I was looking at my annual budget progress today, and paused to think about how much money I spent on “stuff.” That is, objects which will live for months or years in my home, car or office. Most of my budget is spent on consumables and intangibles: groceries, vacations, haircuts, insurance, property tax, heating. I thought I was getting away from buying “stuff” and spending more on experiences. Clearly that is not the case.
In less than 10 months this year, I have spent almost $5500 on things. Are they durable? Are they making my life better? Let’s have a look.
First, there is household stuff totaling $3297. It’s easy to say it’s all necessary for running the household, and not discretionary, but that would be a lie.
- Materials for new deck $2411 – adds to home value and will last 20+ years, but still a “recreational” purchase. One could just put in stairs and go out to the yard!
Home – Hardware, Maintenance, Yard, Garden ($447)
- Lawn mower battery (replacement) $230 – to replace the one I left out in the rain 😦
- BBQ cover (replacement) 63 – previous one was ripped apart by the wind; this one is tough
- River rocks (decorative stone for a border) 55
- 2 mats supposed to trap cat litter 25 – not helpful
- Painting supplies 24 – reusable
- Screwdriver (replacement) 22
- Perennial plant 23
- Plant stakes 5
Home – Kitchen & Bath ($124)
- Shower head (replacement) 52 – rain type
- Electric kettle (replacement) 23
- Floor cleaner (Vileda ProMist) 34 – mopping is not good for laminate floors so Rom wanted to try this; it’s good
- 2 cloth napkins 8 – I still use a set from 1990!
- Mason jar pour lid 5 – I use a Mason jar to bring milk to work for my coffee; the pour-through lid is less messy
- Popsicle mold 2 – I used it twice this summer and will save it for next summer
Home Décor ($315) – all completely optional
- Mirror 103
- Headboard 207
- Dresser tray 5
The home category felt like it didn’t cost me anything since it’s all part of the household budget (including a line for small maintenance and miscellaneous items).
Here is the personal category, clocking in at $2199.
Clothes ($1249) – I will do a year-end post on my purchases.
- 27 items (jackets, tops, pants, shoes, workout wear, backpack)
- 9 small stuff (underwear, socks, tights, gloves)
- 3 swimwear (all replacements – 2 are no longer usable)
- Wireless headphones (replacement) 93 – previous ones conked out after 22 months
- External hard drive / backup drive (replacement) 92
- Hard drive (replacement) 92 – computer is not quite 4 years old
- Fitbit (replacement) 92
- Cell phone ring grip 8
- Cell phone stand 6
Jewellery ($343) – I have a thing for watches. A post is scheduled.
- Watch 136
- 3 watch straps 111
- 7 pairs earrings 28
- 8 pins 41
- 3 Fitbit bands 11
- 2 Fitbit accessories 16
- 2 DVD 34 – I am only buying Studio Ghibli DVDs now to complete my collection
- 1 LP 46 – a White Stripes record not available in any other format
- 1 CD 18 – special edition of Wings: Band on the Run!
- 4 – two paperbacks and 2 hardback rock music photography books
- Day book 12 – my last one. “Had to have” this in January, but rarely used. Fully switched to digital recording.
- Pocket folders 5
- 2 pencil sharpeners 7 – first one was no longer sharp after 2 or 3 pencils!
- Stickers 3
- Mirror compact 14
- Coin purse 9
- Makeup bag 4
- Key chain 2
To keep things in perspective, the bolded items are the ones I would have bought even on the tightest budget, and I could have economized on some of those.
If you are trying to declutter, how are you doing with bringing new (or new to you) things in?
I will selfishly admit as I read your list that I am currently very grateful to be living in a community where the outside stuff (yard and house maintenance) comes out of our monthly fee LOL. Oh, the amount I spent on tree trimming and removal, house painting, replacement doors and skylights, etc. However a deck sounds quite lovely. Otherwise you really didn’t seem to buy a lot!
So far this year I have spent $1363 on clothing including shoes. Need a few more pairs of shoes still. We just bought a down comforter as the one we bought 1 1/2 years ago turned out to have problems! There is that hand mixer I bought while in the midst of making a birthday cake for our great-aunt (forgot we didn’t move one) and the yet again replacement French press after knocking one over and breaking it. New kitchen towels. Books that I could have gotten from inter-library loan if I had been patient. Really not too bad. Let’s not chat about eating out, etc. please.
Nope, I won’t be chatting about eating out 🙂 I suppose my conclusion about my spending is that household spending doesn’t seem like it’s discretionary, or that it’s mine personally, but really it is. I always enjoy your thoughtful posts about wardrobe building.
