Two Steps to Kickstart Your Life of Less Spending

I moved to California almost two years ago. In the blink of an eye, my financial outlook went from "Wait, I have to fork over $750/month to live in this beautiful apartment in the best part of Cincinnati???" to "Thank God I found this shit-box, tiny bedroom in the Tenderloin for $1,800/month. I hope the police don't try to break down the door again tonight.

My savings account depleted as I turned in huge rent checks, big security deposits, and scoured the internet for deals to furnish my little place. Half of my paycheck was going to taxes and what did end up in my bank account went straight to rent. For the first time, I wasn't able to pay off my credit card bill at the end of every month. 

The problem was, I was consuming like I was still living my old life. Clothes, meals, alcohol, furniture, vacations... I didn't really have the cushion in my income for it anymore, but I was buying like I did. Maybe even more. My rent was so high, it made all the other numbers seem really small. A $120 pair of pants equaled 1/18th of my rent! Not bad! 

I racked up a lot of debt. 
Cut to my #1 goal of 2017: get out. 

So anyway, Jake and I sat down and made a budget. What came out was an aggressive plan to pay off our loans. No room for shopping.

So, that's where we are now. I'm trying to remove the temptation of things. Have you ever been there? Or maybe, are you there now? These two steps helped me kickstart a new way of thinking about stuff, and hopefully they can do the same for you.

Step 1: Unsubscribe from all the email marketing

A 40% sale doesn’t mean you’re saving 40%, it means you’re spending 60%.
— Annie's Coworker at Lunch

I've had the same email account since I was 18-years-old. Over the years, I've subscribed to tons of email newsletters: Madewell, J. Crew, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, West Elm, CB2, Target, Etsy, Kate Spade, Asos, and more, and more, and more..... it was insane. I loved it, too. I work in advertising, so I excused the newsletters as a way to keep up with industry trends. What are the good subject lines? Which ones catch my eye? 

But, you know what really happened? I bought things. Every morning, I logged in to my inbox and deleted all the newsletters that didn't stand out. I read the ones that did – which, unsurprisingly, were flash sales. Eighteen months ago I bought a Rebecca Minkhoff purse on a surprise sale.  Today I barely use it. One year ago, I purchased a second pair of glasses because "they're cuter than the ones I have." Now, I can't find them anywhere.

I didn't even notice how much the marketing was working on me..... and I'm IN marketing! I am literally trained to sell things to people, but I didn't see what I was being sold. 

The day after Jake and I cracked down on our budget, I unsubscribed from over 30 email lists. Theory being this: I won't buy things just because they are on sale anymore. Rather, I'll make the effort to look for the things I really need, when I really need them.

Step 2: Watch "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things"

Minimalism is such a buzz word these days. We hear about minimalist decor, capsule wardrobes, tiny homes. Have you ever wondered why it's such a trend, though? Maybe, just maybe, minimalists actually are happier?

For a few years I've been thinking a lot about minimalism. Part of it was forced on me – my last apartment was 250 square feet. Some of it, though, was from curiosity.

A couple weeks ago, I was g-chatting with my best friend, Natalie. I was lamenting the fact that, even in debt, I was still buying clothes. I wanted her to tell me my most recent purchase (a wool coat from Madewell that was "just the perfect length to wear with my longer shirts but much thicker than my other long coat which I can't wear during the cold weather") was a good one. She did make me feel better..... and then she said this, "but Annie, if you want to stop buying clothes, watch this documentary. It will really convince you that less is more."

I did watch it. & I think you should, too. Natalie wrote about it already, so I'm going to send you over to her blog for some lessons from the film. But here's what I think you should know: it's 78 minutes long. It's on Netflix. You won't regret spending the time to watch it. 

Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things.

Okay, so that's what I've got. I'm no where near out of debt. & I also just spent $4 on a lunch I could have made myself. But... I'm a little more cognizant of it all, and I think that's a step in the right direction. 

Let me know if you have more tips :)

Photo: iStock