This weekend, while catching up on my blog reading, I came across this post at Get Rich Slowly, that made me really stop and think about the way that I shop and acquire stuff. A lot of the comments on the post focused on budget, the way I’ve always looked at my spending. It has become a bit of a game to acquire as much stuff as possible while staying within a certain budget. While it’s great to get the most bang for your buck, I think this habit tends to encourage unnecessary spending. Maybe looking at things from a different perspective can help me change my habits.
There is something to be said for having a stockpile of a few basic necessities, like toilet paper. But have we started to consider nearly everything a necessity? If one is good, then four must be perfection, right? Maybe not. Maybe it just becomes clutter. Do you ever find yourself buying more than one of an item you really love, even though you can only use one at a time? For example, I bought a pair of running tights at Gap this season. I love them and found myself thinking the other day that I should pick up another pair while they are on sale. But do I really need them? They are heavyweight tights that I only wear when it’s really cold. I typically run three times a week and if it’s cold all week I wear them for three 30 minute workouts until I do laundry on the weekend. That system has been working fine. They don’t need to laundered more often, yet there’s some ingrained desire in me to stock up.
Consider the Number of Items instead of the Amount of Money
One of the commenters on the GRS post mentioned the French Wardrobe Method. I had heard of this before but never thought much about it. The idea is that you only buy five clothing items per season (usually combining Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer) – so ten items total each year. The idea is to spend a little more on good quality pieces since you are not purchasing as many items. For me this was a revolutionary way to look at spending. And it’s doesn’t just have to be the way you shop for clothing. Say your yearly budget for tools is $200 and instead of spending that money on a few high quality tools that you will really use, you are maxing out your budget by accumulating a high number of less expensive, lower quality tools. Yes, you purchased more items but is it money well spent? Maybe the better way to approach it is to set item limits instead of money limits. You will end up with fewer items that are of a higher quality and potentially spend less money.
Shop With Intention
While considering the French Method, I was surprised at how it helped me shop with intention. I mentioned the other day that I had purchased a couple of pairs of pants to replace some that no longer fit. After deciding to live by the five items per season limit, I decided to return one of those pairs of pants. While I got a really good deal on them, I just didn’t envision wearing them enough to make them one of my five items. By setting an item limit, I’ve found that I more thoughtfully consider whether an item will work with the other items in my wardrobe before bringing it home.
There are lots of ways you can change your perspective. This post at Lifehacker even suggests living your life like a game to create incentives and change behavior. That seems like creating a lot of extra work to me, but I’m sure it works for some. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, maybe it’s time to change your perspective. So what do you think? How has changing the way you look at things improved your spending habits?