How to Shop Smart: The Millennial Way

We're renaissance women. We want to live well, dress sharp, decorate beautiful homes, work creatively, look good, start businesses, go out with friends, and travel the world... all while being financially responsible. I wish I could say I saved when I had a salary, but it seems anything I make, I find a way to spend it. "Oh! I'd like to make my place feel homey. My kitchen needs essentials! I've got to get new active wear because it motivates me to workout! It's so and so's birthday / anniversary / baby shower! Zara is having a huge sale!!" I've realized 3 things: 1.) life is expensive but 2.) a well-rounded life makes me happy, 3.) so I need to discipline myself.

After so many years of working and making a decent income, I just can't figure out how people can manage the essential expenses while saving money and, then, still be able to outfit their lives. I don't spend extravagantly by any means. Some months, I don't spend a dime on non-essentials, but other months, I go overboard on toiletries and food. It's an unhealthy cycle. However, I don't want to live so frugally that I don't enjoy the fruits of my labor, but I also need to control my finances for the long-term. I do think we can have it all -- the question is how?

I'm not a financial adviser by any means, but I know me and I know my spending habits. There's just no way I can cut spending cold turkey, so I had to come up with a new strategy. I analyzed my 2014 spending and what I've spent the first half of this year. What I found was I spend roughly $3000 on non-essentials a year. Non-essentials include clothes, shoes, books, electronics, and home stuff. Not great but not awfully terrible (trying to make myself feel better here). It's about 5% of my total income after my monthly expenses and savings. The thing is - I spend impulsively and justify the little things (like the $20 Forever 21 heels), which add up to a lot of wasted money. Then, I'm left with little knick-knacks that I end up regretting, not long-term investment pieces with resell value if I ever change my mind.

Here's what I'm going to do:

  1. Dedicate $3,000 (or 5% of income) / a year to shopping. If I'm going to spend it anyway, might as well be proactive about it!

  2. For the remainder of 2015, I can only spend $1,500 on non-essentials. So, this means I can realistically invest in the perfect black pumps - the Manolo Blahnik BB Suede Pumps ($650) and still have a little budget for each month. Or I can spend about $250/month on small purchases, but I'm going to go with the shoes.

  3. With the remaining amount, I can spend about $100 on little shopping trips. For example, I can take advantage of a few sales and invest in new tennis gear in July, buy a few things for my apartment in August, update my beauty bag in September, purchase travel essentials for a trip in October, and the remainder can go towards Christmas gifts in December. The key here is patience and discipline.

  4. Set aside $100 / month from July until December to prepare for next year's budget, so I'm ahead of the game. If I sell used clothes or electronics, the profit will also go into this fund.

  5. By early next spring, I can invest in a big trip to celebrate the big 30!

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I really love hearing about different spending and saving strategies. What are yours? Thoughts on mine?

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