At the tail-end of my recent vacation, I made a big decision. I am suspending all home spending for September. Yep, that’s right. I will not be making any home related purchases for 30 days. That might sound crazy for a home blogger, even crazier for a home blogger in the middle of a basement finishing project. Crazy, maybe, but I am excited to take on this challenge…and I am already 3 days in.
Why A Home Spending Hiatus?
Why I am doing this? I had a lot of time to think on vacation and as I thought about how I have been spending my spare time lately, I just felt kind of gluttonous. I was out buying new things for my home, while I had a bunch of projects half finished or not even started. Sometimes I was shopping just for a get away, a mommy break, even though I did not need anything. Deep down I felt like I was just rushing around from one thing (or store) to another and not enjoying what I already have.
I feel a compelling need to get the value out of purchases I have already made, whether it is supplies for a project or a new furniture purchase still sitting in my garage. I have plenty of supplies and projects to complete over the rest of the month without making any additional purchases. I may not have any big room reveals, but I can certainly make a significant dent in my backlog of projects.
We also have some big purchases we want to make for our basement project, but I feel my ad hoc spending derails us from our bigger home goals. Little purchases here and there really can add up. By restricting spending for a while, I think we will be able to save up and plan for the bigger things.
The Ground Rules
I set some ground rules for myself to establish what a home spending hiatus means for me. Basically, I am stopping all discretionary home spending.
Here are the things I am NOT going to spend money on for the 30 days in September:
- Home Decor
- Home Center purchases (Home Depot, Lowes)
- Craft Supplies (which I primarily buy for home decor projects)
Of course, there are a few exceptions where I will spend money:
- Normal home related bills (gas, electric, cable, water)
- Emergency home purchases (something breaks and needs to be fixed)
- Gas for the lawn mower (our association would balk if we did not mow the lawn for a month)
Instead of Home Spending, I will be Planning and Saving
What am I going to do instead of shopping? Window shopping, of course…kidding, well partially. I will definitely spend time over the next month planning my projects and spaces, hence some minimal online window shopping. By taking a step back to fully plan some of the new spaces in our basement, I can consider all the purchases we want to make and not let small trivial purchases steer my designs off track.
During this time, I will be saving money. Seems obvious right? Well, the money is not saved in my opinion until it is in the savings account. I will be aggressively cranking up the amount I transfer to savings in the month of September. Some of this money will help us later when we are ready to purchase basement flooring, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom fixtures.
Maybe the most important thing I will be doing, is finishing up all the projects I have started and abandoned for one reason or another. Instead of starting new things, I am going to focus on finishing what I already started. My current laundry/craft room is drowning in “works in progress”. I don’t want to move a bunch of half-finished projects to my new studio. I plan to complete all projects that don’t require any additional purchases. If I don’t have all the things I need for a project, it will have to wait until the hiatus is over or I will have to find a creative alternative to finish the project.
I hope this exercise helps me love my home more. I hope it brings out more creativity. I hope it helps me and my family appreciate the beautiful things we already have in our lives. I hope this spending hiatus let’s me refocus on the most important things in life, which aren’t things at all.
I will definitely share all the projects I complete, but I also plan to do some periodic updates on the spending hiatus. On one hand, I assume this will be easy, but on the other, I know it may be hard at times. I want to share the ups and downs with you. At the end of September I will do a full recap of how the month went.
Have you ever imposed a spending hiatus on yourself? Were you successful?
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Good for you! I have been on an extended home spending hiatus due to some job changes for my husband. Right now we are pretty much living on one income and I have had to seriously suspend not just the home spending, but the me spending. Like you, I have a bunch of unfinished projects, so it’s time to enjoy doing those and then regroup. :) Though I do spend a bit of time coming the “free” section of Craigslist looking for opportunites, lol. Good luck, I look forward to reading about it!
Jennifer, We went through the single income phase a few years ago when I stayed home after having my oldest. I did not buy anything new for myself for over a year, but that year at home with my son was a very precious time! Great idea to check out the Craigslist free section…love loopholes to the rules.
My husband and I are on a discretionary spending hiatus for the time being. We recently went through our expenses and added up the dollars we were spending on books, music, eating out, etc. And although neither of us spends a LOT on clothes, what we were buying was not really necessary. Add in the occasional new pair of earrings, flowers for my desk at work… it really adds up. So we’re going to enjoy what we have for now, read some of those books sitting on the bedside table. The hardest one to give up, I’m guessing, will be Starbucks.
