November 08, 2012

My Online Shopping Addiction and the Dreaded Budget

My Online Shopping Addiction and the Dreaded Budget

From the time I cashed my first pay cheque from KFC (yes, my first real job was a greasy one), even earlier if you count the meager amount I made from my Pennysaver route when I was 12, I knew that I had a love for spending money. The anticipation of what I would spend my hard-earned money on once Friday rolled around was almost as good as the thrill I got from heading to the mall the next day to blow it all on cheap clothing, make-up and probably CD's, since this was the pre-iPod era.

Looking back, I really wish that I had saved at least a little bit of that money, having worked steadily since I was 15 years old. I really have nothing to show for those early years where pretty much 100 percent of that money was disposable income; my one bill at that time a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan. To be honest, saving money had never even crossed my mind because we all know that teenagers are not usually planning their futures or investing in an RRSP. I remember something my grandmother once told me when I first started working: “Save 10 percent of everything you make, because even though it isn't much but eventually it will add up.” I scoffed at the idea and of course went on spending as I had been. Boy, do I wish I had listened. If I’d known then what I know now about compound interest, I would have started my RRSP way back then and started saving for a down-payment on my first home.

Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and that's probably one of life's greatest ironies… learning things the hard way!

Fast-forward to now. I have never been much of an online shopper, having always preferred the instant gratification and experience of going into the store and taking the goods home with me that day. Now a new mother, it’s not always convenient to take baby traipsing through the shopping mall. It conflicts with naptime, and screaming infants aren’t favourable to many store patrons…not to mention having to breastfeed in public… There lies the beauty of shopping online. Yes, the satisfaction of strolling and browsing and trying on clothes, and skipping out of the store with bags in hand is lost. And you have to wait 5-7 business days (I am too cheap for express shipping you see) for your purchase to arrive. Yet the excitement of filling up that virtual cart and "checking out" is as good as the real thing if not better, because there are many deals to be had in the online shopping world.

Budgets are never fun (unless you are an accountant), and they are even harder to stick to (unless you have amazing self-control). While great in theory, there are often hidden expenses, and the old-style budget is not always realistic in this day-in-age. I have, however, realized that if you don't have rules in place with how you spend your money, when it comes to everyday expenses things can get more than a little out of control. So I have decided to try the money in jars method from that show Till Debt Do Us Part. If you've never seen the show, it's a cash only budget with a certain amount allocated to each jar. Each jar is labeled for a specific category of spending; such as gas, groceries, etc. The jury is still out on whether or not this will work for us as it’s still in the infant stages, but it has forced me to take a good hard look at how we spend (and overspend) our money, as well as realize that using a debit card rather than cash can be a recipe for disaster if you are not keeping regular track of those purchases.

I don't know that I will ever be able to fully stop spending money gratuitously, but I am thankful for the money that I do have, and the self-control I have gained over the years to prevent me from putting everything on my credit card. I have also learned that if I really feel the urge to go out and blow some cash, there are always little purchases that might, for a brief moment, give me that instant charge of satisfaction. After all, Dollarama likely won’t break the bank.
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