There were years when I was working my butt off building my business and working late hours. Like so many others in that position, all too often I’d find myself picking up some takeout for dinner. This was happening three or four times a week.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a fridge full of healthy food at home waiting for me. I actually ended up tossing lots of spoiled veggies, because I wasn’t taking the time to prepare them. I was spending more and eating less healthfully at the same time. I realized that when I went grocery shopping, I was shopping for an idealized version of myself: a “Perfect Mindy” who ate healthy all the time.
After some reflection, I got real and gave myself permission to be less than perfect when I hit the grocery store. I thought about what I actually wanted to eat when I came home after a long day. Often, the answer was a BLTA: a bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwich. I discovered that if I bought things I could get excited about, I actually ate less and didn’t spend as much.
Eventually, I realized that BLTA isn’t just a sandwich: It’s a recipe for conscious spending. Conscious spending is the belief that once you examine your consumer habits and really do understand where you derive the most enjoyment, you can actually better utilize every dollar.
The really great part is that it’s much simpler than budgeting if you use my BLTA recipe:
Be clear about where your money is going.
Use a service like Mint to track your spending and attain real clarity around cash flow. This is not a budget! It’s simply a matter of tracking your spending.
Listen to your gut.
This is about determining your perceived value of what you’re getting for what you’re spending. This isn’t objective; everyone’s perceived value is going to be different. When I started tracking my expenses, I discovered that I was spending about $150 a month at Starbucks. Some people could shrug that off, but for me, the number made me say, “Whoa! That’s too much.” For me, the value I was getting from those Starbucks runs wasn’t equal to the actual cost.
Think through the spending experience.
Next, you want to consider the experience and how you can consciously and happily adjust it. For me, when I really thought about my Starbucks spending, I realized that the pastries and the froufrou drinks weren’t doing it for me — it was all about the experience. So I could easily switch to a $2 cup of drip coffee and cut my spending by about two-thirds without any loss of enjoyment.
Aim for awareness.
This last step is maybe the hardest, but when you discover spending that your gut tells you is too much, it’s important to ask why. Grab a journal and write down how you feel when you make a purchase. You’ll find that some purchases have zero emotional impact, while others have their own complicated stories — and those stories are an amazing opportunity for insight.
The goal of conscious spending isn’t to limit anyone, but to help increase awareness about how we behave in everyday life. When you start to break down your experiences like that, you actually get the most satisfaction from your spending. You’re more conscious of the present moment and of what’s going on.
If you enjoyed reading about conscious spending, I’m excited to let you know that this is actually an edited excerpt from my newly published book! Just head over to Amazon to get your copy.
Mindy Crary is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.