The Art of Thoughtful Spending

An interesting thing happens when you realize that you have achieved your financial goals. You look around and want everything. This commonly happens to lottery winners. It’s the primary reason that they quickly spend themselves broke.

This is why I decided to purge before I allowed myself to spend. The reminder of how easy it is to accumulate too much serves as a counterpoint to the desire.

Even so, it became more and more difficult to resist the urge. My daughter has watched me pass up the things I’ve wanted so many times that she is actively encouraging me to cut loose.

But I do not want to be that person.

I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following the path of others. I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following their advice to spend and spend. I achieved financial freedom by focusing on my mind and my business. I refuse to step backwards.

That said, I could feel the urge rising as the kid persuaded me to window shop and browse online. I would catch myself ready to place something in the cart and realize that it was only a passing whim.

That was why, instead of buying like mad, I invested in a small notebook instead.

Every time I see or think of something I want, I write it down. I don’t worry about how outlandish the desire; anything that pops into my head is dutifully noted. At night before bed I pull it out, review the list, and make a point of adding to it. Then I close my eyes and visualize how my life would change if I added this thing to my possessions.

An amazing thing happens when you allow yourself to mentally spend money. Your mind begins to visualize the clutter. I could see myself wondering where I would stick things. I could even see myself using an item for a time before throwing it away.

I do not want to be that person.

That was when I began making my gratitude list. I started making entries about all of the things I already had that I was immensely grateful for.

On the top of that list was my freedom.

Everything I have added to that giant wish list pales in comparison to my freedom.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the urge to buy things. That said, in most cases we feel the urge to buy not because we truly want something, but because we have been programmed to believe that these things will somehow make our lives even better.

But what can be better than freedom?

The next time you feel the urge to buy-buy-buy, go out and invest in a little notebook instead. Pick one that makes you feel wealthy. Add a nice pen to that, and go home.

Start making a list by asking yourself:

What do I want?

At the very top of your list, write:

I want my FREEDOM.

Every time you feel the urge to spend, pull out your luxurious little notebook and jot it down. Then ask yourself: Will this thing take me closer to my freedom?

The answer will change your life.

As for me I’ve yet to spend much. Aside from honoring my promise to buy the phone, I am still purging. I do treat us to meals out on occasion, since one of the things I wanted to achieve with my freedom was the ability to do just that. I lack the skills or the desire to cook much, so this provides us with some healthy variety. Even better, it allows me to do something to help my local businesses survive the pandemic.

As for the rest, I am still thinking.

How do you deal with the urge to spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Barnes and Noble
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Smashwords (non-DRM)

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4 thoughts on “The Art of Thoughtful Spending”

  1. I put things in my online shopping cart but don’t check out that same day. By tomorrow I often don’t want those things anymore.

  2. I have been doing something similar for years using the Amazon wish list feature. First it started out with a single private list but then I eventually broke it up by category. Pretty much if I see something that I want or even something that I have interest in but want to research it goes on the list. The same goes for just in case items that I think I might need go oi it. From time to time I pull up the lists to review and delete the items that I no longer want which often leaves me wondering what I was thinking when I added it to the list. In the end I would say that at least 95% of the items get deleted instead of bought in the end. It is also a place where I have items that I know will need to be eventually be replaced but I am not sure when as a way to plan and research to figure out what one would be the best one to buy if I had a real need for one at the moment. Something that came in handy yesterday actually when my electric kettle broke and as a heavy tea drinker I would classify it as just as essential as a microwave, so I could with confidence order one immediately knowing it was good quality at a reasonable price. I have been amazed how simply adding something to the list is able to calm down the urge to buy something. It also brings to mind a post on a minimalist blog years ago that was basically saying that the store is the place to store your extra stuff until you need it, and by storing it at the store you do not have a cluttered home but a cluttered bank account.

    1. I remember that advice. Didn’t it go along with the 20/20 rule? If you could replace it in 20 minutes for $20 (or less) the item was safe to toss. I’ve actually used a variation of that rule over the years.

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