Put Your Impulses in Your Childhood, Your Best Life is a Focused One

“It’s good to want things.”

This is what my coworker, another teacher, would tell her children when they were little. We’ve all been there, either driving the cart or riding in it when we encounter the magnetic pull of a newly found object we didn’t know existed two seconds ago but now that we have seen it, we MUST have it.

My coworker, a mother of triplets, in those five little words would acknowledge to her children that wanting is OK.

Then the item would remain on the shelf, unpurchased.

It’s good for adults to want things too…and not to purchase. A personal finance article in CNBC reported that people impulse buy an average of $5,400 a year. That’s $450 a month.

There’s a lot to be said for intentionality. I think once you purge so much, you get an appreciation for empty space that can keep you from filling it up. This doesn’t stop advertisers, however. Container companies are capitalizing on Marie Kondo’s tidying up method and I doubt the altruistic nature of their message. There is even a whole section in Etsy devoted to items that will “spark joy.” I agree with The Guardian writer Alexandra Spring who wrote “Marie Kondo, you know what would spark joy? Buying less crap.” The title was catchy enough but the message was really about the author’s journey into minimalism and then their guilt at passing their crap onto what will likely be the dump.

In my current circumstance, I am bound to a very tight budget. As for lesser, more reasonable wants, I rarely go out for coffee unless I’m meeting a friend and I bring my own container to fill, I don’t buy clothing unless an item I have is breaking down, and I could make improvements to our house but I’ve put that off until we make our big windows purchase in two years.

That being said, I still desire things.

My Wants Since Becoming A Minimalist

My wants now revolve around being a better me and minimizing that list has been no easy task.

The person I envision is edgy, witty, and well read. She is beautiful, strong, and wealthy. She is self sufficient but also a great partner and a doting mother of semi-free-range children. She speaks different languages, she gardens, paints, plays the ukulele, runs ultramarathons, climbs mountains, cooks wholesome meals, takes excellent photos, writes, is a great public speaker, and is generally and at all times in the running for teacher of the year.

She sounds absolutely neurotic. I probably wouldn’t even be her friend.

No one has the bandwidth to cover all this.

My Wants Versus Reality

As I am now, I have a stack and then some of papers to grade, I hate gardening and heights, I believe peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Kraft macaroni and cheese are perfectly acceptable staples for my children, and I am vegan but sometimes I think brownies don’t count.

I ran my first two full marathon since having kids (full marathons seven and eight respectively) but I only finished the last one because my husband, my ride, didn’t show up until mile 23 so I figured that I might as well finish…there’d be free beer at the end. Clearly, being an ultramarathon runner has been kicked off my list.

Year 38 was about not buying anything new for our new home, getting out of credit card debt, and becoming a vegan. I succeeded in all three and so I figure three is the magic number.

So, here I am nearing mile 39 in my life and along with working on my first blog, I have two other goals: fluency in Spanish and making better vegan meals. I’m hoping three remains my magic number.

On the subject of goals, there is one writer whom I admire. Ty Norwood wrote an article for Medium titled “Are We Setting Too Many Goals? A Look at Anti-Goal Lifestyle.” He writes:

With the proliferation of goal setting in our society as a whole and in our day to day lives individually, it’s quite easy to accept goal setting as the status quo framework for living life and to apply that framework to everything we do. Goal setting is effective at managing large groups of people, organizing large, complex institutions, and helping organize society in effective ways. Is it, however, the best and only way to organize our personal lives? Maybe not.

His writing about marathon running in particular, struck a chord. Norwood sought out to run the marathon to get into better shape. Just to clarify, the ultimate goal was not to run a marathon but to get into better shape. He did run the marathon but actually gained weight during the course of his training which was counter to his primary goal. Had he kept a singular goal (to lose weight) instead of combining it with another goal (running a marathon) he might have had success.

It should be noted that Norwood doesn’t regret running the marathon. The problem is that we are too focused on a perceived outcome and thus will force ourselves into a program that isn’t right for us. My previous failing with dieting is a testament to that. I was ready to pick up every single remedy people were throwing at me until I got so sick from the food choices that were supposed to be helping me.

