Dependently wealthy

I'm going to talk about something here that I haven't talked about in much detail before.

I'm going to talk about money. I have a major problem. And I'm having an a-ha moment, like Oprah would say. (Aw, Oprah! Miss you!) Anyway. A little background information:

I'm addicted to shopping. The day Confessions of a Shopaholic arrived in the book store, I bought it. I read it in under an hour. I have never before related so closely to a fictional character. I think I may have even cried, reading about someone who was just like me. Another person I closely relate to is Cher from Clueless. I can be very clueless all the time sometimes, when it comes to my spending habits.

You know that thing when you see someone cute and he smiles and your heart kind of goes like warm butter sliding down hot toast? Well that's what it's like when I see a store. Only it's better.

Rebecca Bloomwood said it best. When I go shopping, I get a natural high. I feel happy. My hearts skips a beat. When my arms are heavy from holding pretty shopping bags, I smile. There is something so amazing about new purchases. I love running hands over new clothes hung in my closet, or inhaling that yummy new leather smell in my new pair of shoes.

I don't think of the damage I'm doing, though. How I max out my credit cards time and time again. How I put my family in bad situations because I love to shop. I've been known to hide shopping bags in my car. Or to sneak them in, secretly.

I spend beyond my means. I have expensive taste. Designer purses are my 'thing'. Sunglasses, too. I don't see the price tags when I shop. In fact, I sometimes purposely avoid looking at the price tag, and I sign the dotted line blindly. If something is $199, I round it down to $100. "It was barely a hundred dollars," I'll justify to myself afterwards.

When I lived at home, and even when I was living in D.C., I had a gold AMEX. I had no limit, basically. And my parents would pay for everything. I can't tell you how many times I sat down with my dad to have 'the talk', and how many times I promised that next month, I wouldn't spend so much. Of course, everything changed when I got married. My dad gave me away, I became a married woman, and I had to leave my gold AMEX behind. I still enjoy taking vacatitons with my mom, since she shares this love of shopping with me. For some reason, when we're shopping in another city, or country, it feels like we aren't doing any damage at all!

I have a good job, and I make good money. However, combined with my husband's income, we are still not making enough to support my spending habits. I want it all, I guess. Once my children were born, not only was I shopping for myself, but I was shopping for them, too. Polo, Lacoste, Burberry, Puma's... book cases filled with hundreds of books, expensive German made toys that stimulate a child's imagination, and a garage filled with ride-on cars and bicycles.

I wasn't buying my children's love; I just loved buying things. Aside from reading books together, the quality time I spend with my children doesn't have a price tag on it. It's just my need... desire... to shop.

I had a discussion on Twitter with Ali the other day, about spending habits and budgets, and she blogged about how she put herself on a budget. I need to do this, too. I know it's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I'm also the most determined person ever when I make up my mind about something. I'm going to do this, because I'm at that point where I have to start making real adult decisions.

I want to take my family on a nice vacation this summer. I want to renovate my kitchen. I want to go to San Diego. I want to be in Florida again this winter. I can't do all this AND continue to spend so frivolously. I need to take action—I need to BUDGET.

I won't make any big promises on my blog, like saying I won't shop until the fall, but I will promise to make necessary changes. Old Navy is my best friend. I will only buy one new pair of shoes this summer. I will be content with the amount of purses I already own. And I won't buy any news books until I'm finished reading the ones that are stacked on my night table.

I'd love to hear from you.

How do you save money? Do you have a budget? Can I do it, too? And how many tears will I shed to reach my desired goal—to have enough money saved to do the important things I want to do?

Sigh. I miss my gold AMEX.

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Brandie Weikle said...

I am no expert and I like to shop, too, but I think that limiting your exposure to stores and the things in them is going to be the key. I find that I'm only tempted if I see the stuff! (I guess that applies to online stores as well, so it takes more discipline.) Perhaps the next few months you could put some of your energy into something satisfying and new but not expensive - new pastime, new workout routine. This way you may be just distracted enough not to notice the absence of the thrill of the purchase.

Miss Britt said...

That addiction to new things is a very real thing. The term "retail therapy" didn't come along by accident. :)

Believe it or not, I used to be an avid shopper until about a year ago. I liked what being able to shop said about me, especially after growing up poor.

Cameron said...

