Financial Fluency Episode #3: Cutting the Junk (Spending)
Today is a solo episode, it’s just going to be me talking to you. I’m a little bit under the weather, so I’ve got a bit of a croak in my throat, but I wanted to talk to you about junk spending regardless.
You can listen in below and Tweet it out here
Today I want to talk to you about junk.
The kinds of junk I want to talk about are junk spending, junk food and physical junk. The link I see between all of these is actually the junk spending, because in order to get the other things, we need to junk spend on the junk food and the junk that we put in our homes and our lives.
What is Junk?
To me, junk is the empty calories of life. It’s the stuff that neither nourishes nor brings us true pleasure or joy. It’s the stuff we put in our mouths just to fill the emptiness in our stomachs and the stuff we put in our lives just to fill some kind of emptiness in side.
So How do You Know When You are Consuming Junk?
Well, I tend to have the sort of bloated empty feeling afterwards, tinged with a bit of regret. I think a lot of us feel that way, particularly if we eat a bunch of junk food and I also sometimes feel that way after I do some junk buying and look over what I got and think, oh god, why did I buy this? I think everyone’s had at least some experience of that in their lives, and yet a lot of us keep on doing it over and over without really being conscious of it when it’s happening.
So my challenge to you today is to look at your junk. What I would like you to do is go back, either think back through the past several days to a week, or if you have a bank app or a money tracking app on your phone like Mint or YNAB or one of those, take a look at the purchases of the past week.
I don’t want you to get judgmental, I want you to be curious, take a look at it like a scientist studying this pattern here, and check out how many things on your list you feel really nourished you in either mind, body, pocketbook or soul.
How many of these things brought you true memorable pleasure or joy, things that you really, really enjoyed and can think back to and it’s stuck in your head that yes, this was a great thing?
How many of the purchases just kind of filled the hole or filled up your time without really adding all that much to your life?
Take out a piece of paper and I want you to make a list of things that you’ve junk spent on recently. Once you have that list, take a note also of how you made each purchase.
- Was it with a physical credit card that you pulled out of your wallet and either swept or handed to someone?
- Was it pulling out your card to read the numbers over the phone?
- Were you using actual cash?
If you tend to buy online, what kind of payment method did you use?
- Did you again pull out the physical card to type in the numbers?
- Does your computer remember your credit card number and autofill it for you?
Do you use PayPal or Stripe?
- If you do, does your computer remember the PayPal or Stripe passwords for you
- Do you have to type them in each time to get in?
If you shop on Amazon, do you have One Click buying enabled?
So all of these things that I mentioned, these are things that very, very clever marketers and vendors have come up with to take down all the barriers to junk spending and impulse buying.
One Click Amazon shopping is absolutely brilliant from the business owner perspective. However, as someone who maybe is trying to curb their spending to reach their financial goals, to pay off debt and to gain wealth, these things make all of that much harder.
What I want you to try to do is put some of those barriers back in place to make it harder for you to buy the things that you end up regretting later. Tweet that! #junkspending
OK What Now?
From your list you should be able to see what you bought, how you paid for it and using that information, we can then make it a little bit harder and put a barrier in place so that you won’t buy junk next time.
If you’re using a physical credit card, the one you pull out and either hand to someone or pull out to read the numbers or type into your computer, I would love for you to take a little post it note which I actually have on my card right now, and write the words ‘no junk’ on it, and stick it to the front of your credit card. Stick it to the front so that you have to pick it up and look under it to read the numbers.
If you go to your computer and you already have your credit card number entered in and your computer remembers it for you, I want you to disable that function. It depends how you set it up, whether it’s in your Keychain with your iOS system, or maybe you have something like PasswordBox. Whatever it is, however you set that up, go in and disable it, or the next time it comes up and tries to do it for you, you can change the password and if it asks if you want to update your password, say no. That way you have to type it in every time.
So those are a few clever ways to make it a little bit harder for you to buy.
If you mostly use PayPal, Stripe or some service like that, I would also like you to change your password and disable the memory function so you actually have to type a password in each time.
When you change the password, try changing it to something that reminds you not to buy junk. You can either take the ‘no junk’ method that we used on the credit card, not using ‘no junk’, because that’s not a very strong password, but work in something that will remind you to only buy things that you really love and need and that will make you happy, and that won’t feel like junk afterwards.
With your list I also want you to take a look at the things that you don’t consider junk spending, that really do either nourish you, sustain your life and your lifestyle or bring you real joy. I think one of the best ways to combat junk spending besides these little hacks that I just mentioned is to really take a good look at your big life goals, and not only look at them once, but actually go the route of getting an image, some kind of picture that you can identify with that big goal. Put it somewhere where you see it daily.
You don’t have to do the full on vision board if that’s not your thing, but if there’s a vacation or a house, whatever the upgrade is that you want to make, find some kind of image to look at daily, put it in your computer, put it on your phone as the wallpaper, because when you see that often, you’ll get joy anticipating it, you’ll get joy knowing you’re working towards it, and you’ll get more joy out of not spending on the junk that you don’t really want and don’t really need and doesn’t make you happy anyway.
You’ll instead be putting that money towards the thing that you really do want.
Getting In The Way Of The Good Stuff
The other issue that I see with junk spending is that it crowds out your ability to work on these bigger life goals that you want. Tweet that! #junkspending
If you’re constantly putting all these little charges on your credits – especially if you’re junk spending in a way that you get ahead of your actual money – that just seems like a kick in the butt of any big goal that you have. Let’s make sure that particularly if you are in debt, the junk spending is a lovely low hanging fruit to cut right out of your life.