Not to mention the waste.

I had been wanting to try being a vegan for a few years. I had taken up the lifestyle in college but six months in, I hit a wall when I couldn’t have chocolate around finals. The change I would make this time is that I would be eating vegan not to lose weight but rather to stop feeling so sick. I gave up meat right away and I took two months to eliminate dairy. Once all animal products were eliminated from my diet, I felt a lot less sick (read gassy) and anxious (read neurotic).

Once I felt like my “goal” was attained. I started focusing on my new goal of losing weight. I stopped drinking alcohol and soda at the start of January and I began keeping a food log. I’ve been going steady at half a pound per week.


Un-embellished: Why This Married Woman Isn’t Putting a Ring on it

A List of Famous Ring Advertisements

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Every kiss begins with Kay

Getting rid of headaches since 1888

He went to Jared’s!

One ring to rule them all 😏

I imagine Don Draper and Poindexter ad-exec types sitting around a mahogany table, exchanging stories about their little ladies and their uncontrollable appetite for all things bauble-y and shiny.

“Now see here, Charlie,” says a man as played by James Cagney. “If you want to please a woman, you spend no less than three months of your salary on that ring! She’ll practically offer to carry you across the threshold!”

“Hey Charlie,” rings in another man as played by Edward G. Robinson. “Jimmy over there is right. Why, if my Phyllis is giving me the cold shoulder, I just hop along over to Tiffany’s and it don’t even matter what I get so longs as I bring back one of them little blue boxes.”

Ah, the little blue box and its magnetism. We’ve been tricked into thinking that diamonds are forever, a girl’s best friend, and that they have a long history of value. Uri Friedman, a writer for The Atlantic, deftly dispells the reader of any notion that diamond engagement rings are part of tradition. In his article, “How an Ad Campaign Invented the Diamond Engagement Ring,” Friedman highlights the marketing prowess of diamond group De Beers. In a culmination of his findings, he gives us the following graphic which shows the rise in number of first time brides who receive diamond engagement rings.

First time brides who receive diamond engagement rings


When I was in my 20s, engagements seemed to be taking place all around me on my college campus. What a nice thing to be loved and to love someone in return, I thought. However, when someone got engaged, the first thing people ask about isn’t how excited they are for the wedding or how wonderful their spouse-to-be is.

“Let’s see it!” We demand.

It’s a package deal right? If you like it then you should put a ring on it! Apparently, we are just going to gloss over how unempowering that statement is for the lack of agency given to the woman.

Stake your claim on your woman and dazzle her with diamonds!

My favorite commentator to date on the issue of feminism and engagement rings would have to be Karen Fratti who wrote this gem for Hello Giggles titled “The feminist problem with engagement rings and why we should stop obsessing about them” which is pretty straight forward but I appreciate Fratti’s thought bubble of conflicted feelings I’ve shared about the issue of The Ring:

The conventional story goes like this: Once a man marries a woman, she then “gets” to have sex with him without being labeled a whore, and live in a traditional family structure in which she’ll conventionally do a lot of free labor like child rearing, cooking, and housekeeping. Women who did not get married were, and often still are, considered defective somehow and get labeled “spinsters.” Just think of all the historical dramas and Jane Austen novels in which the heroine frets that she will never get married and that that fact will have a huge, negative impact on her life. To this day, our culture tends to look at unmarried women as an (flawed) oddity instead of a perfectly normal thing.

My engagement story

When it seemed like engagement was imminent, I test drove a few different styles but my fingers tingled in an uncomfortable way. My mother even offered a $10,000 diamond she had but the flash of it seemed glaring and garish. It was a perfectly gorgeous diamond but I was not the right wearer.

I confessed that I didn’t want an engagement ring and so when Justin asked, it was over a dessert I had been eyeing at the grocery store–a heavily iced cake in the shape of a hamburger.

