Monday, March 7, 2011

responsible spending

i freaking hate those words.



i love to go shopping. i always have. i remember when the mall was built near our little town. if i could have moved in as a child, i would have. there is just something about new that i adore.

new jeans.
new pillows.
new dresses.
new shoes.


i have also been lucky enough to be in a position most of my life where spending really is not *that* big of an issue.

well, let me back up for a minute.
when i was 16 my dad died suddenly.
we were left not penniless...but we were, my mom and my sisters and i, a damn sight poorer than when he was alive. my mom was a smart woman about how to keep our childhood home, three girls in clothes and delicious food and drink abundant in the home...but what we were used to?
gone in an instant.

that kind of affects you.
it also means that at 16 you get a job.
which i did.
going to school full time, pulling off high enough grades for bursaries ( which i did not drink away at the peel pub ), living on my own and working damn close to full time teaches you very early how to make money last.

chickpeas and feta cheese and shoes and books.
that is how my spending went in university.
luckily i worked retail ( suprise surprise ) so i could still *afford* the fashions i so loved then...and damn if i wasn't skinny because all i could afford to eat was chick peas and feta cheese.
and the lessons learned balancing all the stresses of money and education and job insecurity at a young age were important ones.

and then i met mark, he fed me supercheese nachos from *marcos and pepes* and it was love at first sight. with the nachos. the getting him to like me took a litle longer.

did i mention he fed me?

and life got a little easier.

fast forward twenty some years...

we are comfortable, have three kids from teenage to toddler, a home, two cars and plenty of toys ( motored ones for him, photo ones for me ) and  things are good.
but you know what?
life is changing. how we live our lives is changing. . there are different priorities and expenses and concerns.
we woke up to that in the last few months.

so, in a brave effort to change years of habits ( my unhealthy love affair with denim, random weekly trips to winners,  the online ease of j.crew in the early hours of the morning, the constant circle of our vehicles through city drive thrus... ) we promised to stop.

to just stop spending.

on the little things.

we just stopped.

it is not easy.
i shop out of boredom. i am bored often enough. it gets expensive.
hell, i will drive great lengths to spend money in comfortable malls or happy, bright streets full of beautiful shop windows and coffee shops.
i have spent years doing this, likely.

and then we told the kids ( they were not so thrilled ) about our plans.
how we were going to buy groceries instead of eating out.
how their clothes would simply have to make due until the end of the season, with no mid season updates, how when we said *no* now...we actually would mean it.

we give them lots of opportunities to earn money for them to spend on themselves ( their allowances had long gone the way of the dodo, a futile exercise in frustration ). for example, we pay for grades
( and feel free to criticize, we reward E's in Learning Skills and A's in subjects -  it works for us;)).
any coincidence that our kids brought home the best report cards we have ever seen last week?
i say not.
they are not fools.

and they have embraced it, albeit reluctantly at first.
the breakthru for one happened two weeks ago... our daughter flipped herself out with excitement when she emerged from ATTICA ( how cool is it that we actually have a dedicated teen second hand store?) with a new pair jeans ( new to her ) for 6.50$.
i thought she was going to explode with excitement and pride,lol.
and that 6.50$? on credit for having brought in her old clothing that no longer fit her.
such a lovely fashionista circle of life.

all to say...

we are doing this for a few reasons.
one big one is that we are planning a move this year.
moves are expensive.
moves to quebec are especially so, with the welcome tax  and all.
(merci m. jean bienvenue...)
and we felt that it would be wise to save up enough money to pay moving expenses and the welcome tax before moving.

but that just got me thinking...what are we spending on? why? what else could we be doing, with our time and our money?

and so, my personal challenge to not spend was begun.

and since january 1st, with the exception of one pair of shoes for son number one, two pairs of pants for son number two and one frugally chosen post hockey game outfit ( due to bad packing on my part) for daughter...i have not shopped.

this is a ridiculous achievement for me.
seriously, i can hear jaws hitting the ground as we speak.

