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Once upon a catalog

By on December 3, 2007

photo by wordridden
le creuset
It’s hard to believe that years ago, I actually requested mail-order catalogs and subscribed to many magazines. I’d open the mailbox, and on the glossy pages were the latest, greatest items to covet. I have never been a clotheshorse, so I wasn’t tempted by the fashions; but housewares and decor — well, that’s another story.

I didn’t need Le Creuset cookware and Wusthof knives, but I wanted them. They looked so perfect in the magazine. I justified the purchases because these items would outlive me and could be passed on to my children. At first I resisted temptation, but eventually I caved in and purchased not one new piece of cookware, but four, and not one new knife, but three. It probably would have been worse had I been in a brick-and-mortar store.

Come to my house and you’ll notice my KitchenAid Professional 600 series 6-quart stand mixer and my Husqvarna Viking sewing machine. Never mind that I have never baked more than two loaves of bread or four batches of cookies at a time, or sewn a single thing worth mentioning in my entire life. Both purchases were made because “everyone else had them.” I saw both as fun purchases that could save me money, too, but there were definitely less expensive and more practical alternatives available.

Giving into temptation and comparing yourself to others leads to discontent. You’ll never keep up with all the marketing thrown at you or own everything others have. It’s difficult to maintain self control in the face of so much pressure. Identify your shopping and spending triggers so you can combat the urge to splurge.

The following methods have helped me modify my old spendthrift ways.

LIMIT EXPOSURE: I limit the amount of marketing I am exposed to by unsubscribing from catalog mailing lists and magazines, and using TiVo for TV shows, so I can fast-forward through commercials. When on the Internet, I don’t visit retail Web sites that I know will tempt me.

IN THE STORE AND OUT: I shop for function and not fun or boredom. If an item makes its way into my cart that isn’t on my list, I put the item back on the shelf and give myself the adult version of time out for 24 hours to make a sound decision based on price comparison and research.

HAPPY FACTOR: I consider how much happiness and value an item or experience has to offer and at what cost. This takes into account less-expensive alternatives. Is there a significant difference between a home-cooked meal and dinner out to justify it? Is a single trip to an expensive amusement park a greater value than several day trips? Only you can answer these questions, but remind yourself to stay focused on your money goals. In a nutshell, making consistently positive choices is crucial.

ABUNDANCE AND ACCEPTANCE: I learned to appreciate what I have and not allow others to sabotage my goals. Write down your budget and goals so you can acknowledge where you are and where you want to be.

This is what has helped me transition from once upon a catalog to happily frugal after.

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