I appreciated our unadorned existence together. I find jewelry as confining and as ridiculous as the word “fiancé.” I can’t tell you why, but I hear it with an exaggerated Cajun accent. fee-YAWN-seh!

My betrothed (heard with a British accent) and I did agree to the exchanging of something at the ceremony. We tossed around a few ideas: spit and a handshake, balloons, dance moves.

Our families are pretty traditional and so we bowed to that expectation. Not that they’d care but the tertiary relatives might and we thought we’d save the primaries from the hassle of explaining the behavior of their heathen spawn.

So we bought some rings.

Justin found his ring at the first shop. It was titanium and $240. When I asked how much one would be in my size, the saleswoman sniffed and said, “About $150.”

“Sold!” I said.

“You would want something different,” She explained. “If you start a family, you might want a ring that can be altered for size.”

“Or you could wear the ring on a necklace,” the other salesperson added helpfully.

“But what if my husband gets fat? Won’t he need a new ring too?”

Reproachful silence from all parties.

“So, $150 you said?”

We wore them the first month we were married. Then, we didn’t. There was an echo of my own words in my head, “sold, sold, sold..”

I think what really bothers me about jewelry is that it has a long history as a default gift for moms, wives, daughters, and girlfriends. Sure, it’s special…but it’s unoriginal and limiting. “You are a girl, you must like this shiny or floral thing!” “You’re a boy, here’s your shooting mechanism, watch, wallet, or tie because you have to protect, keep time, pay for, and provide for the women in your life.”

This all seems alien to my husband who gifts me with video games and coffee.

It’s all just a waste of s p a c e

Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today). As cited in BecomingMinimalist, this one is particularly baffling. You can easily follow the money to find what people value. I don’t value jewelry, I won’t give it the time of day, and that goes for any jewelry.

If you must have jewelry, feel free to use the KonMari method of organizing it and paring it down. Also, if you have been the victim of MLM jewelry selling, you may like the following video on organizing your shinies.

KonMari Jewelry Method.


Minimalism and Your Reluctant Spouse

“You haven’t looked at the bin of books since college!” I complain, sounding more incensed than I cared to admit to myself.

“The girls might read them.” My husband says, not quite patiently.

His problem: The bin we are discussing is one full of hardcover science fiction and fantasy novels my husband purchased through a mail-order subscription service. He hasn’t touched them or any book in the time that I have known him which at this point has passed a decade. He says he’s read them all.

My problem: I like science fiction and fantasy but I’m not even sure who these authors are. This is besides the point of the larger issue in that I feel I need to control the situation. I’ve gotten rid of my things and we have pared down our items and our kids’ items. As soon as my mission towards minimalism passed through Me-town and We-town, I failed to hit the brakes and flew right through my husband’s border security.

Getting on the Same Page with Minimalism

Step One: Know Thyself

Why do you want to be a minimalist? What value would the practice add to your life?

I can only speak for myself. Six months after the birth of our second child, my anxiety was at an all time high. My husband was working nights (he still is) because we couldn’t find or afford daycare. I was taking graduate courses in teaching ELL for additional licensure to add to my language arts degrees. My days were busy teaching at a correctional center where there was a day program for middle school and high school kids. It wasn’t the first time I had a full plate but it was the first time I had a full plate with two kids.

I had a vague sense of what minimalism was but my focus, sitting in our basement and stressed out of my mind, wasn’t on adhering to any sort of dogma. I simply wanted to clear my plate of responsibilities.

By the time my husband looked around after getting home the next morning, the house looked different and the garage was piled high with boxes to take to Goodwill.

In beginning of your journey towards minimalism, you will want to define what it can do for you. Are you trying to save money? Are you overwhelmed by all the stuff? Are you misplacing or losing items all the time? Are your weekends spent cleaning or shopping and it feels like one endless cycle? (Let me know in the comments!)

Also, I don’t think it’s a philosophy you can be half in half out about. Once you begin, you’ll see how minimalism inhabits other areas of your life. That’s the part I didn’t anticipate. I just thought I was decluttering my house.

