In January of 2010, I spent over $500 in Starbucks runs and shopping trips.
I share this only to provide a baseline for comparison so that as I go forward with my Fincial resolution I know where I started. And I also share it because when I saw those numbers I was genuinely shocked.
The shopping numbers are mostly for trips to places like Target, where I usually buy 'necessities' like paper towels, diapers, and milk in addition to buying 'fun items' like clothes for myself and hubby and kids, books, and house items. Because I have 2 kids, I usually try to condense shopping trips into as few stores as possible which not only means I might be spending more money than if I shopped around and also means I can't easily separate the 'necessary' from the 'fun'. But going forward I'm hopeful that will come out in the wash. I'm not 100% swearing off Target, but whether it's just necessary items that can't be purchased second hand or a mix of those and some item I don't really need but cave and buy I will count all those purchases to track how I'm doing. Ultimately, the numbers I listed above should be significantly lower in January of 2011 than they were in 2010.
My goals are sort of nebulous, but a conversation last week led me to realize they need to be more solid. I want to pay down debt. I want to spend less. I want to consume less 'stuff' just because I happen to be at Target (or wherever, but let's be honest and just admit Target is my Achille's heel) and a sweater is cute and on the 50% off rack. I want to repurpose, reuse, donate the things we don't use and/or need, and stop buying things on impulse because they seem like a good deal. After all, items on the red tag racks are only a good deal if I need them.
One thing I want to mention is this: the best bargain hunters recognize that thrift isn't always the cheap way to go. I might be able to find shirts for my kids at Goodwill that are cute and in almost-new condition for $2-3 each, but sometimes I can find brand new shirts at places like Target on clearance for less. Since I shop both places regularly, I'm relying on my ability to decipher a good deal (one that second-hand can't beat) from one that only appears to be, and may end up buying new in those cases because in the end it's the better spend.
I mentioned before that my goal is to thrift my way through the year, buying second hand when possible, but what I didn't really mention is that the other piece of that is not buying what we don't need. I have laid some groundrules for myself, which may change here and there, but are going to be the foundation for how I will take on this challenge of self-awareness and restraint:
Ok to Purchase New:
- toiletries including diapers and wipes
- gifts for birthdays and other celebrations
- coffees for work and with friends on occassion
- some clothes (underwear and socks, I'm looking at you) (special event items too)
- home and car repair and updates (paint, new tires for cars, tools, etc. IF we can't borrow them from someone)
OK to Thrift:
- household items
- everything else!
We already got a jump start on this from both sets of parents. My in-laws very kindly purchased a new bed for Rohan, a new mattress for Luca, and bedding for both. But both kids could use nightstands, and I'm not buying either: my mom and my mother in law each handed down old, outdated, super-70s nightstands I'll be fixing up for their rooms. My mom loaned us a small sander, so all we'll need to buy is paint, and there's a chance we have enough leftover in the garage from various projects that we won't even need to buy that.
I'm sure other things are going to come up as I go along, and I'll have to decide how to handle those situations. But I figure if I can cut my spending in the coffee and shopping categories this year by even 50% per month (again, assuming we WILL shop just not all retail prices and sometimes the necessary and the fun will be merged too well to tell which is which) we could save several thousand dollars in a year. And that's just in those categories.
And speaking of nebulous plans and goals as I mentioned above, that money will be added back into my budget as it accrues, with about half going to paying down debts and the other half going to savings and projects around the house that involve and upfront investement.
For January, to make it more concrete, my goal is this: to spend $250 less this January than I did in January 2010.
Wish me luck!