The Simple Guide To Conscious Spending

This is a guest post from Jo at simplybeingmum. It’s her first-ever guest post.

For me conscious spending is knowing where every penny goes, or at least every pound (I’m British by the way!). It’s about value for money, spending on what matters to my family and me and not frittering away cash. It’s not about being frugal, it’s about eliminating waste – I don’t mind spending money but I hate wasting money.

Due to living our family life this way it has meant that much of the last 18 years has been spent debt free (I am 36 now). Conscious spending has enabled us to travel, have lot’s of experiences and ultimately it meant that after our first child was born I could quit the 9-5, which I did. It has given us choices.

By consciously spending, rather than consuming, a debt free life is attainable. Every cent not spent makes a difference. It may seem insignificant at the time, but it’s not.

Questions to ask yourself when aiming to spend consciously

Do I need it?

This should always be the first question. Do I need it? Honesty is key here. It easy to fool yourself into believing a ‘want’ is a necessary purchase. Just look at the amount of unused gym equipment lying around people’s homes, not just tying up cash but also space and causing immense guilt in the purchasers lack of motivation to use it. Ask yourself many times ‘Do I need it?’

Do I love it? Truly love it?

If you identify that you don’t need it but do really love and want it then this may be a good enough reason to go ahead with the purchase. So the second question should always be ‘Do I love it?’. Everyone should be able to buy something they really love, from time to time. This can be a legitimate reason for a purchase.

Can I afford it?

By afford it I mean truly afford it, not go into debt for it and pay it off later. Again honesty is key. Even if you can buy it outright still bear in mind that if you are looking to pay of debt elsewhere every penny you do not spend reduces that other debt. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after them selves is a famous British saying.

How many times will I use it?

Consider how many times you will use it. This can make a buying decision harder or in some cases easier. For example I purchased a dress for twice the price of another, but knew I would wear it at least 5 times more than the other due to it’s versatility. The lower cost per wear is what I based the purchasing decision on.

Do I have something already that already serves the same purpose?

Sometimes you can forget you have something. One way to eradicate this is to declutter and have a clear inventory of what you have. When a need arises, you may already have something that serves a purpose, don’t always reach for your wallet. One tip is to think laterally. If you need to exercise, if you are lucky enough to have feet and they work – use them! Don’t buy a treadmill; there is limitless road out there to hit.

Have I purchased it the best way?

I’m not a bargain hunter, because if I have made the decision to purchase then I need the item and am happy to pay for it. I do of-course do a check that I have the best deal (as far as I can see) and have checked that there aren’t any additional discounts available. I also do not bargain hunt as this can lead to inaccurate purchases and also additional purchases due to browsing.

Can I wait for it?

We live in a time where everything is immediate. Do you remember as a child waiting for your birthday, and receiving a gift you really wanted? Even if you buy it yourself for your own birthday, it makes it that little bit more special. Don’t cheat and buy it early. Waiting also encourages a natural cooling off period, which confirms whether you really do need/love it.

What will I do with it when I no longer need it?

Sometimes to spend a little more is the better option long-term. When we bought our first baby buggy we spent a lot on it. It has lasted 6 years and I still love it, it is incredibly functional and still has a good resale value all these years later. I’ve seen other new Mums and Dads replace and change buggies and overall spend considerably more that we did on our first investment.

Have I slept on it?

Never impulse purchase! If you see something you want or have identified that you ‘need something’ make sure you sleep on it. Give yourself a cooling off period. One week is ideal as there are very few things that cannot wait a week.

As long as you have given the above nine questions some thought: If you still need it and/or love it and you can afford it, then buy it!

Jo, aka simplybeingmum, is on a journey toward a more simplified life, taking her most cherished family with her. Her aim is to live an extraordinary, happy and fulfilled life while blogging about their ‘family life simply done’.


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  2. Good for you for becoming — and remaining — debt free for 18 years Jo! I’m working towards that same goal, for many of the same reasons as you.

    I’ve been practicing conscious spending in some form or another for most of my adult life, but I just came to the realization this past year that debt is not a welcome part of my conscious spending plan. While I don’t carry credit card debt, I do have a student loan, an auto installment loan and a mortgage. The student loan and car loan will be paid off this year, but I’m afraid I have another 7-8 years of paying off the mortgage before I’m completely debt free.

    Thanks for the reminders of what spending consciously looks like.

    1. Hi Jenny – Sounds like you are doing great at conscious spending, and it is paying off! 7-8 years sounds pretty good to me to get mortgage free – and I bet you do it quicker.
      I met my (to-be) husband when I was just 19 shortly after leaving school, and he was an accountant. He kept me on the straight and narrow! I wonder how things may have turned out had I not met him? Jo

  3. Hi Jo! This is a great list! My fiance and I have begun asking ourselves when we want to buy something, is this a need? But there are clearly many more questions to ask!

    How many times will I use it? this is brilliant! I love that you bought one dress over another because the cost per wear was better. Never thought of it that way.

    1. The dress I purchased was double the cost of another adequate dress. I have worn the more expensive dress to:
      1. A new client pitch
      2. A lunch date with a potential business contact
      3.To work
      4. A wedding
      5. A funeral
      6. Out with the girls
      Pretty versatile! and it looks amazing….in my opinion anyway…

        1. wow sounds VERY versatile! i have a couple of dresses i love too, but haven’t found one that is quite that versatile yet.

