Beware of “Just”-ified Spending

Financial Freedom in 2021! Take Action: Day 12

One more post on resetting spending habits…

You didn’t sleep especially well last night, so you stop for a coffee on the way to work or to run errands. It’s just $5 and there’s no way you’ll make it through the morning without that extra shot of espresso.

You notice a sweater on sale while grabbing toilet paper and paper towels at Target. It’s just $15, but it’s so much cuter than the $40 one you bought a couple weeks ago.

The toddler is fussy and won’t stay seated in the cart, so you grab a toy phone off the shelf to keep him entertained. It’s just $8 but totally worth your sanity.

Your daughter did really well on a difficult math test. You decide to celebrate with a stop for ice cream after school. It’s just $12 for everyone to get a treat, but she knows how proud you are of her.

It’s been a really long day, so instead of making dinner, you decide to order a couple pizzas. It’s just $16 because there’s a special deal today, and it saves you from dishes later as well.

These “just”-ified purchases, which could easily occur on a typical busy day, led to $56 of unplanned spending! It adds up.

What does it take to waste $10,000 per year? Just $27. 40 per day in miscellaneous spending.

I’m not arguing whether all of the justifications given above make sense. I’m a mom. I get it. I’ve been in every one of those scenarios many times. It takes a lot of strength and resolve to just say “no”. It also requires preparedness.

My best defense against this type of spending is a good offense. I prepare coffee for myself to go before heading anywhere in the morning. I keep toys, books, and snacks in the car (and a few in my purse) in case kids need some distractions. I also keep a small stash of leftover Halloween candy on hand for those days that I want to reward my kids with a special treat for going above and beyond. Finally, having a few easy go-to meals at home diminishes the temptation to order pizza or grab take-out.

When the “just”-ified spending decreases, along with the random unplanned stops, it feels that much more special and rewarding when you decide to go out for dessert after a family hike or decide to spend the month’s clothing allowance on a rare Mom-daughter shopping afternoon.

Today’s action step is to set aside about $50 in cash. Over the next two weeks, every time you pass up on a random “just”-ified spending opportunity, put the amount of cash that you would have spent (or an IOU if you don’t keep cash on hand) in a jar at home. After the two weeks is up, take $10 to buy a favorite family treat from the grocery store, like a cake, a fruity pie, or ice cream sundae ingredients. Then, stash the other $40 away toward one of your priorities, and spend an evening celebrating how great you are at saving money!