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“Cuz we are living in a material world and I am a….material girl who is living below my means” – Tip

I work very hard. I deserve to have nice things. I remember my first promotion at work and immediately planning a shopping spree to break in my new salary. I bought a new Coach tote bag, lots of shoes, work dresses, and jewelry. It didn’t matter that I was paying only the minimum amounts on my student loans each month. I was paying them, along with all my other bills. I mean that’s more than some could say. I was being responsible and this was my reward. It felt good that I could pay all my bills on time and splurge a little. I was living at my means, so I was good right? Not quite. Now I know my experience with shopping isn’t the worst there could possibly be, but as I’ve gotten older, personal financial management has become very important to me and led me to explore the behaviors of why we spend the way we do and how we can begin to think differently about our finances.

Why do we, as rapper Fabolous might say, “Just throw it in the bag?”

So when did we as a society move from minimalism to a life of materialism? My grandmother’s house is approximately 1100 square feet. Two adults and three children lived in that space. I currently live in a 1600 square foot home with my husband and almost two year old and feel like we will be outgrowing the space soon. According to NPR.org, the average American house size has more than doubled since the 1950s. Double the space to consume things, most of which we probably do not need. What would compel a person to spend money on items they don’t need. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Dress to impress – We want to keep up with the Joneses. We want to make a good impression around our friends and family. Our need to impress others can sometimes come down to our sense of self-worth. Self-worth is important and necessary, but can cause us to try to live up to a standard that isn’t achievable nor sustainable (goodbye savings account).

Bad Habit – I never once have gone to the mall to just “look.” Some people shop because they like to look around. If you’re one of those people, realize that you probably have a shopping habit you need to break. Buying in to the concept of window shopping is the gateway to overconsumption. Being around all those new and shiny things is temptation that most can’t handle. Break the window shopping habit and “Shop with Purpose!”

Poor Planning – I hate when I come home from the grocery store only to find out I’ve spent money on items already in the fridge or pantry. Buying too much of something you don’t need right now can lead to waste and for food that means money in the garbage. With other items like clothing, I’ve adopted the concept of first going “Shopping in my closet.” I see what I have first before adding more to the closet. I often find that I still have things with tags on them. Thinking about what we already have and findin