What Would You Buy If You Had an Extra $50? $500? $5,000?

June 8, 2015

When I first started reading personal finance blogs, there was a chain letter-like post I saw many of my favourite bloggers copy – it answered the popular question: what would you buy if you won the lottery? Most people opted for a $1 million prize and talked about how they’d first wipe out their debts, then buy a bunch of stuff and invest whatever was leftover. Back then (this blog is officially 4 years old today), I couldn’t bring myself to copy the post because $1 million seemed like a number I’d never be able to touch; it was a fantasy, a pipe dream. Why bother thinking about something that would never happen?

Two weeks ago, however, I saw a post on Pinterest that asked a much simpler version of the same question: what would you buy if you had an extra $50? $500? $5,000? Obviously, those numbers are a lot more tangible; you don’t need to win the lottery for it to happen. You could get an extra $50 by selling something, $500 through picking up some side work or $5,000 via a large tax refund. And these smaller windfalls come at us many times throughout our lives. The problem is that most of us find out the money is coming and decide how we are going to spend it, before it’s even in our hands.

This is a habit I established before I got my very first paycheque. As soon as I landed a job in high school, I added up all my hours over the upcoming two-week period and multiplied them by my hourly wage to get an estimate of how much money I would bring home on payday (~$175). After that, I did what most 16-year-olds would do: I made a plan to spend it – mostly on “stuff”, like DVDs and body products – and it was gone within just a few days. By the time I got my next paycheque, I was broke and had another plan for how I was going to spend the next $175; this is a cycle that continued until just a few years ago, and it is one that shaped my entire mindset around money for all the years in-between.

Things got worse whenever I switched jobs, got various raises, and saw larger and larger paycheques come in. Rather than save any of it, I always found things to spend the extra money on: things for my apartment, newer cell phones, my first computer, etc. The minute I knew I’d get an extra $100/cheque or $200/month, all I could think about was how I could spend it. The absolute worst was whenever I got large tax refunds. Rather than save or invest any of it, I immediately saw it as free extra money and blew right through it. (And when I still had credit card debt, I usually used the extra money to pay down my balances… only to rack them up again.)

All of this is to say that I’ve essentially always walked around with this running list in my head of things I could spend money on. My guess is, the minute you read the title of this post, some of you wanted to comment and tell me how you would spend that extra money, too. Maybe you’d spend $50 on new books, use $500 to spruce up your wardrobe, or put $5,000 down on a car or towards a dream vacation. I’m not saying that any of those thoughts are necessarily wrong… but what you should ask yourself now is: how did you decide what you would spend the money on?

Do you have a list of savings goals you’re currently working towards? A running list of things you actually need to buy? Or were your answers impulsive – full of wants that would satisfy you in this moment rather than needs that could help you for awhile? The question posed by Apartment Therapy sounds innocent enough. In fact, it could easily be turned into another chain letter-type post that we all copy and use to tell the world what we would spend our own extra money on. But the question is everything that’s wrong with the money mindsets being instilled in us.

Don’t Buy “Extras” with Extra Money

When I started the shopping ban last year, I had no idea what kind of challenge I was putting myself up against. The goal, if you don’t remember, was to save more and become a conscious consumer. I still feel like that was pretty naive of me to say, though, because I didn’t know what that would look like…

For my entire life, up to that point, I’d bought everything on a whim but attached some meaning to it. So I’d buy this particular piece of furniture so everything finally matched, or a decor item I knew would “finish a room”. If I could give it a purpose, I had no problem buying it. The problem, as you can imagine, is I didn’t actually need any of it; they were all extra items, above and beyond what I needed to survive and be happy. I spent my extra money on extras – and it was a complete and utter waste. (Many of these items were the first to go, when I got rid of 65% of my belongings.)

As of today, I’m in my final month of the shopping ban. With 11 months down and just 29 days to go, the #1 question people have started asking me is: are you excited for it to be over? The truth is, I don’t really care. From the beginning, I assumed that by now I’d have a long list of all the things I wanted to buy when it was over – but I don’t. The shopping ban has forced me to stop and think about every purchase I consider making, and now I’m at the point where I can’t justify most purchases. In fact, I’ve saved $2,600 in the Shopping Ban account and have no idea how I’m going to spend it.

