Simple Saturday – Buying a Little Happiness

Photo Credit ~ Spaghetti Gazette

According to the January/February 2012 issue of Money magazine, you’ll be happier if you

“Spend a Little a Lot of the Time

“The Reason: Frequent small indulgences give you greater happiness than occasional splurges, according to a growing body of research covering everything from the pleasures of chocolate-chip cookies and massage chairs to lottery tickets and good grades.

“The Resolution: Skip big-ticket purchases in favor of smaller ones you can spread out. Instead of splurging on dinner and a show, eat out one weekend and go to the theater the next. Rather than a designer dress you might rarely wear, treat yourself to monthly pedicures.”

I read this, and it immediately occurred to me how this information could easily lead to the accumulation of clutter. Buying something feels good, and it’s fun, so we do it again. And again.

For those of you for whom shopping really is the weak link in your decluttering efforts, how can you take this information and use it in a way that is beneficial rather than destructive? Some of my ideas are

  • Coffee out or purchasing very nice coffee or tea to have at home
  • Getting a pedicure (Painted toes give me a real thrill.)
  • Taking a weekly class on a topic you’ve been interested in for some time.
  • What else? Shopping isn’t much of a vice to me, but I know for those of you who enjoy shopping, the advice “talk a walk in the evenings” probably isn’t going to replace the thrill of shopping. What ideas do you have for buying happiness without buying stuff?


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  1. I think a balance is nice. I go to a local place for a class and get hot chocolate while I take the class and my family comes with me and loves to get out of the house and do homework in a different setting. You can also go to the library and study and not have to pay anything. We do spread out our entertainment money each month ($50). Many times we will split a meal so we can go out more. We also go out for lunch most times because it is less expensive. Since I don’t drink coffee or tea, I don’t have the temptation of buying a daily coffee. But, if my husband and I want to go out after dinner on a date, we may go split a hot chocolate together and talk. I guess as long as you stay in the budget you set, and feel like it is a good amount for your family, you can find lots of ways to maximize it or just do one nice thing if that is what you want one month. The important thing is being together with family and friends.

    • You are really doing a great job of stretching your dollars, and you’ve thought of some creative ways to so something fun and different without spending a lot or creating clutter. Plus, you got the kids involved. Good job!

  2. First, I select three books on my shelves, I go to te “bouquiniste” (French name for second hand book seller), I wander among his many shelves and I choose carefully ONE book I’ve been longing for. Then I’m sure to have a wonderful Sunday evening.

    • What a fantastic idea! Decluttering and the thrill of shopping for a new book. I dont’ think you’ve commented her before, so welcome nicole 86.

    • I assume you trade the three books for one? Or do you get extra money on top of it?

      • Lynn, It is like I exchange, one for three. I never get extra money !
        Moreover, I really enjoy the moment of choice because I never know what books are on display.

  3. I like to do this with vacations. A couple of long weekends vs a longer holiday has always worked for me and I enjoy it more.
    Getting the car professionally washed every couple of months always makes me appreciate my car more and reduces the desire to upgrade it.

    • Veronica, I agree that getting the car washed, or even detailed, which is pretty expensive, can make the car feel so much better and more valuable. A few years ago, husband really wanted to get rid of his car in part because it looked tatty. I took it to the body shop and had a few dings and scratches cleaned up, and I had the trunk, which had faded badly, repainted. He was so happy, and we kept that car for at least another 5 years until it needed repairs in excess to its value. That body shop work was a good investment.

  4. I love to visit museums or art shows. I get to feast on beauty and fill up my senses without purchasing anything. The memory lasts a long time.

  5. I love the idea of taking books to the second hand book store and exchanging them for a new one, if you are craving a new book to read. I don’t buy much anymore but I sometimes buy a book from Amazon because I love to read about topics that interest me. (Only the really great ones get to stick around.) The last book I bought was the Tiny homes Simple Shelter 🙂 Which is encouraging me that we could really live in a tiny house, and that inspires me to keep things sparse and not shop. Take-out coffee, ice cream at the beach.. non-material small treats are good.

  6. I think that taking time to take care of yourself and your loved ones is much more rewarding than spending money. Here are my plans for this 3 days week end. Time for myself: read a book, go to the gym to try out that new yoga class, call/webcam family overseas, start a new garden compost bin, try out a new recipe with my homemade sauerkraut…. Time with the kids: playing a game, gardening, sewing, creating a new face mask with kitchen ingredients with my daughter…Family time: go for a hike, visit a museum (free pass from the library). See, I really have no time to go shopping. 🙂 Actually, I will have to find 30 min to go shopping, my son needs new athletic shoes.

  7. Reserving library books satisfies my need to shop. I use the library’s website to reserve books that I want to read. When they arrive at my local library branch, they send an e-mail letting me know they are there. I love picking up a new stack of books. All the better that I don’t own them. They’ll never become clutter.

    • Hi Anita, we follow the same practice when it comes to borrowing from the library. My problem lately is that every book I search for isn’t in their catalogue. Oh well it’s not as though I need something to fill my time with. 😉

      • Hi Colleen, Is your library part of a regional, state or national system that will allow you to borrow from farther afield? When I log on to my local library, it automatically gives me access to all libraries in our regional system, but there’s a further level I can go to get access to other libraries in the province. It might be worth asking if this is available to you.

        • My Library is similar to yours. I can access all libraries in my Region but I don’t believe it extends further than that. Perhaps I ought to double check on that…
          Back from checking and there is nothing on my library site saying that I can borrow further afield. I did find out however that they have a section call Freegal Music where I can download music to my computer or iPod or on to my iTunes account for free. Sounds good, I might have to give that a go.

