The Spending Confessions


For the past few years, I’ve set an “allowance” goal for myself when it comes to shopping. A grand total I don’t want to exceed over the course of the year. Some years I’ve broken it out by monthly allotments, others I just tracked the year to date total. What each year has in common is that I’ve completely failed at staying under that goal. It’s brought on feelings of shame and guilt, of frustration and anger. Yet, I do it all over again the next year. I’m pretty good about budgeting EVERYTHING else–why am I so bad at this?

This was the motivation for me to go with picking 10 items for my ban project instead of setting a dollar amount. If I kept doing the same thing, expecting a different result, I’d be crazy. I decided to take a different approach. I’ll focus more on whether or not I need each individual piece and will it be something truly different than what I already have instead of doing the mental math gymnastics on how close it brings me to an imaginary dollar ceiling. (One that I break anyway.) Once this downsizing and brain retraining project runs its course, I can start evaluating my closet once or twice a year and planning out things I need to replace and allow for a few splurges and maybe even be more prepared to say no to those impulse buys I sucker myself into now.

Really all I’m doing is stalling. This is supposed to be about admitting my mistakes before and laying them all out on the table for whoever to see. I don’t want to do it. I’m smarter about finances than this, and yet my behavior suggests otherwise. I’m admitting that I’m susceptible to stress buying, purchasing something to feel better about some other issue in my life, and even a sucker for “sale” marketing. (Look how much I saved! But you would have saved more if you hadn’t bought it in the first place? Oh, yeah.)

There are no collection calls, no bad information on my credit report, and no desperate pleas to extend more credit than I currently have. I’m not going beyond my means. I’m making poor choices based on what I want in the long run. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to the guilt and anger I feel after I’ve bought and worn stuff.

I think that’s the most frustrating part. I know better. I’m just not acting on what I know. I hope along the way I figure out some of my triggers and learn how to deal with them in a healthier manner.

Alright, no more stalling. I promise this time.

In 2014, I spent a grand total of $10,361.88 on stuff. That hurts to admit. I budgeted for myself a total of $3600. Yeah. Big whoops on that one. My biggest busters were Nordstrom’s ($3434.69) and Mont Blanc ($2928.17).

Did I mention I collect pens from Mont Blanc’s Writer’s Collection? It’s probably a silly hobby… especially right now when I’m paying for 2 kids to be in daycare and that costs more per month than our mortgage. My brain seems to lose all control when one of the Mont Blanc store reps tells me they have an out of production set in stock and thought I’d like it. I’m like Gollum with the Ring. My precious. Last year I bought Carlo Collodi, the 2011 edition. The year before that it was Hemingway from 1992.

The Nordstrom total is easy for me to understand how it happened. Buy a little here and there and it adds up fast. I just need to use more restraint and maybe spend less time updating my online wish list. Boredom is definitely a trigger here, so how about instead of picking up my laptop, I grab my book instead? I’m wanting to read more anyway.

And now to detail what I did in the first half of 2015. I was on pace to spend more than I did in 2014. How embarrassing. But here’s every gritty detail:

  • Mont Blanc (2002 F Scott Fitzgerald set and a watch strap replacement) $3382.81–now you know why I had an extra $4000 on my CC balance transfer, over and above what the fence cost. While $368.05 of that total was to replace a watch strap that was was in really bad shape, that’s still $3014.76 for pens. Pens.
    • Nordstrom $1786.04
    • Kate Spade $1008.31
    • Ted Baker $569.40
    • Macy’s $417.47 (kind of a planned thing–the bedding in our bedroom was pretty old and the sheets were getting pretty sad. I could have just bought new sheets, but instead I decided to upgrade everything so it goes on this list.)
    • Sephora $319.39 (some refills of products, but some waste for sure)
    • Stewart Weitzman $280.04 (This would have been one of my 10 items if I’d done it later in the year–I have a friend who manages one of the SW stores and she told me about a 35% off sale. I wanted the shoes anyway and had for months–but helping a friend meet her sales goal was totally worth it to me.)
    • $264.16 (mostly books, but some office supplies and a bed skirt to go with the new bedding I bought from Macy’s)
    • Souvenirs from our trip to the 24 Hours of Daytona $240.70 (seriously, one thing would have been enough, what the hell was I thinking?)
    • Rodan + Fields $178.08 (my college roommate is awesome and a rep–I want to support her and the stuff does work. It lasts a while so I buy maybe twice a year. It’s a planned expense but still an expense that has more affordable alternatives so I’m including it.)
    • Swarovski $146.62
    • Barnes & Noble $83.16 (I let my kids pick out some Thomas the Train toys without first checking the prices. A mistake I will never make again, but it needs to be on the list because I could have said no after seeing the price tags and I didn’t.)
    • Old Navy $78.83 (they had a sale on yoga/active wear and I fell for it)
    • iTunes $38.17
    • Yankee Candle Co. $37.88
    • Gap $34.98
    • Puma $31.33

That is a grand total of $8897.37.

I had to stare at that number for a little while. I could be sitting in a completely different saving situation if I had a handle on my shopping, but I’m not. I could be less stressed about some potential major expense happening (like our air conditioner crapping out in the heat of summer in Texas and our unit is 13 years old so it’s only a matter of time) because I would have the emergency savings to cover it and then some, but I don’t. I could be planning a fun vacation at Disney for the kids, knowing I had the safety net to pay for it, except I can’t because I don’t. I feel incredibly selfish right now.

Now for a bit of good news. Since I started using PoshMark in February of this year, I’ve sold a few items and made $385.60 back from the stuff I was going to get rid of anyway (not including what I sold in July). It is a good way to get something more than a small tax write off for my nicer pieces. It’s another avenue to add back to my savings. I was using it as a way to off set my total spend (which really only adds to the problem now that I think about it), but I think it makes more sense to save going forward. It’s not something I’m counting on to make it through the month with bills–and every little bit adds up, but this time in a good way.

I’ve known this is an issue for a while now but I’ve either chosen to ignore it or I’ve tried to justify the behavior in some way. The Mont Blanc is a perfect example of justifying–I’d always tell myself that it’s an “investment” and I could easily sell some of my collection and make my money back. But guess what–those pens will still exist later and I can buy them second hand; probably at a discount. I don’t HAVE to get them now. And there’s no guarantee I will make my money back so that’s not a reason to buy.

I have to stop making excuses. I have to stop pretending I’m not doing this to cover up some other frustration when I clearly am. I need to look at myself and understand why I’m buying stuff. There are times when it really is just to update my wardrobe a bit, and that’s okay. That’s what the 10 items exception is for. But I also know there are times when it’s not about the wardrobe and that’s when I need to put the wallet away.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who emotionally shops. I’m sure many marketing campaigns are geared to appeal to it and make it feel good instead of guilty. Maybe I’m hoping there’s some solace in not being alone. Maybe I’m hoping by acknowledging it fully, I can work to change my behavior. Maybe I can help someone else along the way by sharing my issues and plans for change.

Who knows what will happen, but admitting all this in a very public way (whether it’s widely read or not–the potential exists) is both humbling and liberating. I can draw the line in the sand and say it’s going to be different going forward and hold myself accountable. I can look at this and realize I’m far from real financial trouble but could be doing so many things better without really sacrificing my lifestyle. And maybe I stumble across some great information to share along the way.

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