Mortgage Free: Bumps in the Road

 |  Budgeting, Personal

One of the biggest barriers to me being mortgage free in 5 years is a bad habit I don’t tend to talk about too often: I’m a comfort spender. If I’m stressed, I spend money on anything and everything. The ironic thing about this unnecessary splurging is that it ultimately leads to me adding to my stress levels because I end up wasting money that I need to save or use more appropriately. To put this into context: I recently had to give my credit card (which I took out at 0% interest purely for emergencies when solicitors fees swallowed my savings) to Gaz to look after because I spent £57(!!!) on a dress I didn’t really need.

I have good months and bad months. At the minute, despite being hugely anxious about work and my impending return to freelance, I am also incredibly aware that I have no choice but to cut all non-essential spends for the foreseeable future. Over the weekend I managed to keep my spending low despite being out and about, yesterday I spent just £15 on groceries for the week and I have successfully resisted the urge to buy an extra set of barbell weights (which I ‘need’ to progress my lifting).

Although… I did have a minor slip this morning and spent £1 on a box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers, oops.

I know I’m doing it, even as I shop. I know I’m wasting money. I browse online shopping sites and tell myself as I go along “you don’t need this” and “you can’t afford this”, and then end up clicking “buy” anyway. Sometimes I add a ton to my basket and get as far as checkout before I come to my senses and browse away (but sometimes I don’t).

I know I do this for the feeling of pleasure I get both completing a purchase, and also when the things I’ve ordered arrive, but I also know that this feeling is fleeting and is soon replaced by spending regret, or (often worse) complete indifference: because that means the hole I’m trying to fill remains a void. I also know that I primarily spend like this on days where I don’t have my babies at home. I’ll leave you to fill the gaps there.

The question is how do I stop myself from doing it? How do I employ enough willpower to stop the spending (especially when I feel like my strength & willpower is exhausted just getting through the day at the minute)? I suppose I could buy a book on comfort spending habits…

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

12 comments so far

  1. Audrey said:

    I noticed myself buying things (especially clothes) I just didn’t need. I decided never to buy anything I wasn’t willing to return. For awhile I returned a lot of stuff, and now I just buy less. I try to think “will my life be OK without this thing I am thinking of buying?” If I can say yes to that question, I move on.

    Also, I try to keep-up on cleaning my closet of things I don’t wear anymore (and donating the things to charity). Doing that has helped me see how wasteful I was being with my spending.

    When considering two items, if I can’t decide, I default to the cheaper and ask myself “will this thing be adequate for my needs?” I try not to justify or talk myself into things, which can be tough.

    Maybe these things aren’t helpful for you… It just takes practice saying no and is especially hard when you feel like everyone around you is allowed to say yes.

    • Jem said:

      The annoying thing is I used to be able to do the “do I really need this?” thing – even to the point where I’d go months and months between non-urgent/grocery related purchases. I would analyse every purchase, never bought new clothes, didn’t splurge for the sake of splurging. You don’t manage to feed and clothe a family of 4 on statutory maternity pay if you’re a comfort spender!

      Somewhere along the road I’ve lost my way and I guess it’s just a case of sorting that out.

  2. Dee said:

    Are you able to set aside a budget just for the “don’t need” purchases? It sounds as if going cold turkey on no extra spending is difficult (e.g. feeling bad for the £1 of chocolate), so perhaps if you allowed yourself some leeway, e.g £5/week or whatever else you set, then it might make you feel better? “I have £5 to spend this week, but if I save, I can splurge on £10 next week!” etc.

    • Jem said:

      That’s not a bad idea. In fact, if I were to do that with physical cash in a jar, and then went *actual shopping* instead of buying from website after website, I’d probably get a more meaningful experience out of the actual spend and would be more inclined to buy something with purpose instead of just another dress. Worth thinking about! Thanks :)

  3. Chantelle said:

    When I became a graduate student, I found that I naturally cut back on a lot of spending. One thing that helps me is staying busy. The other is just not looking. I don’t know how you shop, but is avoiding clothing stores/websites an option? Don’t browse them at all. If you catch yourself there, immediately close the window. Don’t think about it; just close it. “Oh I’m browsing? *click X*”

    As for little things like sweets, though, is it really that important for you to be finished with your mortgage in five years? Must you guilt and stress yourself out over £1 purchases? As much as I cut back, I also know that excessive saving just won’t work for me. Not allowing for any extras makes me bitter/resentful and in the end, I decided, it’s just not worth it. I have an obsessive/perfectionist personality, so maybe it’s just me, but I don’t budget because I’m better off not knowing where every little cent I spend goes. As long as I stick with general goals, I’m okay.