all this to say...drumroll please...that this month, we shaved 20% off of our total household spending.
apparently we spend one fifth of our money on...stuff.
stuff that, in all honesty,  i have not missed one bit.

next month will be even better.because it is getting easier.
and now i actually have something to show for it.
money in the bank.

and that is a new something something i can totally get my head around.

anyone else doing this? done this? i am wondering if i did not have a specific goal in mind, if it would be as easy...who knows...but it is working.

i do want to recognize some motivation i received right at the beginning of the year from andrea tomkins from *a peek inside the fishbowl* and her *shopping embargo 2011*.  i do not know andrea, but she has such a no nonsense take on things that how could i not think about it? thanks:).


Chantal said...

I totally need to do this, although I don't "shop" much. So we are looking into trimming things like a cell phone we don't use enough, and cable. The kids are freaking out at the idea of not having cable. It will be an adjustment but worth it. We pay $160 in cable a month! That is just ridiculous!

Amy said...

First, Angela, sorry that you lost your dad so young. I was 30 when my dad died two years ago. I still need him. I can't imagine losing someone so important at only 16. (hugs)

As for spending/saving, during the first five months of 2009 we completely paid off our 13K line of credit. That's thirteen THOUSAND dollars in five months. I was ridiculously proud of us! It was hard though. But, yes, having a goal and seeing the money pile up (or the debt go down) is a huge incentive. And the lessons your kids are learning are really, really good ones.

I wrote about it here if you want to read:

Amadika said...

well.. when you suddenly find yourself living alone as a single parent.. these cut backs becomes a necessity and a way of life.. I have not shopped since christmas.. and I NEVER go to the grocery store without my list.. taken from the week menu I planned ahead. I don't need anything else. We are still lucky and blessed. And I also think this is a good lesson for the kids. Teaching them to spend less.. be aware of what you need/have. and be smart with your money. and at the same time, be responsible about the environnement and the economy. So all in all.. we are all better for it. :)

Kate said...

Yes! School has forced me to cut back on shopping in a big way - it was huge when I recently went shopping to replace items that had worn out.

Drew and I try to eat out only once a month - we're saving up to move in together next fall (eeks!) - and coming up with first/last/deposit/moving$ is a pain in the butt.

Allison said...

Sitting back and actually taking a look at where your money goes is vital. I seem to become aware of this at certain stages during the course of the year, but then I have that oh so powerful urge to SHOP. I need to squash that this year as we will put in an inground pool and lets just say that as a stay at home mom I don't plan on digging the hole myself. Overall I would say I am frugal and will buy most things on sale and I love the treasure hunt at second hand shops. The lure of antiques has cost me plenty of $$ of the years but although I love the fact that I am helping the earth I must admit it is fun to hit the stores -your blog name might need to change from duchesslala to Frugal Fran -I know where you are coming from -I have those boots in black!!

Unknown said...

I love to shop!!! and can't understand how men don't enjoy it as much.
One of my big AHA moments was when I had a bed ridden pregnancy for 7 months. I understood all my shopping wasn't necessary and health was a big issue.
Life changes are always good and big learning experiences.
Right now I have my children and husband with no cable. They seem to get more creative and we enjoy our family better.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Justin Van Leeuwen said...

I totally did this, but the reverse. When I lost my job, my INCOME dropped by 100%.


Of course, with that, comes some smart math to keep in line. Yes, stuff accounts for a lot and house/groceries/heat etc. account for much more than half but experiences are worthwhile too.

Opportunity cost. You give up one thing to have another - so you're giving up pants now to live in Montreal later (yes, there's much more of course). A while ago, I gave up a balanced budget to move to Ottawa and have kids. Now. But it ends there; I'm still trying to figure the rest out...

Anonymous said...

Oh I used to have a spending problem. Well, I did live behind Sherbrooke st, a stone's trow from all those shops. I was bad. But I cured it all by moving to Kampala. No shops at all here and I really don't miss it that much. I do worry sometimes what will happen when I hit a mall again.