How do I stop spending?!?!?!?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-22-2003
How do I stop spending?!?!?!?
Wed, 10-22-2003 - 4:37pm
I need your suggestions for how to stop spending on things that I DON'T NEED!!!!

I am not completely out of control with my spending. BUT, I'm a stay-at-home mom who can sometimes end up spending twice my monthly budget of $600. This $600 goes to groceries, diapers, gas, aol subscription, and miscellaneous. I've set a budget and I have just enough to go around. But, I'm having SO much trouble sticking to it.

Here's what I know. I spend money out of boredom and frustration. I have two kids, 4 and 2, and I find myself going to stores just to get out of the house. And then once I'm there I spend! Or I end up going to a fast food place because either we're busy and need to pick something up quickly or, as I said before, I get bored and want to get the kids out of the house. I spend money on magazines at the grocery store just to amuse myself for a little while when the kids are napping. I spend money on clothes for the kids or myself that, in reality, I don't REALLY need. I don't shop at expensive stores or buy expensive clothes but it all adds up and it adds up pretty fast!

I sometimes have all the best intentions in the world but in the heat of the moment I end up spending anyway!

I need your best tips and suggestions for how to control my impulses and/or avoid this 'boredom' spending!



Avatar for sarahfran
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 10-22-2003 - 4:57pm
Oh, I've been there! Maternity leave was awful for me the first time around because I'd go to Target or Babies R Us just to get out of the house and once I was there, I'd spend on just about anything and always have a way of justifying it.

It's actually pretty easy to not spend money, I've found. First thing is to ONLY spend cash. If you don't have the cash, you don't get anything. Use an envelope system for budgeted items--we put our biweekly grocery money in an envelope and shop from there. Once the money is gone, no more groceries. It makes you really think twice about getting that tub of ice cream, knowing that you'll have to buy at least two more gallons of milk before the week is out.

Stay away from places where spending money is even an option. If you're going to places just to get out of the house with the kids, post a list on the fridge of places you can take the kids where you won't spend money: the library, a park, friends' houses, a construction site (my kids, also 4 and 2, love watching machines at work). Look up free things to do in your area with kids--there are all sorts of story times, concerts, etc. during the week and on weekends that are great for preschoolers. If you just have this list for handy reference, you won't be as tempted to fall back on your usual haunts.

Consider a membership at a child-friendly organization. It'll cost money up front, but it'll give you a fun place to go for free during the year: a zoo, aquarium, science museum, or similar place that is always open during the day.

Before you buy ANYTHING, ask yourself if you really need it. Once I got into that habit, I found myself putting back things that I used to buy even before I had financial problems. It really saves a lot of money just to question everything.

Good luck!


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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-27-2003
Wed, 10-22-2003 - 5:38pm
I am facing the same problem, but I do have a couple suggestions. First off, if there's some big ticket item you have set your sights on, (for me it's furniture & a new vehicle) wrap a rubber band around your checkbook & slip a photo of your goal item under the rubber band. That makes me look at my goal every time I spend & helps me prioritize. I always make a list when shopping for EVERYTHING & I stick to it. I do include stuff like gum & magazines on my list once in a while. One thing that keeps me occupied is to have activities planned out in advance & written on the calendar. We might decide to spend $30 one week to entertain us. Well I will plan an outing w/ friends to McD's playplace, a free trip like storytime or a picnic at the park, and maybe a matinee of a kid movie or bowling or whatever. That takes up 3 days out of the week and the other days are "mommy days" where the kids have to amuse themselves with their toys, art supplies, etc. so I can get housework & if necessary, errands done. But I always try to have a *plan* and the kids know that they have "kid days" so it cuts down on them whining for outings. I do try to always eat at home & I carry snacks in my car & bag so as to eliminate the drive-thru trips that are not planned. I have spent WAY less $$ since I joined the local YMCA. It gives all of us a place to go to get out of the house, they have tons of activities and lessons available for the kids & I have never felt so fit. I recommend joining something- a moms club, a homeschool co-op, the Y, whatever- it's a great alternative to spending $$ daily just 'cuz you're bored. Good Luck!! I am looking forward to what others have to say about this- its a tough one. Dawn
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Wed, 10-22-2003 - 6:09pm
The only way to stop spending is to stop shopping. It's that simple and a lesson I was forced to learn when my kids were 4 & 5, and my dh lost his job. I immediately cut out all shopping with the exception of grocery shopping, which I cut from every week to every two weeks. I bought every thing at the grocery, including paper goods and toiletries, which on special is still as cheap as shopping around, and certainly cheaper than going to Target where I'd see so many things I "needed".

