In middle school, I felt pressure to have name brand clothes and accessories and felt bad about myself because my family could only afford Target’s version of the Swatch watch. This pressure to try to keep up with my classmates and deriving my self-worth or lack thereof, from material things, stayed with me for a very long time. It is only in the last few years that I have been able to separate my purchases from my emotions, therefore saving my family money and feeling much better about myself.
When I began to believe that I’m not what I buy, I didn’t have to have it all, or an expensive version of the day’s “must have item.” I really wanted to have an emergency fund and pay off my debt, two things that stressed me out. You see, I dug myself an embarrassingly deep hole of debt buying things to try to fill an emotional gap that no item or pedicure could ever fill. I needed to “do the work” to heal and fill the emotional hole, which allowed me to cut up my credit cards and make different choices regarding purchases.
I came across a great mantra that really struck a cord with me. It has been a valuable tool in helping me make smarter purchases and has kept me in check when thinking about putting something in my cart at the store. The mantra is: Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.
- Use it up. You would have thought I was a personal tester for Bath & Bodyworks new lotions for the number of bottles I had in my bathroom! It was ridiculous and I decided I was not buying another bottle of lotion until I used what I had. It felt great to save money, declutter and not feel like a slave to buying the season’s newest scent. Score one for Jenn!
- Wear it out. I’ve never been much of a clothes shopper, mainly because more things didn’t fit than did fit, but I do have my favorite brands at Kohl’s and still love L.L. Bean. But I would buy new pieces when I had perfectly nice things hanging in my closet. I went through everything in my closet and donated the things that I didn’t love, didn’t fit or hadn’t worn in a year. Now I have a happy closet and don’t buy anything until something is honestly worn out.
- Make due. Commercials are notorious for convincing us that we have to have a new X,Y, or Z. When it’s very likely that what we have is just dandy, or we may have something in the basement, attic or garage that would fill the need just fine. I’m not suggesting you never buy new things again but I am whole heartedly in favor of making mindful and smart purchases that are thought out and in your family’s best interest in the long run.
- Do without. Over the years I thought I couldn’t possibly do without bi-weekly pedicures and new flip flops each summer, an iPhone, every new book that caught my fancy at the bookstore or the earrings that are the coolest thing I’ve seen since the last pair I fell in love with. I’ve decided that having financial peace of mind and achieving my long-term money goals are much more important. I’m choosing to decrease and eliminate my money stress rather than trying to make myself feel better via purchases.
It takes time to get comfortable with these four ways of thinking and acting but I am so very glad I have. They keep me on track, keep me peaceful, keep me “green,” and more “green” in my wallet.