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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bye Buy: What Can You REALLY Afford?

I recently saw a beautiful outfit at the store. Tropical print silky shorts with a silky t-shirt. Right on trend, really cool style, available in my new smaller size. I would look good. I would FEEL good. Can I afford it?

There's a million dollar question. The outfit was $50. I did not have $50 in my pocket. But ...

Okay, there's $50 in the bank. Good to go, proceed to the register. But ...
Are the bills all paid? Well, no. I guess I could skim from the grocery money. But ...

I don't even know what I've spent in groceries this month. The outfit is so cute, though. Looks like it's worth more than the $50 it costs. We could eat less. Couldn't we? Maybe. Not really fair to my family but surely they would see how cute I am. And, I haven't gotten anything new in more than a month! Plus, I'm thinner (I think I said that already). Maybe I'll just charge it. I deserve it, right?

This is an example of the insane train of thought that I deal with still. I am better, way better since the Bye Buy challenge but there is room for improvement. My husband made a flippant remark recently that resonated. He noted that we have been so successful with the Fitness Pal app for our diets, we should have something like "Spending Pal."

The reason Fitness Pal works for us is that we are in control. We have an allotted amount of calories. We can spend those calories on a donut or a giant bowl of lettuce. Eat too many calories, we gain weight. Simple, black and white logic. I need to employ that same logic to buying stuff. We have a set amount of money to spend every month. Like food, we have to satisfy basic requirements. We decide what to do with the leftover, if there even is leftover. A donut makes me feel happy but the calories could take me over my spending limit. Then, the donut is gone, I'm still hungry, maybe more hungry because of the sugar rush, and I have no calories left. This outfit would be the donut of clothing purchases.

Every basic spending primer will tell you to make a budget and stick to it. Allow for the basics then add extras as you can afford. Most people don't actually live this way. Low prices for cheap goods, genius marketing techniques and widely available credit have turned us into a national of insatiable consumers. 

Last October I realized that a life spent shopping, whether you call it "retail therapy" or "bargain hunting", is a life spent focused on what you do NOT have. I have to focus on what I DO have. Now that I can, according to my own rules, buy clothing, shoes and accessories again I have to change the way I think. I also came to the realization that we have the wonderful ability as humans to make choices. We can choose to spend or save, buy or not. Work more or work less. Be with someone because we want to, or not be with them because we can choose. Make your best decision then live with it.

Going forward, we will make conscious decisions about what we buy and how much we spend. No more of how cute we look as the determining factor. How much money have we decided to spend on clothes this month (or quarter or year)? What is the real ramification of spending this $50?  If I buy this outfit, will it satisfy a need or be a donut? A donut is delicious, tempting. Empty. But don't I deserve a donut? Actually, I don't deserve to to filled with empty calories. I deserve delicious, nutritious food. In reasonable portions. I deserve a balanced budget. Besides, nobody looks that cute in an outfit they can't really afford. 

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