You do need to find substitutes. I've learned to love the library. I go to a couple of different ones. They have free videos, DVD's, books on tape, kids story time, crafts, and I only read magazines that are there. Find a playgroup that alternates at different homes. Invite other moms with kids to meet you in a park.

To keep from feeling deprived, you and your dh should each have an allowance that can be spent without explaining. It depends on your income. We had $20 back then, but now that DH has a good job and I work parttime, we each get $60 (mine is for me and the kids). That covers haircuts, meals out, movies, etc. We can either blow it each week or save for something that we really want.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-10-2003
Wed, 10-22-2003 - 6:47pm
I have to echo the other posters here, you will have to identify your "trigger spots" (actually, it sounds like you did already - the grocery store, the mall) and strategize ways to get around the inevitable result of going there. Don't be embarrassed to just completely avoid them, rather than testing yourself to see if you can handle it. Until you get new routines and habits established, just don't "go there" at all.

With a 2 and a 4 year old, there are just so many fun places to go and do and see and experience and it can all be done on a shoestring. The other posters had great suggestions, like the parks, libraries, zoos, museums, and other kid-friendly places. Do you have truck or airplane aficionados? Go to a construction site and groove on the earthmovers. My brother used to take his ds out to the airport and just sit and watch the planes take off and land. His ds was *fascinated* with this and could watch it for hours! My own children used to get the biggest kick out of taking the bus for some reason. If you have lots of time on your hands, start to walk places instead of always driving (also a plus for the gas and car repair bills). You see lots more interesting things that way. Why not get out and explore new places in your own city? Go on an adventure (and pack your lunch)! And of course, there's nothing like networking and socializing to put an end to boredom or loneliness-induced spending. There are so many moms out there who are interested in meeting other moms to do things with their kids. If you belong to a church, you could look into MOPS. That's a great way to meet other moms. Or, as was suggested, through your local Y or another community group.

Good luck and have fun!

Jane in CT

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 10-22-2003 - 8:07pm
What I've done is I've completely stopped shopping. I did one last (sounds so ominous, LOL) huge trip, mostly for groceries, last month and now I'm commited to not going to the store (any store at all). I send DH for what we need fresh (and really special loss leaders sales).

From experience I know that if I cut spending at other stores (like Target), I'll simply make up for it at the grocery store (I didn't go to Target, I deserve chocolate covered grahams, LOL) So I'm trying to avoid that this time. Although I don't think I shop out of boredom, I have other issues LOL.

Carrie :)

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-22-2003
Thu, 10-23-2003 - 12:45am
Thank you all for your responses! I've gathered some great ideas from your replies.

As all of you with children know, I am hardly sitting here all day twiddling my thumbs. The kids keep me quite busy and I am involved in a couple of local playgroups and we go to the zoo and parks (except in the winter because I live in Minnesota! BBRRR!!). We meet with other moms. The boredom is mental boredome. It comes from the fact that it's always ALL about the kids. I used to have a great job where I was around lots of interesting adults who talked politics, geography, entertainment, whatever! And let's face it, when you go on a playdate with your kids you just don't get to talk about anything except kids! I used to play soccer once or twice a week. I used to be surrounded by friends and family but now we live about 800 miles away from all of them. I've avoided doing stuff for myself just because it seemed to hard - I was too tired, busy, feeling guilty, etc. I know how lucky I am to get to stay home with my kids and I never forget that. Still, I need to reclaim part of my old life or make a new life for myself. One that gives me a little bit of my independence back. That's what I miss the most, I think.

Sorry to rant and rave. I just realize that there are some things missing in my life and I think that's where this needless spending comes from. And I thought maybe some of you could relate.

