Wednesday, March 23, 2011

True Confessions of Project 2011

When I first started Project 201, my biggest trepidation was whether or not to post the actual amount I spent on my non-necessity items.  I had the typical insecurities that I always have about what will people think.  Surely some will say what I spend is nickles compared to what they spend.  Others would be shocked that this is what I consider "budgeting".  But I decided to lay it all out there regardless because if I didn't, it really wasn't being honest.

January was easy because aside from home improvement and some new nail polish I didn't buy anything.  February was a little tricky though.  I spent $270 on various items of shoes and clothes for 3 members of the family.  I bought 15 items which averaged out to $18 an item.  Not bad for shoes, clothes and accessories that were all, for the most part, high quality.

But as I suspected, I got a mixed bag of reactions to my "budget".  Funny how no one balked at spending $250 on painting Syd's room, but the same amount on clothes and shoes?  Have mercy!  I had one friend say that honestly my budget was very reasonable and she confessed that she spends much more on clothes than I do.  And then several other friends poked fun and teased.  One even said that's what they spend on food for an entire month.

I can justify it however I want.  For the time being I pull in a second salary that, while I don't make gobs and gobs of money, I do do well for myself.  I can also say that I work in the fashion industry and I have to maintain a certain level of appearance, but really that's not entirely true being that I get all my work clothes for free, a perk I will sorely miss.

The bottom line is $270 is a lot of money, and 18 items of clothing and shoes is a lot of stuff for 3 people.  I don't plan on doing that on a monthly basis, but honestly, I easily could.  And I probably would if I wasn't doing this monthly project to keep myself in check.

March has not been good so far and I have fallen more times than I care to admit.  I have been lusting for far too much "stuff".  In fact my wish list is a mile long.  And I have gotten into the ugly cycle this month of buy/return.  I buy the item I want because at the time I can spin together a story in my head of why I need it or why now is the perfect time to buy it, or why blah, blah, blah.  It's on sale, it's triple points time, it's friends and family time.  But I take the stuff home and then feel guilty and have buyer's remorse and take it back.  It's a cycle that is all too familiar to me and I need to stop it.  I bought a pair of Ray Ban aviators last week after I vowed to give up my March budget, and within an hour felt like shit.  They are going back.  I also took back that belt I bought last month and put $30 back into my savings account.

I just quit my job for goodness sake, a fact that was made very real yesterday after it was finally announced to the company.  And last night we signed the contract for the pool construction to start.  I have had a chronic case of heartburn now for the last 12 hours.  Money makes me nauseous and gives me hives and it can be a very sticky and uncomfortable subject to talk about.  Some people groan about how they don't have enough, yet go on vacations and get their hair done on a weekly basis.  Others truly don't have enough.  Others have plenty and like to flash it around while others prefer to be modest and humble.

I like to be honest and real when it comes to money talk.  I didn't start this project because we were in debt or couldn't make our mortgage.  We would fit into the typical middle class income model I guess.  My husband makes a decent living and can provide for us just fine.  Sure it's a little up and down from month to month, as is the case with most small business owners, but at the end of the day our cars are paid off and we are not in credit card debt.  I started the project because I recognized the need to scale down on the stuff I brought into my house from all categories.  A big category just happens to be clothes.

The biggest thing I have learned this far in Project 2011 is that if I want the life that I truly crave and a future I desire, I need to plan better and be more creative.  But what I am learning too is that it's not just the type of life "I want" but the type of life my God wants for me.  A life that I can be proud living and where I can be a good steward of the money that God has trusted us with.

I often times don't feel like I deserve this life I have.  A husband that is smart and works his tail off and loves me despite all of my nagging.  A house in a wonderful and safe neighborhood, and children that make me want to be a better person on a constant basis.  I have fears that one day something bad will happen and everything will be taken away; that God will say, "that's enough for now, here's a slice of humble pie."  

But I am reminding myself lately that God is always good, and if we loose it all then He will help us rebuild.  Until then, I need to do the best I can with what I have been given.  And that starts with not buying $140 sunglasses on a whim.

How do you struggle with wants versus needs and tackling the ever growing list of things to lust after?  I see it everyday on twitter, on blogs, on Facebook.  There's whole blog posts and linky parties dedicated to "what I want."  Clothes, shoes, furniture, curtains, designer humidifiers.  It's all just too much "stuff."

I am still trying to figure out the answer to the fundamental question that started this project: "How does a fashion obsessed person truly change their spending habits over the course of a year?"  Three months in, I certainly don't have all the answers, but I'm starting to figure it out.


  1. As someone who has much fancier taste than my bank account allows I honestly try to avoid shopping, even looking unless there is a true need. If you aren't there it can't temp you, although the internet fails these attempts on many occasions. I do allow myself to splurge every once in a great while - a $300 handbag that I love and will use for years my be very extravagant to some, but those occasional splurges last a long time and help me to avoid those random trips to the mall.
    Hurray for pool contract!

  2. Andrea, This post spoke to my heart. Money is such a sore topic for me. There is a reason I'm doing daycare in my house when my husband makes enough to provide for our family and then some... I was buying beyond our means for a couple of years. Now I'm trying to pay off that debt that accumulated. It's hard. And I love all of the new spring stuff out right now. I'm no fashionista, but I do enjoy buying new clothes. Keeping track of your expenses on the blog seems to be working for you as far as keeping it all in perspective. Everyone will have different budgets and spend money on different things. But at the end of the day if you are trying to justify a purchase or hide it then it's probably not something you'll feel good about buying.

