The Simple Guide To Conscious Spending

For me conscious spending is knowing where every penny goes, or at least every pound. It’s about value for money, spending on what matters to my family and me and not frittering away cash. It’s not about being frugal, it’s about eliminating waste – I don’t mind spending money but I hate wasting money.

Due to living our family life this way it has meant that much of the last 18 years has been spent debt free (I am 36 now). Conscious spending has enabled us to travel, have lot’s of experiences and ultimately it meant that after our first child was born it gave us choices.

By consciously spending, rather than consuming, a debt free life is attainable. Every cent not spent makes a difference. It may seem insignificant at the time, but it’s not.

Questions to ask yourself when aiming to spend consciously

  • Do I need it?

This should always be the first question. Do I need it? Honesty is key here. It easy to fool yourself into believing a ‘want’ is a necessary purchase. Just look at the amount of unused gym equipment lying around people’s homes, not just tying up cash but also space and causing immense guilt in the purchasers lack of motivation to use it. Ask yourself many times ‘Do I need it?’

  • Do I love it? Truly Love it?

If you identify that you don’t need it but do really love and want it then this may be a good enough reason to go ahead with the purchase. So the second question should always be ‘Do I love it?’. Everyone should be able to buy something they really love, from time to time. This can be a legitimate reason for a purchase.

  • Can I afford it?

By afford it I mean truly afford it, not go into debt for it and pay it off later. Again honesty is key. Even if you can buy it outright still bear in mind that if you are looking to pay of debt elsewhere every penny you do not spend reduces that other debt. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after them selves is a famous British saying.

  • How many times will I use it?

Consider how many times you will use it. This can make a buying decision harder or in some cases easier. For example I purchased a dress for twice the price of another, but knew I would wear it at least 5 times more than the other due to it’s versatility. The lower cost per wear is what I based the purchasing decision on.

  • Do I have something already that already serves the same purpose?

Sometimes you can forget you have something. One way to eradicate this is to declutter and have a clear inventory of what you have. When a need arises, you may already have something that serves a purpose, don’t always reach for your wallet. One tip is to think laterally. If you need to exercise, if you are lucky enough to have feet and they work – use them! Don’t buy a treadmill; there is limitless road out there to hit

  • Have I purchased it the best way?

I’m not a bargain hunter, because if I have made the decision to purchase then I need the item and am happy to pay for it. I do of-course do a check that I have the best deal (as far as I can see) and have checked that there aren’t any additional discounts available. I also do not bargain hunt as this can lead to inaccurate purchases and also additional purchases due to browsing.

  • Can I wait for it?

We live in a time where everything is immediate. Do you remember as a child waiting for your birthday, and receiving a gift you really wanted? Even if you buy it yourself for your own birthday, it makes it that little bit more special. Don’t cheat and buy it early. Waiting also encourages a natural cooling off period, which confirms whether you really do need/love it.

  • What will I do with it when I no longer need it?

Sometimes to spend a little more is the better option long-term.  When we bought our first baby buggy we spent a lot on it. It has lasted 6 years and I still love it, it is incredibly functional and still has a good resale value all these years later. I’ve seen other new Mums and Dads replace and change buggies and overall spend considerably more that we did on our first investment.

  • Have I slept on it?

Never impulse purchase! If you see something you want or have identified that you ‘need something’ make sure you sleep on it. Give yourself a cooling off period. 1 week is ideal as there are very few things that cannot wait a week. As long as you have given the above 9 questions some thought – If you still need it and/or love it and you can afford it, then buy it!

Agree/Disagree? Please share!

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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • joanna @ I Won't Be a Hoarder Too May 29, 2012, 9:59 pm

    I really like the “what will I do with it when I no longer need it?” question. Realizing that I will just have to declutter a number of things has been good motivation not to acquire.

    • simplybeingmum May 29, 2012, 10:26 pm

      Hi Joanna – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hoarding. In the UK a series has run about the ‘Hoarder Next Door’ and I could relate to last week’s ‘star’ of the show Tina. In fact today’s post was originally about hoarding, but time got the better of me so I switched to a post I planned for the weekend.
      The main change I have made to combat my sentimental hoarding has been to not acquire the item in the first place, rather than trying to get rid of it at a later date.