This is a good thing; it means I’ve made progress and achieved my goal. Not only have I saved more and become a conscious consumer, but I’m finally able to talk myself out of all the extras. If you were to ask me right now what I would buy if I had an extra $50, $500 or $5,000, the answer would be nothing.

“Virtually every day of our lives, we’re trained to lean towards something we don’t have, which essentially trains us to be dissatisfied with where we already are.” That’s a quote that has always stuck out for me from You Are Here by my friend David Cain, and it could be relevant to many areas of our lives, but I often link it back to personal finance. We’re programmed (mostly through advertising) to believe we need more more more, in order to have all our problems solved and be happy. For that reason, we consume consume consume and buy everything we could possibly need, and yet we’re surprisingly always dissatisfied with what we have – so the cycle for more continues.

Rather than asking what you would buy if you had extra money, maybe we should all be asking ourselves what’s missing in our lives. My guess is, the answer isn’t something you can buy at a store; think about that the next time you get a little extra money.

  • Kristen June 8, 2015 at 4:33 am

    When I dream of winning the lottery, I dream of traveling, a new car and hiring people to do things I don’t want to do (like stain the deck). I don’t really dream of many material things, although there are a few luxuries I might like (hot tub, new dining room table, couch without a big rip in it).

    Traveling is really becoming my thing. We save the money up first and/or spread the cost of things up over the months leading up. We have a dream trip in 6 days. We are also starting to plan a trip somewhere warm over the winter (we had the coldest winter on record last year . . . am not ready to do that again anytime soon!) and I want to buy a ticket to Abu Dhabi as a girlfriend is moving there later this year.

    That is what I would do with extra money!

    • Cait Flanders June 8, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Travel is always ok in my books. Abu Dhabi would be unreal… thanks for sharing, Kristen!

  • Jen Ferris June 8, 2015 at 5:18 am

    I love the concepts in this post! Thank God there is a steady voice of reason encouraging me to “Save” “Save” “Save” and “be conscious.” “Be conscious.” “Be conscious.” I need this this angel amongst the shouting voices of “Buy!” “Buy!” “Buy!” and “You’re not good enough!” “You’re not smart enough!” “You’re not thin enough!” You’re not pretty enough!” “You’re not fit enough!” … and … and …

    I am going to practice being happy with where I’m at, right now. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Cait Flanders June 8, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      You’re most welcome, Jen. If you want to find more great posts, I’d recommend reading David’s blog. He’s a fantastic writer and always makes me think. :)

  • Rob June 8, 2015 at 5:31 am

    Happy Blog Anniversary, Cait! Man, time sure flies, eh? I listened to your podcast with Jess where you mentioned how much the blog changed your life. Amazing stuff !!

    I guess when we’re young we all think along consumption thinking as that was how it was mostly provided to us when we were little kids. Of course wise parents set tasks and rewards (for a job well done) to teach their offspring the value of working hard to achieve goals (small or big) and to learn the value of money. Personally I think that this is best done by one’s parents, rather than schools, in order to personalize the message best and have the greatest long term effect.

    So, as to what I would do with extra money, without any predetermined need to use it, I tend to put it into something conservative and yet with a growth aspect to it. In other words I don’t give it to TNL@TB (the nice lady at the bank) to deposit into a low interest savings or chequing account but rather I tend to throw it into my conservative investments or my TFSA/RRSP accounts (if I still have any contribution room left, which I usually don’t after Jan.1 of each year).

    Have a pleasant day. We here in TO are enjoying some of your wet BC weather today (which just means more tall grass for me to cut later on). :-)

    • Cait Flanders June 8, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      Ahhh yes! Wasn’t that a fun interview? Jess’ podcast is great. I can’t wait to listen to more episodes! (And not just because everyone she talks to is my friend, hehe.) Yes, if I caught a big windfall, I’d throw it all in investments right now, too. And sorry about the wet weather! It’s been scorching hot here… trade? (Don’t tell all the sun lovers here I just said that!)

  • Cassie June 8, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Great post Cait, and happy blogoversary!

