Have you ever had the urge to buy something you KNOW you just don't need? Then you look back and rethink what you have bought throughout the years and ask yourself, "Why did I need that?"
One of the things I love about being a financial coach is hearing and learning through stories of how people overcome financial struggles. It may not be as visually dramatic as losing 60 pounds in six months but financial transformation comes with the same habit of making small changes with courage, every day.
Working with a single, divorced mom named "Evelyn" throughout the past year, I had challenged her to discover what makes her spend discretionary money on what she called "frequent shopping trips". (Discretionary money is money left over from your income after all your bills are paid)
After getting the courage to do so, she went on a spending "fast" for 30 days, i.e. the Money Smart 30-Day No Shopping Challenge. Being a woman in top physical condition in her 40s (oh yeah...she's hot!) she was used to following a strict diet and various daily workout routines.
She applied that same discipline towards her financial life.
I finally received a phone call about her financial success story, which includes the following confessions and revelations through this process. With her permission and a smile I could feel over the phone, she has allowed me to share these with you.
- More Than Enough - some clothes in her closest still had price tags on them, never worn. She says that if she wore everything in her closest and changed everyday, it most likely would take her over 2 months to wear everything at least once.
- Versatility - finding she mainly wore clothes that fit her active lifestyle, she could be more versatile with several pieces of clothing that could mix n' match with other pieces.
- Establish a Quick Inventory - She went to Lululemon and realized she didn't need anything...HUGE breakthrough! Because of taking a quick inventory of her closest, she was able to systematically distinguish an urge to spend on needs vs. wants. She didn't justify having to buy clothing on an urge because she "thought" she didn't have something she needed.
- Renewed Appreciation - Had a dress previously bought for $100 and never wore it. She attempted to give it to a friend and it didn't fit. She eventually wore it and ended up really liking it...AGAIN! That's why she bought it in the first place.
- Rewarding Smartly - to celebrate her financial breakthrough, she did end up buying ONE thing. A dress that was on SALE! She learned that retailers would sucker her into the store by putting the new season's fashion up front which would be the priciest clothing in the whole store. The sale rack was at the BACK.
- Lower Credit Card Bill - since she spent less, she had less to pay back. More to redirect to other financial goals...like a paid-upfront vacation or buy a newer car with CASH.
- Self Control, Increased Confidence - applying a little financial discipline wasn't that hard after all. Because she had more money left over at the end of the month, her financial confidence continues to build. The urge to buy something became less emotional because she now has a SYSTEM to justify her decisions.
- Less is More - she overcame her desire to "replenish" when closet became more empty. Also, she realized that shopping was her form of regaining "control" in her life, which retailers love to hear and thereby take full advantage of. On a segment on Dr. Oz, Dr Mike Dow shares that dopamine is released in the brain when the urge to shop and buy comes about. There are ways to channel and redirect that dopamine to more constructive ways...
- Giving vs. Buying - with an abundance of clothing, she was inspired to donate and give plenty of clothes away. What is interesting is the same emotions or satisfaction when shopping, was also experienced when GIVING! (I wonder if dopamine is released in the brain while giving, also.)
- Circle of Trust - sadly, her renewed financial strength was not encouraged by her existing friends who tried to justify why she should keep shopping the way she did. What she felt good about is setting a new example to her friends who do not have discretionary income, like her, to go out shopping but do so by putting purchases on their credit cards. She realized that just because you CAN buy something, doesn't necessarily mean you should.
On a final note, she mentioned that shopping was her only way of pleasure...that she need to redirect that and has. (I write this with a smug look on my face...I'll let YOU fill in the blanks here.)
I am so proud of "Evelyn", the financial transformation and hope that her experience can be a shining light in a season of economic darkness. Personally, I always take offense when we Americans are called a nation of consumers...when there is SO MUCH to invest in - OURSELVES and our communities!
If you choose to take the Money Smart 30-Day No Shopping Challenge, please share your comments, suggestions and stories with us!
Until we meet again this is your Money Smart Guy Matt Sapaula...continue to live smart, love smart and BE money smart, TODAY!
Tags: 10 Confessions of a Shopaholic, Buying on Credit Cards, Dr Oz, Dr. Mike Dow, Financial Coach, Financial Transformation, Giving vs. Buying, Matt Sapaula, Money Smart 30 Day No Shopping Challenge, Overcome Financial Struggles, Shopping, Single Divorced Mom