Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spending Habits: Thinking Twice

One of the most marked changes I've noted in my behavior since moving here is my reluctance to spend money.

I know!

Crazy, right?

It's not that we didn't have our financial hang-ups and limitations at home in the US. But we are lucky enough to have a certain comfort level in our lifestyle that I have tried my hardest to not ever take completely for granted.

Not always successfully.

I would describe myself as a person who usually just buys what she wants, when she wants it, except there is a teeny-tiny little problem with saying that.... because I want so much, on such a constant myna-bird level (i.e. "Oooh! Pretty! I want it! I can't imagine life without it!"), that I am actually pretty accustomed to denying myself almost everything I want.

I have gotten better about this over the last few years, though, since I realized that mail order magazines were the driving force for many of my purchases. Once I started to throw them all away without ever opening them, I kind of just stopped going shopping unless I need something specific and then I just go and get it (sale or not). And I usually have to do those shopping runs on a limited amount of time, so I don't have too much browsing time, where I inevitably end up going, "Ooooh! Pretty! I can't imagine life without this!"

Let me explain: It's not that I even order from catalogs. I rarely order things that I can't touch, feel, inspect, peruse, or try on first. (I have a body that refuses to live within the confines of one size, feet that are hopeless and a very small amount of patience for the return process.)

The problem is this: I would sit and look at the latest Land of Nod or Pottery Barn or J. Crew and think about all the things that I don't have in my closet, in my living room, in my kitchen, etc. Or think about how much nicer my bathroom would look with that other towel holder, or with that fancier soap dispenser. Or, heaven forbid, I don't have drapes on those windows and they really should have some! Blah, blah, blah.... it was a constant "want-spiral" that would send me on random shopping expeditions looking for such-or-other to see if I could find one on sale somewhere and then picking up three other things that we didn't really need, instead, or in addition to the item I was looking for.

Starting a strict absolutely-positively-NO-looking-at-catalogs policy is the best thing I ever did for our family budget.

So that is how I operated back in America. But here in England, things are considerably different. You see, everything is more expensive here. EVERYTHING. Particularly electronics, which are my special weakness. Truly, though, things are so expensive here that I even think twice about buying pork chops at the grocery store. Especially when I know that if I just wait until Friday, I can get yummier chops for half the price at the Farmer's Market.

The best example of my new-found parsimony, is that I have been living without a freezer since our move last August. It only costs about £140 for a tiny stand-alone freezer. BUT that's about $230.00 US dollars, which I would be able to buy a pretty decent-sized chest freezer for in the U.S. And it kills me that I might not need a freezer at our next house and that I would be stuck having to try and sell the new one that I just purchased. So I don't buy it. But then I get fed up with not being able to freeze leftovers, cook meals ahead, save the last bits of homemade chicken broth, or having any damn ice for a cocktail, so I VOW that I will finally go buy that freezer....

And then don't. Because I just can't bare the thought of spending money on it.

Are you just totally and completely bored reading about this? I feel a bit bored myself, actually. But finances are something that we all have to deal with. And as footloose and fancy-free as I may have once been, it just isn't how I can live over here. Don't worry, though. Instead of buying stuff, we're saving our dough for more fabulous vacations!

We just bought our tickets to Venice, Italy for spring break. (If you listen closely, you will here me squee-ing wherever you are in the world, I guarantee it!)


  1. I love to look, but buying doesn't really 'do it' for me.

    A fabulous vaca is way more memorable than another "something."

  2. because I want so much, on such a constant myna-bird level

    that line is HILARIOUS.


  3. The Internet is my Satan when it comes to impulse buys and "great deals". Finding a Michael Kors handbag on Ebay for $80 -- I'm there. And I can easily buy shoes and clothes over the internet, too, where I would probably not take the time to drive, park... etc. It's all so easy. Love the frock? Just one click and presto! I'm in financial hell.

  4. Dude, I would take Venice over frozen chicken nuggets any day.

    Hope you are packing the fancy camera!

  5. I've got second cousins over in England who never leave that bloody island - good for you for "venturing out." Squeeeee indeed!

    And I completely agree. My happiness quotient went up 150% once I stopped looking at Pottery Barn for Kids. Surely my kids need a complete organization system to succeed!! Criminy.

  6. I'm right there with you on being weak in the electronics department. Read my latest post for an example. I WANT AN I-PAD!


    OK, I'm fine.



  7. Venice is waaay more fun than a freezer.

  8. I need the new iPad. Neeeeeeeeeeeeed it.

    And watch out for the pigeons in Venice, they're carnivorous.

  9. I think I'd take a trip to Venice over ice in a glass of tea. OH HELL'S YEAH!

  10. I would drop the money for a freezer in a heartbeat if there was any place at all to put it in my British kitchen. I don't know if it's just bad American habits but I seem to throw away way too much food and I know if I had a freezer that would not happen. I have a tiny dorm freezer in my fridge that has room for two ice cube trays and one bag of frozen peas and that's it. Although that's better than the first fridge I had, which had no dorm freezer.

  11. Germany to me is like being sent to shopping rehab! We only buy food everything is so expensive and the quality is not good. Saving our money for travel too.

  12. Hmmmm food vs. Venice? Come on, there are so many upsides including but not limited to:
    1. The boys will never complain about being fed leftovers
    2. You might be losing weight
    3. Think of all the delicious pasta and gelato awaiting you in Italy

  13. Thanks for specifying which Venice you meant. I could have mistakenly thought you were planning a trip to Venice, FL.

    But seriously - I have never been considered fiscally responsible. I read that "Shopaholic" book (the first one before it became a fiction dynasty) and was horrified to find myself really relating to that girl's way of thinking. Because she was RIDICULOUS. But "I have to buy this scarf because it's on sale for $100 when it usually costs $500" made SO much sense to me. And I wasn't imagining it because my friend once brought that book up to me while she was reading it and said that it reminded her of me when we were roommates. Who else quits their job in the begining of the summer and then heads over to Banana Republic for a credit card sponsored spending spree? Um - me. But only back then.

    Now I do all of my overspending at Target so it's completely reasonable. Or that's what I tell myself while I'm on the recieving end of a very loud lecture about our financial limitations. Which is only cute on I Love Lucy. Not so much on I Want to Stangle Kate.

  14. I just realized that we don't get ANY mail order catalogs here in England. And you are so right: looking at the Pottery Barn catalog just makes a person want to re-decorate.

    BTW, I just got back from Denmark and things are twice as expensive there. Yikes.

  15. The freezer will pay for itself, that rationalizes it. You can take advantage of sales and make economical dinners that are ready easily, and it'll save you some restaurant meals or take-out.


  16. Private school tuition has helped to rid me of the have to have it bug.

  17. I was just talking about the same thing with my brother in law today! Things are so damn expensive here. But to be fair, you have way more temptation there, because there's lots more awesome stuff ;-)

  18. I'm a pushover for BOOKS, for sale, online. When I had collected a stack halfway up the living room wall, someone bought me a Kindle. Electronics are good... but Venice sounds better.

  19. I HATE shopping, with one exception: Sephora. I will not spend more than $40 on a garment, but I will happily spend $65 on eye creme. Why is this? The result is a fresh-faced slob.

  20. Oh, wow -- Italy for spring break! Seems as if being frugal as its rewards. Good for you.

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  22. To Venice WHERE???!!!! Oh gahhhhhhh, that's the sound of major U.S. depression setting in.

  23. ever since I stopped going to malls, I stopped spending money. I was a huge clothes person but now after the divorce I've really learned to prioritize. New Laptop is next. Everytime I want to buy clothes, I think, 'put it towards the laptop"


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.