When you’re a spender, restricting yourself is hard. I know people who are not spenders and I promise you that I am not one of them. Man, spending is so easy to me. That’s why it can be so hard for me to be “financially responsible.” Being irresponsible, spending willy nilly, not putting more than half of my paycheck (which I did this month!) toward debt – these things are way easier than saying no to myself.
Part of being better at controlling my money includes recognizes the behaviors that I have around money so that I can address them. I have always bought more books that I could consume. They’ve been a lifetime weakness of mine- as if buying the book for the thing gave me the knowledge that I needed. I bought tons of books in college, but through those four years I don’t think I’d read 10 books cumulatively.
It was from this knowledge that I started my first categorical spending ban in June 2016, heading into Quarter 3 of 2016. I had tried doing a month-long spending ban back in January of that year and failed miserably, leaving myself pretty frustrated with myself. Six months later, I decided to just restrict two categories of my spending but for three months. That first quarterly spending ban was the first time in my adult life that I had gone three months without buying a book. It also was the beginning of me rebuilding the habit of reading because I told myself I could buy books again when I finished reading what I had. I think that in that moment I must not have really understood just how many books I owned (and still own).
Being really pleased with the positive effects of my first spending ban- reduced spending and more intentionality in my reading- I decided to extend it into a Quarter 4 Categorical Spending Ban. I even noticed that even though I was no longer spending on books, I was finding abundance in my books. In fact, as I shared then, “Even though I didn’t spend on books this quarter, I still accumulated more books than I read.” Extending my ban into Q4 was a no brainer really.
Heading into the New Year, I was in a slightly different situation. I had just spent six months without buying any cosmetics at all! That included moisturizer and mascara! There were so many things that I used and didn’t replace and, more importantly, didn’t need or want to replace. I did log and share my progress on in Instagram with #burkedoesempty. It’s still insane to me that I just had all of those things to empty and not even miss. There were some things, though, that I did miss. For example, I ran out of liquid eyeliner and moisturizer. I also ran out of dry shampoo. I also splurged on two books, one of which I read right away and the other is right at the top of my list.
At the end of the year, I found myself splurging on clothes. Mid-November, I accepted a new job that I started early December. This new job required a lot more travel than my previous job’s travel. Working from home regularly, I wear pretty casual clothes. Having to dress up for work in an office is not something I had the wardrobe for (or so I told myself), so I found myself buy all the “cute” clothes I liked on impulse. I knew that I needed to bring that under control, so I decided to add the category of clothes to my spending ban, bringing the categories included to books, cosmetics, and clothes.
There were two things I bought this quarter that violated my spending ban. The first was a pair of Sperry’s like these. Bo, my wonderful pup who has for the most part gotten out of his destructive phase, destroyed by beloved Sperry’s that had at least another year in them. I decided to replace them for three reasons: 1. Bo has eaten basically all of my other shoes, 2. Even though I could probably get away with wearing flip flops most of the time, I knew I couldn’t get away with it when traveling for work, 3. These Sperry’s are a staple in my go-to wardrobe. They make me feel comfortable and I really like them. Given these, I scowered the web for the best price. I wear a size 7 in women’s shoes, but a size 5 in girl’s shoes. The size 5 girl’s Sperry’s were $25 cheaper than the Women’s version of the same shoes in basically the same size! I bought the better deal, of course.
The second item I bought this quarter that violated my spending ban was Paul Mitchell Clarifying Shampoo. I’m not very good about taking care of my hair and now that I work out 4-6 days per week my hair has been spending a lot of time in a pony tail. A couple of weeks ago I went for my first hair cut in probably 6 months at the beauty school in Fayetteville. I always get my haircuts at beauty schools because my hair is relatively easy to cut (I just get it cut in a V) and it’s much less expensive. On the other hand, it does take muuuuch longer, so be prepared for those tradeoffs. After getting a wonderful deep conditioner treatment plus a haircut, the hair stylist and her teacher suggested I get the clarifying shampoo and explained to me how to use it to help keep my scalp and hair much healthier than it has been. For the hair cut, the deep conditioning treatment, and the shampoo, I still paid less than $25. I’m okay with it, and I have been using the shampoo once per week!