    This is presumptuous of me, but I think you just really have to decide what’s most important. If you decide you absolutely must meet your saving goals and that £1 purchases will ruin it–then, you have to suck it the hell up, be responsible, and cut out that spending. It’s going to suck, but no excuses. Otherwise, relax. It’s not a big deal. Wasting a little money is okay and there’s no magic pain-free way to stop it.

    • Jem said:

      I think that’s the key – just not browsing the websites at all. I think I should probably start by installing an adblocker plugin and unsubscribing from all “deals” newsletters because I’ve become a real sucker for those in recent years.

      The mention of the cadbury fingers purchase was really just tongue-in-cheek, although there are other/better reasons for not eating a box of those for my breakfast ;)

  4. MrsB | Mind over Matter said:

    I have subscribed from all retail emails and I don’t go near shops. I really don’t need any more clothes. I do, however, need lifting shoes. NEED. Too bad my husband blew £170 on a pair for himself yesterday :|

  5. Tony said:

    Further to the Ad blocker, why not physically block the sites you waste money on, in your router, hosts file, browser e.t.c. – or make a userscript to remove the ‘add to cart’ buttons. The conscious effort to turn them all off again may help avoid the splurge.

    For groceries, don’t take the bank card. Just cash.

  6. Kelly said:

    Not sure if it will work for you but I keep my wallet attached to my bike / in my car / anywhere outside the house. It means that when I’m home I simply cannot buy anything online unless I venture outside – the thought of which is enough to put me off anything non-essential. When I go into work / shops I just pick it up and take it with me which works for me (I try not to carry cash so not *quite* as insane as it sounds). If you don’t need to buy anything during the day something like this may work – provided you write down your bank details so you are not running ouside everytime a client tries to pay you!

  7. Melissa said:

    I find myself increasingly guilty of comfort spending. In past years, it wasn’t so much of a big deal, but since my husband took a new job and a pay cut last year, I can’t break the habit of buying whatever I feel like buying. I’ll go to the store for diapers and somehow come home with $100 worth of “stuff” and I’ll do this every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Even worse is I’ll put off checking my bank account because I know the damage I’ve done. Then it really hits hard when I find out there’s $500 missing and I have no idea what I even spent it on. Thankfully I don’t do much shopping online. My problem is that I got used to shopping as a way to de-stress and escape the kids for a bit and I don’t really know how to replace that now that we don’t really have the money for that. Maybe my husband will just get a raise soon and I won’t have to worry about it. HAHAHA.

  8. Carly said:

    Comfort spending: been there, done that and quite literally bought the t-shirt. I love to “treat” myself to goodies and each box that arrives from Amazon is like a gift or reward to myself. There’s nothing quite like the joy of receiving a parcel, unwrapping it and “playing” with the “new” thing…. Especially if I’ve had a rubbish week. But then the shininess wears off and I NEED MORE THINGS. My terrible habit is picking up craft goodies at Tesco. Washi tape and stamps mainly (eek!)

    But sadly, I’m struggling with cashflow at the moment (my own fault. Must shift arse and do more work) so I have no money to buy things with :(

    My solution…. COMPETITIONS. I go through flurries of entering lots, especially on Facebook. Not your big kind run by magazines or large brands. Smaller ones, usually on pages where there are only a few hundred likers and not many entrants. Today, I have a scrapbook and a pad of pretty paper coming that I won from a brand. All the joy of opening a new parcel, none of the guilt! (I love craft goodies so much!)

    My TOP secret is to enter competitions run by affiliate networks. I’ve found that not MANY people enter them, and usually the quality of entrants is low. It doesn’t take much to stand out if you put a bit of effort in! For example, I won a £100 ted baker voucher recently and a £150 lipsy voucher last year (I’ve won more too!) For the former, I entered on Twitter by tweeting a picture of my “style icon” (easy when you run a Kate Middleton related fashion blog!). Nobody had even followed the rules properly and they posted crap quality pictures. I entered with a nice picture and a good explanation of my entry. The second voucher was the 2nd prize for a blog post I wrote on small fashion blog I periodically update (it’s a bit neglected at the moment, actually). I’ve won so so so much through such competitions… I primarily enter the ones on Affiliate Window and Linkshare. OK I would never normally shop in either place, but Lipsy actually stock Brakeburn t-shirts which I like (and will buy for my holiday) and I think I’ll get a pair of fancy shoes in the sale at Ted Baker.

    Anyway, that’s my tip! Hope it helps curb the spending :)

  9. Carly said:

    I meant “usually the quality of entries is low”

    Ooops I am sure the “entrants” are lovely people, haha.