Step Two: Know Your Subject

There is a sort of training involved in getting one person to adapt to a new environment and for it to seem like a welcoming place to reside. Any changes to one’s environment can be stressful. You have to get to know your subject (your spouse) and how they might react to any changes you are making.

In the famous words of Harper Lee as said by her character Atticus Finch, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Before my husband was afforded the time to consider what it was I was throwing out, I assured him that all the items we were getting rid of were clothes our youngest was too big for, clothes I no longer needed, and books I no longer wished to read. I would be leaving his things alone because I had enough of my own stuff to deal with.

I had correctly assumed that my husband would feel a threat to his belongings and those of our children. I think he assumed that because I had gone through various phases and interests in the time that he has known me that this was one more phase but that this one might actually affect him in some way. I did not declare that I was now a minimalist. I had to make the change seem nebulous and gradual even if for me the change was more dramatic and solid.

In her novel, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers, Amy Sutherland takes an effective yet seemingly dehumanizing approach to understanding the way her husband thinks and acts. Her approach is both amusing and disturbing as she begins by defining her husband’s specific breed of human.

The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn’t so much. He has the balance of a gymnast, but moves slowly, especially when getting dressed. Skiing comes naturally, but being on time does not. He’s an omnivore, and what a trainer would call food-driven.

Sutherland accomplishes incremental changes in her husband’s behavior but doesn’t expect miracles. She ignored his negative habits and supported his positive ones. In doing this, she “trained” her husband to stop asking her where his missing items were, to stop hovering over her when she was cooking, to stop leaving dirty clothes all over the place.

Sutherland says that after two years of exotic animal training, her marriage is far smoother but it’s because they’ve both adapted. Once she explained what she had been doing to her husband, he wasn’t annoyed but rather amused. He even turned the tables on her a time or two.

So how does this work with getting your spouse to accept and practice minimalism?

Step Three: Make it seem like you are doing all the heavy lifting and watch your tone

Start by saying, “Hey, I’m taking some of my clothes to Goodwill, can you take a few minutes at this time to look through yours and I can take care of donating it?” Notice the tone. It’s supportive. You are going to Goodwill, you are running the errand for him/her. It would get a whole different reaction is you were to command, “I’m getting rid of stuff, you need to look through your things.” This is a blatantly disrespectful tone that would make your spouse feel as if you see them as a child.

Similarly, you wouldn’t say, “I’m thinking of taking some things to Goodwill, do you have anything that you want to donate?” This is far too passive and it reduces the question into a yes/no option. If I were tired and my spouse said this to me I would probably say, “Nah…maybe next time.”

Step Four: Reward

Breathing Room

For the first portion of your collective journey, concentrate on having fewer items to take care of. I recommend going category by category kind of like Marie Kondo does in her method. Make it comfortable. Put on some music. Make a plan to go to a movie or have a date night at home after. Ask more questions of your spouse and make fewer assertions. “How many whisks do you think we need?” instead of “Three whisks is too many, let’s get rid of two.”

If you can’t agree, come up with a compromise where you will put the items you are disagreeing on in a box (not immediately going out for Goodwill) and if you find you need the items, they will be within reach. Give this box a sell-by date. If neither of you uses the items left in the box after a month, it might be time to give the items away or sell them. If you find yourself taking an item out to use it, then find a place in your home where it will be easily reachable but out of sight.

Money Money Money…Mon-nay!

One of the best rewards of minimalism after the fact that you have less stuff to clean up after is the monetary gain. When you are in the habit of buying fewer items and just keeping to the basics, you have more money for your dreams. What would you do if you had $100, $200, $500 more per month? Because this is the kind of money I am talking about getting back into your bank account.

I recommend, if you haven’t already, joining your bank accounts and writing out a budget together. Once you know what is coming in every month, take a look at the regular monthly necessary expenses (basic items such as heat, electricity, grocery staples, gas, and rent or mortgage) and subtract those. Then look at the more negotiable items you can minimize.

