Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spending less (and differently) makes people happier

I've been off track in my organizing and not keeping this blog up to speed. Vacations and life craziness have gotten in the way, and I need to get back on the wagon.

The house and mess in it are getting out of control. Kids' junk piled up everywhere, the little boys' room is a disaster zone, and remnants of my organizing efforts (bags ready for storage or donation) are piled in hallways.

Recently I got an iPhone that has enough memory to house all my music. I downloaded as much as I could onto iTunes and am planning to offload tons of CDs. I've posted many of them on, and others I will donate. But that needs to be finished.

We have taken three vacations this summer: (1) 20th anniversary trip for the two of us to San Francisco, (2) trip to Orlando, and (3) trip to Vancouver BC. What we had in savings has now been depleted, and we're dipping into our home equity line of credit.

A friend posted this article on Facebook: it's about how people are much happier when they change their lifestyles to spend less. In a recent study, researchers found that spending money on "experiences" makes people happier, longer, than buying stuff. "‘It’s better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch’ is basically the idea,” according to Professor Elizabeth Dunn (from the University of British Columbia), citing the research done by her colleagues, Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich. The theory is that vacations and other experiences offer longer-lasting memories than new stuff, which eventually becomes old stuff.

This is timely information for us, as we have always spent a great deal of our expendable income on vacations and entertainment. It also reflects our lifestyle, in which we drive old cars and do not spend very much money on our house.

Our plan for the fall is to HALT THE SPENDING! I've started taking this very seriously as we have cut back dramatically on eating out, and I am trying to stay away from shopping. I will try to confine most of my shopping for clothing and personal items to my favorite consignment shop, where I can get credit for what I consign. Last Sunday Portland had an event I was looking forward to attending, Bargain Hunting PDX, where local craftspeople and vendors have a summer bazaar of sorts. Even though I had planned to attend, I decided not to in the end. However, this weekend is our neighborhood festival, and I love their annual sidewalk sale. I think I will inventory everything in my "gift box" before I go to avoid buying lots more gifts for Christmas--that tends to be one of my downfalls!

I continue to observe that most of what we own does not get used. And I need to remember that to avoid buying more things we are not going to use.