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March 12, 2012 / Sarah

Financial Fast Reflection: Why We Spend

Have you been following or joining in with our 21-Day Financial Fast?

I confessed last week that my financial fast has been messy. And although I have not been as disciplined with the fast as I had hoped, my efforts to think more about and cut back on my spending have made me reflect on my spending habits, hopefully in a way that will help me save money while also cultivating a more fulfilling (and cheaper!) life.

For me, when I started to look closely at what I was spending, the next natural question was : Why? Remember, we’re not talking about essentials here, like healthy food for you and your family, the medicines that you might need, or the spending necessary to keep your house going. But what about all those little extras? What’s behind some of that extra spending?

There’s no doubt that we will all answer that question differently. For me, I’ve discovered that the bulk of my extra spending (which, by the way, is on: coffee, eating out, and little purchases to appease my kids) has one purpose for me: it is a treat.

Let’s take coffee, for instance. It doesn’t take me that long to make it at home—in truth, it’s far more trouble to unload and load the kids from the bike trailer into the coffee shop than to just brew a cup in my travel mug at home. Nope, for me, it’s almost completely mental. I enjoy treating myself to a cup of coffee that someone else made for me; I enjoy buying something for myself to treat myself for whatever I’ve accomplished so far in the day (getting out of a bed, getting the kids dressed, doing a sink-load of dishes… it doesn’t take much!).

So once I discovered the real reason I’m spending extra money, it was time to find a way to cut out some extra expenses while still giving me the little treats that I sometimes need in the day.

So I made a few investments: I found a wonderful, huge, handmade mug at my local thriftstore. It fits my hand just-so, and I get excited thinking about using it. Secondly, I bought some delicious, creamy half-and-half. I’ve always left the cream-buying for coffee shops, but being able to top off my coffee or tea with a dollop of half-and-half gives me that treat I need! And for my kids, a few mornings a week we open up the Mommy Coffee Shop, when I come around with a notepad to take orders (The most popular order in our house is hot milk and molasses—delicious and iron-rich. Try it!); the kids get a kick out of the special treatment and so do I.

I’m looking for small solutions like this in other parts of my life, too. By getting together with neighbors to form a dinner co-op, we get the treat of having food brought to us without spending money at a restaurant.  By having easy, entertaining craft and science supplies always on hand at home, we can resist some of the more expensive manufactured toys and projects (because, really, give a 4 year old some baking soda and vinegar, and he/she will be entertained for hours!).

 What about you? What are some of the sources of your extra spending? What are your little tricks to avoid those extra costs? 

We first reported on the “financial fast” concept in the Jan/Feb issue of our Green American.
We’re finishing up the  March/April issue (all about GMOs) right now.   Subscribe today to either the 100-percent recycled paper print edition, or the digital edition  >>

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