I think one important thing to remember when you're trying to curb your spending is that you want to buy EXPERIENCES for you and your family rather than THINGS. Going on a family vacation will build shared memories that are so important to a family, and childhood memories for your kids. Dolce and Gabbana hanging in your closet not only won't do that, but will teach your kids lessons that you don't want them to learn (that you value things more than you value them, that "things" are necessary for happiness, that they're entitled to have whatever they want whenever they want it, etc).

Another important thing to figure out is how you work... for example, some people might need to go cold turkey & just stop spending altogether; some might need to document and keep track of EVERY single purchase they make for accountability; some people might need to figure out a budget and then only buy things with cash. One friend put her credit cards in a tupperware container, filled it with water, and stuck it in the freezer so she wouldn't be tempted to use them but would still have access to them (at least after a few hours for melting time!). So if you try something and it doesn't work, just keep at it, keep trying other things until you figure out what works for you.

It's a major change that you're trying to make and I applaud you for it! It will take some time to change and develop new habits, but it WILL happen if you stick to it. Congratulations!! :)

Ali said...

I am super glad you wrote about it. I think that is the first step actually. I grew up in very more-than-comfortable family. I got a car at 16 and had a credit card at 14. I never learned the value of money...because I never had to.

Well, I had to.
And I did.
It was HARD.
But I did it.
I still love expensive things. But I am learning how to make better choices and be held accountable for every penny I spend, from coffee to purses to coats.

Lisa said...

I also love, love, love to shop. I know I get out of hand so what I try to do is STAY OUT of the shops. That way, I don't want what I can't see.
But then, there are those pesky emails from shops that encourage you to buy online. I delete them before I read them and I'm also unsubscribing them so I don't see the temptation.....
Good luck and just think how amazing your new kitchen or vacation will be!

Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress said...

Good luck! I gave up shopping last September for a year. At first, it was extremely difficult. Ok, who am I kidding. It's still really hard now. But, I no longer tear pages out of magazine catalogs saying "when the project is over, i'll buy...." and I don't pretend shop on the internet anymore (fill up your online cart, then click the screen closed). I miss the shoes and the clothes and especially the bags, but it's taught me to value the things I have and use my time in other ways. also, i started a blog the day before my project started, so it's really opened up a whole 'nother world for me. new friends and new experiences.

you can do this.

Anonymous said...

While I do enjoy shopping - I love the hunt for a great bargain. It takes time and doesn't always result in the most updated fashions. But, when I hit a good deal I know it's something I use for quite a while! Plus, I try to shop for more classic clothes and accessories - that way they'll never go out of style!!

Avitable said...

Forget the gold AmEx. You need to upgrade to the black one. No limit!

The Napkin Dad said...

LouLou, you can do it. Just think of budgeting as a way to organize and get MORE out of your shopping. Like enjoying a smaller plate of food because it is exquisitely cooked instead of a big pile o' food that is just mediocre.
It really will make you feel so excited to realize what you can do when you get it organized!

Sarah Gunn said...

I am a huge shopper. But I have been on a budget for almost 4 years. It SUCKS large. But it is how I stay home with my boys. Here's how I do it: buy what you need, but only what you love. Just don't do it very often. ;)

Stephanie said...

You can ABSOLUTELY do it!! My husband and I have been taking a hard look at finances and budgeting lately and we are just starting our own journey to be where we want to be with our money. A really good thing to do is find a money blog that speaks to you. Mine is . Even though she is single and has no children yet I have learned a lot from her journey to being debt free and building her savings. There are tons of others too that she links too quite often on her blog. And these are not big financial bigwigs. Just regular people who were over their heads and figured out how to fix it themselves.

Anonymous said...

I do extreme couponing with groceries so that way it kind of offsets what i spend elsewhere and its made a HUGE difference. I've learned so many tips and secrets that I will never grocery shop again without coupons and now my spending is not so much a big deal :)

BTW i know that feeling........I see something I love and I feel like I WILL DIE without it !

Ann Imig said...

Good luck. I'm rooting for you!

OHmommy said...

I've completely changed my spending habits this year. You know what worked? Not going into stores. I just don't do it unless I need something.

