Hi, my name is Jen, and I used to have a major spending problem. No, seriously.
When I was in my early twenties I worked and lived downtown Chicago. More specifically, I worked and lived in the loop, which is like the Mecca of shopping in Chicago. I also had an hour for lunch, and Marshall Fields (RIP) was literally on my way home. This spelled nothing but trouble for me. I had just graduated college and had my first full time job, my first time making more than $10 an hour, and basically no expenses other than a cheap car payment.
I was in law school, so my housing was rolled in with my tuition, which I’m also still paying for *yuck!. I had zero concept of the student loans that were to come and bite me in the butt a few years later, and I certainly had no idea what a savings account was. So there I was, working at a fancy law firm and going shopping on my lunch break to Nordstroms, Coach, and Marshall Fields. I was literally dropping my entire paycheck into fancy handbags, shoes, and overpriced makeup.
I had a serious problem. I really thought that I needed the exclusive new watermelon Coach handbag for $495, the most expensive skin care line from Clinique, the entire new line from Gap sponsored by Sarah Jessica Parker, and oh let’s not forget…Manolo Blahnik shoes. What? Who did I think I was?
This could literally could have been a picture of me sauntering down Michigan Avenue on any given day.
And yes, I purchased some things that were almost as insane as this dress, and wore them while stalking Vince Vaughan during the filming of “The Breakup”. I was also blissfully unaware of the danger of credit cards, another hard lesson I would soon learn.
So how did I come out of this rabbit hole I had so gleefully dived into headfirst? The bills came, and came, and came, and….you get the point.
Halfway into my first year of law school I realized it wasn’t the right career for me. I left my fancy job and took a paraprofessional job making a third of the money I made downtown. I moved back home with my parents and was spending almost my entire paycheck driving to my new job and the bills kept coming.
I picked up a job at the Jewel (a grocery store out here), and was working days teaching, coming home for an hour to nap, and working at the grocery store until 10pm. It was not fun to say the least, but I was finally able to pay my bills. There also was no such thing as Facebook Marketplace or Virtual Garage Sale groups, so I was stuck with listings on eBay that never sold. But I still had the itch to shop, I just didn’t have time anymore.
Then my husband and I got married and I landed a full time job teaching closer to home. We behaved like sailors on shore leave with our newfound riches, something we’re still kicking ourselves over today. We finally got serious when we wanted to buy a house and managed to save up a 10% down payment in two months, see something weird about that? We were literally blowing that much money a month on junk, but when we were motivated we were able to save. Now that I’m not working we are definitely motivated to save each month. I’ll go into how we budgeted for that life changing move another time!
So here are my five tips for kicking the spending habit, or what I do now when I feel that little shopaholic nagging me while I browse online (since I never leave my house, because I have two kids under two, and the mobile one doesn’t like riding in a cart or a stroller…ugh)
- Treat Yo’ Self: Every once in awhile you need to treat yourself if you’ve saved up for it. I know lots of budgeting sites willtell you not to do this, but I think if you have control and are serious about spending, you can handle this kind of freedom. And I’m not talking about a $700 pair of shoes. —> I own these. Yes, they’re beautiful amazing, but I was really stupid. I don’t buy high heels for myself as penance because I will be wearing these until I’m 90.
- Make. A. Budget: I like the everydollar app to track my spending with my bank account linked. I also keep a paper budget in my life planner.
- Cut Up The Cards: Cancel them, cut them up, and snowball that debt and get rid of it. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Don’t open new ones.
- Assess What You Have: Before you decide you have “nothing to wear” and need to go shopping, take a long look at your closet. What is in there that you haven’t tried in awhile? What could you pair that you haven’t tried before? Get creative! When you do get new pieces make sure they are ones that will last, be versatile, and are good quality.
- Avoid the Stores: If you seriously feel compelled to buy something when you go into certain stores it’s this simple: don’t go. There are certain stores I always avoid, as well as websites because it’s just too darn tempting! I usually ask myself how often I would wear or use something, and my conscience usually wins.