Last weekend, we had 3-6 inches of snow predicted for Sunday night. Now the area where I live only gets one or two snowfalls a year and so we get a little crazy when it’s time to prepare.
As a personal finance blogger, I wish I could tell you I was immune, but sure enough Saturday afternoon saw me standing in a line snaking well past the salad and hot food bars all the way to the kombucha waiting to pay for:
- A pint of blueberries
- 16 ounces of Dr. Bonners peppermint soap
- A pound of chickpeas
- One pack of naan bread
- And a pomegranate
I had no immediate need for any of these items, yet I felt compelled to drive 20 minutes to Whole Foods and wait in line another half hour to get them. Why? Because I couldn’t turn off the part of my brain that was going “What if?”
- What if I really wanted to try that recipe for goat cheese, spring mix and pomegranate salad that I saw three weeks ago?
- What if I wanted to make pita bread and then had no chickpeas with which to make hummus?
- What if my kids get tired of the apples, clementines, oranges, bananas and grapefruits that we had at home? How would they get their fruit? What kind of mother doesn’t provide adequate fruit?
You might not be inclined towards these irrational spending frenzies, I know a lot of people aren’t and to them this could look like the most ridiculous thing in the world. And to be honest, it is pretty silly, but we all have our follies and this is mine and millions of other people’s.
While it probably seems that I’m absolutely the wrong person to give this advice, I have been much more in control of my spending for the past few years, and this minor slip-up highlighted how important the following actions were in keeping a good balance in my spending.
Organization is Everything
I’ve written before how being organized can have a positive effect on your personal finances. At present, my kitchen, pantry and fridge are all still cluttered and disorganized because of me being sick and the holidays.
All that clutter made it hard for me to clearly visualize what we had and what we would need and probably also added to my overall anxiety. The simple fix? Make 2 or 3 hours this weekend to pull everything out and get things spic, span and in their rightful homes.
It’s Going to be a Disastrophe!
My oldest son used to say that he was scared to do something when he was small and I’m realizing more and more that he learned it from me. While I’m generally pretty rational and level headed, when I’m tired and stressed, I put the blinders on and focus on small details that aren’t important in the grand scheme of thing, like my children being deprived of the anti-oxidant rich goodness of fresh blueberries.
When I get this way, it’s a sure sign that I need to take a breather, get some rest and find my perspective again and start making more rational choices. Being overtired and stressed out is a recipe for poor decision making. While you might not react in the same way that I do, perhaps you notice that you become paralyzed and can’t make any decision at all when you need a break. Or become overly anxious when spending any money at all, to the point where you feel miserable but can’t stop.
I firmly believe that good financial health goes hand in hand with taking care of the whole picture and that includes making sure you get enough sleep and plenty of downtime.
Everyone Else is Doing It!
We all like to think we’re immune to peer pressure and most of us are, in some areas in our lives, while in others we gleefully follow the crowd. Seeing a packed store is the social proof that spurs many of us into buying things we don’t need. While we might have been undecided before we saw or heard of the crowd, once that news reaches our brains, we have to go.
Most of us like to fit in, and most of us feel antsy when we think other people are going to take more than their fair share. Most of us know that it would be better if we just waited, but if we do, there is a good chance somebody else will take our place and then where will we be?
I don’t think that this inclination to go with the crowd can be completely overcome, and in some cases, it’s good that we’re so closely attuned to others that we can get some sense of when the tide is turning. My solution is to find ways to shield myself from the influence of others when it comes to making spending decisions.
For example, I noticed when I was Christmas shopping, I shopped smarter and made far fewer impulse decisions than I did when I went to Target on Christmas Eve to get a few stocking stuffers. The more I saw other people toss in their baskets, the more I found myself tossing M&M dispensers and HotWheels cars into mine.
There is Always Tomorrow
While that unneeded Whole Foods trip cost a little north of $30, it didn’t put that big of a dent in my budget and more importantly is no reason to declare the entire month a bust and decide to start saving more in February. Slip ups happen to all of us, but there is no reason to add to the mistake. This week, I’ll skip the Caramel Apple Spices and try to stretch the groceries we have into an extra meal before we go shopping and things will be back on track.
Are you prone to shopping frenzies? How do you deal with them?
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