It really seems that Nosurfgirl is guiding this current discussion on money right now. That’s a good thing since I want the information to be useful. So, once again, this one goes out to Nosurfgirl….
In my last post on money matters, Nosurfgirl mentioned compulsive buying or stress shopping. It’s a plague that affects many people, myself included. I’ve been known to go buy something thinking that it’d make me feel better or make me happy. Never does unfortunately, but I might as well hope, right? Some people also use compulsive shopping as a means of showing their power over life, stress, money, or whatever, but the truth is that compulsive shopping (no offense) is truly a lack of fiscal maturity at its deepest and is a complete surrender to whatever you are trying to conquer. Nothing good will ever come of compulsive shopping because you will almost always spend money you don’t have for things you don’t need which leads to more stress and more compulsive shopping.
I don’t necessarily know the psychology behind compulsive shopping, but I do understand that it is a basic need for many people. The important thing in good fiscal management is to make the compulsion a planned and budgeted event that allows you to control the situation while releasing some of that steam.
Dave Ramsey always includes a few things in his budgets that have helped me with compulsive shopping. First, he subscribes to the “pay yourself” ideal that many experts recommend, but he insists that that money go to your future. You should fund your retirement accounts and savings accounts every month because your future is important. For me, there has been a deep satisfaction in seeing those accounts grow and build ever so slowly at first but with increasing speed and strength.
But simply funding retirement and savings won’t necessarily calm the urgings to spend on yourself, so Dave Ramsey adds a budget category he calls Blow Money. In my own budgeting, I call it an Allowance, and it is money that has absolutley no strings because sometimes you just need to go spend the money without feeling guilty or worrying about it. And if it is budgeted, allocated money, you won’t.
Right now, we put about $10 a month in our Allowance and the simple fact that there is money there to blow on whatever we want often means we don’t spend it. When we do, we normally use it to pay for a pizza or dinner with, oddly enough, Nosurfgirl’s family. It helps release some of the pressure that comes with living a budget and sticking to strict financial goals while also reaffirming that we do live a budget and we have strict financial goals. Instead of huring us, our allowance actually helps us live the financial lifestyle we have committed ourselves to living.
Going back to sinking funds from a previous post: We’ve noticed that sinking funds help us combat the urgings to spend money by having money already set aside for clothes or entertainment (books, movies, music) or whatever. When we get the itch to go buy “me” stuff like a book or new clothes, we can because we’ve got the money budgeted and set aside.
Now for the personal application: I love good music, and I’m still a big fan of nice, attractive stereos for the living room. More often than not, our home is filled with beautiful music; symphonies, hymns, and other inspiring songs, and having a nice stereo is important to me. This last October/November, our current stereo started to show its age (7 years now), and I got the itch to blow some money on a new one. We had about $150 set aside in the furniture fund, so we took our cash (always cash!) out and went shopping. After a long day with $150 burning a hole in our pockets, we came home empty handed and the itch to blow our money was gone.
As we had walked around each store (we went to three) looking at stereos, we realized that as much as we wanted a new stereo, we liked having $150 more. Three months later, we are still using that old stereo and our $150 has grown to about $200 and, some day, will buy us something we really need.
The point is this: Compulsive shopping is bad. Controlled and budgeted compulsive shopping (now that is an oxymoron!) is perfectly healthy, normal, and quite beneficial, and for those of us who are the opposite of compulsive shoppers (compulsive savers), it is even essential. After all, without a little shopping, what is all that saved money really worth any way?