    My husband asked me recently what I wanted for my birthday. To be honest, I struggled to come up with an answer. I wandered around West Edmonton Mall for hours, and had a hard time coming up with ideas for him because in a lot of ways my needs are already met. That being said, I immediately came up with answers for two of the three price points before reading the post. One of them was an investing course, so I don’t feel too guilty about that, but you raise an excellent point about the drive to buy every time there is spare money lying around.

    • Cait Flanders June 8, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks, hun! And definitely don’t feel bad about that investing course – that sounds fantastic! But that’s not a birthday present either ;) that’s just an investment in yourself! I would almost dare you to tell him not to get you anything yet… but to wait until you find something you really want and then ask him for it. You don’t have to! But there’s no point spending money on something that doesn’t really excite you. :)

  • Rene June 8, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Happy Blogversary Cait! :) Very insightful post and I definitely agree with what you said. I feel like for me- when I do something, I’ll go ALL OUT into doing it.. and its hard for me to stop. However, if I actually get myself to stop- I won’t do it for a very long time. I think the same applies to everything I dive into, whether it be shopping or how I spend my money. Luckily- I’m starting to embrace minimalism and slowly chipping away at how much I spend weekly. Didn’t realize how fast it adds up when you buy a coffee everyday! ($3.75 + tax a day x 5 days a week = 21.20 x 4 weeks/ month = 89 <- nearly 100 bucks!)

    • Cait Flanders June 8, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks, Rene! And I think it’s fantastic you’re starting to embrace minimalism. It looks different for everyone, so just do whatever it takes you give you more time/money to do what you really want to do. (And yes, that coffee habit adds up fast, eh? I don’t miss mine at all!)

  • Alyssa @ Generation YRA June 8, 2015 at 6:35 am

    4 years, how amazing Cait congratulations!

    I love the mindset of this post. The point of “justifying” purchases is definitely pretty prevalent. There are always quick reasons & logic when it comes to making a purchase in order to avoid that buyers remorse that may set in. For me, I’m continuing to work on living below my means where I spend considerably less than my set take home income per month (this amount is also allocated to savings, emergency fund, etc). I’ve gotten this in a rhythm that when any additional income may be received (even just an additional $50 or $500), I put it directly to savings or a financial goal. I avoid adhering to spending more when my monthly income experiences a boost. This took a lot of practice to get out of engrained habits! In college I remember receiving say $200 back from textbook returns and thinking “heck yes, time to spend!” I think your year long shopping ban has created a lifestyle spending change that you will continue to keep consistent for a long time coming, which is such a positive. :)

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:32 am

      And it’s technically almost 5 years old! I started BoaB on October 1, 2010, but then deleted it in March 2011, went on one final spending binge and came back June 2011. Oh man, that made me reminisce (and feel old lol). Your textbook money experience sounds veryyy familiar… a little too familiar. Thank goodness we’ve taken the time to change/create new habits. :)

  • Danielle June 8, 2015 at 7:00 am

    I wrote a post about a year and a half ago called what would you do with an extra $1000 and it really made me think about how I spend extra money and what my goals are. Cut to April and I received an unexpected bonus to the tune of just almost $1000.

    …and I put almost all of it into my planned and emergency savings and, I mean like 90 percent of it. *happy dance*

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:33 am

      Woo hoo! That is so exciting, Danielle! :)

  • Stephanie June 8, 2015 at 7:04 am

    4 years is exciting, happy blog anniversary to you! I’ve been watching my spending since November, but it’s been more of a spending frost than it’s been a full shopping ban. It’s helped a lot, but I’m still not great at it. I think April and May were pretty rough. I’m thinking I might start a full shopping ban like yours. I’m pretty good about not buying ‘stuff’ but eating out/entertainment (bar money. I know cutting alcohol was not a money saving move for you, but man, it must have been great for your budget.) gets me every time. Which is crazy, because I have so much access to grocery stores and free entertainment in Chicago! I’d have to think of what my own parameters for the ban would be, but it’s definitely sounding more and more appealing with every post you write!

