by Lynn Siprelle
ometimes personal finance is like a diet, especially when you've been on short economic rations from necessity, not general frugality. John and I are pretty careful with our money, but we're also human. Since last November we've had to be extremely careful. Out the window went my beloved Audible subscription, plans for new clothes, craft supply purchases, book and magazine spending--all the little things you can do without but really don't want to.
When John got a good job last week, the purse strings loosened. And it's been hard not just going on a spree! I had renewed my Audible subscription in February and didn't cancel it even when that job didn't work out. I just couldn't bear going without it. Once I finish downloading all 21 of the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin then perhaps I can go without, but not now.
But new clothes--I haven't had new clothes in so long! So last week I ordered a top and skirt from eShakti that I couldn't resist, boho that I am.
The girls needed bathing suits. Why? Because we bought one of those nice inflatable pools! So off the order went to Lands End. Hey, sale.
Oh look--sustainable living magazines! I love those, and they each have cover stories about small-scale windpower and John's really interested in that, so into the cart they go.
If I'm not careful, I will end up "bingeing" after this economic "diet," just as I did back in the days when I'd try extreme weight loss diets and crashed and burned after a few weeks. And I don't want to do that. Just because we're making more money doesn't mean we shouldn't keep living below our means.
So here are six tips I'm using to avoid a binge when lean times end.
1. AVOID TAKING ON DEBT. This is the number one tip for just about any financial situation, good or bad. If you can possibly avoid using credit, avoid it. Just because you can now "afford" to pay $50 minimum payment per month instead of $10, doesn't mean you should. Remember, you're paying devastating interest on those cards. Or maybe not:
Of course, for Demetri's plan to work you have to, like, die. But hey! New Playstation!
2. AVOID LIFESTYLE INFLATION. In other words, just because you're making more money doesn't mean you have to spend all that new cash.
3. IGNORE ADS AND CATALOGS. Our family has a very funny but scatalogical term for what happens when you pay too much attention to marketing (it appears to be from the general Montana area). Bluntly put, you get the "wantin' sh*ts." Get yourself off direct mail lists now, and do yourself a favor. Watch television with a skeptical eye, knowing that not just the ads but the programs themselves are trying to sell you on a certain lifestyle. Just because you see "everyone" living "like that" on TV doesn't mean everyone actually is.
4. MAKE A LIST OF WHAT YOU WANT--AND THEN SIT ON IT. Often just waiting a week or two to shop after good times return can restore you to financial equilibrium.
5. QUESTION YOURSELF. When times are tight, you question every little purchase you make. Do you need it? Or do you just want it? Could you do better by waiting, or shopping around? This is a very good habit to cultivate. Don't stop now.
6. SET YOURSELF A "SPLURGE" BUDGET. Hard times are over, yippee! You deserve to celebrate. So set aside a certain amount--in cash is best--and have some fun! When your "splurge" cash is gone, you're done.
Do you have any tactics to share?