External effects on spending

I’ve been reading some no-spend challenges and I’ve been noticing that in their no spend months they spend on a lot more stuff than we do in a normal month.  Just sundry things… they have justifications, but still…

We tend not to buy things we don’t need, but sometimes an entire month will go by without us getting anything other than the occasional groceries.  It’s not like we’re doing a no-spend challenge.  It’s not because we’re frugal or because we’re trying to be holier than thou, but simply because we didn’t have time and we put off purchases.  Sometimes if you put off purchases long enough you no longer need what you thought you did.  Some of these “emergency” purchases they just had to make in the month of February, well, we’re putting off until March because it’s just going to take that long for us to get to Target.

Yes, yes, I know that no time causes people to spend money on things too… but let me say that before we had a kid we didn’t have time to cook.  After we had a kid we didn’t have time to go out to eat.  We’re now very good at pantry cooking and Faster!  I’m Starving!  and Help!  My Apartment Has a Kitchen! definitely changed our lives (thanks, #2!).

If you really don’t have time and can live with a certain level of squalor, you’ll never actually get around to hiring that cleaning person.

Even if you have more time than you need, there’s still hope!  We once lived in a series of 3 digit square foot apartments in the city.  The smallest was 100 sq ft.  The largest somewhere in the 300 range.  We were pretty poor, but one thing that enabled us to save for a house downpayment on our graduate stipends was the inability to actually put anything in our apartment.  Our first thought would be, “Is there space for this?” and then second would be, “Can we afford it?”  You really get into the habit of not buying junk when there’s already no room.  Some of our friends in the SF bay area were able to put a 400K downpayment on a house because they saved money not only on the small house they were renting in place of the larger one they could have been renting, but also because they couldn’t buy things to just store in the house.

So what is the bottom line here?  If you really want to save money, you can do it unconsciously just by living in a small area and having a demanding job.  Then every moment of your time will be too precious to spend shopping and every inch of space too valuable to fill up with junk.

What external effects change your spending for lesser or greater?

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34 Responses to “External effects on spending”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Wow..so true. Having free time enables more shopping for sure.

    My husband has wanted bedroom furniture for years and spending a whole day or more browsing stores is just so far down the priority list.

    I quit my part time job during my last semester in college to take a break and I spent loads of money.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, after 4 years of no furniture in our second living room (which you know, we wouldn’t need if we didn’t HAVE a second living room), we realized it would take less time splitting up our living room set than actually going out and buying something. Especially since it’s hard to find good furniture at reasonable prices (the Amish don’t really make indoor couches like they do chairs and filing cabinets).

      • First Gen American Says:

        You said it sister. There was plenty of stuff that looked okay from afar, but once you tried to open drawers and see all the stapled crappy joints, it’s very easy to throw the towel in and give up.

  2. 101 Centavos Says:

    Too true, of course. Just as a paper expands to match the size of your desk, so “stuff” just accumulates in a bigger house.

  3. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    I went browsing at a used book store yesterday (didn’t buy anything because I thought I’d have to just declutter it one day) and saw the “Help my apartment has a kitchen” book. It does look like a really good book for beginner cooks.

    I hear you on the “no spend month” challenges. One thing that’s a good deterrent for me is not liking line-ups. And disliking the hassle of eventually decluttering is huge. A big part of making it easy to drop the spending in the last number of years HAS been a sheer lack of time (and desire) to buy anything. And fortunately don’t really like online shopping either.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It is indeed an excellent book, not just for beginners! I was incredibly experienced when #2 got it for me. But most books of like 15 min suppers are totally lying OR they’re pour can X over hunk of meat Y. These books are actually healthy from scratch (the most processed ingredients are canned tomatoes or canned beans) and really do take the amount of time to make that they say.

      Shopping is definitely more fun for some people than others.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I have that book, too, and I love the tone in it, but I’ve only tried two recipes so far (the deviled eggs and the Chinese chicken with peanuts) and found them both to be mediocre. Any favorite recipes from there?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Haven’t actually tried the deviled eggs (though I did have some phenom. deviled eggs at a local potluck– the person had put BACON in them!) The Chinese chicken is ok… it’s actually better than any Chinese food we can get around here but that’s not saying much at all.

        Sizzling pork noodles is a favorite (just don’t put in a half a cup of the Rooster chili sauce! Every bite will be pain even as you can’t stop eating. Use a sweet chili sauce or less of the Rooster). Also they have an egg soup that he says sounds gross but is actually quite amazing, and he is right.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Cool! Thanks! I have penciled your notes into my book.

  4. Molly On Money Says:

    I use to spend my free time shopping so when I consciously stopped the first replacement was to peruse the aisles of the stores not buying anything. That got boring quick. My replacement now is making the stuff I would have bought. Yes, it still costs money but it’s a lot less. I’m trying to have a minimalist outlook but I’m just approaching becoming a meduimist at this point.