  • joanna @ I Won't Be a Hoarder Too May 29, 2012, 9:59 pm

    I really like the “what will I do with it when I no longer need it?” question. Realizing that I will just have to declutter a number of things has been good motivation not to acquire.

    • simplybeingmum May 29, 2012, 10:26 pm

      Hi Joanna – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hoarding. In the UK a series has run about the ‘Hoarder Next Door’ and I could relate to last week’s ‘star’ of the show Tina. In fact today’s post was originally about hoarding, but time got the better of me so I switched to a post I planned for the weekend.
      The main change I have made to combat my sentimental hoarding has been to not acquire the item in the first place, rather than trying to get rid of it at a later date.

  • Apple May 29, 2012, 10:33 pm

    Definitely agree! Brilliant post Jo!
    What I do before buying anything is research exactly which/what type of shoe, coat, bag etc I want/need/like, then copy a picture of it on my so called “wishlist” ( a paint file on my laptop). I look at my wishlist most days, and after a few weeks I know if I still want the item or not. or maybe want a different kind…

    • simplybeingmum May 31, 2012, 11:04 am

      Laura – Great Tip! Without a doubt things go ‘off the boil’ the more you look at them. If they don’t you know it’s worth investing. Impulse purchasing is a no-no here!

  • Apple May 29, 2012, 10:33 pm

    Definitely agree! Brilliant post Jo!
    What I do before buying anything is research exactly which/what type of shoe, coat, bag etc I want/need/like, then copy a picture of it on my so called “wishlist” ( a paint file on my laptop). I look at my wishlist most days, and after a few weeks I know if I still want the item or not. or maybe want a different kind…

    • simplybeingmum May 31, 2012, 11:04 am

      Laura – Great Tip! Without a doubt things go ‘off the boil’ the more you look at them. If they don’t you know it’s worth investing. Impulse purchasing is a no-no here!

  • Sugel May 30, 2012, 4:56 am

    The practice of not spending on the things you don’t really care about in order to allocate resources to the things you love is often called conscious spending.

  • Sugel May 30, 2012, 4:56 am

    The practice of not spending on the things you don’t really care about in order to allocate resources to the things you love is often called conscious spending.

  • EcoCatLady May 30, 2012, 7:48 am

    Excellent post! I also agree totally with the credit card/Queen post. It’s SOOO much easier to keep track of money spent on a card, at least it is if you make yourself have that end of the month “day of reckoning!”

    In terms of the spending thing, I think that sleeping on it is one of the key pieces of the puzzle… I can’t count the number of times that I get all excited about some certain item and spend hours researching it online, and I’m SOOOO tempted to just place an order. But I have a rule that I have to wait 24 hours at the very least. For anything that costs more than about $20, I usually make myself wait at least a month, and very often it’s more like 6 months.

    I did allow myself to spend $10 at the thrift store the other day without sleeping on it though. I bought some little drawers and lazy Susans to assist in my bathroom closet decluttering because I knew if I waited I’d lose momentum on the project and it would never happen! Oh well, sometimes you’ve gotta bend one rule in service of another I suppose.

    BTW – I think everything you described here would qualify as frugal. To me frugal doesn’t necessarily mean spending as little as possible, it means making conscious and careful decisions about where to put your financial resources. Maybe it’s all just semantics, I dunno…

    • simplybeingmum May 31, 2012, 11:13 am

      Firstly – Lazy Susan… if you are using it for what I think you may be, then that may be one of the most fabulous ideas ever for deep cabinet organisation! I love it! What I do now (and bet you may do also) is in cabinets and cupboards I use small boxes/baskets to hold items so i can pull them out rather than searching through.
      Impulse purchasing is a no-no here, but sounds to me like that wasn’t really an impulse purchase, rather you were on the ‘look-out’ for a solution to a problem. And you realised you’d found it. That sounds like common sense to me.
      Regarding the definition of frugality, this post is quite dated now. At the time (Mar 2011) I wasn’t really sure where my virtual self sat in the minimalism/frugal/simple-living community. I’m clearer now. Although my main priority is simplification, the by-product of that has been a newly invigorated frugality (which probably was always there lying dormant). All of these facets come hand-in-hand when simplifying, it’s an attitude to life. I’d say my main priority is the reduction of waste. Wasting time, money, effort etc… prioritising what I believe to be important.

