Thoughts on My No-Spend Experiment

thoughts on my no-spend experiment

On a complete whim at the beginning of February, I decided to try a new method for controlling unnecessary purchases. With the holidays behind us and the credit cards paid off, I was feeling particularly mindful of my spending and wanted to experiment with not buying what I wanted immediately. I'm really not a big shopper and would consider myself pretty disciplined about not buying things I don't need, but I certainly have my weaknesses. The Dollar Spot at Target is one of them. Lord help me if they have organizing baskets / bins / trays in pretty colors. Nail polish and lip balm are another. Random checkout line purchases were finding their way in my cart too - beverages, a Kind bar, a Hot Wheels car for Parker. That little stuff adds up.

While most "no-spend" devotees are much more hardcore than I am, all I wanted to curb was the random thoughtless purchases. I attempted to do that by doing two things in February :

1. Stay out of the stores that tempt me. I did go to Target at the beginning of the month to get a birthday gift and some other household essentials, but afterward when anything else came up, I just added it to my grocery store list for my next visit. After getting Morgan's Valentine's card supplies in early February, I also didn't go to any craft stores or my local scrapbook store.

2. Keep a list of the things I felt an urge to buy - a 'wish list' if you will. In my journal, I devoted a couple of pages to record anything and everything I wanted to buy, along with the date. Everything from random drinks to cute scrapbooking supplies to spring clothes and new workout shoes. My thought was that by writing them down, I'd see just how frequently I'm tempted to spend money. And what I wanted to spend it on. If the desire was still strong at the beginning of March, then I could make the purchase. Things that I didn't count were my occasional trips to Starbucks and 2 Kindle purchases, because I was using gift cards.

So, how did I do? Great! But not perfect. Week after week I talk myself out of buying a 12-pack of pop because I don't want it in the house, but keeping a single bottle out of my basket is hard. Staying out of my favorite stores entirely was the best idea. I allowed my shopping list to grow a little longer than normal and took the time for one longer trip instead of 3+ "quick" trips. Plus, when I finally stepped into Target last week with my list, I happily stuck to it. During the experiment, I found it was worth spending a little more for things like dishwashing detergent at the grocery store because it kept me from browsing through the non-essentials elsewhere.

I also created a spring wardrobe board on Pinterest to keep track of what clothes I had my eye on. Even though sales come and go, I had to use a bit of restraint to just pin it, rather than add it to my cart. Seeing everything on one screen now will also be super helpful in creating outfits, and in preventing too many black t-shirt purchases when I start refilling my closet this month.

Writing a wish list really opened my eyes to what I want versus what I need. What may be interesting in the future is to also write down my mood when I'm feeling tempted to buy. Feeling sad or bored are likely my triggers to spend money. The desire had faded on at least 2/3 of the stuff I had written down, but I was still giddy with excitement over the rest so I did snag a few things from my list once March 1st rolled around. Overall, it was a very worthwhile experiment that I can see myself doing again when I feel like my unnecessary spending needs to be tamed.