I found a post on one of my social media sites that really got me thinking. This lady was declaring a 90-day spending moratorium because she realized she had created some real debt issues for her family. It wasn’t the fact that she was sharing this that got me thinking. It was the response to it. I was amazed at how many negative comments she was getting back.
She was asking if anyone wanted to join her in her spending freeze and most of the comments were to the effect of “No way! I’m not about to stop spending. I couldn’t possibly. And besides, I deserve it. Look at how much money my husband spends on _____”.
I thought that was kind of an interesting attitude. Lord knows, I’ve had my ups and downs with money. I’ve been deep in debt more times than I could count, managed to climb back out of it, and end up putting myself right back into it within record time. My mother was quite the shopaholic and I’m sure I come by these tendencies honestly!
But sometimes you have to take a realistic look at the big picture. How does your excessive shopping affect your family? How can it affect your future? Debt is a nasty thing that sneaks up on you bit by bit until suddenly you are in over your head.
I think putting your credit cards in a time-out is a very sensible thing to do. I know when I catch myself going overboard, the first thing I do is switch to cash-only and it turns things right around for me. Spending actual paper money is so much more “real” than handing over a piece of plastic – even a debit card. See my related article Why Paying with Cash Hurts – It’s a Good Thing!
Regardless if you put them in a drawer, freeze them in ice, or hand them to a trusted family member, taking your credit cards out of the picture forces you to get realistic and creative about the things you want. You start asking questions like:
- Do I really need this?
- Can I make it or come up with something similar?
- Can I borrow one from someone? At least to see if I really am going to like it. I wish I’d done that before I bought an iPad. It didn’t do what I wanted to do and it seemed like just a larger version of my smartphone, so I sold it to my son after 6 months.
- How can I save up for it or earn extra money to get it.
- Can I put it off until a time when I have more money? That’s a good strategy because sometimes you’ll forget about it or find something else you want more.
I used to have a rubber stamp/scrapbooking business and it taught me a lot of about women’s spending habits. I would see women buy hundreds of dollars worth of products that I knew perfectly well they were never going to touch. I would see some women hide their purchases from their husband, or split them between cash and credit cards to obscure how much they were spending. They even had shirts printed up that said “My husband lets me buy all the stamps I can HIDE”.
Some women were from the “have to have it all” school of thought – they would automatically buy ink pads or paper in every single color, or buy every accessory that came out in a certain style, even if they couldn’t afford it and probably wouldn’t use half of them. Those situations always used to make me sad. Even if your family is well off, there is a limit to your income and buying things just to make yourself feel good is never a good choice.
I’m pretty good about not doing that kind of “gimme, gimme” shopping, but it’s the little make-ends-meet kind of spending that gets me in trouble. If I don’t have extra cash for a birthday gift or a special dinner out, I’ll charge it, or if it’s the last day or two before payday, I’ll charge some groceries, or a tank of gas. I always think it’s just a little thing and I really do need it, but if I’d been smarter with my cash earlier in the payday, I wouldn’t be in such a tight spot! And those few dollars add up over a month or two…
So, I think it’s time for another round of time-out – for both me and my husband. Even a 30-day no-credit moratorium will help us at least a bit. How ’bout you?