When I was a kid, I lived for a gift shops. My first investigation upon entering any new vacation spot, amusement park, or hotel was to find out whether they had a gift shop. And then I would beg my mother to take me there. We usually had rules: (1) I could get one thing, (2) It had to be under a set price limit, usually somewhere between $3 and $5. It was always too low for my tastes, but I didn't let that stop me. I never, NEVER, NE-EH-EH-EH-VER walked out of a gift shop without something in my hand. In Maine, a two-dollar pen with an ocean scene inside with fish that "swam" when I tilted it up or down. A pencil from Fernbank Museum in Atlanta with little multi-colored pebbles inside a plastic casing. Erasers in the shape of Walt Disney characters. In Florida, a tiny painting of a giraffe (because there are so many of them there).
In short, I have always been a consumer. From the beginning. But I've never had much expendable income. Once I was older and had my own dough to spend, there was a joke in my family - I never bought anything that cost more than $7. I may buy more crap than anyone else, but, "not a thing cost more than $7," I would exclaim proudly as I showed off my wares. I was completely incapable of walking away from a "deal." I had more cheap t-shirts, novelty socks, and hair bobbles than any one girl could need, none of them costing more than seven buckaroos.
Compare that with my sister - younger and wiser - who hoarded her money as if she had lived through the Depression. When she did bring herself to buy something, it was only after months (or more) of research, price comparison, and a determination that she was making a good "investment." It took her two years to settle on a pair of black boots, but I suspect she'll wear them for the next ten years.
I envied her discipline, but I've only recently been able to apply her wisdom to my own spending patterns. And it definitely doesn't come naturally. Not even close. It takes a lot of work. I'm learning to trade instant-gratification purchases that often lead to buyer's remorse for the deeper pleasure that comes from spending money on something that promotes the type of life I want. Putting my money where my heart is. It is 100% a work in progress, but I'm getting better at remembering that for me, every purchase is a choice. Do I want to spend my money this way or that way? I'm more likely to resist a frivolous impulse buy if I have a clear picture in my head of what the other option is. To help me out, I created these credit card sleeves, and so far, the visual reminder is really making a difference in my ability to put my credit card back in my purse and walk out of the store, or more often, close the internet shopping website. It's not that I never plop down the debit card - I'm still me, after all - but I'm more aware of the choice I'm making when I do. And I try not to forget how lucky I am that I have the choice to make, that I'm not deciding between paying for food and paying for rent.
Even so, sometimes it's hard to connect how buying a $10 pair of earrings could affect the down payment on a farmhouse (and the associated acres of gorgeous farm land) of my dreams. But those little purchases add up. And more importantly, that mindset of unconscious spending leads to my empty bank account, no money in savings, and a house and closet filled with things that perhaps pleased me for a moment but don't provide any lasting happiness. $215 could buy me 20 pair of earrings, 5 new blouses, 50 lattes. Or it could buy me one space in a writing workshop. The choice is mine.
I created a very simple pattern you can use to make your own credit card sleeves if you might need a little reminder yourself. Just cut out pictures of the things you're saving up for - maybe it's a nursery for your new baby, maybe it's a vacation home, a wedding, another degree, or maybe it's just the perfect pair of boots. Cut them out in the shape of the sleeve (or glue them onto a piece of paper if they're not big enough or the right shape to be cut out). Glue and then tape for reinforcement, and you're good to go!