Using What You Already Own

My wife and I use our spending cash to handle all the little things your typically buy yourself like a cup of coffee or a lunch out.  We both get $200/month each to fund whatever we want and if you don’t use it we are free to save it up for something else.  Essentially, it our way to ensure we have some money to spend guilt free without having to check in with it other.  The only expectation between us it we will use it to buy the odd bit of groceries for the house.  For example, some milk, eggs and bread.

Now January usually is a low spending month, after all, you just got a lot of stuff after Christmas so you typically don’t need much, but this month I have by accident taken it to extreme.  I have spent less than $25 of my spending cash for almost the entire month.  How did I do this?

Well I can tell you I wasn’t doing some super controlled spending challenge, or pinching my pennies till they squeaked.  Nope, it happened partly by accident and the other part of it was on purpose.

The first reason this low spending occurred is: my default state in life is to not spend money.  Pardon?!? I know it’s a bit odd, but perhaps I should approach this from the other side.  I know many people who consider that you have to spend money to have fun in life.  For example, to have fun with friends you must go out to a restaurant, pub, movies, etc.  Or to enjoy time as a family you must go out swimming or go to a movie at the theater.  Our lives are basically the opposite of that: how do I do things I enjoy without spending money (or very little money).  So to hang out as a family we go sledding with the kids at a local hill that is a five minute drive away and then we have hot chocolate with way too many marshmallows when we get home. Or we have friends over for supper and play games afterwards while the kids watch a movie in the other room.

The second reason is a bit of conscious exercise that I plan to do this year which is simple put: use the stuff I already own.  It may seem odd, but I noticed people tend to have the habit of always seeking out things they don’t have.  We want the new shirt or shoes; we want the latest movie, video game or a new book.  Yet we tend to ignore the huge pile of stuff we ALREADY own and don’t use much (if at all).

So to show a bit more respect to those previously spent dollars I’m making an effort this year to use what I already own.  I want to reread my favorite books, re-watch my favorite movies and TV shows, and use the recreation gear I already have (like roller blades and golf clubs).  I want to use our good dishes for the occasional Sunday supper.  I want to dig around my house and rediscover what I have forgotten we own (like the old Wii games or the video games that are already on my hard drive) and do projects with materials I already have.  Or cook with those spices and other food items I bought for one or two recipes and largely forgotten about.

Rather than looking for more without, I’m going to look for more within.  If nothing else, it should be a fun year.  So do you remember to use what you own?  If so, do you find it helps you spend less without much effort?

6 thoughts on “Using What You Already Own”

  1. Two hundred each a month is almost $5000 a year. I agree with the philosophy (some private, unaccounted for spending) but we keep it around $30 a month.

    In the same way that it can become a habit to automatically think of activities that cost money as a way to have fun, it can become an interesting challenge to see how the same/similar thing, be it entertainment or an item, be obtained for much less or no cost. The pleasure/thrill of ‘getting a deal’ taken to the ultimate.

    The other trick I use (I must credit the venerable Tightwad Gazette) is to be fair and acknowledge that x (at 10 times the cost) is better than y but is it ten times better? If not, go with a cheaper option.

  2. Good point about reusing stuff you already own. One tabletop baseball game, called Strat-o-Matic, I play a lot and bought more than 40 years ago. I played the game a lot in the 1970s and 1980s before becoming uninterested in playing it and lacking the time to play it when I was working full-time. I use the large amount of cards I bought back in the 1980s but I acquired mostly through trades and some generosity of fellow Strat players a few more Strat cards from the 1970s and 1980s. Playing this game again in the last 12 years has been like playing a brand new game and the costs have been extremely minimal.

    I have reread several books but have also read many new books from the best free source around – the public library system.

  3. I’m doing the slow declutter too; using all the odds and ends around the house. Today I’m wearing a free volunteer shirt from 12 years ago, weekend wear is devoted to old clothes.

    One of the fun tasks is to use up point rewards cards. I cashed in several hundred dollars last year to get Home Depot products. Before that I converted some Esso points from 10 years ago into RBC points just to get enough to redeem. EWB is asking for donations of aeroplan points, charities are a great way to use up remnants.

    From CRA, cashing in for merchandise is tax free. Cashing in points for cash can be taxable. If you have an extreme points balance, say from using a personal credit card for work purchases, some caution is advisable.

  4. Good post. Very true that you should look towards what you already own prior to buying new “stuff”. If you can have a good time without throwing money away, might as well keep it for a time when you will get something more out of it. Like a vacation!

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