    (And take a deep breath about the pool... focus on how much awesome fun your family will enjoy together in it!)

  3. First off, I had this same struggle this weekend as I redid our master. What started out as gutting drawers and closets turned into multiple trips to HomeGoods, Pottery Barn, Target, etc., to find the perfect accessories for the perfect space, etc. In the end, I spent nearly three full days gutting and cleaning and donating to just bring new stuff into its place. I was a little discouraged and slightly disappointed with myself, truth be told.
    Second, this is a struggle for most rich societies. A plethora of choices is way harder than just one or two. And it's hard to teach our kids about this. You're aware of it, and being aware of that struggle is the first step to teaching your family.
    Third, as big an expense as a pool is, I wouldn't trade it for anything. We spend so many hours together as our family in our pool. Worth every penny, especially when you live in AZ or CA.
    Hang in there. Baby steps. You still have nine months left.

  4. i love this post for so many reasons. it really speaks to my own desires to live more simply and want "things " less. I too have a mile long wish list and a bad case of the "i-wants". last year we were saving for a wedding so the ability to purchase wasn't really there as I knew what the pay-off was going to be but now it seems so much harder to say "no" to a new pair of cute shoes that i've been drooling real "need" to go back to that routine. However, I don't like those guilty buyers remorse feelings so I'm working on that. this blog is a good encouragement and reminder that others have the same struggles as i do and are working on it as well.

  5. While we are in a place of trying to pay off the motorhome (a luxury--I know) I do pretty well putting everything extra into it-Then, yesterday I spent a little more money than I usually would to buy some higher quality undergarments and summer gear...and I'm all right with that because it doesn't happen all the time. I know how to pull in the reigns when I need to, and am not a splurger by nature. We live in a very affordable home and have no credit card debt to speak of. . so although I'd like to be debt free completely, I enjoy spending here and there and will settle for where we are in the meantime: ) UPS just pulled up with my other splurge--summer is coming--gotta dress for it. Besides I had a 30% off at Old Navy

  6. andrea, you are doing wonderfully! honesty with ourselves is key, looks like you have nailed that!
    i am only just scratching the surface of contentment with my life. through much financial crisis(job loss, cross country move, huge medical bills), we have learned a lot about budgeting. weighing want vs. need is so crucial AND annoying;) we can't take it with us anyway, so we TRY to focus on relationships, needs of others and being grateful for where we are. such a struggle for me sometimes!! although we have had it rough at times, we have always been provided for. god is so good, and i must rest in him and be thankful always.
    there are like a million things I could say, such a beautifully thought provoking post-i will spare you though! xo

    make a great day!!

  7. As a good friend you know I'm a faithful reader. However, I rarely post on these topics as I don't feel much of a connection with this want/need situation. The things my heart desires can't really be bought - not sure if that is good or bad, it just is.

    It seems this project of yours is really helping you to grow closer to being who you want to be and to build the life you want. I couldn't be happier for you.

    Your honesty is always refreshing even if our situations (aka budget) are a bit different.

    Love you friend!

  8. I love, love, love that you are honest! I think people...well meaning, or not...sometimes get hung up on numbers. The reality is that where you live, how much you make, and the % of what you spend on what is a huge difference from household to household. Add in that everyone varies priority or importance on different things and you are playing with a whole other deck of cards. Be true to what works for your home, your budget, your family. In the end I am a firm believer in sharing your heart, measuring it against what God is calling you to and he will use you. So worth it to give it all for his glory! PS You are rocking this project and it is refreshing to see someone be real with a topic that is not only important, but can really change lives. I love the quote Dave Ramsey uses, "Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else." For the kingdom. XO

  9. Like you, W and I don't have any debt other than our mortgage. We max out contributions to retirement, have college funds for the kids, and have a comfortable amount in our liquid savings, so for a long time I have justified my frivolous spending because we have all our bases covered. But more and more I am trying to be thoughtful in how and where I spend $ because I want to set a good example for our kids. I want them to appreciate what they have and want them to work for it.

    So these have been my rules I set up to help me with my spending. Before I can buy something for myself: 1) I have to come up with 3 reasons of why I NEED it. 2) It has to be less than $150. 3) I have to wait a week. It's only been 3 months, but I've done pretty's hard getting past rule #1!

  10. You'll figure it out. I used to be in the buy/return cycle for the same reason - especially that darn Gap card. I had the silver which meant free shipping at all stores anytime. Guess what?! I canceled it. It made it too easy for me. The only cards I have are Nordies & Loft. I could live without the Nordies but I do use it at Christmas. Loft I justify because I buy work clothes and ONLY with a discount. Target used to be a problem - a place I'd go if I was bored and stock up on $100 worth of stuff I didn't even need. Now, I only go with a list. Sure, I may pick up a cute kids item, but for the most part I avoid going with the kids and usually try to go when I'm rushed and can't linger. Little things like these have made it easiers. Oh, and how is this for irony? Now that I work and have money to spend, I don't have time to shop!!!

  11. I can't believe you got so much for $270! I'd say thats responsible spending :)

  12. Didn't mean to be anonymous!

  13. um....yeah - I am so bad about wanting things, and also have a "want" list a mile long. It's bad, and I see myself passing that trait onto my daughter. Need to nip it in the bud fast.

  14. My friend found Ray Ban Aviator's on Ebay for $30. Just sayin'!


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