  5. MutantSupermodel Says:

    You know I’m doing a Spending challenge (I don’t know that I’d call them No-Spends cause you ARE spending) this month. I absolutely spend more money when I don’t have the kids because I have more time. When I have them I also postpone like mad because I just don’t have a choice. I’ve dug diapers out of the car to stretch me a couple more days and raided the freezer and pantry. I get very creative when i can’t get to a store that’s for sure. The other thing is I do use coupons and that throws me off too. This week there’s a RIDICULOUS deal on the stuff I use for laundry. I don’t NEED it right this moment but I’m going to a in a few weeks– in other words, after the sale ends but before the next one will start. So I plan on stocking up. I force myself to do this because I don’t want to pay full price later for it because I absolutely need it then. Does that make sense?

  6. Weekend Update: Relaxing, Planning, Budgeting « MutantSupermodel Musings Says:

    [...] quandary. By the way, before I continue I am finding it hilarious the always grumpy untenureds have a post up today about their thoughts on external effects of spending—specifically not having any free time as a way to drastically cut [...]

  7. The Lost Goat Says:

    I have to disagree. When my husband and I both worked in the city, we didn’t have time to cook or clean the house so we hired it out. We lived in a city big enough for both of us to have good jobs, and there was WAY more expensive entertainment available. When you’re only getting one day off a week, it’s much easier to justify the pricey concert/opera tickets because it’s the only day you’ll have off all week so (a) you don’t have time to find something equally fun and cheap and (b) even if you could it’s probably happening when you have to work. When I don’t have much going on at the farm, I can spend a lot less, because I have time to do things instead of pay for them

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Right, but just add in a little bit LESS time, and all of a sudden there’s no time to hire someone to clean and no time to eat out and no time to go out to expensive entertainment. Ah, kids.

      It’s probably a U shaped curve of some sort.

  8. Squirrelers Says:

    Keep busy, focus on other things, and you won’t spend money. Makes sense.

    As I spend more time with blogging-related activities, I take away from some other “free” time activities which could have resulted in spending money. So, that’s an indirect payoff of blogging.

    Who knows, maybe making this comment saved me from going out and spending money:)

    Really though, I see your points. It’s common for people to move from cramped quarters to a bigger home and then see the need to “fill the rooms” with furniture.

  9. frugalscholar Says:

    So true. We spend a lot more in the summer simply because we have time to tend to all the things we let slide during the school year. Love your comment on the squalor–we have a pretty high tolerance.

  10. Revanche Says:

    My favorite part about the No Spend rules that I self impose are that when I say No often enough, I often forget what it was I wanted in the first place. Heck, I used to be so busy I couldn’t remember to eat or use the restroom on a regular basis so I couldn’t spare brainpower for things like shopping, necessity or no.

    While, yes, it left me up a creek a time or two, it sure did save money! :)

    And now blogging generally keeps me so enthralled that even when I have whole DAYS off I won’t leave the house to shop. Not even when I have to…. ok, I *am* a lazy hermit. But never ye mind. Point is, I focus on doing stuff and voila! I forget about wanting things.

  11. Lindy Mint Says:

    I have saved money on haircuts because I never have time to get to the salon (my childless sister goes every six weeks like clockwork).

    I have saved money on clothes and shoes because I never have time to go shopping for new ones. Soon we’ll probably save money on cable because we never have time to watch it.

    I hadn’t thought of the space factor, but that’s a good one. We had a luxurious 900 sf in grad school, so that probably didn’t help our finances.

    Where I live it doesn’t get too cold, so allowing myself to shiver on the occasional cold day has saved me money on buying a coat.

  12. bethh Says:

    Oh man, add in a hatred of traffic and you’re golden if you live in the Bay Area like me. I managed to get clothes shopping this weekend for the first time in months. I live in a great area for day to day life (close to work, movie theater and restaurants in my neighborhood) but I have to drive to buy clothes or furniture. It’s taken me a full year to commit to buying a new bed & mattress (and I’m sooo excited).

  13. brokeprofessionals Says:

    That is the beauty of long hours. Often times more money, and definitely no time to spend it anyway.

  14. » Carnival of Personal Finance #298 – The Best Money Articles Online | Saving to Inve$t Says:

    [...] from Grumpy Rumblings presents External effects on spending, and says, “If you really want to save money, you can do it unconsciously just by living in a [...]

  15. Lyn Thorne-Alder Says:

    “one thing that enabled us to save for a house downpayment on our graduate stipends was the inability to actually put anything in our apartment.”

    Ha, yes. We move frequently (7 apts. since 1996); it helps us keep the Stuff down to a reasonable level, since We’ll Just Have To Move It In A Yar.

  16. Leah Says:

    We get housing for “free” through my husband’s job. The downside is that they move us where they want us. Consequently, we’re in a much bigger apartment than I’d pick for us (and than we previously lived in). I do find it a bummer because I can find space for more stuff. We’re working on scaling back on the clutter we now have and not bringing any more in. On the bright side, the space did allow me to bring all my books back from my parents’ house.

    Our only big store in town is Walmart, the decent Target is 20 minutes away, and anything more substantial is 35+, so it is pretty easy not to do too much shopping. This past month has seen more shopping than the past few years because I got a teaching job. I admit that I did buy some new clothes so that I have an easier time getting dressed in the morning, but I think that’s balanced by the garbage bag full of clothes I gave away.


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