  • EcoCatLady May 30, 2012, 7:48 am

    Excellent post! I also agree totally with the credit card/Queen post. It’s SOOO much easier to keep track of money spent on a card, at least it is if you make yourself have that end of the month “day of reckoning!”

    In terms of the spending thing, I think that sleeping on it is one of the key pieces of the puzzle… I can’t count the number of times that I get all excited about some certain item and spend hours researching it online, and I’m SOOOO tempted to just place an order. But I have a rule that I have to wait 24 hours at the very least. For anything that costs more than about $20, I usually make myself wait at least a month, and very often it’s more like 6 months.

    I did allow myself to spend $10 at the thrift store the other day without sleeping on it though. I bought some little drawers and lazy Susans to assist in my bathroom closet decluttering because I knew if I waited I’d lose momentum on the project and it would never happen! Oh well, sometimes you’ve gotta bend one rule in service of another I suppose.

    BTW – I think everything you described here would qualify as frugal. To me frugal doesn’t necessarily mean spending as little as possible, it means making conscious and careful decisions about where to put your financial resources. Maybe it’s all just semantics, I dunno…

    • simplybeingmum May 31, 2012, 11:13 am

      Firstly – Lazy Susan… if you are using it for what I think you may be, then that may be one of the most fabulous ideas ever for deep cabinet organisation! I love it! What I do now (and bet you may do also) is in cabinets and cupboards I use small boxes/baskets to hold items so i can pull them out rather than searching through.
      Impulse purchasing is a no-no here, but sounds to me like that wasn’t really an impulse purchase, rather you were on the ‘look-out’ for a solution to a problem. And you realised you’d found it. That sounds like common sense to me.
      Regarding the definition of frugality, this post is quite dated now. At the time (Mar 2011) I wasn’t really sure where my virtual self sat in the minimalism/frugal/simple-living community. I’m clearer now. Although my main priority is simplification, the by-product of that has been a newly invigorated frugality (which probably was always there lying dormant). All of these facets come hand-in-hand when simplifying, it’s an attitude to life. I’d say my main priority is the reduction of waste. Wasting time, money, effort etc… prioritising what I believe to be important.

  • idreamofdownsizing May 31, 2012, 7:58 pm

    These are all excellent points! Thinking about what I’m going to do with something when I’m done with it is one I haven’t done before. I’ll have to add it to my pre-purchase repertoire. I imagine thinking about sending something to the thrift store in short order would make me less likely to buy it to begin with.

    • simplybeingmum June 1, 2012, 8:02 am

      Me too. I have an issue once I’ve acquired certain things. The decision to get rid can be quite complicated. Particularly with non-purchased stuff (aka Kids drawings etc…) and gifts I’ve received – so not necessarily linked to my spend – but still relevant in the battle against clutter. It can be exhausting. It took a while, but I clicked that the first step is not to own the item in the first place.

  • idreamofdownsizing May 31, 2012, 7:58 pm

    These are all excellent points! Thinking about what I’m going to do with something when I’m done with it is one I haven’t done before. I’ll have to add it to my pre-purchase repertoire. I imagine thinking about sending something to the thrift store in short order would make me less likely to buy it to begin with.

    • simplybeingmum June 1, 2012, 8:02 am

      Me too. I have an issue once I’ve acquired certain things. The decision to get rid can be quite complicated. Particularly with non-purchased stuff (aka Kids drawings etc…) and gifts I’ve received – so not necessarily linked to my spend – but still relevant in the battle against clutter. It can be exhausting. It took a while, but I clicked that the first step is not to own the item in the first place.

  • Lili@creativesavv May 31, 2012, 11:45 pm

    I liked the second question of “do I love it? do I truly love it?” I ask myself this frequently. And if I can also say that the item is something of durable lasting use/value, then I know that it would be a good purchase. I know my own taste, and the style that I truly love hasn’t changed all that much. 30 years ago I chose a set of dishes that “I truly love”. We still use those same exact dishes every day. I am the same way with clothing. Hence my closet is not all that full. I have a few articles of clothing, all of which “I truly love”. It’s so nice to not have closets stuffed with clothes (and other stuff) that aren’t exactly what I love.