I know Karen. All those little innocent purchases add up. In the first few days of the home spending hiatus I have already noticed I am paying more attention to other discretionary spending categories too. The toughest for us is eating out and that includes Starbucks. We actually had a coffee maker that made Starbucks drinks at home and we avoided a real Starbucks for a year until the coffee machine broke. We are researching a new one…looking at Keurig which carries Starbucks K-cups, but that will have to wait until after the home spending hiatus :)
During for six months in 2010, I imposed a personal spending hiatus on all clothes, home purchases, and non-essentials. My loopholes were buying things for my wedding (unavoidable and a neccessity) and buying supplies for a once-a-week craft night with my girl friends.
My results were good. I was able to more carefully select my wedding purchases (because I had more time to plan and shop for them), which I think reduced my total costs for the wedding. Of course, I also reduced my spending in general, even after the hiatus.
I found that having an Amazon wish list was a good way to put purchases on hold. I was able to spend time “window shopping” for items and remember what I wanted. But, more often than not, a month after putting something on the list, I’d realize that I didn’t really want it in the first place.
I also found that the spending hiatus helped me refocue and better differentiate between “needs” and “wants”.
In fact, I’d consider going on another spending hiatus in the future. However, my home needs wayyy too many repairs to do that right now!
Hope to have encouraged you to keep up the good work and continue your self-imposed learning experience :).
Jess, I really like the idea of using a wish list to help hold off purchases. If you put it on there and then still really want or need it a month later, then you can buy it. This would help me so much! Too much of my spending is impulse or emotional spending (because I am nervous about something big coming up, because I am sad, because I needed to get “away” for a few minutes, etc). Those are also the things I regret buying later on or don’t care for long term. Thanks so much for the great idea to list out the wants and see which ones stick. Seems like this would help with prioritizing all the wants, too :)
Good for you! I’ve also decided September would be my cut-back month, though not just for home dec items but across the board. I’ve even set a strict budget for groceries as I seem to always pick up more than I initially went for. The free craigslist section is a great way to bend the rules. I also plan to go ‘shopping’ in my closet and re-invent some of my day-to-day styles to freshen things up – and USE the stuff I’ve already bought!
I like your “hopes”. Good ideas and priorities. You’re not alone! I’ve had such phases where it seemed like my spending was innocent enough,but in fact I’d lost the focus of what’s important. Sometimes I just need to turn off the faucet.
Then, when it comes time to buy the things you really do need or have saved for, it’s much more meaningful. So, “courage” as they say here.
Cheryl Balmas says
This is a blessing to me personally and an inspiration. I can relate to every little thing you said in that I do so much adhoc spending I feel like I am never really achieving my major goals either. I have major goals for pieces of furniture that I’ve wanted for 10 years and cannot seem to save the thousands needed for big investment pieces because I am frittering away at Target, Ikea, Hobby Lobby, etc., etc. I too buy things I don’t need before checking what I already have at home. I also have tons of unfinished projects. I shop out of boredom, frustration, because I like too, for a mental break, etc. I have a hard time with controlling my spending when I subscribe to emails such as Vera Bradley, Filofax, Chamilia and Troll beads-all things I collect-and they are always having sales. In just the first 5 days of September I think I’ve spent $150 on things I don’t need any more of. But my excuse is, ‘it’s on sale’, ‘it’s being discontinued’, ‘I need it to finish a collection or bracelet’. To be honest, I’ve had a sick feeling in my stomach for the past several days and I think this is why. Boy I’m airing all my dirty secrets. The worse part is, my husband just gently asked me yesterday at dinner to not make any unnecessary purchases this month because 1) our taxes are due this month, over $4,000 2) another bill of several hundred dollars is due (one of those annoying insurance bills that come quarterly!. Even worse, I’ve been out of work since end of January. Actually I lost my ‘big’ paying job in 2009. I’ve had a couple low paying ‘filler’ jobs since then. Right now I’m facing surgery on both heels (achilles tendon issues) which means my plan for job seeking this fall has been delayed anywhere from 3-6 months. Then there’s the holidays. Talk about feeling overwhelmed! To be honest, I was upset (though I didn’t show it) and indignant when my husband gently suggested curbing the spending this month. My reaction (in my head) was that of a child! Of course, I’m sure that was guilt having just spend money on unnecessary items and not having the guts to fess up. Besides loving to shop, decorate, organize (which all