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This Week, Try a Spending Cleanse

Posted March 31, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

Spending. I use that word intentionally. There’s buying….there’s shopping…there’s paying…and separate of those two things is spending. Let’s take a minute to talk about the differences here.

  • Buying. The actual act of purchasing something. When you to go Walgreens to get contact solution or toothpaste, I place this in the buying category. You need it, so you go get it.
  • Shopping. Now, this can be broken into lots of pieces and categories, but to me the word shopping means going to a store or stores for multiple things in one fell swoop. You need cleaning supplies, a new toilet brush, a birthday present for your mom and a card to go with it, new pens for your office, etc. So you go to Target on a shopping trip. Groceries are also in the shopping category.
  • Paying. There are things you don’t need to buy or shop for, but you still have to pay. Think bills, student loans, gas in your car.
  • Spending. I constitute spending as any of the categories above, and more that also fits into the category of “I don’t need it, really.”

What kinds of things fit into the “spending” category?

  • You go to Walgreens for contact solution and toothpaste. You also buy the new Maybelline lipstick you’re seen on TV recently, a copy of SELF, three bottles of Diet Coke, a pack of mints, and a new kind of shampoo you’ve been wanting to try. Suddenly, you’ve gone from buying $8 in necessities to spending $30 on things you probably didn’t need.
  • You go to Macy’s to return something that didn’t fit just right, and instead of doing just that, you browse the sale racks and buy two sundresses you’re not sure you’ll ever wear because, hey, they’re only $25 each. You just spent $50.
  • You make mutually agreed upon plans to have lunch with a friend, and somewhere in the process of seeing the check, you (for no reason at all) say to your friend, “Let me get this.” You know you’ve done it. Why? She agreed to have lunch with you. You didn’t just pay, you spent!

Confession: I am a spender. I do all of the above and more, and suddenly, I’m not just buying, shopping, or paying…I’m spending. How does that happen? The good news is, I found a great way to control the spending. Last week, I was watching an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now and heard the incredible Martha Beck give great advice to a fellow spender. She put her on a “spending cleanse,” just for a week, and 10 years later when Oprah caught up with that same woman, she said that one week in her life (which for her, actually turned into a month long spending cleanse) changed her life. So I thought, why not? It’s Martha Beck! I’ll give it a shot.

The Rules of a Spending Cleanse:

  • First, be sure all of your necessities are taken care of…there’s gas in your car, your bills are paid, etc. This spending cleanse isn’t about those things.
  • When you leave the house in the morning, leave with one $20 bill, no credit cards, no debit cards, and your ID. That’s it.
  • Do this for one week.

Now, I may alter this a little. For instance, I’m traveling and know I’ll be eating dinner out and putting it on my business account. For that, I’ll need my business card. But again, that fits into the buying category, not the spending category. So go ahead and alter it a little to fit your needs. But if you can first separate your expenses into those categories, you’ll start to realize what you’re spending and what you could be saving, more importantly. I’m doing it! Join me!?

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."