    • simplybeingmum June 1, 2012, 8:09 am

      Hey Lili – Once you know your own taste it gets easier. I spent a good while when I was younger wondering why I didn’t accessorise when others did and looked fab. I’d buy certain things to try (I didn’t enjoy it) and they just wouldn’t look or feel right. Finally I accepted that I don’t ‘do’ jewellery or scarves or stuff really (oh apart from hats – I’ve always been a hat person!). It all kind of clicked, and I realised I’m not keen on patterned clothing either (just an odd item). Glad to know you’ve got your style sorted!
      ps – it also took a while to realise that when I try it on in a shop and I’m not sure about the item – it should stay in the shop! I’m not suddenly going to love it when I get home!

      • Lili@creativesavv June 3, 2012, 10:26 pm

        As far as clothing goes, in my younger years, I think I did a fair amount of experimenting with style. But then, I still never purchased a whole lot. I’ve always craved financial security, and spending went against that so much of the time. I do have the occasional “splurge” when I’ll take my two daughters to a thrift shop and we’ll all buy something. If I want something on the pricey side I give it more than just an overnight thought, I might think about it for months. I’ve been thinking about a handbag since early April. And I’m still not sure. Which I guess tells me something about how much I really love it!

        • simplybeingmum June 5, 2012, 9:16 am

          I spent 2 years contemplating a handbag, not an exact one, but I wanted a soft leather small satchel to replace a canvas one I had. I only made the purchase when a pen leaked inside the canvas one making it rather unsightly!

  • Lili@creativesavv May 31, 2012, 11:45 pm

    I liked the second question of “do I love it? do I truly love it?” I ask myself this frequently. And if I can also say that the item is something of durable lasting use/value, then I know that it would be a good purchase. I know my own taste, and the style that I truly love hasn’t changed all that much. 30 years ago I chose a set of dishes that “I truly love”. We still use those same exact dishes every day. I am the same way with clothing. Hence my closet is not all that full. I have a few articles of clothing, all of which “I truly love”. It’s so nice to not have closets stuffed with clothes (and other stuff) that aren’t exactly what I love.

    • simplybeingmum June 1, 2012, 8:09 am

      Hey Lili – Once you know your own taste it gets easier. I spent a good while when I was younger wondering why I didn’t accessorise when others did and looked fab. I’d buy certain things to try (I didn’t enjoy it) and they just wouldn’t look or feel right. Finally I accepted that I don’t ‘do’ jewellery or scarves or stuff really (oh apart from hats – I’ve always been a hat person!). It all kind of clicked, and I realised I’m not keen on patterned clothing either (just an odd item). Glad to know you’ve got your style sorted!
      ps – it also took a while to realise that when I try it on in a shop and I’m not sure about the item – it should stay in the shop! I’m not suddenly going to love it when I get home!

      • Lili@creativesavv June 3, 2012, 10:26 pm

        As far as clothing goes, in my younger years, I think I did a fair amount of experimenting with style. But then, I still never purchased a whole lot. I’ve always craved financial security, and spending went against that so much of the time. I do have the occasional “splurge” when I’ll take my two daughters to a thrift shop and we’ll all buy something. If I want something on the pricey side I give it more than just an overnight thought, I might think about it for months. I’ve been thinking about a handbag since early April. And I’m still not sure. Which I guess tells me something about how much I really love it!

        • simplybeingmum June 5, 2012, 9:16 am

          I spent 2 years contemplating a handbag, not an exact one, but I wanted a soft leather small satchel to replace a canvas one I had. I only made the purchase when a pen leaked inside the canvas one making it rather unsightly!

  • Lili@creativesavv June 6, 2012, 2:34 am

    Oh good! I”m glad I’m not the only one to take a long time deciding on a bag. I’m in no hurry now!

    • simplybeingmum June 6, 2012, 9:44 am

      There’s no hurry. Something I always think is if I don’t buy the bag, boots whatever now by the time I do there’ll be something new out and my purchase won’t be as redundant as quick in the fashion stakes!

  • Lili@creativesavv June 6, 2012, 2:34 am

    Oh good! I”m glad I’m not the only one to take a long time deciding on a bag. I’m in no hurry now!

    • simplybeingmum June 6, 2012, 9:44 am

      There’s no hurry. Something I always think is if I don’t buy the bag, boots whatever now by the time I do there’ll be something new out and my purchase won’t be as redundant as quick in the fashion stakes!

  • mattcurrey August 14, 2015, 3:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Breathe.

  • mattcurrey August 14, 2015, 3:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Breathe.

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