While I’ve always been pretty smart with my money, and I’ve never really been in a place where my outgoings have exceeded my income, I have definitely been in some not-so-great places when it comes to my spending habits. Going straight out of school and into a job in one of the biggest high street fashion stores, a huge portion of my wages went straight back into my workplace. There was always something new, something more fashionable, and something else that I just had to have. I can remember that I bought so many things because I thought they were pretty, even though I was never going to wear them. High heels were a key culprit, something I’ve never found to be comfortable, and more particularly so from that shop because I fell between two sizes. I can’t count how many pairs of slightly-too-big or slightly-too-small shoes I ended up with during that time, and I can tell you that I don’t own a single pair of them now.
When I moved out of fashion, my spending habits evolved. I also moved out of home, so I had rent and bills to pay, and I needed to be more of an adult. At this time I also began getting more into minimalism, which influenced my decision-making. Tracking my spending around this time, however, shone a light on a different kind of habit – food. I’d got into a routine of going out for tea and cake, popping to the shop up the road to stock up on snacks whenever cravings hit, and ditching home cooked meals for Domino’s pizza on the weekends. Until I saw it down on paper, I really didn’t realise how much these things added up, and without a lot of disposable income I found that I was eating more than half of it.
More recently, when I moved across the country and started a new job last year, my spending took a different kind of turn. I found that I didn’t have enough clothes to comfortably see me through the week, so I immediately went to the shops and picked up a few things that would fit the bill. The problem, though, was that I didn’t think those purchases through. I opted for low-cost high street items, and I fell out of love with them quickly because they never really felt like I me in the first place. I did this a couple of times over the course of 6 months, and when I came to re-evaluate my wardrobe early this year, I found that so many of the things that I didn’t put back were the things that I’d bought most recently.
That was a powerful moment for me, and one that shifted my attitude to spending to one led more by intention.
There are a few key things that I now consider when I spend my money: that I want to be more ethical; that I want to be more creative; and that I want to invest in things that I plan to use for years to come. Primarily, this focuses on things like clothes and accessories, but it also helps to inform decisions around beauty (I’m planning to start making my own products) and food (I’ll avoid food waste and packaging wherever I can).
Now, I think about what I want my purchases to represent. I was recently in need of some new shoes after my previous pair wore through on the soles. I spent some time researching ethical footwear brands instead of heading to the high street, and I considered what I was willing to pay. In the past, I’d always go for the cheapest option, but now I want to invest my money in pieces that align with my values, fit with my wardrobe, and will hopefully last. I decided to buy a pair of Veja trainers for £85. That’s one of my most expensive purchases ever, but I wholeheartedly believe that it was worth it.
I’m also in that same position I was last year, where I need a few more key pieces in my wardrobe to see me through the next season. I’ve got a really small wardrobe, so a couple of extra short sleeved items will go a long way in keeping me cool throughout the week in the warmer months. Instead of hitting the high street though, I’m investing in fabric purchases. This way I can create exactly the kind of garments I want in the fabrics I want, size each item to fit my body rather than a retailers standard, and engage in one of my favourite creative passions – sewing. In allowing myself to spend money in this way, I’m multiplying the positivity I feel considerably.
As I move forward with my spending, I’ll be willing to pay out more for an item than I used to, but I’ll be buying much less. I’ll be investing in things that are ethical, and avoiding things that are wasteful. I’ll be looking intently at how something fits with what I already have, to make sure everything I purchase gets used. It’s a much more intentional approach to spending, and I know it’s going to lead to so many good things in the long-run.