Savings piggy bank

5 Good Reasons to Curb Your Spending

Time To Read 5 MIN READ

I keep feeling I've already cut as much as spending as I can. Does everyone feel that way?

But look, I moved from NYC to a farm. There are no stores here so I have to go to eBay at 2am for something to qualify as an impulse buy. There are no avenues for splurging on spoiled children beyond buying an extra dog or donkey. But still I find avenues to extravagances that I hate giving up.

It's hard to be a grown up. It's hard to give up stuff I really like buying. I feel like all budgeting advice is like all career advice: Be a grown up and make hard choices. If you want to have a stable income then you can't launch your own exciting new company every five years. If you want to live in NYC then you have to do a job that earns a lot of money. I accept these tradeoffs very well for careers, and then I complain to people who don't do as well as I do in the making-choices department.

But when it comes to buying things, I'm not that good. I bought my son a two-thousand-dollar violin even when I didn't really have enough money. I wanted him to have a good violin because he works so hard during practice.

In my head the violin is like the waxing. I get fixated on needing it.

Some of you will judge the violin as extravagant. Others of you will say the violin is fine but the $200 knife was absurd. I felt like I had to buy it, though, because I cook meat every day and we don't have a good knife for slicing.

It's easy to judge other peoples' spending because if you don't have an emotional connection to someone else's purchase, it looks like a lame obsession. For example, I rarely go out to dinner. Maybe once every three months. So your dinners look extravagant to me.

I'm a girl of action, though. And I like a list of goals. So here are five budgeting ideas that have helped me to cut down on my spending:

1. Buying luxury items makes us mean.

When we are thinking about luxury items, we are less likely to be considerate of other peoples' feelings, according to Roy Chua, from Harvard Business School. He says this research gives companies reason to decrease spending on Jets and high-end client entertainment. I think this research also shows why I actually make my life worse by even considering the $10,000 oven that I've been coveting. (And to make you a better person, I am not providing a link or a photo of it because it will adversely affect your empathy.)

2. Creating money problems leads to divorce.

A couples therapist told me the top three causes of divorce are money, sex, and in-laws. This makes sense to me. If nothing else, entrepreneurs have a very high rate of divorce, and entrepreneurs have routine money problems, and I know you know that I am not above using a syllogism to prove a point. But there is backstory to those causes of divorce: Really, the cause of divorce, every time, is lack of self-knowledge and self-regulation. The money, sex, in-law stuff are just visible symptoms of the invisible emotional problems that budgeting articles won't fix. What this tells me is that if I don't get a handle on the emotions that drive my spending then I will not have a handle on the emotions that keep a marriage together.

3. Catalogs are evil.

When I moved from NYC to Madison, WI, I was shocked that the only billboard ads were for Budweiser. I knew that moving the farm would make me totally out of touch with advertising messages, and, therefore, with American culture. So I spent a day subscribing to all the catalogs I could find. Flash forward to me receiving five catalogs every day: I didn't know there were cute little lamb butter molds until I saw them in a catalog. Pictured on a dinner table filled with love and good cheer and people who were not fat even though they ate butter. I wanted those butter molds. And everything else in the catalogs. So I throw out catalogs immediately. When I am feeling strong.

4. Spending less is better than earning more

One reason I fail to curb my spending is that I'm great at earning money. I seem to have an endless ability to dream up one more way to get $10K really fast. But I never have a lot of money. My first tip-off that this is normal is the research from Richard Easterlin that everyone feels like they need to earn 15% more in order to feel financially secure, regardless of how much money they make. But here is more research to quell my earning habits: Sonia Lyubirmisky, psychologist at University of California, writes that the more money we earn the less we are able to enjoy small pleasures of life.

5. Having a lot of stuff is not cool.

The first thing about it not being cool is that we are in an economic meltdown, and even William and Kate are skimping on their honeymoon. Also, the more stuff you have, the more you reveal that you have a problem feeling loved, according to research from Margaret Clark, psychologist at Yale. (Which makes me feel emotionally superior to everyone that I have so few things in my house.)

But also, we know that buying experiences is more meaningful to us than buying things. Which is why I come back to Stephanie, time and again. Because I leave with no physical object, just that feeling that I can conquer the world.