After becoming minimalists and establishing a budget, my husband and I have been able to pay off more than $15,000 in credit card debt in 18 months. Now we are on track to pay off our house we bought last year in nine years. Can you imagine what you would do if you didn’t have a mortgage payment?

The Minimalism Game is More Fun in Co-op Mode

Once you have all the items boxed away, try not to compare their stack with yours. You are in cooperation, not competition. If they have one box to your twenty, they are still attempting to work with you. Reward their efforts with a smile and a hug.

LuLaRoe: Who’s Wearing the Pants?

I’m perusing Facebook quickly, pictures and updates and likes all a blur in my scrolling frenzy. One of my friends is on vacation in the Bahamas, another is making a political statement with their cover photo. Suddenly I get a messaging alert. A friend is inviting ALL of her Facebook friends to a Facebook party for LuLaRoe. It’s the third invitation by a third friend this week and it’s only Wednesday.

It’s a final strike for me. When it’s one friend, it’s an individual endeavor; two friends equals coincidence; three friends equals epidemic and I will not be one of the infected. Still, there is not a button on Facebook that “hides” all alerts specific to Multi Level Marketing (MLM) schemes.

I have to admit that the clothes are cute; brightly colored, comfortable looking, and appropriate for work. There is also the added appeal of not having to go to a mall or a big box store to purchase. I can even buy copies for my toddlers to wear!

But buying requires a buy-in. Not only is a friend asking me to purchase something from them but I have to be prepared to be asked to be a distributor, to host a party, and I believe that friendships are tarnished when money is involved. It’s a big ask.

I am not the only one to feel this way. Published in ScaryMommy and interviewed by ABC News, Rachael Pavlik decries companies who prey on women this way. In a blog post ranting about an acquaintance who had friended her on Facebook and then asked her to purchase from Jamberry,

Pavlik writes:

[T]he real thing that chaps me (there’s an oil for that!!) is not the parties or products themselves. Some are very good, I’m sure. The products are secondary. It’s the exploiting of friendships to gain new recruits that really squicks me out. You are selling your friends, period. The whole thing reeks of a coconut-scented pyramid scheme, no matter how pretty the package. This is just my opinion, of course; I could be wrong. Heh. In fact, TELL me I’m wrong! I’d love to hear the success stories, and how the dolla dolla bills, y’all are rolling in. Also, just wondering… how much money has gone out? Hmm? Tell me how happy you are, how you are a super successful MOMTREPRENEUR, and I’ll try to control my eye twitch every time you use the word ‘momtrepreneur.’

Pavlik, like me, is clearly ticked off by the way companies gear their schemes towards women and specifically stay-at-home moms. The story of LuLaRoe founder, DeAnne Stidham, begins with her struggle to raise her seven children on her singular income. “She was desperate to find a way to be at home, be a mom and provide for her family,” (OUR STORY).  During our day and age, raising a family on two incomes can be difficult, so it’s no wonder Stidham was struggling. The story of LuLaRoe is captivating because it’s a story that is all too common in our culture but this one, unlike most, ends in significant success.

Even though the struggle to keep one’s head above the depths debts is real, companies choose to exploit the people living these struggles. In LuLaRoe’s invitation: “Join the Movement,” you too can become an empowered individual who moves past just “making ends meet.” According to CNBC, this scenario rarely works out for anyone.

Colleen McKown writes, “The vast majority of people lose money in pyramid schemes — which the FTC defines as programs that ‘promise consumers or investors large profits based primarily on recruiting others.’ Douglas Brooks, an attorney who represents victims of deceptive schemes, says getting caught up in one can be devastating. ‘People get in, they work at it for a few months, or maybe even a year or two, and then they realize that they’ve maxed out their credit cards, taken out second mortgages, and had disruptive relationships with family and friends,’” he said (McKown). Who is Colleen McKown? Where is your quote sandwich?

McKown cites a study done by the Federal Trade Commission that states that over a four year period, over 98 percent of people who buy into these programs lose more money than they even make. This does not seem to be the sort of scenario one would want to be a part of. You would have a better chance betting the farm on a single number in roulette.

