Spending Freeze Step-By-Step

Before I read about Cait Flanders’ Shopping Ban, I was practicing a similar concept which I have called a Spending Freeze. Cait’s Shopping Ban and my Spending Freeze had many similar components - no buying any non-essentials being at the core of each. I’ve only ever completed these freezes for one month at a time, but now that I’m moving into my debt repayment journey in earnest it’s time to get serious. So, seriously, what is a Shopping Ban/Spending Freeze? First, I recommend heading over to Cait’s blog, because she’s gotten a lot of press for her (TWO YEAR) Shopping Ban. It’s brilliant and so is she. So inspiring. Next, continue below for the steps I’m planning to take to make this a reality.

  1. Spend some intentional time thinking about which expenditures in my life are necessary and which are excess. The thing I want to emphasize here is that this will be different for everyone! Just because I deem driving my car and going out to eat excess, doesn’t mean you have to! In fact, me allotting myself an unlimited amount of money to spend on groceries (as long as I’m meal planning and being a savvy shopper) may seem to be totally out of line with a spending freeze. But for me, this is a “necessary” expense - one that keeps me happier, healthier, and more socially engaged with my partner.

  1. Cut out the excess! This is the freeze/ban in spending freeze/shopping ban. And let me tell you - it’s not easy! It takes a lot of determination not to spend. Like, a lot. Especially if you’re used to buying things whenever you want them. For me this means a few things:
    1. Not going to Target/Home Goods/any bookstore - which includes not venturing onto Amazon (these are my particular vices, but pick any stores that YOU go for excess);
    2. Taking the bus or walking or riding my bike instead of driving, because it’s the environmentally conscious and spendthrifty thing to do (aaand I don’t have a car at the moment);
    3. Cooking all three meals a day at home, which ensures better nutritional value and is more cost effective.
    4. Not spending money on plane travel. Specifically, not buying any plane tickets in, at least the month of January which has been - in the last year - one of my largest spending categories

  1. Monitor it all with an app, a budgeting journal, or a spreadsheet. I use a combination of a spreadsheet budget and the app Mint right now, but watch out mindful budgeting journal - the new year is approaching! I get a little obsessive about monitoring my budget. Like check my balances multiple times a day obsessive. Which is mostly serving me well right now, but I also need to be careful not to get so wrapped up in the numbers that I forget to live my life and be present in the day to day.

  1. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and enoughness. When you’re deep in debt, as I am, and you stop buying things that theoretically make you happy, it’s easy to sink into a self-pity hole. Remind yourself that you have so many things to be grateful for! And that while it may not feel like you HAVE enough - enough money, enough things - just remember that you ARE enough. That reframe has been, for me, a huge step forward in helping me feel more comfortable in my indebtedness.

Starting January 1, 2017, when I start paying down my debt in earnest, I plan to start this spending freeze with an indefinite end date. I think the things I’m likely going to struggle with the most are transportation and travel. My partner and I spend a lot of time traveling to see family and friends near and far. It’s a huge value of both of ours, but it’s expensive. Trying not to spend any money on plane tickets, at least for the month of January, will be a tough task, but a valuable one.

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