Good luck. I know you can do it.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

My advice? Remember that you can really shop anywhere. You can easily drop $199 at Old Navy - you just get twice as much stuff (incentive to buy more!) So try to go into ANY store (including Target) with a list of non-fun necessities and a limit. That may reign you in a bit.

So funny that you mention that Shopaholic book. I read the first one back in my 20s and related to so much of it. Especially the part where she justifies buying a designer scarf she wouldn't normally want because it was a fraction of the cost - and how can you pass up that kind of a sale??? It's like a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy something you wouldn't normally be able to afford. The fact that you may never actually use it? Um...

The a friend of mine who had just finished reading the same book told me that the main character reminded her so much of me when we were roommates. Funny - but also kind of sad. I wasted a lot of money on "stuff" - much of which has long since disappeared into Good Will boxes.

I like to think I'm better now. But sometimes I wonder if I just don't have as much free addition to drastically lowered standards.

designHER Momma said...

I love nice things. I can spot something expensive from a mile away.

I'm an extreme case, but I moved from the "fancy" suburbs where keeping up with the Jones' was the norm, to the "inner city". Let me tell you, when you have neighbors on your block below the poverty level (and all that comes with that), the desire to have the fancy clothes, cars and other stuff just kind of goes away.

I've found that in my life, if I don't surround myself with those temptations, including friends that desire material goods, it's so much easier not to want things that I can't afford or that hold no value other than materialism.

Good luck to you, you will be so happy to have that money in the bank to do other things with, or in savings, for a rainy day.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I love to shop too, but feel like I have it mostly under control these days. I spend beyond my means sometimes, but I generally find a way to make it up.

However, when I was about 18 I found myself in a situation similar to the one you are in (except I didn't have Daddy's Gold AMEX!). I bought, bought, bought...and then I regretted. So I ended up making myself a rule that if I like something and wanted to buy it, I couldn't buy it that day. I had to wait at least 24 hours before I could buy it. Sometimes I went back, but a lot of times I didn't bother.

It really helped me to decipher between the thrill of the buy and things that I really wanted.

Anonymous said...

I broke up with my credit cards. If I have to pay for something online (a networking event, or something for business) I either use my bank acct which is attached to PayPal or make arrangements to pay by cash/chq. As for clothes and other pretty things ... I try to revive older pieces by purchasing a bit of fun, inexpensive jewelry to change the look. Hitting rock-bottom (meaning, getting a hair away from losing my house) was a big ol' slap of reality!

Kelly said...

Yes, I'm on a budget. I had to be when I quit my job to homeschool and raise my children. We were down to one income and had to make it work.

I love buying books as well. So, I either go to the library (for new books) or I shop thrift stores (for older books or books for my children). I also buy a lot of games, sporting equipment and play clothes at thrift stores. If I need to buy something, I first decide if I could possibly buy it at a thrift store for a fraction of the cost. If I don't..and need to buy it new...then I save until I have enough for the item. I utilize sales and coupons to make sure I come under budget.

Also, we pay cash for everything. No more credit cards.

My kids do not need fancy, expensive clothing. They are 10 and 2. They don't even care where their clothes come from (yet). I shop sales at Old Navy, Gymboree and The Children's Place when they have huge sales. I create a budget for their clothing and stick to it throughout the year. It's become a challenge to me to find great deals and still come under budget. Make it a game, and it will be easier!

Michelle said...

I think it's a matter of figuring out what is important to you. Things? Or experiences with your family? Things? Or not spending yourself into the poor house? Things? Or your husband's trust that you're not lying about purchases?

I got myself into a shopping mess when I was in my late teens and the best thing my parents did for me was let me drown in it and climb my way out. Gone were the shopping trips where I would come home with the same shirt in 6 colors, the 5 new pairs of shoes, and accessories to match everything. I would literally be on a high from shopping. I didn't want to live like that, I didn't want to pay interest on clothes that I would wear twice and let sit in my closet, I didn't want to fuck up my credit because of 'stuff'.

If I were you, I'd go on a total spending hiatus for an entire month and see how you do. I mean absolutely nada. You may surprise yourself at how empowered you feel, or you may decide you need some help to continue.

I think it's incredible that you're taking the first step in knowing it is an issue and starting to correct it.

Elaine A. said...