So what of the “sisterhood” that many of these companies tout? It seems appealing to spend a night drinking wine and gabbing with your best friends all while modeling clothes that would help support a home-based business. However, since many of my friends and I are in the same income bracket, few of us have expendable income. Many of us partygoers end up feeling guilty for not buying anything and the host must consider that she hasn’t made much headway on paying back the company for the inventory she bought to show us. I may realize that the pants are “buttery soft” but buying a pair feels like putting a down payment on our friendship.

Speaking of down payments, starting up in LuLaRoe requires up front costs. There is the cost of the start-up kit which includes 3oo items and costs around $5,000 but most sellers stress that even $7,000 is bare minimum in inventory (“Top 8 Questions about Becoming a LuLaRoe Consultant”). There are other costs to consider as well such as hangers, accessories (you can also do Lia Sophia!), business cards, and wine…lots and lots of wine. If you just want to pay back the company for the start-up kit, you have to host a minimum of 20 events and take in at least $300 in profit at each event.

There is a reason that MLM companies make millions more during recessions: people are desperate to earn their way to independence. This independence could take the form of independence from creditors, independence from relying on a spouse, or for a person to feel that buzz of accomplishment at being their own boss.  I’ve felt the lure a time or two. Back before Facebook even existed, I would receive letters in the mail from good friends inviting me to Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, and Amway “parties.”?. I think I was most tempted by Amway with its variety of goods and services. I could buy protein bars without ever having to go to a store again! I quickly realized though that in order to receive a discount on items, I would have to start selling them too. Being the introvert that I am, I made a paltry two phone calls before I quit. On the downside, I failed at being an entrepreneur. On the up side, there’s Amazon so…I don’t have to leave the house to buy protein bars anymore.


Works Cited

Baker, Katie J.M. “These Shopping-Oriented Pyramid Schemes Lure in Ladies, Then Steal Their Friends, Cash, and Confidence.” Jezebel, Jezebel.com, 11 Sept. 2012, jezebel.com/5942048/shopping-oriented-pyramid-schemes-lure-in-ladies-then-steal-their-friends-cash-and-confidence. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.

McKown, Colleen. “Legit business opportunity — or pyramid scheme? Six signs to watch out for in multilevel marketing.” CNBC, CNBC, 10 June 2017, http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/09/pyramid-scheme-or-legit-multilevel-marketing-job.html. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.

“OUR STORY.” LuLaRoe, http://www.lularoe.com/our-story-home. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.

Pavlik, Rachael. “3-D Lashes, Jamberry & Other Ways to Lose Facebook Friends.” Scary Mommy, 16 June 2017, http://www.scarymommy.com/how-to-lose-facebook-friends/. Accessed 12 Sept. 2017.

“Top 8 Questions about Becoming a LuLaRoe Consultant.” Mompreneur Advice, 6 Sept. 2017, http://www.mompreneuradvice.com/lularoe-consultant/. Where is this at in the text?

Spending Looks Different Once You Are on the Same Page…or App

When my mom and dad got divorced, they divided everything down the middle. I’ve had a splitting headache ever since…BAH DA BOOM!

After their divorce, my dad moved into a three bedroom, two bath house. His hope was that he would host holidays and his children would come to visit with their broods as often as they’d (he’d) like. The family-oriented part of him needed the extra space for entertaining while the newly bachelorized part of him bought a 54-inch television, a leather couch, a large boat, and a $16,000 propulsion pool. His new position at the hospital, however, didn’t allow him much time to fish or enjoy television or go visit family (he did spend most of his mornings in the pool though). Coincidentally, his children didn’t often have much time with their jobs to come visit either. 

My mom did what she always does when stressed or happy or sad…she shopped. It was a common practice she and I shared. When I was depressed or anxious, you could find me at the mall, large diet soda in hand, roaming the stores at West Acres before a stop at Target or TJ Maxx. I was at my worst at Target. One can’t stop in to Target for JUST a toothbrush right? There must be something else I need!

