Author Topic: How not to stress about spending/saving?  (Read 2051 times)

onourway

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How not to stress about spending/saving?
« on: October 03, 2014, 10:58:32 AM »
I could use some mustachian encouragement!  I've been reading for about 4 months and have made some changes I'm really happy with (husband and I have cut hundreds off our monthly food spend, I shop way less, overall our expenses are down $1,000+ each month and we're saving like crazy).  But I still get these occasional periods of stress about spending - particularly at the start of the month (when budgets re-set and I think about my needs for the month) and end of the month (when I watch the numbers and *try* to stay under $X in spending for the month and get stressed about whether I should stock up on something on sale, which would save overall, or defer the spend until a few days later in the new month). 

As an example, I'm currently planning to buy a couple of new cardigans for work (I'm not an advanced mustachian - I have a high paying job that more than adequately compensates me for looking like a corporate attorney, and replacing worn clothing is a must), plus some tights for the winter (a necessity, again for the office).  I have a budget (including credit card rewards), I'm comfortable with it, and I'm waiting for a certain annual sale I'm expecting to come up this month.  But I just keep stressing about spending vs. saving. I go to the store website and pick out the things I might want, then put them in a cart and calculate the price with the discount, then remove one thing or put something back in the cart.  Then I go to other store websites and start doing the same, and all of a sudden I'm looking at something else entirely I definitely don't need.  Meanwhile I'm obsessively updating my Mint accounts and personal spending spreadsheet to see what it would look like if I do or don't spend $X (which I do plan to spend this month, just not today).  I do similar things, minus the e-window shopping, with our food budget (which includes some wiggle room for a dinner out and beer and wine).

I'm not actually spending any money when I do this.  And I'm trying to tell myself that the fact that I'm even worried about my spending at all is a HUGE step for me over 4-5 months ago.  I'm not 100% sure what stresses me out about it all, but I think at least two things are at play: (1) some spending is necessary, and that's stressful because it still makes the monthly out-go numbers increase, and (2) the only way to not spend is to not spend.  There is no corresponding non-spending activity.  Yes, I should be a better person and find other things to do, but it's not as simple as switching out watching TV for reading a book or something.  I do love my larger Vanguard bank transfers, but that's a once-per-month activity, not an I'm bored right now and and thinking about my wardrobe activity.

Anyway, this is long and rambling, but if anyone (particularly those who have active urges to spend and don't) has any encouragement or tips for dealing with this sort of stress, I would be very appreciative!  I am so pleased with how far I've come, but clearly the spending urges are still there.  And now they are mixed with a pretty strong sense of guilt, which isn't healthy either, though it does keep me from spending too much.

captainawesome

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Re: How not to stress about spending/saving?
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2014, 11:23:19 AM »
I was given some sage advice a few years ago that can apply to all things in life.

Move the dirt.

What does that mean? Think of it in terms of moving one pile of dirt from its current location to another location. Some days you have a shovel. Some days you have a spoon. Every now and again you may be fortunate and get a dozer. And occasionally you have nothing but your hands. But focus each day on making progress and moving the dirt and getting closer to your goal.

Like I'm sure everyone who saw the "mustachian light" you can get overwhelmed quickly to make big changes in your life.  The key is keep your eye on the prize. But life has this tendancy of getting in the way and ruining your well crafted financial plans.  I can't say you won't ever stress about money, or constantly monitor your mint/personal capital accounts but every now and again you need to remind yourself of the progress you've made, and realize you are closer today then you were yesterday to whatever your financial goal is.

Chranstronaut

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Re: How not to stress about spending/saving?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2014, 11:26:30 AM »
$1000 a month or more cut already; that's no small peanuts, great work!

You mentioned that you're still a little unsure of what causes you to feel stressed out about spending.  I see some clues as to what it might be besides what you listed at the end of your post.

One thing I see a lot on the forum, is that there are MANY ways to run your finances.  Everyone's personality is different and how you budget or track you stash has to match your personality.  For example, I don't like to keep a strict budget because I know that I don't spend money just because it's there and I don't pass up opportunities just because I might go a little over budget on one category.  I shoot for a general monthly goal instead.  But this doesn't work for everyone; some people need really strict budgets or else they buy everything they get their hands on.  Maybe you need a slightly different approach that gives you the right balance between control and comfort?  Since the big "budget re-set" at the start of the month is making you anxious, maybe setting smaller weekly budgets would ease the tension?

Personally, I wouldn't worry so much about things like the work clothes or stocking up on sales.  You are shopping deals and being conscious of every purchase -- that is probably the most important thing anyone can do to lower expenses.  You already said you are waiting for a known sale to buy something you need for work. That doesn't sound bad to me at all!

I too have gone through obsessive periods about FI and saving, and sometimes the best thing for me was to slow down and take a break.  Checking mint every day is fun at first, and then it just becomes stressful.  Maybe you would benefit from only checking your banking and investment information once a month or some other schedule?  Sometimes I even have to limit when I check the forum because getting on here too often can have a similar effect.

It sounds like you are really worried about spending ANY money, but forgetting that it's not just saving for saving's sake.  It's also about life-balance.  We use money as a tool and some of that MUST be used now, not just after retirement.  Maybe if you "pay yourself first" and put aside a set savings amount right after you get paid, you won't feel like the money that you are spending is depriving you of your savings goals.  As you progress, you can pay yourself more and more, which is a more positive way of thinking than focusing only on spending less or what you can't have.

Good luck.  If you feel like you'd like more help, consider posting a case-study with your income and expense information and a lot of people will be willing to help you focus on reducing expenses.