I also found myself working harder to purge some items from my collection. When my best friend Blair(Hi Blair!) came to visit, I sent her home with a pallet of eye shadows and mascara that were still closed and sealed in their packaging. Why do I own things that I’ve never used?! I just got a package this week with chapsticks and a soap and some other things in it that I knew I wasn’t going to use, so I passed them off to my dear friend Angie (Hi Angie!).
Just think about this: I’m now 9 months into not buying books and not buying makeup. With the exception of one tube of moisturizer, liquid eyeliner, dry shampoo, and clarifying shampoo, I haven’t needed to replace anything in my collection. What does that say about my accumulation of stuff?
For the third consecutive quarter, I am really happy with the results of my quarterly spending ban, so of course, it’s something I want to again. I am going to ban books again, as I still have plenty on the shelves to read. Even though I’ve read pretty aggressively since we last moved- and have done what I would consider to be an impressive job of moving the books off my shelves when I’ve finished them (there are only two that didn’t move on to new homes)- I’m still bummed that there are SO many books on my shelves that are unread. I don’t need any new books, but I will give myself permission to buy one this quarter- and only one. I haven’t read Rachel Cruze’s most recent book and I know I’m going to really want to read Lara Casey’s new book, Erin Lowry’s new book, and Christy Wright’s new book. These are all books I have had on my mind for a while, so I’m giving myself permission to buy only one.
I’m going to also push forward on not spending on cosmetics. More than just that, I’m going to work harder to purge the things I own. Too many things were moved this weekend that have not been touched in the last year. I’m don’t want to be wasteful, but I do want to let my good move on and serve someone who might be served positively by them.
I’m expanding the clothes ban to this quarter again. I lived out of this wardrobe when I moved down here last May. I will need it to last again this summer. There’s nothing wrong with it and I hope that the move will force me to go through what I have and basically build new life into my clothes again.
I’m also adding one more category: Fitness.
You see, I’ve always found it really easy to justify spending on fitness because, well, it’s fitness. I mean, it’s even good for me. The problem is that that can lead to overspending. This is such an umbrella category, so let’s get more specific here on what is and isn’t okay.
- Fitness Clothes- This is also covered under the clothes spending ban, but just restating for good measure.
- Gear- No sneakers, WODies, hand grips, foam rollers, or any of those other nice-to-haves that I’ve been eyeing for a while and I’ve been really tempted to spend on.
- Supplements- I’ve got Whey, Casein, BCAAs, and pre, the latter of two I never use. I do not need any more supplements. No magic powder is going to step up my game, unless I do.
- Coaching- Right now, my money needs to be focused on other things, so no additional training or coaching- macro or fitness. I’ve really wanted macro coaching but I just shouldn’t be spending money on it right now.
That’s a lot of no’s. What is not covered in this? Where can I still spend?
- Existing Gym Membership- I’ve got my existing membership at Crossfit Raeford that I am still paying for.
- Food- Protein bars (I’ve really been digging these Cake Bites) lately.
- Yoga- Every once in a while, I like hitting a yoga class with one of my good friends. It’s fun because I can get in a good stretch and I get to get out and catch up with a good friend, like I did last week.
- ROMWOD- I really need to working on my flexibility. I’ve noticed that as I’ve started getting stronger, I’ve started to lose some flexibility. I’ve spoken to a couple of people who have all confirmed that this is normal and happens. I’m hoping to nip this in the bod by upping my flexibility. If– big if here– I successfully complete my Wallball challenge in the month of April, then I can give ROMWOD a try. I need to use it at least 20 minutes per week for it to be something I can commit to.
At the core of this all, I’m looking to slowly and surely change my spending habits, so that I am more conscientious and intentional in my spending. My hope is to slowly continue to change my habits to better help me hit my financial goals. Can you see all the different steps in this path? This is why financial responsibility is not an overnight thing; instead, it’s a lifestyle built of a pattern of habits that need to be in place to allow you and me to hit our financial goals.
Have you ever had success with any sort of spending ban? Let me know how it went in the comments!
Emilie is an Army Wife, Data Engineer, and CrossFitter with a love for working through her thoughts in this space on the internet. She lives with her husband Casey and their pup Bo in Savannah, GA.