I love to shop, actually. I love the hunt. I like feeling good in what I’m wearing and I like my house to be cozy and decorated.
This often surprises people. They assume because I am a money coach I should be frugal or a minimalist. But I’m neither of those things.
If I had to boil everything I try to live by into one word, it’s intention.
Bringing intention and awareness to your money has side effects beyond paying off the debt and feeling financially secure, it can change the way you physically feel.
I know, because I was just reminded of it last week.
I finally hired a babysitter for a handful of hours per week after much internal debate on the added expense. On her first afternoon, I found myself with three hours to fill. Bliss! Freedom! I decided to go shopping, have a little fun and head over to TJ Maxx.
I wandered the aisles at TJ Maxx (my old favorite stomping grounds) tried on a couple tops and pursued the kids clothing.
Then something funny happened.
I realized I felt foggy, drained and disconnected. I just wanted out of there, and I really didn’t want to buy anything in my cart.
My body was sending me a message. I had come into the afternoon with a lot of energy, what happened?
I preach spending in alignment with your values, and cutting the rest. Lately, my priorities are trying to buy local, good quality all natural products as much as possible. That afternoon, my body was giving me the reminder I needed that this stuff in my cart with was none of the above. In addition to that, I was about to casually drop $75 on “stuff” after agonizing over the $35 babysitter.
I know my priorities. I actively try to live them every day and these spending conflicts STILL arise in my life. The experience was the perfect reminder of two very important money lessons:
Intentional spending is a practice
Your old habits and tendencies are never gone for good. They will continue to creep up throughout your life. The goal is to catch yourself falling into your old habits faster (by watching your numbers and other tell-tale signs like above). I have come a long way from my shopping binges in my twenties but I still have work to do, and I always will. Values, habits and budgets shift over time which requires constant attention and tweaking. Where does your spending need to shift to better align with your priorities?
Value your time
I agonized over the fact that I was getting a babysitter, what I considered a luxury, when the cost was half of the junk I was about to buy “for fun”. It’s laughable when laid out like that! But we all have internalized habits of what is ok to spend on and what isn’t that we live out every day. Where are you participating in spending that doesn’t matter to you out of habit? Where could that money be better spent?
I unloaded my cart and put every item back where I found it. Instead of shopping, I took myself to a grungy little coffee shop downtown and worked on my business. I had a blissfully productive time and booked the babysitter for the following week.
The next time I want to shop and my budget allows, I will.
But I will plan to go shop for something I need or go to stores that have the kinds of items that are aligned with my current priorities. And I will re-engage myself in the evaluation of the cost of my time, and what it means to me. These reminders are priceless, because they keep me on the right path to aligning my spending to my values. (And in a nutshell, the babysitter was the best investment of all ? )