Thursday, February 19, 2009

Less is More

Recently, due to the economic situation and various other scary things happening out in the world I am seeing a lot of momentum building towards stockpiling. As a clutterbug, I admit that it is comforting to have my security blanket of excess to snuggle up in. But what is that excess protecting me from? And better yet, what is it costing me?

In general normal non-clutterbugs stockpile to prevent fluctuations in cost from negatively affecting them. They buy extra stuff when the prices are low to last them through when prices are high. If you are a clutterbug, you probably think you are good at this. You are probably an expert at finding really good deals on things. You can probably list off a hundred times where you saved at least 50% off retail. But there is a difference between a stockpiler and a clutterbug. Stockpilers Save What They Use, and Use What They Save. They don't just buy things because they are a really great price. They also require that spectacular deal to be on something they actually will use. They can walk away from Buy 3, Get 3 Free because the product is not something they would ever eat 1 of, let alone 6.

There is a cute commercial for Discover cards that asks a bunch of people if they know how much they spent of coffee that day, and of course nearly everyone raises their hand. But when they are asked how many of them know how much they've spent on coffee all year, not that many hands stay up. How much money have we all spent on products we aren't using because they were good prices? How much money have we all spent on things that were donated or sold at a garage sale in practically brand new condition, if not actually in the original packaging?

When stockpilers buy extra things, it is like buying a high interest CD. It's a safe investment. They know it's going to pay off for them. When clutterbugs buy extra things, we're at best gambling, at worst diminishing our ability to aquire the things we really need when we really need them. You can't transform cans of off brand tuna fish into money when one of your car windows gets broken by a rock on the freeway. Yes, we can eat that off brand tuna fish. And if things get bad enough we'd think about it. But being honest with ourselves, would we eat the tuna or put the new window on our credit card and buy even more groceriers?

In 2009, I am working on getting my excess stuff down to reasonable, usable levels. I'm using what I have, and if something is really not ever going to be used, I am donating/selling/trashing it to get it out of here. When I'm out shopping, I work from a list that I make from things I need or plan to use right away. If something is a good price, I aks myself a few questions:
  1. Do I have room for this?
  2. Do I have a plan for using this in the next week, month, year?
  3. If this takes the place of something at home, am I ready to get rid of the one I have at home?
To be honest sometimes things go for a ride in my shopping cart, or for a walk with me around the store with me while I work those 3 questions out. But if the answer to even one of the questions is "no" then the item, no matter how fabulous of a deal it is has to stay in the store. Because money I spend on 75% off shoes is money I don't have anymore. It's money that can't become food, or mortgage payments, or gas, or even something really fun that comes up suddenly.

I am not 100% on this. I bought new underwear becuase I was on a work trip near outlet malls and there was a really awesome sale going on. I justified it as at least it was underwear which has joined my rotation. As far as unnecessary purchases go, it could be worse. But I think if I can win against that compuslion to buy an an unnecessary bargain most or even some of the time, then I'm on the right track.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to take out my money in cash so I could stuff it into mason jars and put it in the pantry. Then I could visually see all the saved money accumulating. Hehe, I could hoard money like Scrooge McDuck.

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