Focus on Something New to Stop Spending Money

by David Ning · 9 comments

My wife spent $0 during the month of March. Surprising, it was expected.

Welcome to the first month of parenthood. No temptations, no advertisements and no access to salespeople. It was easy for her not to spend, really. She didn’t buy anything because she wasn’t thinking about money. She wasn’t worried about her kitchen because she didn’t past by William Sonoma, and she didn’t eat out because, well, she never left the house.

Her focus was on Sara, our one month old. Nothing else seemed more important, and it was easy because spending was the last thing on her mind. Babies are expensive, but it doesn’t mean less savings after its all said and done.

How You Can Do It Too

Try it yourself. Focus on something new to occupy your time. The best part of this is that it doesn’t even have to be something free. No one is ever going to tell you that a baby girl is inexpensive, but yet, spending time with her means less time outside. Diapers are expensive, but not quite as costly as lining up to buy an iPad. Having another little consumer in our household will sure increase our grocery bills, but who knows, we might reduce our overall cost since we will eat more at home.

Below are some common activities that everyone is familiar with. Maybe they can help you spend less, maybe not. But it’s worth some thought, especially if they are fun too right?

  • Gardening. I’m not into gardening, but it’s a very satisfying experience for many. Some people grow their own food, and the impact to the grocery bill is immediate.
  • Start an online website. I do this for a living, but not every website needs to be tied to financial reasons. Enjoy the process of expanding and growing it. Let me tell you first hand: it can be addicting.
  • Learn to play a new sport, even cycling can be good. First off, bikes, along with all those accessories, can be expensive. But if you actually spend time week after week after week, your investment will pay itself off in no time.
  • Learn to play an instrument. My parents bought a piano for my sister and me 25 years ago, and it’s still like new. Over the years, we’ve spent countless hours playing and listing to it.
  • A hobby like photography could work too. Cameras are expensive, but I know many people who have a modest camera that takes amazing pictures. Indians are sharp shooters because they practice, not because they have technologically advanced bow and arrows.

A Huge Caveat

These are just a few examples of course. Different people will have different preferences, so find your own if the above isn’t enticing. The key for this to work is not just picking the right activity, but to actually focus on only one. Camera equipment is expensive, but your dollars could go a long way if you focus on the craft of photography instead of getting the latest equipment. Are you into photography or are you into buying Stuff? Figure that out first, because the worst thing that can happen is you buying all the latest and greatest, only to have them all sit in your drawer while you search for a new hobby.

Many activities are traditionally thought of as expensive, but if you actually focus on something you can truly love, you may find that you actually spend less money in the long run. Personal situations differ greatly. Not every commonly accepted wisdom is true. Think about things, and you will be able to find your way.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sylvain April 9, 2010 at 6:39 am

Excellent advice. I’m into different hobbies, one of them is gardening. With very little initial costs, you can do a lot. Start small with some seeds you bought or even better ask someone who is already gardening. Quite often they will have some spare seeds for you and will be delighted to give you some advice to help you start.
Soon enough you will spend several hours a week taking care of your small plants, which is as exciting as relaxing. Plus you get a lot of satisfaction and good feelings once your plants get bigger and start producing flowers and fruits.
Plants only need some soil, water and light. So stay away from all the fancy stuff and gardening will be one of your cheapest hobbies.

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MoneyNing April 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

I bet the fruits are sweeter too. :) When something is cheaper AND better, it’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it?

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Jersey Mom April 9, 2010 at 7:16 am

Focusing on something like a hobby is great fun. Just like in your example, I started my own blog back in February. I also tend to the garden and watching my herbs come back to life.

Your wife spent $0? You mean no clothing, shoes, make-up, and “stuff” for herself right? If that’s the case, I’ve spent $0 since at least 1/2 year ago …although if “food” is considered stuff then that’s a different story because I do splurge on food. =)

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MoneyNing April 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

I did mean that she didn’t pay for anything in a month. As for food, we prepaid for an “after pregnancy meal plan” for 30 days counting from the day Emma got out of the hospital, so she weren’t really able to splurge on that either.

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Vick April 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

It’s so true that even paying some money can end up saving you lots if you actually make good use of that particular activity.

I bought a bike 2 years ago for a few hundred dollars but I ride on a trail every Sunday morning. I feel more energetic, and I bet I won’t be spending as much on health care when I get old.

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Stanley April 9, 2010 at 10:12 am

Funny you mention photography. I just took a beginner’s “how to take photos” class and every student had fancy brand new cameras while the teacher had a super dated camera.

Everyone thinks photography is expensive but if you focus on taking good pictures, you don’t really always need to buy the latest and supposedly “best” equipment.

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Cd Phi April 9, 2010 at 11:44 am

So true. When I keep myself occupied, shopping barely crosses my mind. That occurred when I got a job…

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Penniless Parenting April 10, 2010 at 10:27 am

You say that babies are expensive; they don’t have to be. Nursing babies that are cloth diapered and dressed in thrift store clothing or hand me downs can cost next to nothing. I think that I have spent a total of less than 100 dollars on my 7 month old baby.

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sue December 6, 2010 at 7:55 pm

This sounds like excellent advice. I’m trying to find a way to stop myself from spending money on things that I don’t need and can’t afford. I feel like all my energy is focused on spending, be it a new pair of shoes, a new rug, or even just a box of toothpicks. I can’t go into a store without buying something. It never occured to me to just find something different to focus on. Looking forward to putting this into action.

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