If you were a fan of Sex and the City back in the early 2000s, you know that the main character Carrie Bradshaw wasn’t exactly financially savvy. There’s one episode in particular when Carrie realizes this herself: she’s trying to figure out if she has enough money to buy her apartment and is shocked when her friend Miranda points out that the amount she has spent on shoes over the years would have been enough for a down payment (roughly 100 pairs at $400/pair, or $40,000)!
We all have our little “spending addictions.” Carrie happens to have a weakness for ridiculously expensive shoes; mine happens to be books. Now, spending money on books may seem more “acceptable” or even admirable. But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter whether you’re addicted to Jimmy Choo’s or Jane Austen – it’s still an addiction.
According to Merriam-Webster, an addiction is a strong and harmful need to regularly have or do something. When it comes to spending, it might be an item that you habitually purchase, almost without thought or consideration, or something you buy that always seems to have an amplified “I have to have it!” urgency.
What’s deceptive about some of these addictions is that their “harmfulness” may be subtle. I mean, what’s the harm in buying a nice new pair of shoes that you love and wear all the time, or a good book that you devour in an afternoon? What constitutes an “addiction” versus good ol’ fashion spending?
In Carrie’s case, she may have rationalized that she could “afford” her first pair of shoes because she had the money to pay for them. The “harmful” part, however, developed over time when it became a reoccurring purchase that ended up taking away from another, more important future goal of hers (i.e., buying her own apartment).
For me, the amount of money I spend on books won’t ever make or break my budget, so rationally there’s not really any “harm” done. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to purge my shelves to get rid of books that I didn’t love and that just ended up cluttering up my house. The “harm” is not that it’s excessive spending per se, but that it results in waste – books that wind up in the trash or being donated (which on the surface may seem like a good thing, but I’m pretty certain the charities would prefer I skip the book transaction altogether and just give them the cash!).
With the holiday season right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to examine your own little “spending addictions.” Maybe for you it’s the leather boots that are a slightly different shade of brown that you MUST. HAVE. NOW. Or perhaps it’s the pumpkin spice latte every morning before work or black Lululemon yoga pants in every style and cut.
TAKE THE CHALLENGE
Look through your own spending history and identify one re-occurring purchase that may constitute a “spending addiction.”
Add up how much you would likely spend on that item(s) over the next two months. For example, if it’s a pair of Jimmy Choo’s every season, that’s $600 (yes, prices have gone up since Sex and the City aired). If it’s a latte every weekday morning, that’s $120. If you’re like me and that’s books, it may be $60.
Now, commit to not making that purchase until the end of the year. Instead, take that money and do something else that you think would be more worthwhile – like putting it toward your own “down payment savings” fund a la Carrie Bradshaw or donating it directly to charity. (For example, a great idea would be to take that money and consider contributing it to STRONG MOM, supporting Ridgewood Mom Kerrie Prettitore in her fight against colon cancer. Click here to read her article that was posted this week.)
Remember, even if you can afford something, doesn’t mean you should buy it. By taking this two-month challenge, you’ll turn your “spending addictions” into “spending fruitions” – actually creating something positive out of your spending. Your inner-Carrie Bradshaw would be so proud!
~Jennifer Faherty is a Certified Life Coach, specializing in helping women find their passion and develop a healthy relationship with money. She can be found at www.jenniferfaherty.com or on Twitter @jenniferfaherty. Download her free “Money Zen” guide and get weekly tips on managing your money and creating your best life here.