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:36 am

      A spending frost – I might have to use that sometime! You know I would support your decision to go on a full shopping ban and I love that yours would be unique to you (i.e. cut back on eating out/restaurant vs. just stuff). That’s why takeout coffee was on my list, too! I was spending way too much on this silly drink that I actually know how to make very well at home. (And yes, not spending $100+/week on alcohol like I used to has been great for my budget.) I think it’d be interesting for you to try 30 days of NO takeout anything. The first month was the toughest for me + takeout coffee. Think you would try that? :)

      • Stephanie June 10, 2015 at 5:02 pm

        I think that’s a great idea, that would ease me into it for sure. A month without take out – I’m not sure anyone would believe me!

  • Mackenzie June 8, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Happy Blogiversary Cait! You’ve done so well with your shopping ban; $2600 is quite a bit of money to save up! :)

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:37 am

      Thanks, Mackenzie! And yea… you actually just reminded me that I also had $750 in there back in September, so it’s really more like $3,350! WHOA.

  • Christina Garofalo June 8, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Congrats on the blog anni! It’d be tempting to spend on travel. But I’m at the point where the end of my debt is getting so close that if my income were to make a big leap, I’d pay off the rest. To have no extraneous payments hanging over my head would be my first choice — freedom! :)

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:38 am

      Thanks, Christina! And if I was in your position, I’d do the same. Freedom will taste pretty sweet, I can promise you that. :)

  • Ali @ Anything You Want June 8, 2015 at 7:44 am

    If I won the lottery and had a $1 million windfall, it might be a different story, but with $50, $500 or $5,000 I would simply save it. I budget for what I need and many things I want. Extra money is just that, extra, and doesn’t really impact the way I spend. I suppose that at some point in the future having more savings than expected might lead me to do something more extravagant with my money, but that would probably involve travel, not buying anything expensive.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:40 am

      I love that your budget has room for your wants. Sounds like things are nice and balanced for you, Ali. :)

  • Potato June 8, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Great post, I was actually doing much the same thing when I saw the title: “I don’t know, I’d probably save it. I try not to walk around with a want-it list in my head all the time.”

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:41 am

      Ha, that’s awesome! And I would expect nothing less. ;)

  • Bridget June 8, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Great post and SO TIMELY CAIT

    I just won a $500 Amex gift card this morning, and my first thought was “woohoo! Marc Jacobs shoes!” but after some thought I decided the money would actually would be of better use for our wedding bands for my fiance’s & mine upcoming nuptials. We chose pretty humble rings so the $500 will be enough to cover both. Using the money for this means that’s $500 that doesn’t have to come out of my paycheque next month or the month after to cover this cost.

    It also offsets that $659 hotel suite I booked for the day…. maybe I will win another gift card?

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:42 am

      Ooo, sooo timely for you! I love what you decided to do with the free money; pay for something that you needed to pay for already but now doesn’t need to come out of your own budget. Sweet! I’ll cross my fingers you win a $659 gift card next, haha.

  • Katie Pelton June 8, 2015 at 7:59 am

    I am so thankful for posts like this because it is so relateable. Breaking out of that cycle has certainly been something I can’t seem to get the hang of and I know it’s only shooting myself in the foot. It helps to see someone who has had the same habits as me turn things around so successfully!

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:47 am

      I know you can do it, Katie! It’s important to celebrate any small wins, when you’re trying to change bad habits. So don’t beat yourself if you fall off track… just get back on (small win) and try again next month. Obviously, I was still overspending even after I got out of debt! The shopping ban taught me everything I know. :)

  • Our Next Life June 8, 2015 at 8:13 am

    So great that your answer to what would you buy? is “nothing.” We know that we’ve come a long way and are truly committed to our early retirement goals, because our answer is “we’d put that money into our investments and let it grow.” There’s nothing we could buy that would give us the same satisfaction as knowing that we’re getting closer to our exit date, which is our ultimate financial goal.

    On your other note, the David Cain quote, that’s harder. Financial goal planning is inherently future-focused. And by setting these goals for ourselves, we’re forcing ourselves to make long-term decisions instead of just living for the present moment (i.e. spending every paycheck on useless stuff). So it’s a little contradictory, but still important to find that balance between planning for the future but still appreciating what we have in the present. We’re not always awesome at this — sometimes we still get impatient, or think that early retirement will fix everything we’re dissatisfied with (of course not true) — but making an effort to appreciate every day fully and to be aware and grateful for all the many ways we’re super fortunate already.