Target or it’s alias “Where did all my money go?”

There must be some defensive mechanism that triggers when it comes to money and stress. According to an article in CreditKarma, more than 83 percent of us will regret the retail therapy sessions. Ten percent of stress spenders will pay over $300.

In a 2014 poll conducted by CreditsCards.com, the poll found that men and women spend differently but both make impulse decisions in shopping. Men were more likely to make large impulse purchases of $500 or more whereas women would make more frequent impulse purchases or $25 or less.

I can easily see these impulses in the former habits my husband and I shared. I would spend time after work and on weekends shopping for one item or just browsing but in both cases coming out with much more than I had planned on. “Look at those pants. I could use a new pair of pants…mine are pretty outdated,” or “Mary would just love that journal, I should get it for her.” Justin, by contrast would want to get in, get out and pay whatever for that expediency. He was not a bargain shopper. I once sent him out for a deal on a $500 flatscreen and he came back with a $900 version because it “looked better.” I suppose, for televisions, this matters. 

In the past, I have a hard time seeing fads as fads for some purchases. I fell victim to the following fads over the last ten years: woodblock signs, FitBits, adult coloring books, protein powder diets, juicing diets, and Norwex. My husband has what I would call an embarrassment of Heroclix and Magic: the Gathering cards. 

Necessity demanded we meet in the middle. We can’t afford to buy the fun things we used to waste our money on like new board games we may play once or twice. When we do need something, Justin is more likely than ever to price compare and I really appreciate that.  The expense of two kids puts any hold on my purchasing with abandon from Barnes and Noble. In fact, neither one of us likes to shop much anymore. I see it for the timesuck it is and I find other things to fight boredom. It’s hard to get lost in the shopping experience when you have bored and hungry children in a cart (when did the boring events of our childhoods become our adult entertainment?) We are a lot more intentional with our purchases or at least we’re more intentionally using what we have.

Take a treadmill for instance. We had been talking about getting a treadmill for years. It doesn’t make sense for us to go to the gym and spend $150 a month for us to sweat while the girls are at the gym daycare (not free). It was a pain to pack everything and everyone up to go.

We knew it could be a waste to buy a new treadmill but we couldn’t rent one to try out. Treadmills are notoriously expensive shirt racks. We would have rather spent the big money on a trip but that seemed even more frivolous.

Our last purchase on our credit cards, the final nail in the coffin of using credit cards at all, was our $1400 treadmill replete with video entertainment, trail options, and a multitude of settings we probably won’t touch.  

We use the treadmill almost religiously. I use it three times a week in the winter and I’ve even purchased a kettle bell set and some free weights that I use on the regular.

Thinking about the credit card poll on emotional and impulse purchases, I am curious about how this plays out in a marriage where there is open communication between partners about finances. Since working on a budget together, there is far more transparency and responsibility in our spending.

My husband and I use Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar app which connects to our bank account so all purchases are there for us to see and deduct from our gains for the month.

When examining those purchases, I can easily see that the smaller purchases drain our accounts and clutter our homes quickly. I tend to spend on smaller school purchases with TeachersPayTeachers, classroom novels, and student fundraising. Since putting the kibosh on the habit of spending without a budget, I’ve kept those purchases down to $50 a month. This means I’ve had to completely stop purchasing extra out of pocket supplies like pencils, notebooks, prizes, posters, and faculty shirts.

My husband, who works nights, spends much more on eating out (though less so now that we’ve been on EveryDollar). I’m not sure he knows how to cook anything without hamburger as the main ingredient and I think he gets stressed at the thought of coming up with a meal plan during the few hours that he’s awake. Sometimes, if I am cooking a meal more elaborate than a sandwich, I’ll set some aside for him. With work and children, I don’t often set much time aside for cooking unless it’s a Sunday.

The change to a transparent budget has made a huge difference in our marriage. We get geekily happy every month when we make an extra payment on our house and when we work towards our goals like paying out of pocket for all new windows for our house.

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
– William Wordsworth