Another way to do it is to quickly go into your credit card and bank statements and look for any subscriptions that you don’t use anymore, or even if you do use them, if they aren’t really worth what you’re paying for them.
If you think about it, if you’re putting those little subscriptions, even if it’s an eight dollar one here per month, a ten dollar there per month, 25 dollar there per month, you’re paying not only for that initial monthly cost, but then the interest that it accrues every month.
Even if it feels like it’s in your budget, if you have debt, that money could be going towards paying off that debt instead.
Again, I’m not asking you to give up anything that really nourishes you or brings you real joy, but most of us have some things like that, some low hanging fruit that we could just cut out.
There’s No Time Like the Present
I’d like you to start today. Every time you spend money today ask yourself, is this something that I really want, is this going to bring me joy? Is it going to sustain me and nourish me? Is it something I really need? Could I be making a better choice right now?
If the answer is yes, you really want it, you really need it, you could not be making a better choice, then totally go for it. But, if any of those answers are no, what I would suggest is if it’s in Amazon, put it in your Amazon wish list and if it’s not in Amazon, make a Pinterest board for things that you’re thinking about buying. Don’t buy it today, put it off for another day.
You can go back and look at it after you’ve had a chance to think about your big goals, after you’ve looked at your picture and made sure that it’s really something that’s not only worth the money you’re spending on it now, but if you do have debt, think of it as paying interest on that as well.
Is it really worth that? Is it worth not only the sticker price, but the interest as well? Hopefully that will help you to cut out some of that junk spending, and I am not preaching here as someone who has done this, this is something I’m working on myself. I catch myself buying things I don’t really need and sometimes don’t really want, and I look around the house and think,
gosh, how did our house get so full of stuff?
Then I have to go and de-clutter!
So I am personally working on this myself, I’m actively reining in any junk spending right now, and I would love for you to do it with me.
One other thing I want you to take note of when you’re looking at the expenditures that you would classify as junk, is what time of day did you buy them?
For a lot of people, I know that online shopping late at night is a real danger zone, especially if you consider that your unwind time. If it’s after the kids have gone to bed and the dishes have been done, and then you sit down and scroll through Pinterest, click on images and then go to the source of the image and buy the thing.
Or if you scroll through Amazon, again with Amazon One Click shopping it’s so easy just to grab a few things here and there.
Again with the One Click shopping, you don’t even have to pull it altogether into one shopping cart, you can click one thing and then keep scrolling, click another, and it’s kind of easy if you don’t want to pay attention to how much the total adds up to.
Another place I’ve seen it happen in our family is with both in-app purchases and Apple iTunes and Apple TV movie type purchases where it’s like, oh yeah, the kids really want this show, they loved this show, we’ll get that one.
Later there’s some movie or some song from a Disney movie or something that ends up being on our playlist for when we make long drives with the kids, but those things add up pretty quick, so I’m really curbing those.
If you are someone who does late night shopping, we can put a few things in place to try to curb that ahead of time before you’re already in that exhausted, I’ve had a hard day, I’ve made tons of great decisions today and now I’m in decision fatigue mode, so I’ll just buy whatever I feel like.
Here Are a Few Things You Can do
- Plan not to be on your computer at night, make other plans and have no screen time after eight o’clock
- Involving a spouse could make it more of a bright white line where we’re both going to stop being on our computers at a certain time of night
- Put your iPhone and your computer away, which will be hard for a lot of people, but it’s something to think about
Peer Pressure is Not Just For the Playground!
For some people, junk spending is a result of peer pressure.
Perhaps it’s going out to lunch every day at work or maybe every Friday you and your friends get together for pizza or barbecue or something that isn’t as healthy as you’d like, but you like hanging out with your friends and you want to do it.
You’d rather eat something healthier and you’d rather not spend the money on barbecue or pizza, so a good thing to do is to make a suggestion: a new restaurant or barbecuing on your grill at home. Ask people to bring things so it’s not all down to you, but you can choose how you want to cook the main part of the meal, you’re more in control and you’ll probably spend less money.
Maybe you and your friends could even take turns in the summer barbecuing at each other’s houses or just changing it up in some way, go bowling, play cards, do something different instead of it always revolving around something you feel is both unhealthy and not how you want to be spending your money.
Target and the grocery store are places where I often end up buying things that aren’t on my list, so I have been trying to stick to my list religiously, and if I find something that’s not on my list, I put it on another list for the next time I come back.
If I don’t really need it right now this week, then it’s kind of junk, so I’ll put it on the list for next week. Any time you can put off making a purchase you’re better off, because we forget so many things in life, that you may just forget that you even thought about wanting that thing, and that’s usually good if it’s anywhere close to being a junk purchase.
So Those Are a Few Suggestions That I have About Junk
To recap, the main things were:
- Put a post-it note on your credit card
- Reset your password for PayPal and Stripe
- Turn off the One Click buying in Amazon
- Turn off the Keychain memory function to remember your credit cards on your computer
- Look at your goals and keep those in mind to have them present in your mind so you want to spend on them and not on junk
- Look at what time of day you do it and set up some barriers to make it harder for you to junk spend at those times of days
- Peer pressure – suggest doing something different instead
There are a lot of different ways to tackle junk spending, but I’m tackling this in my own life right now and I would love for you to join me. Let me know in the comments below how you get on.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode, I really appreciate you being here. If you like it, please subscribe and join me every week. Thank you.