Anyway, I'm going to try to sign up for a soccer team. I'm going to look into joining a local mom's group - one that sometimes meets withOUT the kids. I'm sure I could talk a few moms that I know into meeting once in a while without the kids. I'm going to be more organized about making a weekly menu plan and work out a grocery list from that. I'm going to shop at the grocery store only ONCE a week. And I'm going to avoid Sam's because that store just gets me into trouble! I'm going to make better use of the library. If I can go once every couple of weeks by myself then I'll actually be able to get some things for myself and I can check the schedule for upcoming kids activities. And maybe I'll look at joining the YMCA or something similar if I can do it without spending too much money. I also like the idea of just not carrying much cash - if any at all. It makes me a little nervous to not have cash but I know that if I have it then I find a way to spend it!

I'm going to take baby steps though! Rome wasn't built in a day and I don't want to totally stress myself out with all of this at once! : >

Thanks for the ideas and inspiration!


Avatar for sarah_at_home
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Thu, 10-23-2003 - 9:02am
Maybe you just need to get out of the house to a center with social activities.

I do that once or twice a week and it's not only fun, it's free. We go to a Family Resource Center - there are different toys for my little one to play with, a chance to sit with other adults, and organized art activities for the children.

Probably you could find some room in there somewhere for a sitter once a week. That would give you time for an adult activity. My resource center is thinking about having knitting lessons during the day, with child care provided in a different room. They recognize the need for us moms to have a life apart from the children (Hooray!)

I do most of my necessities shopping, ie clothes, either at a thrift store (where damages due to unscheduled purchases are very much minimized) or by mail order (the prices are higher but quality is good and I don't have to go to the store which can be a muddling experience with children along).

Another thing I do is every couple of weeks we have a guest for a meal. This helps keep me focused on my home and how comfortable I feel in it. It makes it more of a public place that I don't feel the need to 'escape' from. If your friends have children, then your children can all play together and you can have a chance at an adult conversation. Emailing those old friends from work can also be a nice outlet. I'm in a reading program for classical literature, it's very informal, but I have quite a few contacts of people I can talk to about stuff I read, write, think. I started the reading program when I knew I would be having another baby. While not having immediate social benefits, being able to think and write critically is important, keeping up with something that interests you is a good idea, because you have to look into the future when your children are grown. It's important not to abandon what's at the core of you.


Edited 10/23/2003 9:10:57 AM ET by sarah_at_home

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Thu, 10-23-2003 - 9:17am

Take your credit cards, debit card, and checkbook out of your purse when you go out. Seriously! That is the only thing that keeps me from spending. Take just enough cash with you so that if you do want to get lunch, you'll have money.

This has worked for me.


My precious Sydney at 1 yr old

Avatar for teri_b
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 10-23-2003 - 11:16am
Been lurking but decided to post to this one.

ITA with you! I have a small wallet - when we go to the mall I take just enough cash for what I plan to buy. The rest of my purse - checkbook, debit card, etc stays in the tunk. If I'm not planning on buying anything (just going to walk around for exercise and window shop) I'll stick $5 in my pocket, and put my whole purse in the trunk of the car. If I find something that's more than the $5 in my pocket that I think we absolutely can't live without then I have the time it takes to walk out to the car to decide if it's really worth it (usually it's not).

Even though you're trying to stop spending, I believe that you should give yourself a SMALL allowance - $5-$10 a week. Enough for a treat now and then. For a special treat, eat lunch at home take them to McD's and buy yourself a small soda (free refills!), read a book/magazine and drink it while they play - from experience my kids don't usually eat/drink much when we're there anyway. It's a fun break for them, (especially in the winter) and it gives you some mommy time too.

And definately - find something not kid related to do. If you belong to a church/synagogue see if they have any sort of weekday "mom" groups - I know mine has a weekly bible study with a sitter in a separate room. We pay her $1 per kid each week, but it's worth it as a sanity saver!

Avatar for heidee0
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Thu, 10-23-2003 - 11:39am

I won't repeat all the other great suggestions. I just want you to know I have been there and done that too w/infant twins (who just last week turned 8 y/o). DO find something to do for just YOU. My DH had to force me into it, I made up so many excuses as to why I couldn't manage it.

Heidi, mom to Patrick & Connor, 8.