‘waiting’ before making a purchase. In 2014, I am committing to only making purchases in the following ways-
1 shopping day per week at in-person stores. That means once every 7 days, I can purchase groceries, household items, clothing or whatever else I have on my list, if I forget to get it, or it’s not on the list, then I can’t buy it until my next shopping trip 7 days later.
1 online shopping day per month. Amazon is only going to get 12 orders from me in 2014. I know, that is a drastic change, one that I’m not totally sure I can pull off, but I’m going to try my hardest. I have already created a monthly ‘Wish List’, so I can put everything in there and think about it until my shopping day. I am going to place all my orders on the 5th of each month, and anything I forget has to wait until the following month. Yes, that means I am going to have to plan a lot more for birthday gifts, Christmas purchases and other items, but, my shopping will be much more intentional.
I am excited to start a more intentional year of purchases and financial mindfulness. I know it will be difficult, and it helps immensely to have my husband on board with the process as well. In 2013, I was able to learn to let go of my attachment to many of my belongings however, I have been unintentionally replacing them with new purchases. This coming year, I am going to continue the process of living more intentionally and mindfully with a focus on financial restraint.