Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A penny saved is a lesson learned

For more than a few reasons, I've decided to go on a spending fast for two weeks.

It's not that I'm an obsessive shopper. In fact, I've become a very conscious consumer ever since a mortgage and a baby changed my financial priorities. Now instead of splurging on expensive clothes and shoes, I splurge on a warm house and fancy diapers because they tend to prevent leaks a little better overnight.

I know. Totally glamorous.

I was reminded of how much my life has changed when I got a little free time to myself this weekend. I returned a pair of pants I had gotten for my birthday that ended up being too short. When the sales woman handed me the cash, I had to blink twice. Money. To spend on me. Not on bills. Not on the the house. Not on the baby. Just me.

So I went to one of my favorite women's clothing stores. Being near the Penn State campus, it was crawling with fashionable young women. Their hair was immaculate. They were wearing heels and coordinating jewelry. They didn't have a baby puke stain running down their sleeve.

And one by one I watched as they piled their arms high with anything and everything. I used to be them. I used to shop and buy with abandon.

That was my old life. Before I had to worry about whether the heating company was going to raise rates. Before I needed an emergency fund for unexpected household problems. Before I bought a family vehicle and gas prices spiked.

On the other hand, I appreciate the few things I'm able to buy for myself so much more. I treat them with more respect and tend to think through my purchases. Even just a few short years ago, I would buy something on sale just because it was a good deal, then it would sit, unused, in my dresser with the tags still on for months.

My new shopping sprees are buying household items in bulk. We got a Sam's Club membership after noticing the astronomical price of diapers, and now it has become my mission to buy everything in mass quantities to save.

Each room in our house has a mini store of sorts. Backups of deoderant, shampoo and toilet paper in the bathroom. Backups of dish soap, paper towels and sponges in the kitchen. Backups of wipes, garbage bags and diapers in the baby's room.

And now our kitchen is overflowing with pasta sauce, Cheerios, stewed tomatoes and oatmeal thanks to my new psychosis.

Other than that, and my increasing worries about the economy, I just want to see if I can do it. I want to see if I can avoid the vending machine for an occasional treat at work. Or grabbing a burger at Wendy's on Friday night. Or running out for one thing at the grocery store and ending up with a full basket.

I'm sure it's going to take some discipline, but hopefully I'll get more out of it than a few saved dollars.


MandyElvins said...

So it might be a little weird, but has anyone told you you look alot like Carly Smithson from American Idol? (It's a compliment, you're both gorgeous!)

I was watching the other night and saw her and thought of you.


Sarahhhh said...

i have to say that i too have done this. i don't have nearly as many financial responsibilities as parents or real grown ups do, but i am going to have my first real career in a few months from now. it got me thinking about how to save money and plan for a smart fiancial future. cause i'm over being the broke college story.

for one month i spent money only what i need. it was amazing. the biggest surprise? -- the thing that really makes me think now... the lacking of extra reciepts in all my pockets, purse, and car. whenever i find myself surrounded with a lot of recipes on my desk i freak out now because i know i shouldn't have them in the first place.

Lioncloud said...

Bravo, Kelly, you're fulfilling your mother's worst nightmare -- you're turning into me!

And you are _much_ better looking than Carly Smithson and you sing way better too. Where _does_ she get those awful clothes???


kelly said...


Yes, actually. A friend of mine from college recently e-mailed me saying the same thing. And thanks for the reminder, because I've been meaning to e-mail her back!

Erin in Scranton said...

Having recently taken on a car payment, I'm also looking for ways to save money. I've started bringing my lunch to work four days a week (used to be no days a week) and am working on cutting a daily trip to Starbucks out completely as well. It's amazing how much money "trickles out" of my wallet each week. Good luck with your penny-pinching. :)

Tracy Herrick said...

I have so enjoyed your blog since October of 2007. A friend sent me the link and I have been hooked ever since. I am expecting in late June/early July (By the looks of me, June!!). I have read your older blogs up to this current one and the insight and sense of "that is exactly how I feel" is such a welcome feeling. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading you for a long time!

Are You Willing to Change? said...

I should totally try the same thing...It's tough. Even without a kid! I can't go out and buy whatever I want or anything really, but I would love to!

Ray said...

I love your honest posts like these. I mean not that you aren't honest but you get what I mean. It's true though that we should think more on what we buy, and stop spending so much. I mean unless you're with great fortune: it's something everyone should think about.

And so very true about going shopping for one thing and buying a multitude of other things. It's almost impossible to do. But you just have to have the willpower to stop yourself and say, "No." =)

Take, care.

chelsea said...

Oh man, I'm in a personal financing class and my teacher is going through the same thing. Hopefully the tax rebate season is helping! By the way I added you to my protected Xanga list (Xanga has become full of some of the weirdest people) in case you ever readed to my blog =)

the plainsman said...

Lots of positives in all that, besides the savings!

mercurial scribe said...

I've done this and at first, I was extremely annoyed. But by day 5 (I did it for a month), it felt very freeing. I ate at home a lot more - and a lot healthier. I enjoyed my time more and found myself walking through parks with my Husband instead of walking through the mall. It was surprisingly nice.

Good luck on your experiment!

Kristin said...

Well, I wish the best of luck to you =]


Sandra said...

I have become a PRO at saving money and stretching it since we are a family of 4 living in Southern California on an annual salary of 25K a year. It's tight but doable. Bulk isn't always cheaper, make sure you are calculating the price per unit or ounce. Use coupons as store brand isn't always cheaper if there is a coupon and store brand doesn't always taste the same, as we both know mac n cheese HAS to be Kraft. :)
Don't let your gas tank go below 1/4 tank, make a list and stick to it, shop the perimeter of the grocery store where the staples are. Cook from scratch as much as possible, take lunch to work, only eat out once a week or less, run appliances such as dishwasher and washer/dryer after 7pm when rates are lower. And there is always the option of cloth diapers. Insane you say? Not really as long as you have a washer and dryer. New generation cloth is as easy as disposables and you can always just use disposables when you go out, which is what we do. I have 2 kids in dipes and only spend $20 every 2 months. :)

Just some of what has helped us.