My husband hit the nail on the head the other day when he said, “It’s no wonder people have trouble saving money. Look at all the stores where you can spend it!”
We were driving through a shopping district in our city when he made that pronouncement. Shops lined both side of the street, sometimes several deep so they could make the best use of the shared parking. Freshly painted stores and brightly designed window displays beckoned. Indeed, it is amazing we are able to save any money at all with all the temptations facing us.
This is the time, however, when many people don’t have a choice but to save their extra money. Will there be a job tomorrow? Will there be more layoffs in the future? We are scared and even the diehard spendthrift among us is hiding some extra away. But it is difficult to get avoid treating ourselves with a little something as we always have, whether it’s just a lipstick, a pair of pants or a golf driver. After a period of tucking the extra money away, the self-satisfaction of watching the savings grow tends to thin and we just want a treat.
Several people have shared with me what they do when they just can’t deal with not “treating” themselves. Sometimes it does cost a little money, but the cost seems small as compared to the relief of an indulgence.
Take up a time-consuming hobby: My athletically inclined friend has decided to train for the marathon. There is a cost entailed in this choice however - shoes and the entry fee for the race – but she has discovered that the time she takes to train is time she is not shopping. The miles that she runs to prepare for the race takes up some of the time she would have been online or at a store.
Go shopping by yourself: Another friend has three adorable children, but she leaves them at home with her husband when she does the family’s shopping. Not only is this a little free time for herself without the cost of a babysitter, but the kids tend to lead her off her list and add to the cost of the shopping trip. She saves money and time when she goes by herself.
Shop without the intent to buy: I thought I was the only one who enjoyed shopping online without buying, but I found a friend did too. She likes to shop on her favorite sites and create shopping or wish lists, but never actually complete the sale. She said she finds it gets the shopping urge out without costing anything but some time. Like her, I find that shopping online makes it easier to resist buying an item. My favorite bookstore has an incredible website that is fun to browse and it’s fun to see the latest offerings on the auction sites.
Procrastinate: In a variation of the above, shop for an item you desire, but then wait to buy it. If you still want it after a few weeks, then save and go ahead and get it. However, many times you may find you don’t really care to have it or not.
My father is the champion at this technique and used to drive my mother crazy. He would shop for hours, sometimes days, to compare the cost and value of an item he wanted but inevitably decide he didn’t need that item. He saved a lot of money this way and decided against many items – a fancier lawn mower or a propane grill, for instance – and their quality of life never seemed to suffer.
Add something back? Sometimes you may find that cutting too far back is unnecessary. No one likes living like a savings martyr and it is hard to maintain up for an extended time. My neighbor is an example of that. He was feeling deprived in the rigid savings plan he’d set up for himself and decided his weekly meeting with friends at the local coffee house needed to start again. Sure, there’s the cost of the coffee and pastry, but he values the time with his friends and feels less deprived because of it.
Saving money, especially during difficult times, can be a rewarding experience and having that money for the rainy days can be reassuring. However, it can be hard becoming accustomed to the lifestyle changes that saving money can entail. Be kind to yourself during the transition and find something that is rewarding to you for all that work.