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!
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 I could use a new pair of pants…mine are pretty outdated,” or “Mary would just love that journal, I should get it for her.”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 $1,400 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