All of a sudden I just want to buy stuff

Did it start with my trip to New York, which took me out of my new-normal, carefully regulated frugal environment and reawakened all my old “just spend money” instincts? Or did it start when I lost some weight and realized very little fit me anymore and my “refresh my wardrobe” project had just stepped up in urgency? Or maybe when I had to drop $350 on a car repair earlier this month and suddenly my month of Super Saving was going to be a little less Super? Or maybe when I used birthday money and a bit of my tax return to buy some kickin’ boots?

I don’t know! But I can tell you that all of a sudden I just want stuff! Within the last week I’ve suppressed urges to buy a new frying pan, new pants, another pair of boots (!), a new pair of winter boots (I actually really need these next winter, but can tough it out for another month with the ones I have), and assorted food items. I’ve succumbed a couple times too: I bought a new skirt (that fits!) and some spices that I ordered online instead of paying for out of my cash draw. And I’m about to pay for a haircut and for the eyedrops I use (which are expensive.)

I’m not going to go completely around the bend here, but I need to wrestle this stuff back down again. I can make do with what I have, and it’s important to focus on saving this year, at least until I have my EF filled up. But something that I did recently opened some kind of mental floodgate and I have to get it shut! What do y’all do when the Urge to Spend comes over you?

26 thoughts on “All of a sudden I just want to buy stuff

  1. Jenna says:

    With the promise of a larger salary soon, my own consumerist floodgates have opened up as well. I think it’s because I do actually need to replace a lot of things I’ve been waiting on — all my shoes have holes! I’m thinking I’m just going to give myself a bit of a budget to replace things over time. Then I can’t go on a spending binge!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, part of this is definitely that I’ve been putting stuff off. I also realized that I spent my slush money this month on the car, and the stuff I’ve wanted to buy would have fit well within that budget, so maybe it’s not such a big deal. But eesh, the Urge to Spend is a little freaky!

  2. Anne from E. says:

    Hi, I know your situation so very well! 🙂 When I get The Urge, I take a sheet of paper and write down everything that wants to be bought. Really everything. This shows me that I take my needs and wants seriously and that I don’t belittle them. Then I put the paper aside and wait for some time. An hour, or a day, or a week. Then The Urge has cooled down, my brain is working again and I can make real and sound choices:
    What was just a whimsy and can be discarded? What would be nice but can be postponed and until when? What is necessary now but I don’t have the money (promise yourself that you don’t forget it and postpone it until money is there)? What is really necessary now and I do have the money –> go shopping! What is necessary now and I don’t have the money *but I’m ready to spoil my savings rate for this* –> go shopping after very lengthy consideration!
    This works well for me. I try and collect small ideas that give me a sense of splurging but don’t cost very much (less than 5 € – e.g. some special delicacy from the supermarket that I enjoy deeply) so that my need for splurging is respected but doesn’t go into the big things. Good luck!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hi! I really like the idea of the list that waits for a week — I think I might make one of those this weekend when I have some free time. Thanks for the suggestion — that sounds like it might really work.

  3. MJ says:

    OMG I understand this all too well. And I do exactly what you’ve done: I wrote a post about it! Seriously, it was a reminder to myself to stop in my tracks and remember the goal. I caught myself looking at this trip I’ve had my eye on, and it will cost less than the next big debt payment I’m planning. But it would also cut into the next big debt payment. I think that once we’ve done well for a while, that urge pops up. We want to reward ourselves. But we have to keep our eyes on the prize, as they say. I think it will feel so much more rewarding to buy those new snow boots when your emergency fund is fully stocked:)

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It’s true, it’ll feel better to buy things when my EF is in order 🙂 Writing posts about this stuff is very therapeutic, I find.

  4. I declutter. Reminds me about how much junk we already have and sometimes I rediscover something, so it seems like I’ve got something new. It’ll pass, just ride it out!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I love that idea! I can’t really declutter now as I hardly have anything with me (furnished rental room) but I’m really looking forward to getting rid of some of the too-big clothing in a month or two when I’m sure this weight loss is really going to stick 🙂

  5. Alicia says:

    That’s my trouble with intense austerity mode… I yo-yo from one extreme to the other. Right now I am haemorrhaging money related to my rental unit, and multiple trips back to my hometown to work on it, and I just feel like “meh, my finances are already a sh*t show for the past few weeks”. I’ve been reigning myself in and only splurge $11 on a new scarf (which oddly looks nearly identical to one I already have just more yellow in the background vs. beige), but it is taking a very concerted effort not to go crazy.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah it’s weird — there’s something about spending large amounts of necessary money that makes you want to spend small amounts of unnecessary money because, well, what’s $30 when you’ve just dropped $350? (In my case.) Sigh, psychology! What’s with it! I know part of it is that I’ve been super frugal for a while now and you’re right, maybe it’s just not totally sustainable without these episodes.

