The one simple hack that stopped by impulse spending

I wish I could honestly say that I haven't had episodes of impulse spending, but I'd be lying.

Thankfully I don't have them much anymore, and when I do, they cause a lot less damage. So while I'm getting closer to my goal of being truly frugal, and saving as much money as I possibly can, I'm not there yet.

But I had an epiphany lately that stopped my impulse spending urges dead in their tracks.

I've wanted to have a greenhouse built in my back yard for at least two years, but I didn't have the green to build a greenhouse.

A few weeks ago the gentle reminders that I want a greenhouse someday turned into insistent and persistent urgings. It was like those electronic billboards you see on the interstate - only mine was saying "Greenhouse. Now. Greenhouse. Now!"

At the time I didn't understand why I was being led so forcefully to have the greenhouse built (I do now, but that's a story for another post).

I finally responded by saying "OK, God. I get it. You want me to build a greenhouse, but surely you know that I don't have the money to do that now, so if you want me to get it done, bring me the right person to build it at a fair price and bring me the money to pay him."

Within 48 hours I'd connected with an awesome and very handy handyman on I sent him a picture from Pinterest of my "design inspiration" and explained that I wanted to build it on an old concrete slab that wasn't level. He couldn't have been kinder or more patient with me, going through several iterations of the plan until we came up with a greenhouse solution that I loved, that he could make work on the site, and most importantly, that I could afford.

My deal with God (I know... but this is how we roll sometimes) was that I'd charge the lumber and other materials on my Home Depot card, but that I needed him to bring the money to pay for the labor. I knew how much I needed, added a $50 cushion just in case, and put it out there.

Almost immediately money started showing up... a check for 50 copies of a book I'd written, a travel expense reimbursement check, $35 in coins from my fun money jar, $37 from an old account that I'd forgotten about years ago...And, as if all that wasn't enough, my wonderful mother sent a very generous contribution to my greenhouse fund. Thank you, Mom!

Within 10 days, by cobbling together large and small amounts of money from a variety of sources, I'd manifested a bit more than I actually needed. In addition to being a wonderful demonstration of the power and the beauty of manifesting, as well as being in alignment with God's plan (even if we don't yet know what it is), the experience reminded me of the old saying that "Every little bit counts."

But it also taught me another really important lesson. If every little bit of money coming in adds up, the opposite is also true. Every little bit of money going out adds up too!

So, that $1 Sweet Tea from McDonald's that I love, all the little items I buy for $1 each from The Dollar Tree, and those fun foods from Aldi that I don't really need but that look so good may seem like small purchases at the time, but they really do add up.

Don't believe me? Take a look at your most recent bank statement and see how much you've spent on small, seemingly inconsequential purchases. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Although I'm not always proud of it, I can be very competitive. But the good news is that I mostly compete against myself by coming up with ways to "gamify" new habits that I want to develop, so that's what I did with my impulse spending. I decided to challenge myself to Zero Spend Days. This meant tracking how many Zero Spend Days I could have in a month and how many consecutive Zero Spending Days I could string together.

My goal? Rather than picking a specific number of days per week or month that would be Zero Spend, my competitive alter ego decided to focus instead on how many consecutive Zero Spend Days I could have. I found that after a few Zero Spend Days in a row, I didn't want to break the chain if I didn't have to. So, if I was tempted to go through the drive-thru at McDonald's to grab that $1 Sweet Tea, I found myself asking if it was really worth breaking my Zero Spend Day chain and then have to start over again at zero tomorrow. It wasn't.

The other surprise was that when I was tempted to purchase something that I didn't absolutely need at the moment, and it was otherwise going to be a Zero Spend Day, I held off on making that purchase thinking that I'd wait until a day that I had to spend money on something else. More often than not, when I delayed that purchase for a few days, I decided that I really didn't need it anyway. Shopping on and saving things in my cart until I'm ready to check-out, and either buying them or saving them for later is a great way to defer expenses without having to search for them again when you're really ready to buy.

Interested in learning more about the Zero-Spend or Zero-Dollar Days Method? Check out Money Goals! Mom of Three Paid of $70K Using the Zero-Dollar Days Method - See Why It Might Work for You, How Zero-Dollar Days Made Me More Mindful of My Money, or visit Erika's No Spend Challenge board on Pinterest.

How long can you go?