I’ve had an overspending problem for a long time. Not one of those “empty bank account, credit card debt, Amazon parcel delivery every day”-type of spending problem. It has rather been a slight overspend. You see, I am good at two things. I am good at spending money, for sure. But I am also very, very good at making money. Therefore, I’ve never really experienced a kind of panic or dread, because I always had the idea that I could just “work a little harder” or “I’ll make it back soon” – whatever excuse to justify my spending.
However, I’ve had some interesting experiences that have made me extra aware of my problematic behaviour (and, ultimately, the solution). I hope that by writing them down I can become even better at identifying them, and perhaps even inspire others to reflect on this topic as well.
Wake up call #1: Moving to a new place
The sheer amount of stuff I was lugging to my new flat with my partner was a harsh wake-up call. Everything was out in the open and I could really take it all in. I thought I had done a lot to downsize and only have the necessities, but that turned out to be untrue. It kickstarted an urge to radically declutter my wardrobe, and while I’ve had several rounds already, it is still an ongoing process. Now, I think about purchases with the mindset of “would I be happy to move again with this taking up space?”.
Wake up call #2: Aspirational shopping
I’ve had several “style crises”. I know it is a normal part of growing older and finding yourself, but I’ve been quite prone to do a lot of aspirational shopping. Like, when I lose X kilos, when I go to a fancy party (I never go to fancy parties) or when I get a job that requires heels (flats all the way). I’ve dialled back on this a lot, which is a relief. I have struggled a lot with being too eager to build a new perfect wardrobe, which has made it difficult to resist temptations when “quality items” go on sale. I know now when certain clothing items will go well in my wardrobe, but I need to be better at playing the long game. There’s no use in new perfect shoes if it means that I won’t have money in the bank to cover unforeseen expenses or will have to miss out on opportunities and socialising.
Wake up call #3: Health issues
I’ve been blessed with an overall good health and very minor issues in my life so far. I am so grateful for that. That’s also why I had a little shock when I for the first time was severely impacted by a health issue – how big a toll it took on me, how much stuff I missed out on, and so on. However, once things had been cleared up and I got the right treatment, it also provided clarity in terms of spending. I realised that some of my spending, including clothes, had been to try to give myself continuous “fresh starts” and somehow force myself to do things that this health issue that prevented. Once I became aware of the actual cause, it made me realise how silly my behaviour had been. I should have listened to my body and not drowned my feelings in purchases.
Wake up call #4: Tracking my spending
Finally, one of the best money I’ve spent this year has been in a very detailed annual budget tracker. It is a monster of an excel sheet where I can fill in categories each month and see how much I spend, save and earn (especially the latter is interesting when you have a varied income). I had a regular shock when I saw how much I spent on stuff and clothes. Frankly, I actually wouldn’t have minded more expenses on socialising – but that’s not what I saw in the numbers. To me, it says a lot about how I (perhaps) have been feeling over the last few months. Too overwhelmed to really “lean in” when it comes to socialising and networking, and also maybe be a little too spend-averse on social things. If I had just checked where my money was actually going, I could have perhaps adjusted accordingly earlier. Now, I know – and I am more in touch with my priorities. More friends, more experiences – less stuff.
So here they are, the four main causes that have made me realise I had a spending problem. Both concerning spending too much and also on the wrong things. My mantra the last few weeks has been “more experiences, less materialism”. However, I am going to dive a bit deeper into the new mindset I am trying to implement in my life – but for now, I am admitting that I’ve had a problem and that my spending habits must undergo drastic changes, if I am to reach the important goals in my life.