I have a simple strategy for saving money: shop less. When I hear a commercial about how I can save $10 off a $50 purchase this weekend only, I consider that I can save $50 by not going to that store at all.
I do not write this to imply that I look down on consumerism in general. I am part of a capitalist economy, where I can’t completely escape the principle stated so well by Bobbi Fleckman in the movie This is Spinal Tap, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”
I am not above wanting to enjoy the fruits of my labor through buying something special I want but do not need. I have found that shopping less is the quickest route to getting those things. Instead of having lots of things I bought at a good price but didn’t really want, I have less things that satisfy me more. Over time I have bought less because I have grown to feel like I have bought everything I ever wanted. Before I buy anything, I consider if I would purchase that item if it were not being sold at a discount.
Consider all the things you have that you wouldn’t have bought at full retail. Imagine still having all the money you spent on those things.
I used to be caught in a trap of stockpiling deals, clipping coupons and watching sales. The result? Less money to buy the things I really wanted, less satisfaction with the things I had and certainly less gas in my gas tank. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of wanting and buying more.
I was so ruled by getting more at the best cost that I actually used it as an excuse to stay in a dead end relationship. At the time, my daughter was just a baby, and I devoted a lot of my mental energy to the task of buying as much food for as little money as possible. I was driven to stock up against some future calamity, such as her father losing or quitting his job. I buried my unhappiness with him by chasing deals. For a couple months, I made the excuse of staying in the relationship because in leaving I would abandon a deep freezer full of meat and dinner deals.
When I ran out of room to hoard more bargains in the kitchen, I then made a silent ultimatum, that I would wait until the deep freezer was empty to see if this relationship would become tolerable. By the time the freezer was half full, reality intervened, and I ended the relationship. I also decided to part with 90% of my possessions because I was beginning a new part of my life where I would no longer let my attachment to things drive important choices in my life.
I remembered, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34). I have not regretted my choice. I am not burdened with an unhappy situation or tethered to so much junk.