I've learned I'm really good at spending money in order to save it. You know what I mean? Buying a bunch of stuff, so you won't have to buy it later. I'm so good at that.
A few weeks ago, when I got my last paycheck, visions of Costco danced in my head, and I headed out, leaving the baby with Sam, planning to stock up so we'd have plenty when my income stopped.
This is not a bad idea, right? But somehow, though I put a bunch of stuff back at the last minute, that total made me gasp inside, and tremble. I did not intend to spend so much. It seemed too late to do anything about it, and I was so frazzled I couldn't think what we didn't need, so I handed over my card and made my way to the exit. As I pushed my cart out the doors, some customers were approaching speaking another language, and I felt like an enormous American pushing her enormous cart full of enormous food.
The whole drive home, I felt bad. I mean, this is the sort of thing I really feel bad about, and I wondered what I should take back and what I should have done differently, and I prayed, asking God to help me think through this, to know how I should play my cards in the future. We had the money for that kind of price tag at that precise moment, but we wouldn't for long, and I needed to get a handle on this frugality thing or we'd be in a world of trouble.
I know the tips and I know about budgeting and I could think of all kinds of grand gestures of extreme and really punishing penance, and I trust we'll make our way to some of those strategies. But in the middle of the night, when I lay back down after feeding the baby, I felt like God told me to be gentle with myself. (He usually says something along those lines.) And this is the phrase that popped into my head: No Surprises at the Register.
It's almost pathetically simple, right? But I feel like it's the wisest start. I mean, retail culture is designed for surprises at the register. There are so many products and prices and sales and aisles and advertising, and you fill this big cart with everything that strikes your fancy, and at the register, with people behind you and an impatient cashier, it feels too late to re-think decisions.
I'm finding if I follow this, it works. I can decide if it's a wise time to buy whatever I feel (frantically) like I need to stock up on, or if we ought to wait. It helps me divide needs and wants. I stay in control of my fate.
Tell me: what are your (gentle) strategies, for frugality or otherwise?