Spending less is not the same as saving

Once upon a time, a girl named Brianna (me) would go to a thrift store and buy clothes she didn’t need. She would get so much stuff for so little money — it was a great deal! She knew she was awesome because she was such a saavy shopper and she was so good with her money.

Let’s be really clear on this: Saving is not spending. Saving is saving. And spending is spending.

These two concepts have two different words for a reason. And no matter what percent off, if you’re spending money on an item you’re spending money on an item.

Josh over at Becoming Minimalist has shared this perfect quote which sums it up:

spending isn't saving

While painfully true, it’s an easy point to miss. We are bombarded with advertisements declaring how much we can “save” and we are easily led to believe that buying those items is a good idea.

Someone close to me has a house full of useless items. Why did she buy it all? Because it was such a good deal. Most of it was bought second hand, and she knew that buying the knick knack from Goodwill was costing her a fraction of what she would have had to pay from the original store. Which is very true! The only problem is, she never needed it and wouldn’t have ever bought it from the original store to begin with.

When you truly need something (or want something, from a place of moderation), it’s a great idea to get it on sale or to buy second hand. There is no doubt about this.

The trouble only comes when you are blinded by the deal and forget that you don’t need it — and often don’t even want it!

I bought a super cute winter vest which I wear all season (including as I type this), and had I paid full price, it would have been much more than the ~$3 I paid at Goodwill. This was a great deal for a useful item, even though I did spend money on it that I could have chosen to save.

In contrast, I used to buy so many decorative items that I didn’t have a spot for and never should have bought. It was all a good deal, but not for useful items for me — and I should have chosen to save that money.

We always have a choice. Ad companies know this and they also know that we have limited willpower. They know that if they bombard us enough we will start to believe we will save money by spending money with them.

I understand the concept of buying on sale, and thus saving money that you would have spent at a more expensive store. But the key there is “that you would have spent”.

Usually though, that’s not money we would have spent.

This is buying on impulse: when we not only weren’t planning on buying it, but often we had never even seen that item before or knew it existed!

It surely does take a discerning mind to see through the ads and sales. It takes a strict budget to save money when everything around you is telling you to spend. It takes a solid look at what you truly need and truly want to know that you don’t need or want every item you see at a store. And these things don’t come naturally to us.

But they can be nurtured and strengthened. Impulse shopping can be overcome. You can develop a practice of saving. You can change the way you use money. You can feel in control when you are in a store or shopping online. You can feel proud of yourself for the financial milestones you reach. You can have a clean and clutter-free home that brings you joy and not stress.

The choice is yours, every day. Make a choice that future-you will be grateful for. Make a choice that present-you will feel proud of.


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