Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Confessions of a (Recovering) Shopaholic

Happy Wednesday everyone!  I hope that your week has gone well so far and you have exciting plans for the weekend.  Maybe a little Christmas shopping is on your to-do list.  I love shopping but I'm extra careful these days as I'm a recovering shopaholic.  It all started with a Mom who only bought clothes for us if it came from the sale rack and a school that was supersaturated with students that had expensive tastes and expendable incomes.  I too had an expendable income from babysitting and was allowed to use the money I made however I pleased.  Having learned from my Mom the value in sales but had the desire from my peers for designer labels, I would search sale racks finding trendy clothes for a fraction of the original cost.  It never mattered to me that I was spending all my pennies as long as I spent less than the original price.  And I was as happy as a clam in my money spending ways until I fell in love with a wonderful man who is much more fiscally responsible than myself.  Yes, this is my husband, the man who will proudly ask anyone the question, 'Who is cheap and has two thumbs?" and then excitedly point his thumbs to his chest saying, "This guy!"

When we became engaged and started talking about our finances is when I realized that my retail therapy days were about to end.  I had a significant amount of student loans which I genuinely needed to take as medical school is an expensive professional program.  And while I didn't go out and buy a Mercedes with my professional student line of credit, (yes, sadly some medical students do this), I had debt and therefore any extra money should be applied to basic costs of living (and no, a new pair of shoes just because I've been invited to a wedding and want something new does not count) or paying off debt.

Now, don't get me wrong.  My husband has in no way imprisoned me by freezing my credit card in a giant cube of ice in the freezer.  He has definitely kept us financially afloat by modelling practical spending behaviours and accepting the truth that right now, we live in a season where we can't have a lot of 'extras.'  Even though it's not easy, I've tried exceptionally hard to trim my extra spending in order to be a good financial team player instead of skimming from our bank accounts for the sake of my indulgences.

The purpose of this post is not for you to feel sorry for me but instead, I wanted to share with you some real life examples of ways I'm cutting down on my spending but am still enjoying life and living well.

1.  Starbucks at Home:  I no longer go to coffee shops to curb my spontaneous coffee cravings.  Instead, I found the same type of espresso machine Starbucks used to sell for making their signature lattes on Craigslist, bought it for $70 (normally retails for about $1000), got it fixed up for another $100, bought espresso coffee beans from Starbucks, and now make my husband and I as many lattes as we want at a fraction of the cost.

This is 'Maggie the Magnifica'
Our Espresso Machine

2. Crush the Munchies:  I'm one of those people who will eat and then about 15 minutes later, will feel I need a snack.  It just so happens that these 'snack attacks' are when I'm around bakeries, chocolate shops, etc.  So I do two things before I leave the house.  The first is I have a breakfast with protein in it as it takes the body more time to digest protein and will help you feel full for longer.  Some quick protein breakfast items include things like scrambled eggs, cheese, yogurt, or even a spoonful of peanut butter.  The second thing I do is I pack a snack high in complex carbohydrates and proteins (like a protein bar) with me so that if I get hungry, I can eat my snack instead of buying something more expensive and less filling.

3.  Fun can be Free:  There are many activities you can do around your city for free and by getting out of the house, it will make you feel like you're really treating yourself!  I used to live in Edmonton, Alberta and loved to visit the Art Gallery of Alberta.  On the last Thursday of every month, they have free admission between 6-9 pm so I planned a night on the town with some of my friends and had a great time.

Smiles are Fun
(and free at Zakkushi's in Vancouver) 

4.  Grow Cash instead of Cobwebs:  People often have closets full of clothes they never wear but if they're in good condition, you can consign them.  That way, you're helping someone else who will wear them and you can make a little extra money which is nice to have.  If some of the items are not accepted for consignment, donate them to Goodwill or a local Church.

5.  Have a Garage Sale:    Garage sales are great places to find deals but are also a wonderful option for selling items that you no longer need or want.

6.  Piece of Cake:  I have an app on my phone called 'Cake Deals' which lists all of the discounts from Groupon, Living Social, Mad Deal, etc. in your area on one page so you don't have to receive hundreds of e-mails from each company.  Also, the key with deals like Groupon is that you have to commit to using them before you buy them...otherwise you're just wasting money.

7.  DIY Style:  There are hundreds of websites with awesome DIY projects for around the home, clothing, crafts, you name it!  One of my all time favourite DIY sites is Pinterest.  I've gathered some great ideas from there and it was completely free!  Since retail therapy used to be my favorite way to fight off the blues, through Pinterest, I've found other ways to feel good without spending extra money like making at At Home Spa Treatments with ingredients I already have or can purchase inexpensively at the grocery store.  There are also many fantastic DIY blogs to draw inspiration from that are just a few clicks away.

8.  The Lucky Library:  When was the last time you went to your local library?  Did you know that you can borrow newly released movies there?  A library card is a minimal cost when you compare it to how much you are saving from going out to movies.  I know there's Netflix and iTunes which also don't cost too much but let's be honest, Netflix doesn't have the greatest selection of movie titles in Canada and iTunes can be just as expensive as it was to rent a movie from Blockbuster of Rogers before they went under.  My alternative to the Library is the Redbox at Safeway.  For less than $2, you can rent a newly released movie for a day and can return it to any Safeway that has a Redbox station.  

9.  (Legally) Get Free Music:  Music is like breathing for the soul but collecting all your favourite tracks on iTunes can be hard to swallow.  I recently stumbled across 'NoiseTrade' which allows artists to share their music for free and encourages fans to promote artists through social media.  There is also a 'tip' option when downloading a free sampling of music so you can give back to the artist in ways other than singing their praises on Facebook.  And right now there's a bunch of Christmas music samplers on NoiseTrade like 'Snow Angels' from the group Over The Rhine being my absolute favourite.     

This is a Free Christmas CD from Indie Band
Over The Rhine

10.  Living with Less:  Just because you're in a season of life where the bank account is a little dryer than you'd like doesn't mean that you have to live in a cardboard box and eat Kraft Dinner every night.  My husband and I live well, (we decided to forgo renting a two bedroom condo and instead live in a new, one bedroom condo unit that although is small, is a comfortable size for us)  eat well, (the other night we made a Julia Child chicken recipe with a port wine mushroom cream sauce which tasted divine), and even celebrate well (on Sunday we purchased our first, live Christmas tree together and instead of buying a big tree we wouldn't have enough decorations for anyway, we bought a 4 foot tree for $12 who we affectionately named "Charles" for being a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and love him).  Next time you find yourself wanting something that is big or expensive, just take a moment to ponder if you can do with a little less.  I bet you can and it won't hurt as much as you think.

This is 'Charles' or as My Husband Calls Him
'Professor Charles Xavier'

What I've learned through this experience is that just because I don't spend as much as I used to doesn't mean I have less love, joy, or fun life experiences.  But I've learned firsthand how it can lead to having less debt, less stress due to finances, and less 'stuff' that is eventually going to end up in a garage sale one day anyway.  Thank-you for listening to my confessions.  There will be more to come, I'm sure.


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