    Thanks, Cait! Have a great week.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:50 am

      I don’t know how to reply to your comment any other way except to say that I wish we lived closer! I’d love to have coffee and chat about all this stuff. :)

  • Emma June 8, 2015 at 8:19 am

    I love your point here – it’s not about the amount of money and it’s not about your financial situation, it’s about questioning that constant “want” inside of all of us.

    I keep a “want” list on my google drive where I write down everything I currently would love to purchase, and then just let it sit there and think on it. It’s amazing to watch the list grow, and then just kind of fade away, as I lose interest, or discover new “wants”

    What I’ve discovered about myself is that I love the feeling of wanting something so much, and then buying it…but after a couple days I lose interest. It’s really just that initial feeling of satisfaction. Thank god for return policies :)

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:58 am

      I used to do that with books, Emma! I had a huuuge bookmark folder of all the books I wanted to read. The problem was that every time I felt the urge to shop, I’d buy however many I needed to spend $25 and get free shipping on Amazon… only to let them collect dust on my shelf. So they didn’t fade away, like your list, haha. I’ll need to write about this at some point, but I used to write down some of the things I wanted to buy when the shopping ban was over and have since crossed them all off. I WANT some still, yes. But I don’t need any and I don’t think I’d use them often enough to justify handing over a few hundred bucks (they were all bigger ticket items). But to your point, yes, thank goodness for return policies! :P

  • Barry @ Moneywehave June 8, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I almost never get tempted to spend an extra money I come across these days. Generally speaking I’ll save 75% of it and use the remaining amount for a small treat (depending on where the extra money came from to begin with that is).

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:58 am

      That’s awesome, Barry. :)

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods June 8, 2015 at 10:20 am

    So well said. This is exactly how I felt at the “ends” of our extreme frugality challenge and my no-clothes buying ban. We decided to just continue on with both because it occurred to us that through these challenges, we’d eliminated something unnecessary and unimportant from our lives. I love that David Cain quote. It’s so true, but we can fight back!

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 5:59 am

      Yep! Ahh, I love that we got to chat about this in person, by the way. :)

  • BetCrooks June 8, 2015 at 10:53 am

    We have enough to cover our basics, so when we get unexpected extra money we often give away part of it immediately to someone or something else (for e.g. to a person working for a charity/non-profit who does not ever get a raise/bonus; or to a charity.) It’s very important to us to share this unexpected good thing with someone/somplace else who also doesn’t expect it.

    We have children so any other substantial unexpected amounts are usually added to savings for their education etc.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:00 am

      This is going to be my favourite comment of the whole week, Bet. Thank you for coming here and sharing your generosity with me. You’re a good person. :)

  • J. Money June 8, 2015 at 11:28 am

    “Virtually every day of our lives, we’re trained to lean towards something we don’t have, which essentially trains us to be dissatisfied with where we already are.” – Damn that’s good… As is this post, well done friend :)

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:01 am

      That DC… he’s a keeper! Thanks, friend :)

  • Heather @ Simply Save June 8, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I love this perspective! Great post! I can relate to your early spending habits…trying to find something to buy or upgrade when you know you’re about to have additional income. I’ve broken those habits and now I get SO excited to use income to work on my financial goals, whether it’s increasing my savings, paying extra on my mortgage, or increasing my retirement contributions. It’s a lot less material these days…although I DO have a wish list of small upgrades I’d like to make to my house someday…

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:05 am

      I love when people describe the excitement they feel about saving money! Isn’t it amazing? I swear, it’s better than the rush you get from spending… because it can actually last (and obviously has way more benefits). It makes sense that you’d have a list of upgrades you want to do to your house. I always have little projects in the back of my mind (mostly art-related, as there is still nothing on my walls). But it’s awesome that your first priority would be to work towards financial goals. :)

  • Stephanie June 8, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Typical lifestyle inflation. I used to be like this, particularly when I had a salary increase. Before I knew it, I was living paycheck to paycheck. Nowadays, I am more reasonable.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:06 am

      That’s great, Stephanie! And you actually just gave me a great post idea…

      • Stephanie June 9, 2015 at 10:04 am

        Ha ha! You should be the one giving me ideas, you have blogged for way longer than I have :)!

