Making Progress

I’ve been writing about changing my attitude toward money for years now–so many attempted shopping bans and failed budget months! It is not something that I have been able to embrace wholeheartedly enough to change my ways.

It’s very much been three steps forward, two steps back. (Sometimes three or four steps back.) I feel like a yo-yo dieter of finance.

But I am beginning to think that maybe all those single steps forward have actually gotten me somewhere. Last month was really busy, really stressful, and really emotional. When that combination rears its ugly head, my first instinct is to start spending. And that instinct is strong.

For the first two weeks of April I was on a spending freeze because I wanted to keep that month’s credit card bill low. So I didn’t buy anything during those weeks except a new pair of glasses (which I thought I could pay for when I actually picked them up in the second half of April, but instead had to pay for when I ordered them in the first half of April). It’s a good thing I did that too, because that month’s bill still ended up being pretty high.

I was anticipating a shopping spree once the 17th rolled around, but to my surprise I kind of forgot about it. And when I did realize I could buy some stuff again, all I did was pay for my program in Ecuador and purchase a subscription for a really amazing Spanish site that I will use to study over the next six months. All the others stuff I had on my “list,” is still sitting there. I even filled up a cart on (during a 40% off everything sale) and just left it because … well I’m not really sure why. I just didn’t feel compelled to press “spend.”

I just clicked to this post from the Vans website, where I’ve been eyeing a new pair of slip-ons for a over two months. I need a pair for summer, as the tips of my Toms get destroyed on the bike and Vans have a high rubber sole that protects them from the asphalt. The ones I have are ripping and won’t last through the end of the school year. But the thing is, the end of the school year is still 7 weeks away, so I don’t really have to get them now. And it looks like I’m not. (I know, I’m as surprised as you are.)

I recently experimented with my first expensive skin care, asking for a few things for Christmas. Now they are mostly out. The regular (without SPF) lotion I used to use on my face at night is no longer sold at Kaiser’s pharmacy, so I was looking around for a new night lotion. In the end I had $100 worth of skin care in my cart at a different pricey (but not as pricey) place , but the idea of spending that on skin care felt silly. I’m still relatively young and I don’t need something yet to keep the wrinkles away (even if it is all natural and gets a top score on EWG’s skin care database). I went back to am.azon to find something cheaper and finally remembered I could see if they carried the lotion that Kaiser stopped stocking, and low and behold, they did! (Why was this a surprise?! They have EVERTHING!) And I bought it. A giant bottle for $14, and it’s exactly what I wanted. When the last of my expensive face wash is out I’m just going to go back to Cetaphyl. It still works fine.

In the past I would have jumped at the opportunity to try a new skin care regimen when my old stuff was out, or buy new shoes when an old pair was ripped. Now I just feel annoyed that I have to spend the money.

There is another pair of shoes I like, but they are high tops and I have a feeling I won’t love actually wearing them. I’m a slip-ons kind of girl, and these shoes don’t go with everything… so, unless they go on sale (big time) I’m not getting them (and maybe not even then). I finally recognize that sometimes I like something a lot more in theory than in practice. It’s nice to know I’ve actually learned something from the hundreds of poor shopping choices I’ve made over the years — all the shoes and clothes I’ve ended up giving to friends after barely wearing them.

The kids recently got really interested in Lego Star Wars and instead of buying the digital copies off Amazon, I hit up a few libraries and we checked out every episode that exists. Sure one disc didn’t play and we had to check out another copy, but it’s a small inconvenience to deal with when we got to see them all for free. If we want to watch them again some time, the library will still have them.

These are big differences for me. I don’t think my parents ever checked out a movie or CD once when we were young. You BOUGHT that stuff. My dad probably has thousands of CDs and LPs at home. The largest room of their (very large house) is dedicated to his music collection. I used to have a sizeable collection myself. I shudder at the thought of the hundreds of CDs and DVDs I gave away when I first embraced minimalism. Sure I kept some key kids movies I loved (ahem, the entire Harry Potter series) but that is about it. I haven’t regretted jettisoning any of them. And anything else we need I can rent from the library, or wait for it to show up on a streaming service.

I know these are obvious choices for most people, but they weren’t always for me. This past month has offered the real possibility of a fundamental change in my attitude toward spending money. It’s not about finally having the will power to make myself stop spending, but not want to spend in the first place.

If this attitude is here to stick around, I might just be able to take my kids abroad next summer. I may actually be able to afford my first dream trip with them in a year! If that trip isn’t incentive enough to maintain this attitude, nothing will be.


  1. Yay! I’m impressed.

    On another note: I’d love to improve my Spanish. What’s the subscription site you mentioned? Thanks so much!

  2. Hurrah for you!!!! Little steps, repeated; we do make progress. And, yes, we regress also, but we still change in tiny increments. Sounds like you are feeling much better at the beginning of this week than last. Happiness! May also help that we had such a lovely weather weekend!
    Good wishes for a wonderful week for all!

  3. I’m so glad you are recognizing the progress you’ve made. I’ve found the same thing with…basically all the long-term habits I’m trying to change. 1 step forward, 2 steps back, then 2 steps forward, one back, then 3 forward, 2 back etc… But incrementally over the years making slow forward progress.

    1. I just listened to an episode of The Minimalists podcast that had some great tips around spending and the rush associated with it at the end, last 10 minutes or so (in addition to the whole discussion of criticism which is always valuable for me since I’m both a terrible self-critic and struggle with accepting criticism without beating myself up about it).

  4. That’s great!

    Ha, those anti-aging by products creep up on you…in my early 30s, I added night moisturizer (in retrospect should have added earlier), then came eye cream, then serum…now I’m trying out an anti-wrinkle concentrate. My kids will thank me when they’re older. I wish my parents had slathered me with sunscreen every day. Back when I was a kid we had SPF 4 (!) and 8 if we were really serious. I have myself to blame for lying in the sun in my late teens/early 20s….at least I swore it off at age 23…

  5. Good for you!! Libraries are the best. Dvds are annoying to store and to me it’s a reward in itself to not have them lying around or occupying closet space.

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