  6. Kristin says:

    I totally know what you are going through, I have been the same way! I’m trying to justify everything too, which isn’t exactly working 🙂 I tend to check my finances daily and stay on track, but it’s when I decide to skip writing down my purchases and pretending I can buy everything, I get in trouble!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Right? Everything is justifiable! I’m trying to push back 🙂 I check everything daily too and that does help. Sigh.

  7. Elroy says:

    I look at my investment accounts. It’s what drives me to save, watching my investments go up. If I have money floating around, I add a little bit to my investments.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      oooh, good idea. I’ll have to give that a shot.

  8. I go through the same thing and definitely can tell when the shopping bug has hit. Usually I try a few different approaches to reign my shopping in or re-assess what I really want. Typically I’ll check our bank accounts and refer to our goals for each month (and for the longer term), that helps me see how much we could save without my going out and spending it. Then I’ll check my favorite PF blogs or listen to a podcast to get some motivation. Finally, I’ll assess whether I really need those items (new pair of running shoes to replace my 3 year old ones? Yes. Fun boots that don’t I realistically won’t wear on a regular basis? No.) Sometimes spending is necessary for me, but usually it isn’t and I really really really want to get rid of our debt, I just have to remind myself of that fact every once in a while 😉

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, constant reinforcement of my goals seems to be necessary 🙂 You’re totally right that reading blogs helps (that’s why I got started in the first place.) Writing this post also helped! It just calmed me down a bit.

  9. I think that just happens to everyone every once in awhile. Maybe you were being too restrictive before so what you resist, persists? Not sure, but I have experienced the same thing.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Possibly — it seems like I just go through boom and bust cycles. There are long stretches when I hardly spend anything and then other weeks when I can barely keep the credit card in the pocket.

  10. I know the feeling. I was humming along this week being proud of myself for not buying more groceries… then went out for dinner with a friend, started a DIY project, ordered my spouse replacement gloves and ordered a new mattress protector. BYEBYE money. #oops

    1. thesingledollar says:

      right? It never rains but it pours! It’s like buying one thing just sets off a bunch of other desires.

  11. I love this! I try to hold off as long as possible for things, but then everything seems to need to be replaced at once. I just wish I could get into maintenance mode so that I don’t hit the splurge modes! It IS nice to know it’s not just me.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I know, right, everything seems to wear out at the same time. And once I start spending it seems to be really hard to stop! I agree with you that the community solidarity is helpful 🙂

  12. It’s the spending version of binge dieting.

    I go through similar phases. Buying lunch here, have coffee out there, next thing I know I’ve bought a nice pair of dress shoes at Nordstrom. In the case of food, it’s usually cheesecake.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I need the cure for a financial disorder! Also, mmmm, cheesecake.

  13. CBuggle says:

    Well, if having clothes that fit and a new haircut add some fulfillment to your life, don’t sweat it too much! I think of things in terms of observations. Rather than trying to control my behavior so strictly I take notice of when the spending habits start to kick back in and find the source of that urge. Is there unhappiness in some other area of my life? Sometimes the answer is that I just want a haircut, damn it, because I haven’t had one for 9 months (true story, I just got a haircut too!!).

    When I get urges to spend I go to goodwill and set a spending limit of $10 or something. If I see some super awesome buy, I will allow myself to spend a little more. For example, I find a lot of great cookware at goodwill and if you find a pan for 5.99 that you’d normally pay 59.99 for, just get it!! I also up the limit if I find super high quality clothes (I don’t buy junk at goodwill). This saves me money in the future because I do invest in high quality outdoor gear.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I’m not stressing it too too much…I realized that everything I’ve bought this month has fit well within my normal slush budget. The problem is that I spent the slush budget on a car repair early in the month 🙂 I think “no-spend months” are just not my thing.

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