  • Adam @ AdamChudy.com June 8, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Great post. I’ve been trying a clothing shopping ban. It may not cover everything, but I’m not adding to the shirt collection I never fully utilize.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:07 am

      Haha, that’s great, Adam! I dated someone who had 100+ t-shirts (no joke). That’s enough to last your whole life, I would bet. :P

  • Jessica June 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Brilliant post, exactly what unneeded to read right now!
    Thank you!

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:07 am

      Thank YOU, Jessica!

  • Reneew June 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Cait! Congrats and huge thanks for sharing your wisdom!
    I am wondering what you did to accumulate money in your “Shopping Ban Account” – was it the same value put away each pay? I am considering giving a shopping ban a try and want ideas on how to track the saved money. I have only $6,800 left of debt and suspect a shopping ban will help with the last push.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:09 am

      I should probably write about this when it’s all over, but I essentially started by putting in $100/month so I was saving the amount I wasn’t spending on takeout coffee, and then slowly upped that to $200 and now $250. I also put in the money for any items I sold (more than $500 worth) and extra money here and there. I imagine a shopping ban would bring many benefits, even beyond just the extra money you could put towards your debt. :)

  • Joey Sapien June 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Currently, if we’d run into any extra money, we put the bulk of it in towards our 3 months salary fund or for the new car. We consider something like an economical car a necessity but we won’t want to finance it. Most of the windfall would go in savings. For example, if we had an extra $5000 come into the household, we’d put most of it ($4800) towards this kind of savings. The $200 that would be left would be fun money we can spend knowing that we made the responsible decision with the bulk of the $$. Usually we save up for big family purchases or personal ones. We never put anything on credit. Avoiding credit and saving up for any purchase helps in the long run. Sometimes you decide that the thing you were saving up for is not really necessary once you have the cash and are ready to make the purchase. It’s nice to see a healthy account balance. Great way to counter the instant gratification urge.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:12 am

      “It’s nice to see a healthy account balance. Great way to counter the instant gratification urge.” YES! I couldn’t agree more with that, Joey. Watching my investments go up over the last year has been great… but I also love watching the Shopping Ban account grow! It’s definitely a source of encouragement to keep going.

  • Sylvia June 8, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Any extra money I got or won, I would put towards my debt. But if I had absolutely no debt, I would spend it on a nice date night at a fancy restaurant or a couples massage. The rest I would save/invest.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Well, a date night sounds ok to me, Sylvia – not a waste of money at all. :)

  • Ayu June 9, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Hi Cait,

    I just listened to mo money podcast, and guess what there’s you speaking :)

    If I got an extra of USD 50, can I just get myself one small splurge of quesadillas and lemon tea… god, it’s been so long since my last eat-out occasion. screw you debt repayment

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:15 am

      Hey, Ayu! I’m so glad you got a chance to listen to our interview! It was fun to record :) and yes, I think that sounds pretty good right about now, too. It’s ok to spend a little bit of money on yourself when you’re in debt repayment mode. :)

  • Tre June 9, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Something changed for us in the last couple years. Now any extra money goes towards paying down debt. We were recently talking about what we would do with extra money after the debt was paid. Buying more stuff wasn’t high on our list.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 6:15 am

      What WAS high on the list? :)

  • Caitlin June 9, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Good thoughts! I’ve been on a “low spend” month and kicking myself for not always being so circumspect with my purchases.

    Right now, extra money is going towards savings and knocking down debt. I have debt for the first time in my life (hellooo house, new car, and baby on the way!) so I really, really, REALLY want to knock a lot of it down.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Ooo yes, that’s a lot to be dealing with! Sounds like you know where things stand, though. (And debt for the first time ever!? That’s incredible!)

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore June 9, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Great post Cait! I love the new attitude you have for “extra” money. Like you, I’ve always planned how much I’d be earning and how I’d spend it before I even got my money. I’m trying to do better about that though.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      It’s a tough habit to kick! I don’t think I stopped until I did the shopping ban…

  • Stephen @ How To Save Money June 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Normally I wouldn’t have an answer for this question because if there is something that I want enough, I usually just buy it. I try not to overdo it though and make sure I can afford it first.

