Budgets are boring. And they feel restrictive, too. Nobody likes them. The good news? When you mix in mindful spending with your budget, suddenly it feels more like what you choose to spend your money on rather than what you have to purchase.
Mindful Spending Will Set You Free
Mindful spending is essentially thinking it through before you buy something—and this includes big purchases like a car down to small purchases like a pack of gum. It doesn’t mean you have stand in the aisle for twenty minutes debating if you really need a pack of Juicy Fruit. It just means that the love affair you have with spending your money on something—anything—needs to be tamed.
At the end of the day, money is a tool for us to get what we want. The problem with a lot of cultures these days is that we want everything. This is partly the fault of advertisers, who spend lots of time and money producing ads that make us believe that if we just buy the latest gadget, that new car or their $100 face cream, suddenly our lives will be everything we’ve always dreamed of.
But we have to take responsibility for our own actions: At the end of the day, we are the ones who pull out our credit cards for something we really don’t need or necessarily even want. And all of those companies out there with the ads? They don’t care if you can’t afford to eat or have to declare bankruptcy because you spent too much. They just want your money.
To have more joy in our lives, and more money in our wallets, we need to think through every purchase and ask ourselves what really matters the most to us. For example, some people love to travel but never go anywhere because their money is being spent on the latest iPhone or a new car every few years. Some people work long hours at the office to buy their kids more stuff but miss the irony that they’re actually not around much to spend time with them.
Actionable Steps Toward Mindful Spending
To figure out what you should be spending your money on to bring you the most joy, try taking the following steps:
1.) Keep receipts for 30 days and then go through them. What did you buy that really didn’t make much of a positive difference in the quality of your life? What did you buy that you could have lived without?
2.) Look at your current ongoing monthly expenses and add them up. Are there areas where you could reduce the costs and still be happy? For example, could you downsize your home and still be happy? Do you really need cable when you can watch some of your favorite shows online for less?
3.) Ask yourself if there are items you own that you really don’t use or like and that are just taking up precious space in your home. Get rid of these items. Likewise, what items do you own that you absolutely love? Take care of them so they last longer.
4.) Make a bucket list. What expenses can you cut out in your life so you can have the money to do these things? Carry this bucket list in your wallet, next to your credit card, and look at it whenever you’re tempted to make a purchase you know you shouldn’t be making.
You can also practice mindful spending when you’re in a store and about to make a non-essential purchase: Ask yourself if the item you’re about to buy is something you really love. If it is, ask yourself if you can easily afford it. If you answer yes to both of these questions, then you can buy it guilt-free.
But if you answered no to either question, then it’s best to move on. Save your money for another item that’s something you both love and can afford. We have to be selective in what we buy so we’re not wasting money and filling our homes with junk that doesn’t bring us joy. This will bring you more money and even more time to enjoy life because you won’t be managing all of that stuff (cleaning, maintenance, etc.)
For more on how being selective with your spending can increase your net worth (and happiness), check out the article How Selective Spending Increases Your Net Worth.
Your Spending Should Reflect You
If your mindlessly making purchases, then you might feel lost and even out of control in your life. Mindful spending, coupled with a lifestyle plan, can help you get your life back on track so you feel in control again. If you couple this mentality with a bigger plan for your life, you can change your life for the better forever. To learn more about how to create that plan, check out the article Better Than a Budget: Why You Need a Lifestyle Plan.
The idea is that what you buy should reflect your personality, goals, and dreams. Anything less shouldn’t take up space in your life. In fact, when we buy things that we don’t really love or can’t afford, they become obstacles–mental and physical clutter–that just get in the way of our money and life goals. Then we start to feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious as our bank accounts get depleted and our homes become overstuffed.
On the contrary, if you practice mindful spending, you’ll find more joy in your life because the things you buy will reflect more of who you are and what really matters to you. The by-product of these actions is that you’ll end up with more money in your bank account—which will bring you more happiness than anything you can buy in a store:)