Last week, when reading a post over at PaidTwice about her changes in attitude, I started thinking of how I've changed since we started this debt payoff journey. I couldn't really come up with anything except "I spend less money now". It sounds so simple, right?
Then I had a conversation with my sister, discussing our respective Christmas lists. I told her a few things I was looking for: knee highs, undershirts, hair mousse, cookbooks, and she proclaimed, "But none of those are fun!" It hit me like a ton of bricks - almost everything on my list was practical. Even the cookbooks weren't solely for pleasure; they were useful, too. I wasn't really asking for things that I wanted, but things that I needed. Things that the old me would have run out to the store to buy.
Somewhere in the past year and a half, I went from buying the things I wanted to buying the things that I needed to wanting the things that I needed. Unless it is something I can't live without, I put off buying it until I can ask for it as a gift. I have been out of hair mousse for at least 3 months, but I refuse to buy it because I don't strictly need it. Same goes for some makeup - I have been using an old, forgotten eyeliner until I can ask for a new one in my Christmas stocking.
Of course, if it's an essential, it's already built into the budget, but for all the little "extra" items, nope. Many a time I've stood in an aisle of Target, picked up some new non-necessity only to put it right back again. The one time in recent memory I've actually purchased a non-necessary item for my self, it was a pack of bobby pins. That were on sale. For $0.79. That, when I got home, I gave to my husband to give to me for Christmas. In October.
There are plenty of examples of my attitude transformation:
BAD: Buying a magazine every time I saw a new issue on the newsstands
BETTER: Subscribing to my favorite magazines
BEST: Ordering magazines through My Coke Rewards (Bonus: using other people's Coke caps) and reading from the selection at the gym
BAD: Grocery shopping every day, with reckless abandon
BETTER: Grocery shopping once a week with a list
BEST: Grocery shopping once a week with a list, coupons, freezer inventory and menu plan
BAD: Buying myself gifts because "I deserved it"
BETTER: Buying myself treats with my fun money
BEST: Treating myself to free "gifts" like a night in watching movies or an hour blog-a-thon :)
BAD: Buying books I wanted to read
BETTER: Only buying a few books, on sale
BEST: Getting books at the library, or with gift certificates
BAD: Replacing an item if it broke, on credit
BETTER: Replacing broken items with cash
BEST: Evaluating how necessary the item was, and only replace immediately if I can't go on without it
Obviously, this has pushed me to become more frugal, and work towards the ultimate goal of eliminating our debt. Some of these are borderline cheap, but they only affect my husband and me, and are taken on a case-by-case basis. It's pretty amazing to see the differences in our spending now that we only buy absolute necessities.