    Right now, the thing I’d like to have is an upgraded video card for my desktop PC. My current one must be close to 3-4 years old now and it wasn’t top of the line when I bought it (I think it was $100). I’ve been doing some Free To Play video gaming lately as my most recent blog post mentions and I always have to set the graphics to the lowest setting. I probably wouldn’t spend $500, but probably $200.

    The only thing preventing me from actually doing it though is the time to find the right card, install it, and set it up – it seems daunting to me right now so I’ll put it off a little longer.

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      Ha, it’s funny the way projects can actually stop us from spending money. I keep thinking it’d be nice to do some painting and what not… but… eh! Too much work, haha.

  • allroundbetterme June 9, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks for this post… got me thinking that’s for sure…
    You totally called it with saying that I’d start thinking of what I would do with the extra money when I read the title… before I read the post… Most had to do with wedding stuff or home renovations… But it is interesting to see that we automatically make plans for extra money…

    • Cait Flanders June 9, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      I think you’re the first to admit that – but it’s so true, right? My brain probably would’ve done it when I first read that headline, but instead I felt so enraged by the question because I knew it was going to tell people to spend money. (That being said, when you have a wedding coming up, wishing extra money was around is probably normal!)

  • liu June 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I was a complete shopaholic at one point when my life was in chaos; I tried to correct the issues by acquiring more external stuff. Building walls of things/clothes/magazines etc that I had to climb (literally) on a daily basis.
    Things have changed since and now I make very curated lists of things to buy; these things will be ones I actually need. I’m able to buy that quality item I want rather than getting a few ‘almost but not quite’ items that inevitably ends up as regrets.
    I still have work to do but with a $50/100 I would buy a bathing suit, it was the lone item on my ‘approved shopping’ for summer. If I had more money I would invest it.
    Thanks for writing an inspiring blog and keep up the good work!

    • Cait Flanders June 11, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Hey, if it’s on the approved shopping list, that sounds ok to me! And thanks for sharing some of your experiences here, Liu. It’s always nice to connect with others who have changed their level of consumption. Here’s to more money in our savings accounts in the future. :)

  • Megan S June 9, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    At the moment any windfall we got would mainly go towards paying extra off our mortgage (our only debt). We’d probably also do some travel and then invest the rest.

    • Cait Flanders June 11, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      Sounds good to me, Megan!

  • Kurt June 10, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Sounds like your shopping ban has helped you realize in a tangible way that our quest for happiness through acquiring more stuff just doesn’t work! I wonder how much collective progress we could make toward financial independence and secure retirements if more of us could get to that same point of enlightenment. :)

    • Cait Flanders June 11, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      Nope, it certainly does not work! I now have less stuff than ever before, have barely bought anything all year and am happier than ever. I wish I could transfer how good this feels onto everyone I meet. :)

  • Devan June 10, 2015 at 8:28 am

    This post really made me think. You’re so right, as soon as the idea of “free money” is presented, my brain jumps to all these random things I might buy or do, instead of to my financial goals. It’s so interesting to recognize that instinct and think about where it comes from. I always come away from your writing feeling awakened and aware, Cait. Thanks and congratulations on the success and longevity of the blog!

    • Cait Flanders June 11, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      I’m so glad this post made you think, Devan. I knew I had to write it as soon as I saw that post on Pinterest, because it actually enraged me to see that someone was promoting spending. (Maybe enraged is an aggressive word, but it bugged me!) Thanks for the kind words, too. :)

  • Dane Hinson June 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

    It’s so difficult not to spend an unexpected windfall on things that you “want”. For me, I will always prioritize any unexpected income in the same manner as I do my regular paychecks: debt elimination, emergency savings, retirement and my children’s 529. Putting this extra money toward your goal takes discipline but will pay you back a hundred times over.

    • Cait Flanders June 11, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Those all sound like good priorities to me, Dane! And your last sentence said it all. :)

  • Bob at MoreMoneyThanMonth.com June 12, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Great article. This was me for many years of my life. Everytime I would get a raise at work the first thought was what I could now buy with the extra money. Then I’d wonder why I never had anything left over at the end of the month. Finally had to stop and realize the problem was me.

