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LIVING,  SIMPLE LIVING

Living a Life of Less | Spending

Scotland Yard game which we snagged for $3 at the thrift store

I’m torn about sharing today’s installment of living a life of less. I’ve been on a (self-induced) spending freeze for the month and yet this week all I want to do is go shopping! I’m sure it has to do with all the cold/windy/rainy days we’ve been having lately but it’s definitely leaving me doubtful I will be successful in this spending freeze!

Anyway, let’s back up a bit.

Do you know where you spend your money? I mean all of your money? Or are you like me, buying a little here and a little there, and at the end of the month wondering where it all went?

Spending money is so easy to do in our society. Everyone wants the newest, biggest, best *fill in the blank*. I would say that nearly half the people in my neighborhood that have a two-car garage can’t park vehicles in both of them (or sometimes either of them) because their garages all so filled with stuff, sometimes it’s a quad, or a boat, or clothes, or tools, or just stuff. And what do we want? More.

I know most of you reading this are in (or at least from) affluent countries. Chances are many of you have heard people say (or even said it yourselves) we are so blessed to live in a land with so much, or we’ve been blessed with so much, am I right? I believe this is true, but I also believe it shouldn’t stop there. I don’t think we have been given so much just to enjoy it ourselves, we have been given it to share with others.

Today I wanted to share a couple of ways that we can begin to start living a life of less spending.

Watching the Riders in training camp on a chilly morning.

Live With Less by Buying Less
This is pretty much unheard of here; if we have the money for something (or even if we don’t) we are told that we are entitled to it, and should have it. But what if we chose to simply do without at times instead?

Borrow What We Need
There are some things that we are just better off borrowing, especially items that we will only be using seasonally or for a short period. I remember my parents borrowing my grandma’s rototiller every spring and fall for years, since it was only needed twice a year it totally made sense to borrow it.

Repurpose Items
I want to go more into this in future posts but what do you have that you are not currently using as is but you could re-purpose in some way? Maybe old kitchen towels into rags or newspapers for wrapping gifts.

Invest in Experiences Not Stuff
Mmm, this one really hit me this year, but in reality, stuff just ends up coming into our house, taking up space and hardly being used. A huge one for me was when I was thinking about this last month was how I always say I want to travel and yet I have yet to ever start a travel fund, hmm, how much do I really want to travel if I’m not even willing to make sacrifices now so I can travel later? So, I started a travel fund with the money I got for my birthday, it’s a whopping $70 strong! 🙂
Investing in experiences is also a huge one for having children. Honestly, I like to buy Raeca stuff, it’s fun, I love seeing her face light up but a life consumed by stuff is not one I want her to have. But experiences like going to the zoo or camping, or travelling will have a much more lasting impact on her (they already have, our travels are often the topic of many of her stories, she thinks the hotel we stayed in while in California is our “other house”, oh how I wish!).

Do Free Things
There are always things to do around that are free. This last weekend we were able to go watch the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in training camp and on Saturday our town had their annual fun days which included fireworks and a parade. It’s not big stuff but it gets us out and really, Raeca enjoys that stuff just as much (if not, sometimes more) than the stuff we pay for. We also go to local parks and playgrounds a lot.

During the parade the RCMP officer asked if Rae wanted a photo with him.
She loves both horses and police officers, so it was pretty perfect.

If You Want Something, Wait a Month
After my spending freeze is over this is my plan for my own personal shopping. If I think I want that shirt/dress/material I’m not going to be making any impulse buys, I’m going to go home and contemplate that purchase for a month, if it’s still something I want, I can do that after I’ve thought about it.

Plan Ahead What You Will Be Purchasing
Do you ever go to the store or mall just to look or to kill some time? I know I’m definitely guilty of this. From now on my plan is to know what I will be purchasing if there are things that I need and if I’m not in need I won’t be buying. As simple as that.

Shop Second Hand
Thrift stores and garage sales are my favorite. Yes, it can take awhile to find what you are looking for and it may be a time investment but most days I love the thrill of the hunt so it also provides some cheap entertainment. I love finding used furniture, that usually needs to be re-purposed (like the vintage ladder, ombre desk in our entrance, Raeca’s dresser, chalkboard desk and more). Another one of my favorite items to buy second had are Raeca’s clothes (which I’ve shared about before).