  8. Being both on a tight budget and eager to declutter, my strategy on “treats” is to clarify what I really want BEFORE I start the “treating”.
    For example, the urge to “buy that lovely chocolate cake on display” can relate to different inner wants. Sometimes, what I long for, is chocolate. If so, I can fulfill that easily with stopping at the supermarket and get some delicious (and cheaper) chocolate. Sometimes, what I long for, is some kind of elegance or specialness. Then, I’d rather go, call a friend, dress up and have some fancy picnic or tea time at home. I’d rather find a way to dwell in that specialness for more time than just the few seconds it takes to buy that cake and eat it on my own. Sometimes, I’m just plain hungry, then what I really need is proper food and not cake. And sometimes, I just want to shop. Go into stores and breathe the atmosphere there, enjoy the beauty of the artificially displayed things etc. If so, I will go “shopping” – without buying that is. As I know beforehand that my wish is only to shop but not to bring anything home, I just go into boutiques, check out the new perfumes or soaps, smell at all the teas in a tea store, etc. But I won’t buy anything that day, as I know for sure, I’d buy rubbish. Everything I might pay money for is a cup of hot chocolate or coffee to top that leisurely afternoon off (but often enough not even that).
    I don’t consider it rude to check the shops with no intention to buy at that moment. Those days I get to know the stocks of the shops around. And the next time I run out of tea at home, I already know, at which store I will buy my next pack and what brand it will be. And buying this needed and wanted tea will be a treatment of its own.

    • Sanna, such a great way to describe the thought process that we need to go through! And you are right, if you check out the stores’ stocks as research, then when you do need something, you have your choice already made and it’s a quicker trip.

    • Hi Sanna I like your thinking on this. Taking the chance to have second thoughts on all purchases is a good idea.

  9. I have seen people from charity groups buying good children’s clothing at the second-hand store on “bag day” (set price for a large bag which you can fill with as much as you can get in it), then they wash and iron and donate it where needed. There is also a lot of pleasure in buying good healthy food for the food bank.

    Also, many years ago, I read a tip on frugal living that suggested if you need to buy linens or other non-urgent household items anyway, wait – and some day when you feel like shopping, take your time and buy what you need then. It’s also a good exercise in delayed gratification 🙂

    • Good tips there Jo. Thanks. We have $2 per bag clothes at our thrift store nearly all the time and $1 racks which are always popular. I remember one time when the $2 bag was for baby and toddler clothes and a couple of older ladies bought a bag each to give to charity. I gave them another two dollars from my wallet to fill another bag. It made both me and the ladies feel good. Every little bit helps.

      • Lovely idea. I think that if you have a gift card floating around in your wallet, that’s another good thing to use up when you “feel like shopping.”

  10. The moment of buying something certainly is a little kick, not only to shopping addicts. But as that high fades quickly I try to give it to me only if I will be able to extend the good feeling of treating myself to something new (to me) by using it very soon. I don’t ever buy books anymore to put them on the shelf or magazines that go on a pile of magazines to read “later”. I have to read it or at least start reading it right away. I try to apply that to other fields, too, like crafting, cooking, clothes … Asking yourself whether you will (be able to) use it right away or not prevents a lot of purchases to begin with – and if I indulge in let’s say new yarn because the color is so stunning or a book because I am instantly sucked into it by looking at it or a trendy scarf that lets me enjoy my favourite trusty clothes with a new twist: I’m in. Because then the buying is just a small part of the treat anyway.
    I see the same danger in the advice as Cindy, I guess. But buying makes happy, at least for a little while. That’s undeniable and inevitable. It’s a brain thing. I think if we put the emphasis on using what we attain and learn to hardwire it into our brains to long for the using more than for the owning or getting itsself it’s okay to take the chemical reactions that happen in our brains while buying something as the cherry on top.

    • This is interesting to me. I love to have my toe nails painted at the nail place, and even though I’m wearing closed toe shoes right now, I am happy when ever I see them in the shower. This last time, I got them painted a very similar color to what I alreay had. No as thrilling! When I look down, they don’t seem new and fun; they seem the same as before. I won’t make that error again.

  11. Definitely a coffee — a double treat for me since I’ve reduced my sugar intake AND reduced the number of items I purchase. It’s funny how something I used to buy almost daily has been able to be converted into a “treat” … although it did involve a month of complete abstinence first. I also like the “shopping without buying” because I really love the inspiration I get from seeing how things are merchandised … and I really get a thrill out of seeing new ways to solve old problems. It speaks to my inner inventor. I call these outings “creative excursions”;)

    • Hi Viky and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thanks for dropping in to leave a comment. I bet you enjoy that coffee much more now two making it an extra special treat. I like your idea of “creative excursions” I can really relate to that. Many a time I have a situation that needs solving or just changing up a bit to keep it interesting and sometimes I stumble upon the solution while out “shopping without buying.

  12. I really like Jo’s idea of getting a $2 bag of clothes and then giving them to a charity. I can do that and really feel good about helping out people in need. Can’t wait to do it.

  13. My family and I love the public library too. There are dozens of branches of the public library in our city, each with different collections, so whenever we are out and about in the various neighborhoods, we pop in at the local branch library and see what they have. Picking up dozens of books, DVDs, and CDs absolutely satisfies our consumeristic urges — we can get whatever we want, and as many as we want, even just to satisfy a mild curiosity about what the music, movie, or book is like. We love feeling that abundance without spending any money or having to keep the items.

    • It’s amazing what you can get at the library. Our local branch has watt meters that you can check out to see how much electricity different appliances are using.