I truly adore and respect your self reflection. You would be great to teach a class to young adults on wants and needs. Keith
To be honest, Keith, my kid Link would be better at that because they have so little discretionary income and really have to budget, whereas I have no concerns whatsoever.
Wow! Every year I say I’m going to be good and keep a record such as yours but I only seem to make it through a couple of months before it falls by the wayside. I don’t think of myself as buying a lot of “stuff” but I think I might shock myself if I did keep better track.
I have done a good job with decluttering these past few months so I really do think a lot more before bringing anything into my small apt. I look – but have managed to restrain myself fairly well. Even with books, I have only bought a couple of “stand alone” books and have mostly kept any purchases to those series that I’ve been collecting for years. I have made excellent use of my local library! I have one magazine subscription, which comes as part of a membership I have and I only purchase one other magazine on a regular basis – but it is only published every other month and not monthly.
I bought 3 new summer t-shirts and that was it. I have bought a few more winter pieces than I’d expected, comfy, cozy leggings and sweaters but nothing terribly expensive and all within my limited colour scheme. The only items on my “needed” list are a couple of bras and a new pair of good, black walking shoes – that’s it.
I recently did a real clean out of my locker space as I was moving to a smaller, but more accessible unit and I love how neat and tidy and how relatively empty my little space is after the declutter. I look at all the STUFF piled to the ceiling in some of the other lockers and there is no way that anyone could even remember what is in there – never mind access it if needed! The Super told me that many people just leave everything when they move because by the time they’ve emptied and moved everything in their apartments they can’t even be bothered dealing with the STuFF in their lockers! At least we get this storage space as part of our rent – others pay hundreds a year (or more) to rent a space for all their extras! Mind boggling.
You moved recently – that is a feat! You are so lucky to get storage space. Where I live now is cost-effective but sometimes I want to downsize and get rid of oodles of stuff. But I am sure my current place would feel so much better without the clutter. Like the other people in your building – just because one has storage space, it doesn’t mean it has to be filled!
I am seriously trying to cut down on our spending in every area especially on the wants not needs list. We have spent an enormous amount this year on getting our Yorkshire home in watertight condition – but that was a necessary. As I am decluttering I am giving myself a good talking to about not buying things that take my fancy when out shopping as often the appeal wears off and they end up in the charity bag. Also like one or two of your buys you get something and then it does not work as you thought. I have just finally let my slow cooker go to a charity shop. I only used it a few times but was not impressed with the meals it delivered – we don’t eat meat and I saw on other blogs that it seems really more beneficial for meat meals. It cost £20 – it has given me space now worth £20 to me and I hope it goes to a good home.
I note from your list that you have a lot of replacement buys – is this because they are well used or the products inferior they don’t last long? There is no answer to leaving something in the rain LOL!
I was so pleased recently to be able to fix my 32 year old fridge for £12 – I need to keep it going a bit longer until we decide on a new kitchen.
Loved this post you have done exactly what I am doing at the moment – maybe I should publish my results!
Hi Vivien, I agree with you on the slow cooker. I have used mine a handful of times for veggie meals and I find no benefit compared to the stovetop. I wonder how the Instapot is for veggie one-dish meals? Maybe the problem is that all these devices are timesavers and I have a lot of leisure time at my disposal!
I get very annoyed about spending money on replacement electronics. A computer hard drive is usually good for 5 years but mine only lasted 3.5. The old backup drive was more than 5 so its time was up. Meanwhile the headphones were only 2 so I was very unhappy. I hate electronics waste! But not enough to give up my gadgets. They improve the quality of my life so much.
The household item I replace most often is the electric kettle. They just don’t last. But I couldn’t very well make my tea in the microwave, could I? 😉
Thank you so much for the update. It’s even more interesting to me than usual this week as I decided to start tracking my spending again for the next year. I did in in 16/17 and I think the time is right to do it again.
We’ve done quite a bit of decluttering this year, we have also brought things into the house but they are more carefully thought out than before.
Hi TD, I have kept up on all your posts; sorry for the lack of comments. I love your design sense and I think you spend money on all the right things!
Just wanted to send you a link that I think you might be interested in as you are a punk music fan – a friend of mine is one of the writers and they had an amazingly successful launch last week and there should be an article in The Globe coming up and maybe an invitation to TVO as well,
The book are available in local indie bookstores and record shops (an updated list is on our facebook site) or can be ordered online – In Canada: uxbpresscanada.bigcartel.com/ and US and International Orders uxbpress.bigcartel.com
In the 80s I was aware of the scene happening in Toronto but was not able to travel (I was a broke student) so I will have to catch up vicariously through this book! Thanks for letting me know!
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