I like to shop too. A LOT. BUT (and this is a big but) I don't buy expensive things. I get excited about the bag full of clothes I just bought for K at the second-hand shop (seriously, just bought stuff Saturday) which include things from tea, Gymboree and The Gap. Each thing only $5-$7.

And for me? I freak out if shoes are over $40. Probably the thing I've spent the most on (or my husband has, for me) are handbags because most of the ones I buy are timeless.

Anyway, I don't really have a budget either but I don't buy a lot of expensive things either. I just buy a lot of things. ;)

I hope you can establish a budget that works for you, especially if your "hobby" is affecting all of you in the family. Good luck girl!!

Scattered Mom said...

I have never been a shopper, but I did learn a huge lesson about 10 years ago. Hubs was laid off. I was injured at work and was on leave. We sold our house so he could go back to school and suddenly, having owned an airplane, a dive shop, a boat, etc we had to struggle to get by.

I mean REALLY struggle. We're still not back to where we were.

I found that I loved experiences and time with family more than things, and while I do like things, I find it hard to justify the amount of time I have to work to pay for them. We found lots of things to do for cheap or almost free. My son doesn't care about designer clothes (and neither do I), and while I have some nice things, I keep them to the things I really LOVE and only a few.

All I really need is my family together and happy.

BusyDad said...

Give yourself an "allowance" at the beginning of each month. Take it out in cash. Then give your credit cards to your husband for safekeeping. You'll stick to that budget because you literally have only the cash in your pocket (well, expensive purse, but that was a pre-existing condition, heh). Good luck! My problem isn't buying things, but going out to eat, so I get it!

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

I have been trying to make a budget. My problem is that it's kind of boring to make a budget and I lose interest partway through. Still, this is something I've promised that I will do in the next couple of weeks. Because I need to.

Suzanne said...

Get rid of the cards! We did that, Lou, and it made a WORLD of difference. We pay cash for everything. I rather save up and buy a great new pair of shoes with cash and know that I (not the bank) OWN them.

As for the kids, seriously, do they really need $120 Burberry shirts? They'll probably stain them with grape juice and off with those shirts! Put them in Old Navy and be done with it.

You have to ask yourself, though, why you feel the need to own the designer stuff. Because, personally, I think you could rock Winners just as well as you could rock Chanel. You always look amazing and put-together.

And, as a lot of the others said, think about all the other things you could do instead - redoing your kitchen, having amazing family vacations, creating memories...

You can do it! I'm so proud of you for even blogging about it! xo

Issas Crazy World said...

Not walking into places is the key.

Also? I do everything in cash. (Extras, groceries, eating out and fun stuff.) Truly. For me it helped me know exactly what I was spending. I made a budget and gave myself shopping money...however when it's gone it's gone. That included Starbucks.

It was hard to start, but I'd gotten divorced and was still spending like I had two incomes coming in. Took a few months to get the hang of it. Then I started cutting out more stuff (Starbucks, eating out) and started saving even more money. It means vacations. It means not freaking if my car needs work. It means, I have money in savings.

You can do it. But be realistic. Start with a budget and figure out what is left after all major bills. Don't cut it all out right off, or you won't stick to it. Baby steps.

Emily said...

I feel your pain! I'm a college student on the quite a strict budget, where I only get pretty new things at Christmas or when I work (temporarily). I terribly miss when my mom would take me to the mall and we got a lot of the same things.
These days, I'm trying my very hardest to save all the money I'm making over the summer. This may not be the best advice, but every time I want to go to the mall, instead I go to the gym or on a run around the neighborhood. I'm already in better shape, as I've wanted to shop every damn day!

EatPlayLove said...

Once upon a time, I spent all my spare time shopping. Hanging out with friend, let's shop, husband skiing for the day, I'd shop, shopping was my hobby.

Then something changed, I realized I was trying to fill a void with stuff. It didn't happen over night, I don't budget my money, but I took a huge step back. Now, I go for a hike or walk to fill the void. I stopped buying books (only read from library, which sometimes means waiting for a book I really want). I go to Target with a list of necessities and only buy what's on the list (GASP).

We live on one income and moved into a more expensive home in December. I've decided the beauty of my new surroundings is more important to me than all the stuff. Now there are things I desperately want for my house (like you a remodeled kitchen) and I am saving ever $ I earn in a special account to help contribute to that goal for my family.