equals $$$) and having a spontaneous nature (sounds better than saying ‘lack of control’!) it is hard to see people close to me spend, spend, spend, spend like there’s no tomorrow. Hard to keep the little green envy monster under wraps when your mom and your sister are showing you their jewelry, new furniture, Cabo trips, etc., etc. What I haven’t gotten used to is that I don’t have the same income we had 3 years ago. Our income has been cut in half, or less! Yet, I am still spending like I have always spent. Lately I have not lived in the real world but have been calming my nerves and anxiety with silly purchases which in the long run just cause more anxiety. Well, sorry if this sounded like a therapy session (I’m sure some of you reading this would probably suggest I need therapy after all that!) but this post has been such a wake up call for me. In fact, I have already decided to return one of the items I ordered, due here today or tomorrow, even though it will cost be a little bit in shipping, I am sending the item back. Time to turn my attention away from ‘things’ and invest more time in reading, learning, praying, exercising (something other than my wallet clasp), enjoying the outdoors and finishing projects I have going at home. Thank you for the inspiration and thank you for reading this long reply!!! :)
Cheryl, You did not sound crazy at all. You probably better articulated a lot of things I was feeling that led to my spending hiatus. I have not lost a job, but someday soon I would like to make a full career change to interior designer/blogger. No doubt the income will take a hit and I think I should get my spending habits under control before I take that leap. Your story inspires me to be even more honest with myself about why I spend the way I do. I have definitely had buyers remorse and sometimes returned things when I came back to reality. No fun. I am trying to avoid putting myself in that situation. I want all my purchases to be purposeful!
Jackie Bywater says
OMG…as of Sept 1st, we’re doing the same thing!! Cold turkey. We have gone to the envelopes of cash system: we set a budget, cash one paycheck a month and divide it into envelopes designated for grocery, toothpaste/paper towel/household stuff, gas, dining out, gifts, and clothes. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Also, my husband and I each get $50 of “no questions asked” money to spend on whatever we want, whether it’s Starbucks, craft stuff, iTunes, lunch out, etc. Same thing; when it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m on day 5, and it definitely isn’t fun. But after one trip to Target for a few things (much fewer than normal), I’m already much more aware of how mindless some of our spending has been. However, over the holiday weekend, I completed 3 half done projects that were sitting for weeks…probably months! So good for you, and hang in there! And Cheryl, I totally feel your pain and I don’t think you’re crazy. I woke up after 6 months of paying a Visa bill that had been double what we “budgeted” and couldn’t believe it. Maybe T&L can let us post all the stuff we accomplish in the next 25 days while we aren’t spending…
Jackie, I have thought about trying the cash system too. I love your $50 no questions asked rule…everyone needs a little splurge.
I came to the same conclusion after a few months of doing a monthly budget for my husband and I. My weekly trips to the craft store added up fast. We now each have a monthly allowance of $60, and everything not an agreed upon necessity (ie budget item) comes from our allowance. We love it. We are no longer critical of each other’s spending or guilty about what we buy. Plus, it created an opportunity cost when purchasing items. I spend a lot less knowing it will affect what I can afford later. It has showed me how much I just bought impulsively or just because. Good luck Jackie! I think this is a wonderful idea. I think I will have to copy this idea!
When we were young and broke we used to see how many days we could go without spending a penny (other than bills). We even made ourselves clear out our pantry and freezer in an attempt to use what is available to use. It is surprising how many half used bottles of shampoo and conditioner one has stashed away! The results were that we were amazed at how we spent money on things we didn’t need.
If you allow yourself the $50 no questions asked deal you will set yourself back. Wait til the end of your hiatus and then set that budget.
Good luck and happy savings. I wish more people would take this challenge. It really is eye opening.
Kismet, You are totally right. I like the $50 no questions asked allowance for regular months, but I am not changing my strategy for this month. I have gone cold turkey and stopped buying anything for the home. It isn’t easy, but I think it is the best way. I need to break the bad habits!
Elizabeth @ HobbyLobbyist says
I can totally relate to this, especially as a crafty blogger (blogging crafter?). I can justify purchases for a new craft if I plan on doing a post…some day.
It seems like you’ve hit a nerve here and a lot of people are trying to save money and enjoy what they always have. I have been to clothing swaps before, but maybe it’s time to host a home decor or craft swap with friends. The only cost is wine.