    • Cait Flanders June 15, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      It’s a tough pill to swallow… but once it’s down, it feels better knowing you’re in control of all the money you get. :)

  • Kath June 14, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Congrats Cait – that’s an awesome milestone! Here’s to many more happy bloggity years :-)

    Seeing as I’m $3, 016.95 away from being debt-free, if I came across $50 or $500, it would go towards debt.

    If $5000 came my way, I’d pay off the rest of my debt, set aside $1500 to start my $16,000 emergency fund and 483.05 would go towards a new iPhone 6 (I’m still using a 4S that dies every day) a passport and debt-free pizza celebration with my family :-)

    • Cait Flanders June 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Ha! So we were in the same boat with our 4S’ then (mine died daily until it died for good). I LOVE that you allocated funds for your passport; that one is a-ok in my books. As is the pizza. ;)

  • crystal June 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    happy blogiversary. i think i have been hear silently following your journey for most of it. amazing journey to watch thats for sure. Lots of changes, yet many constants, always inspiring! can’t wait to keep following and learning along with you.

    • Cait Flanders June 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Thank you so much, Crystal. :)

  • Catherine July 21, 2015 at 3:55 am

    I came across your blog through Becoming Minimalist. I’m currently reading it backwards and loving your take on life. When I saw the title, my immediate thought was it would go in my savings account towards my Masters degree! It’s where any funds I’ve made from getting rid of my possessions are going and I’ve been suprised how quickly this attitude change has caused the savings to mount up. I’ve been reflecting on the process of letting things go on my blog and while I’m by no means on a shopping ban, you have helped me feel it might be possible! Thank you

  • jamie July 29, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Love your blog, Cait. I found it through Becoming Minimalist as well. After moving across the country with a few of my belongings for a job after university, I ended up working a pretty decent salary job and living the same way I did in university, not eating out at restaurants, all my activities were outdoor, so I did a pretty OK job of saving up enough money and not spending it on extras. I did end up developing a bad shopping habit out of boredom though, and have been selling and donating a lot of the excess I’ve accumulated over the past four years and being much more mindful of what I’m spending money on. I have lately started spending A LOT on travel. Plane tickets are the big cost, I try to be frugal when I get to my destination. I was gifted a good sum of money from my parents for Christmas and usually I’d save it, but I had to go on a whim to spend it on my dream trip to Antarctica. And it was worth every single thousands of dollars I spent :-) I’ve gone back to my frugal ways after returning from the trip, but I am enjoying learning that frugality in every day life frees up money for amazing life experiences. I’d love to become a freelancer, I work in engineering so I’m not sure how to get into freelancing in that field yet, but I’m always inspired by people such as yourself that become their own boss. Keep up the good work.

  • Abbey Abbott September 7, 2015 at 8:06 am

    This is a great post, Cait! It’s one I initially skipped for later while binge-reading your entire blog the last couple weeks (instead of watching TV, haha) but I found my way back to it this lovely holiday Monday morning:) This post got me thinking about my birthday next month (and we all know Christmas will be here before we know it). How do you handle people, like family, asking you for gift ideas for your birthday and such, especially while you are in the midst of your shopping ban? Part of me (kinda a big part) wants to ask for gift cards so I can go shop. I’m currently implementing my own shopping ban, but it’s technically not my own money, right?! But then I think about needs vs. wants and the realizations I’ve come to while on this shopping ban/mindful budgeting journey, and running out to spend money on crap just doesn’t seem as appealing now. How do you handle gift-giving and receiving at this point, and how did you handle it when you were just starting your journey?

  • Paul December 1, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Maybe most people won’t relate, but I’m 25 years old with a regular job and zero debt, except for 3 mortgages, and I’ve accumulated 3 rental properties. If I won 1 million dollars, I would quit on good terms and start a full time real estate investment company. My life would not change at all from what it is currently, (fully paid off cheap car, one room rental because I’m single) just be following my passion, and any dividends I get from my rentals would primarily be going into charities and further reinvestment on more real estate ventures.

    • Paul December 1, 2015 at 11:53 am

      Oh and those smaller amounts 50,500, 5000 dollars, my life wouldn’t change one bit either LOL, straight into savings/investments