The other weekend I got that vintage children’s desk on the left for $1
And the table? Free!

Don’t Purchase Things You Need to Buy Over and Over
Obviously there are some items we will always need to be purchasing (like food), but there are some easy ways to cut spending by making a few little changes. The first things to cut out are individually packaged items like individual servings of apple sauce or yogurt, bottled water . . . honestly, almost anything can come in individual servings these days, it wastes more packaging and they charge you a premium. I am also in the process of cutting out paper towels and aim to cut out paper napkins in the future as well.

Do What Works For You
Okay, I’m pretty sure Dave Ramsey is going to have it in for me after this section, but honestly, what works best for us is using credit cards. Let me just clarify: we have always paid our card off every single month. I’m not talking about spending money you do not have, trust me, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Jared and I both find it much easier to spend cash/change over using a credit card, in both of our minds we think that since the cash isn’t showing up in our bank account, it’s already spent money. Whereas, if we make a purchase with the debit or credit card that comes out of our bank account (plus we have to explain these purchases to each other). I think you have to do what works for you, if you can’t handle credit cards then definitely don’t use them! This is just what works for us. And as a bonus: we have a cash back card (with no annual fee) so every other month or so we get a $50 cheque just for using our card!

Spending time playing at the park with a friend

Don’t Buy Cheap Junk
Sometimes you really do need to spend a little more to save a lot. Like buying cloth napkins to replace paper ones, sure there will be more of an initial investment but it won’t be long before you are saving a lot of money. When I think of the words cheap junk a lot of children’s toys come to mind, especially those cheap ones that are so easy to pick up at a dollar store or in the $1 section of Target, don’t do it, you are better off getting a better, well made item that will last longer (or really, just give them an empty box, I’m pretty sure all kids like boxes more than toys).

Go on a Spending Freeze
For me, before I could really re-evaluate how my money is being spent I needed to take some time and stop spending money! It’s always easier to look at the picture when you step back a bit. Right now my goal is to stop all unnecessary spending for this month (we’re still paying our mortgage and bills, buying groceries and gas and things we need to do to survive and get to work and have a house to live in), but there have been no clothing purchases, toy purchases, kitchen purchases, etc. After this month I plan on re-evaluating but I currently do plan on continuing a personal no-spend for an additional two months. That means no clothes, make-up, craft supplies, etc (um, and that’s hard to say cause I’m going to be out of blush for over two months). Truth be told, I’m not sure the house-wide spending freeze will last for the whole month (cause I’ve got my eye on a kitchen table) and if doesn’t, I’m okay with that, for me the personal spending freeze is actually the more important one.

What are some ways you spend less? I’d love to hear them!

26 Comments

  • Madison

    A spending freeze sounds like exactly what I need! I also love the idea of waiting a month to buy something. The president at my university always said wait 48 hours if you want to buy something, usually even that is enough for me to forget about it. But I would definitely forget about it after a month!

    • Chantel -A Harvest of Blessing

      Exactly, and if you haven’t then it’s usually something that you need/really want and then it seems okay. I know for myself I’m really bad and buying a lot of little things that are really so useless and add up over time, it will definitely put an end to those purchases.

  • kylie

    Great post! A bit daunting, but so necessary! These are some issues that we have been contemplating the last few months, and maybe a freeze is what we need to help us really get a handle on things. Not sure how it would go over, but thanks for the tips and ideas!!

  • Caitlin

    These are all such great tips! I love the suggestion to repurpose things.. I just read a blog post the other day from Journey Mercies about how nothing is really thrown away in the country she lives in. It was eye-opening and pushed me to find even more ways to repurpose! Also, love love love the suggestion of investing in experiences + not stuff. While my boyfriend + I are saving for a house/farm, we really don’t need to (and can’t) go on fancy dates. Now, instead of just wasting money, we find experiences that are free/cheap for one another, putting everything else in the bank. Congrats on starting your travel fund! That $70 will be $700 before you know it 🙂

  • Rachel Nordgren

    Chantel, I am just madly in love with this series. Living with less has been so big on my heart. Recently, my husband and I busted out a garage sale and sold hundreds of things that had been just lying around the house!

