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How to break cycle of thrift/spend/thrift/spend?

853 Views 11 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Denvergirlie
This is a bit like the old starvation diet conundrum: eg, you quit chocolate totally for 3 months then you spend the next 2 months gorging on it non-stop.

My problem is, the last 3 months or so we did really, really well at trimming back spending - not going to Target, really questioning every purchase at the grocery store, eating out 50% less. My DH is on board with it etc. So at the end of the month we weren't technically overdrawn (meaning, using our buffer). We didn't have tons over but at least we were even and the buffer was intact.

But then in the last month or so it was my DS birthday, plus all these great sales, plus I have a little baby DD - and I love all the girlie stuff (versus years of boy stuff). So, I have totally overspent. I knew I was doing it at the time but I just didn't care. I felt deprived, and kind of felt like I was depriving DD. Of course she couldn't care less in reality but I care that she gets equal footing with her brother.

Anyway, I digress. This happens a lot. I'll go on a big thrift phase and then follow it with a spending phase. How do you stay thrifty, and still splurge occasionally without completely going nuts/backwards?

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I have some of those same tendencies
. What has been helping me is to continue tracking everything we (I) spend. I just went through everything from last month again and it is a good reminder of my goals vs. my reality.
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: I struggle with this as well. After a while its like I snap from being deprived, kinda like dieting.
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I can totally relate. I think I do it as a reward to myself for "being good" for so long. I haven't really been in a position to spend fun money in a bit, but I think it would help me the next time that I have the urge to set a limit that has been budgeted before hand and then use cash so that once the money is gone, it's gone.
We budget the fun/splurge money in. When it's gone, it's gone, so I am careful to use it wisely!

I also stay out of places where I know I'll be weak, and stay off online sites that will tempt me.
This is something I'm currently really working on. Right now hubby and I are flat broke, we'll make our bills the next few months but barely kind of broke. However, I know that in February we'll have some money coming in again,and I know that a large reason we're broke now is that we misspent. So I'm trying to break the cycle.

For me, I kind of need a time of total deprivation before I can slowly work things into my routine that works. When I had a gd scare, I had to go very low carb, for example. Now that I know how to eat a better diet, and got myself into the routine of doing so, I eat more soundly. I am able to not deprive myself as much but I still see the benefits of this new diet, kwim? I'm hoping to take this time to learn to do the same with finances.

Budgeting in free/fun money seems key to me. I also think deciding, to an extent, how you spend that free money is important as well. For example, come yard sale season I'll be totally allotting some money for that every month and splitting it into fourths for the weekend runs. My hubby and I really love watching movies together, so we're planning Netflix into our budget. Hubs is also big into going out to eat at least once or twice a month, not a huge expense but it definitely adds up, so we will need to be honest about that as well.

I'm also really trying to rein in "mindless spending". I like to yard sale, but I am going to really make myself go with certain things in mind...clothes for the new baby, Christmas and birthday presents, media. I'm going to write a "list" to keep in my pocket with my money, so I can ask myself if I really want this item. Actually I think listmaking in general helps in so many ways. I used to go to the grocery store or other stores with just a general idea in mind, and this month with being diligent about the list, I've saved a lot. Yes, every now and again something will end up in the cart but making a list really helps me think about my priorities. It also really helps that you're not rambling around the store and becoming tempted by more things.
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I think it's like ANY lifestyle change - whether it's your food diet, or you beginning to be more active, or spending less money, etc. ANY change like that will take time. And there will always be times you "fall off the wagon."

But, the important thing is to get back on the wagon. Don't let falling off deter you from trying.

If you feel deprived by not spending money, I suggest replacing spending money with another activity that would make you feel fulfilled. Now, I don't know what that activity could be for you - it really depends on your interests, time, likes, etc.

For instance, I realized that, for me, it's the "thrill of the hunt" in terms of shopping. I love a good bargain.

I replaced this with dumpster diving. Don't laugh now.
It has ALL the thrill of the hunt for me, none of the spending, and I never feel deprived.

I would try and see what you enjoy about shopping, and find something with which to replace it to avoid the feeling of deprivation.
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I work in a reward for myself. Money is really tight for me right now, so there isn't much to spare but I really want the new Harry Potter book. The end of the semester is a week away, and I've really been sticking to my budget the last few weeks so after my last class I'm going to treat myself to the book, an expensive coffee and a few hours of reading time at the bookstore.
I can also totally relate... Although for me, its more like a day to day cycle. One day I do good with having a NSD, and then BOOM I see a good sale on something the next day and all my frugality goes out the door...
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Ask yourself why you DESERVE this or that when you are about to binge.

I think the deprivation leads us to think that there should be some reward at the end of it but in reality we aren't doing anything inherently GOOD by being frugal: it is just necessary so no reward is justified IMHO.

Reward yourself with something that doesn't cost money and try to wean yourself off material rewards for just having got through another day.

Sorry to be harsh but I feel that the world would be better if everyone didn't think that they deserved stuff and just had to have it. Three years of not going shopping as a leisure activity but only out of dire necessity or for food has made me very aware of the fact that most people are buying things not out of need but out of want.

Our shops are full of stuff and there are thousands of people in any town buying this stuff and taking it home to add to the stuff they already have. The thrift shops are full of stuff that no-one wants but is perfectly usable. The kerbside on bin day is stacked with things that could be re-used or recycled or just given away. Is this crazy? I am beginning to think so.
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What happens for me is that if I make a commitment to not spend say for a period of time (such as the monthly no-spend challenges), I end up still wanting to purchase the things I didn't buy for that month. So I don't do those. There is nothing magical about December 1 to December 31, kwim? I could still overspend on November 30 and January 1, negating any benefit from not spending during December. So, I follow a budget, and spend 'regularly' within my means rather than trying not to spend that money on certain dates. To me, trying to spend nothing on "unnecessary things" for specified periods of time can just mean delaying buying things. I'm not committed to cutting out all extras. We are fortunate to be able to afford them, so I budget for them and spend on them regularly.
Do you have goals you are working towards?

For us, we want to have a FFEF with 6 months of expenses and then save money to buy a house.

We've had some issues with this just recently, just the last few months we haven't saved anything; We traveled "home" for Thanksgiving and then made a $700 dollar purchase that we've always wanted but felt our hands were tipped to make the purchase now. Now we *want* a flat screen TV.... arg.

I try hanging out in places like this and other "frugal" boards to help reign in the spending. For the TV issue we are not making the move now, but have decieded to put it into the budget to save for.

Helping me along with this is the state of the current economy. Does take out thai food taste great? Yes, but my company just had several layoffs and we don't have much work lined up for 2009 yet, so I feel the need to save more than anytime in my past.

For needed splurges on shopping, that can be taken out with a trip to the thrift store. Sometimes I don't even buy anything but the looking can be enough to satify myself.

Another poster mentioned dumpster diving, yep that is fun too! Other than the gas to drive around town it's a free activity and we come home with a truck load of stuff. Sometimes, that shear amount of stuff will become overwhelming in and of itself.

Dinner out can be replaced with a cup of coffee or a shared desert out. Meal planning in advance seems to help with this as well.

I am also trying to simply all the stuff we already have, it's proving to be much harder than I thought it would, but I am more aware of the stuff I bring into the house.

Good Luck
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