What is your latest shopping spree really costing you? It's definitely more than just money.I’ve been living a frugal life for some time now. One reason was because I wanted to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle.

The main reason was because I wanted to leave my corporate job to become a full time freelance writer/blogger. I understood starting a business in a highly competitive field and one I was completely new to would be difficult.

I knew I would need a cash reserve on hand, so I saved like crazy to have the funds available to go after what I wanted.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made a lot of sacrifices to make it happen.

One of those sacrifices is I don’t shop as much as I used to.

To be honest, I don’t really miss shopping all that much. I was hardly much of a shopper to start with. For instance, I can window shop for hours without buying anything as long as you don’t take me near a bookstore.

Living a more frugal lifestyle certainly got me thinking about how I spend my money.

Here are some thoughts to mull over the next time you are out shopping.   To be clear, I am not a financial adviser – far from it. These are simply my personal thoughts.

The Real Cost

When you are about to buy something, do you ever ask yourself – how long will I have to work to pay for this item? What else could I do with this money?

Say you get paid $25 an hour (after tax) and you buy a $300 pair of shoes, that is 12 hours you would have to work to pay for them. Even if that purchase was much cheaper, say $25 you still have to work one hour to be able to purchase the item.

If you love your job, one hour won’t bother you much. But if you hate your job, suddenly working that hour to pay of something you don’t really need (that is most likely to end up in the garage, on a shelf somewhere collecting dust or in landfill in the not too distant future) takes on a whole new meaning.

This time money trade-off became very clear to me when I was unhappy at work and saving for my freedom.

Of course this simplified equation doesn’t take into consideration one important point. You have to factor paying all of your bills out of your $25 an hour.

When I was in my previous full time admin role, I realized that with my cost of living (as basic as it is) I had to work roughly two days a week just to pay my regular bills. Two days out of five.  That left me with three days of cash to save, spend or invest.

Take into consider the fact that I don’t have a mortgage AND I don’t own a car. If you added these expenses into the equation, you could be working four days a week (or more) just to pay the bills and having roughly one day of spending money left over. Somewhere in there you want to have a social life and perhaps have some money set aside for emergencies.

It certainly begs the question – Do you really want to spend your one day worth of hard earned cash buying crap you don’t really need?

Now go back and look at that original $300 purchase.  Suddenly your 12 hours is blown sky-high when you factor in your other bills and expenses.

This is one of the reasons using credit cards can get us into so much trouble.  We are literally spending cash we have not earned yet or digging into our savings.

If you are in a job you hate, think how much more frustrating it will be working simply to pay off interest on overdue credit card payments! Your $300 item is now costing you quite a bit more.

If we are constantly living beyond our means and spending more than we earn, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for changing jobs should a fabulous opportunity arise, starting your own business, following your passion or going on holidays for a short period of time much less an extended one.

I am not saying that you should stop shopping. What I am suggesting is that you get a bit more strategic about how you spend your money. Spend money on something that actually means something to you.

This goes back to the second part of my original question.  What else could I do with this money?

I will give you an example.  I love to travel.  I don’t consider any of the trips I have taken a waste of money.

When I hear myself saying, I can’t afford it, what I often mean is I have other money priorities.  I would rather be spending my money on something else.

I was talking to a friend recently who has always wanted to go to New York. When I ask her to come along with me, her answer is usually I can’t afford it.  While New York City can be an expensive place to visit, the truth is she can afford it, she simply needs to make sacrifices in other areas.

Recently my friend had a long weekend away in a luxury apartment and paid a lot of money on Christmas presents. If she had spent less on accommodation and presents, she would have three-quarters of the money she needed for her overseas trip. She could have been on the plane and booked her accommodation with that money.

While I respect her financial choices, I wanted to point out there are other options.

The key is knowing your own personal money priorities, what sacrifices you are willing to make for what you want and working out just how much that kitchen appliance that will sit in the corner of the cupboard and never get used is REALLY going to cost you.

Instead of making life about buying ‘stuff’ – make it about having wonderful experiences.

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