    We spend less money by investing in things. I recently bought a pair of chestnut Tieks flats for a whopping $175, but I know they will last much longer (and be much more comfortable!) than my $15 Target flats. I also saved up for months for the shoes instead of just going out and buying them.

    My husband and I would rather have fewer things of higher quality than a bunch of junk!

    We’re also pretty frugal when it comes to date nights. We’ll splurge on a nice dinner every once in a while, but most of the time we get creative and cheap instead 😉

    • Chantel -A Harvest of Blessing

      Isn’t it just amazing how many things we can have lying around the house that we do not use?! Embarrassing really.
      I hear you on the cheap date nights, we’ve always been that way. On our first date (at the age of 16) we went to a movie and Jared asked if I wanted popcorn and I said no, I quite remember him being glad because it’s so crazy expensive. Haha, now the odd times we go to the theater we sneak our own goodies in. 🙂

      • Rachel Nordgren

        HAHA we do the same thing!! I’ve snuck carrot sticks in more times than I can count. What’s the weirdest thing ya’ll have brought into a movie theatre “a la contraband”?

  • Gina Alyse

    Hi Chantel! I’m so glad I found your blog and I’m loving this series about living on less. I just got back from studying abroad, which to say the least, means that I’m back into my saving money mode. Normally in the past, I could save and spend at the same time, but this summer I’m learning that not spending is a good habit to get into and to really evaluate what you need to buy and why. I’m learning to look at what I already have and to know that I am rich in so many other ways than by what I own. Thanks for sharing your experiences with spending. They are really inspiring me! xo, gina

  • Kristina

    Great job on the spending freeze, not sure I could do it! I am very cheap when it comes to my girls clothing (they seem to stain everything and grow out of it so quickly) and we aren`t afraid of hammy downs. So I typically buy from the clearance racks and I’m not big on brand names. I plan our trips to the city as much as possible and get our errands and appointments done in one trip and if we are going to be in the city over lunch, we have a packed lunch (saving eating out for more special occasions, and the packed lunch is because I’m cheap and try to watch what I eat). I make a lot of things from scratch, but also need to make more homemade food. I started saving money last year off a chart I saw on Pinterest and am keeping up with it this year. Each week you put away money, for example, first week in January you put away $1, second week $2, and so on. It paid for our little getaway to Banff this spring! Definitely going to do more free and local outings with the kids, they do enjoy it so much!

  • Alyssa Schroeder

    I’m the same way with cash! See it as money spent. I tend to get forced upon spending freezes in the winter months with photography ha! Sometimes they help me create good habits throughout the year though.

  • Pearl

    At this time, I’m trying to learn how to live with less as well. I know that often I’ll get something that I end up not wanting, so I’ve learned to wait a month, or if it’s something larger and not really necessary, a year. For those things, I’ve usually changed my mind.

  • Lorraine Yeung

    Okay so

    “Invest in Experiences Not Stuff” – Yes

    “Don’t Purchase Things You Need to Buy Over and Over” – brilliant!

    “Don’t Buy Cheap Junk” – #win

    “Go on a Spending Freeze” – Yes Mam!

    Thank you Chantel for this post – so practical and yes, you’re so right, it’s way, way better to invest in experiences and not more stuff! Experiences, time together and memories are the things that seem to last. I’m finding the more stuff I own, the more time I waste trying to organize my stuff. :/

  • Amy

    i grew up in a house where any old clothing became a rag…i still do this!
    i’m learning as i get older to buy things that i LOVE not just “oh that looks pretty and it’s on clearance for only $15?!” (that could go towards a household bill or savings!) i definitely want to make wise financial decisions now so that i’m not living paycheck to paycheck. i have become more frivilous than i want to be with spending. time to tighten it up, thanks for the motivation!

    • Chantel -A Harvest of Blessing

      I was just reading on the Unfancy blog about contentment and how we shop for happiness, not to buy clothes. I’m so guilty of that. My goal for when I go clothes shopping now is to go with a plan and a list of items I want and not just buying clothes because they are on sale or cute or whatever, I want it to be a planned decision.