On a sunny day in August in the Distillery district of Toronto, my friend, Amanda, and I decided that we were going to do a little experiment. We were discussing two books, one that she had read, and one which I had read and posted about last year, both of which are related to finances and spending habits. We thought to ourselves, how can we do better with our money? Do we consume too much, too often? What would we be willing to forego? This month, we’re going to find out the answer to these questions.
You see, this month, Amanda and I aren’t going to buy anything that doesn’t need to be bought. Food is something that needs to be bought, so we’ll buy that. Coffee at cafés is an important part of Amanda’s professional life, since she has a morning meeting with her assistant every day in a neutral (non-office) environment, so that will be bought too. I don’t have to buy coffee at cafés, so I won’t. Certain kinds of entertainment can be purchased – I have a bachelorette party to attend, and had tickets to a Christian Louboutin exhibit and a First Thursdays night at the AGO to see Ai Weiwei, so beverages at these events will be purchased.
However, what will not be bought includes the following: clothing, shoes, accessories of all kinds, books, movies, stationary (I love stationary), bottles of wine (whaaaaa??? Oh wait, I have a huge stockpile, whew!), home décor stuff, kitchenware, etc. You get the idea.
On Amanda’s recommendation, I downloaded an application for my phone called Mint Financial. It’s an app that tracks your bank accounts and credit cards, and keeps a running total for you. It also automatically categorizes purchases based on industry, so you can see exactly what you’ve spent and where. My tallies for August were astounding; I had no large purchases, and yet I’d managed to spend a pile of money by nickel-and-diming my chequing account to death. I know that small purchases add up, but to see them all tallied with the sum at the bottom was really impressive.
It’s currently day 3 of this experiment. I spent day 1 in lower Manhattan, walking around with Drew and essentially browsing through shops, but with ‘no buying month’ in my head I really had no motivation to buy things. I was thinking about the long list of expenditures on Mint, and thinking about how little I really need.
Granted, it’s early days yet, and there are 27 more days in this month, but I feel really good about ‘no buying month.’ Similar to the example of the smoker on an aeroplane, the knowledge that I’ve given a commitment (to Amanda, at least) that I won’t buy anything (outside of food and certain entertainment-related things) seems to make the temptation to buy things evaporate. Often at the beginning of the month I’ll line up expected expenses – I want a pair of jeans, I need new cushions for the patio – and do a sort of mini-budget that I rarely hold myself to. This month, I know I can’t buy these things, so I’m not even thinking about what I might want to buy. I wonder if this will get pushed into October, and I’ll go on some kind of tear buying all the things I thought about? I hypothesize that I won’t; I think many desires of this kind fade away with time, because they’re not earnest desires or needs as much as passing fancies.
In the interim, I feel like I have all kinds of money and nothing to do with it, and that’s a really good feeling. This feeling is so rewarding in itself that it might just be enough motivation to keep this ‘no buying’ business going.