  4. “Can I wait for it?” brings to mind my mother when she was raising two kids and working full time to make ends meet. When the new hope-shopping catalogues came each season, she would look through and wish she could order something new. But, what she found was that after she gone back numerous times to look at her favourite things she was no longer so attracted to them – just looking at them over and over made her as accustomed to them as if they had been in her closet. Exposure to something – in actuality or just to a picture – is a powerful tool to reduce the wants. Waiting to buy helps to give you this exposure. I have used this technique many times and it has worked for me.

    Mom also used the “quality over quantity” advice. She always bought on sale, but only good quality that was on sale.

    All great advice here, Jo!

    1. I do realize that browsing the catalogue in the first place was what set up the longing that my mother had to then deal with! Leisure pastimes – and time to pursue them – were few and far between for her, however.

      I don’t browse catalogues OR stores. My temptations come when I need something and I see something that is not quite what I need but I like it. THEN I go home and let time pass, maybe even re-visit the item, but as long as I know it isn’t right for my needs, eventually the exposure to it rubs the shine off it.

      Sorry for the multiple comments!

    2. Hi Jo H – You’ve reminded me of something from this comment. When I was a child I used to browse the home-shopping catalogues also. I used to go straight to the back where all the toys were. The one that I will always remember is the really large paddling pool that the whole family could fit in. I wanted one so much. In hindsight it was probably the experience of the whole family having fun I yearned for rather than the paddling pool! Some great insight here…. my mantra is definitely quality over quantity – in all aspects of life. Your Mom sounds an amazing person. Jo W

  5. I love the practical tips in this article, so much so that I’m considering putting all of the questions on a little wallet-sized card – in my wallet!

    And I so agree with Jo, that it is quality over quantity. I’ve also heard, “Buy it once” because when you end up going less quality just to save a few bucks you inevitably end up having to re-purchase when the whole thing goes kaput beyond repair.

    Anyway – wonderful!

    1. Quality over Quantity – without a doubt…. the answer to a minimalists dreams. Less spend long-term, less time and effort in purchasing, repurchasing, disposing, less clutter… less impact ultimately!

  6. Gip & Jo,

    Gip, thanks for featuring Jo’s guest post! I know this is right up your alley…


    I so enjoyed reading your post! While my husband and I are in an enforced spending diet this year (I’ve purchased only food, consumables like deoderant and a journal since the beginning of the year) you have given so many great insights and reasoning behind them that I feel even more armed to go on with our elective spending diet. We are working our way out of debt a little bit at a time and our freelance income is growing so as that growth continues the spending consciously hacks will help us pay things down even sooner! Thanks for sharing a really enjoyable post!

    1. Hi Jeff and Gena S
      I’ll share something with you… last year I did a little experiment (I love an experiment!). It was to not spend money on myself, well just £365 over the course of a year for all clothing, toiletries, books, going out etc. It wasn’t enforced it was voluntary. I couldn’t do it – I lasted two months. What I found was that I was spending so much time and effort focusing on the monetary aspect of the spending, that I was a) feeling deprived b) spending way too much time looking for the best deal and contemplating how the spend would affect future purchases – and this was over a pair of jeans at one point – which I really needed! It was exhausting.
      I then switched back to the way I had always done it – as above, and immediately I felt better, as though a weight had lifted. I could purchase something with a clear conscious, knowing that I had ‘consciously spent’. For me this method is similar to dieting, I can’t calorie count – I feel deprived, but by having a healthy relationship with food (or in this case money) every day – I can sustain a good diet all year! Thanks for commenting Guys and all the very best with your endeavours. Jo

  7. I love seeing so much activity on my blog while I simply stand by and watch. This is a great discussion.

    I think Jo did a really nice job on her first-ever guest post, and I hope she’ll do another post for me soon. I also look forward to seeing her posts on some of my other favorite blogs.

    Please… continue the discussion. Don’t let me get in the way.

  8. I loved your question of “What will I do with it when I no longer need it?” As a person who hates to be wasteful and does not want to contribute more than necessary to the landfill, this is a question I ask myself when making a purchase. I buy better quality items for my older son because then they can be used by my younger son, and then we can pass them on to other friends or donate them.
    Lots of great tips!!

    1. I’m with you Caragh – I don’t like waste. I have a Son and Daughter so passing down isn’t quite so easy – but I have a friend who has Kids the opposite way round but the same ages so we swap regularly (clothes not kids that is!)
      This is where the question of how one defines frugality. People are surprised at my lack of bargain hunting, but that’s not my aim. I don’t want lot’s of cheap stuff. I don’t want lot’s of stuff period, so for me it’s about value for money – as I said above I don’t mind spending money but I hate wasting money. One way of measuring that is longevity, or amount of usage – as is resale value. With food I do not shop at the cheapest grocers, nor do I scrimp on the quality/price of the food I select (I buy rump steak rather than stewing when slow cooking). Food is important to me, I’d rather eat less but eat well. Long live Quality above Quantity!

  9. Your article reminds of “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen where the husband didn’t approve debts because for him it’s enslaving which is true. If we get contented with what we have we won’t be tempted to buy anything on impulse.

    1. Thanks Anne – I will have to check it out! Being debt free gives you choices…there’s no doubt about that! I’m finding the less I have, the more contented I am – contradictory to what we are constantly being told through advertising. Jo

      1. You’re welcome Jo, it’s really an interesting read and I think they even made a play. I won’t say anything more about it. I’ll let you see it yourself so I won’t spoil the thrill.
        Yes, commercial ads do make you feel the need to buy their product. Once we understand the psychology behind it you’ll have power to defy it.

        1. You mentioned the word ‘thrill’ now mega intrigued! I’m a trained marketer, and wonder if that’s where the cynicism toward consumerism really began all those years back?

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