I still love nice things, mainly it's window shopping, but you'll be surprised because you are ready how you can change your habits. Good luck, keep us posted.

Jill said...

Such a great post - so much fun to have followed along while you were tweeting - and then to read all your thoughts.

I'll be on a serious budget starting next month when Matt comes back from Iraq and our income is drastically reduced. Well that, and buying a house. We only have 1 credit card and pay it off every month ... but I know that even that will be a stretch soon too.

Best of luck to you! I love retail therapy - especially shoes and jewelry. But I agree - feeling good about my bank account will by far feel better than the guilty feeling of seeing pretty shoes that I know I can't afford...

joely said...

I unsubscribed myself from all the emails I was getting for great deals from my favorite stores. I find if I don't see the discount or get the email, I don't look and I spend less. This was not an easy task. I mourned the loss of each site as I unsubscribed to them, like losing a friend. But now I have less emails and more time.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

very inspiring! Lots of us are with you, and know the same. I love new things, and have a hard time looking at the long term effects. I'm super excited for you!

Jessica said...

I am the complete opposite, I have a hard time spending at all, wish there was a happy medium between you and I!

A Mommy in the City said...

I know exactly how you feel! I used to be able to buy whatever I wanted growing up because I knew my parents would foot the bill. Now that I am married and have responsibilities and things to pay for I can't do that. I will go out every once in a while and buy things for myself. In the end I just have to tell ask myself, do I really need that?

Scary Mommy said...

My husband is the spender in our relationship.

Sure, I like to buy things, but he REALLY does. He rounds down, or even worse, doesn't even look at price tags. I'll buy a few really expensive things a year, but I don't get off on it like he does.

I, do however, have a secret account with around $500 just in case. :)

Sherriemae23 said...

Great post, our family really does come first. Very proud of you, it is a tough road making changes in our lives especially when it comes to money. I must admit, I don't know a lot about fashion BUT i do know you always look in style & fabulous....I wouldn't know if it was last years style of this years;)

Lady Mama said...

I completely understand this. I've been there - I used to be the impulse shopper that would sign on the line and then justify it later. Then, when we went down to one salary after the kids came along, I HAD to make some adjustments. I can honestly say it was not easy. Like any habit - breaking it is hard, for the first while. I began craving the things I couldn't have more than ever. But after a while, the budgeting became a good thing for me. I learned how to control my spending (not completely, but mostly!).

One idea is to give yourself a spending limit each month. I don't think it's wise to completely cut it out altogether, because that will just result in you feeling deprived and resentful. If you have a monthly spending limit, you'll still be able to spoil yourself, but without going overboard.

Good luck - I look forward to hearing about how you get on!

20 York Street said...

Oh Oh my! I really do love that book (the whole series actually!) and the movie. I watched it over and over again!

I love this post - so forthcoming and though I may not help you with setting up a budget, I wish you all the luck!

p.s. Such a pleasure to meet you Mrs. L!


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Abby said...

I would love to say I'm nothing like that and can't relate, but the truth is I think I'm a shopaholic in denial. Clueless is my favorite movie & I devoured the Shopaholic series. You would never, ever know it to look at me because I'm not into bags or labels (although who can't appreciate a Marc Jacobs dress ?!).

I guess I get my high from bargain shopping. I grew up going to outlets & places like Loehmann's w/ my mom, so I learned to bargain hunt. I also had a clothing allowance & a job at 15. I'm telling you, when you pay for your own stuff, you're MUCH more careful & want to stretch a buck as far as you can.

My only tip is to stay away from the shops as much as possible. Don't put yourself in temptation's way. Good luck!

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

Oh boy, good luck! I admire your commitment to making a change. That's no easy task! I don't have any super helpful advice, because I tend to overthink purchases and, therefore, underspend. But I think you should definitely avoid stores!!! Seeing = wanting. Good luck!!!

Chrissy MacCEO/JerseyShoreFams said...

This is a hugely refreshingly honest post. Well said, and while I don't have AS bad of spending as you, I love shopping and often shop when I know I shouldn't.

Shopping DOES make me happy. I don't know how it works that way but it does, and there is no denying it. Even a small purchase of a new lipgloss can make me feel wonderful.

But, I do budget, and I also do things like list old books on and consider buying used ones on there before even stepping foot into the store for a new one.