My spending moratorium while on vacation

Kim and I are back from a week-long beach vacation with her brother and his family. We traveled to a luxury timeshare resort where it was super easy to practice social distancing because almost nobody was there. (The place was running at maybe 10% capacity because of COVID, and the level of cleanliness was mind-boggling. I felt safer there than at home! Sanitizer, mask, wipe your feet. Instant-read thermometers. Digital menus. Etc. Etc. Etc.)

This trip was a terrific early test of my spending moratorium resolve. I was mostly good.

The vacation itself cost money, of course, but I'm okay with that. We scheduled it months ago, long before I decided to take a year off from spending. I didn't cancel it, and I'm not canceling the other trip we have planned for March. Instead, my aim is to keep my spending as low as possible for both trips. Plus, I have no plans to book other vacations this year.

Because of my spending moratorium, I deliberately altered my standard vacation behavior. I'm the kind of guy who likes to get small souvenirs wherever I go: pins, patches, t-shirts, and so on. I didn't buy one this time. In fact, I only spent money on food. (On our first day, we stocked up on groceries so that we could eat most of our meals in our room.)

For the entire week, there were two purchases that violated the rules I've set for myself.

My Two Purchases

One night, Kim and I watched her two nephews (ages four and seven) so that her brother and his wife could enjoy a nice evening out. We goofed around for a while, then watched silly cartoons on the television. Before bed, the seven-year-old wanted to play Minecraft on my iPad.

“I don't have Minecraft,” I said. You can guess how that went.

In the end, I made a calculated decision. I paid six bucks to download Minecraft so that he'd be content for an hour. (Then, ironically, he watched Minecraft videos on YouTube instead of actually playing the game. So, six dollars I didn't need to spend if I'd simply stood my ground a little longer. This is why I am not a parent haha.)

As a sidenote, I don't know how either boy finds videos on YouTube. Neither can read nor write. Yet, they do it. Somehow, they magically navigate to what they want. It's like we live in a post-literate age. I am old.

That first purchase was intentional. My second purchase was a simple brain fart.

At the airport before our flight home (yes, we flew for this trip), I killed some time by going into a bookstore. I found the graphic-novel version of Sapiens, one of my favorite books! I had no idea such a thing existed. I bought it to read on the plane.

Eventually it occurred to me: I had just violated my “no spending” rules. Oops. The fact that I didn't notice I was violating my rules as I was doing so is a pretty clear indication that, hard as I try, not all of my spending decisions are conscious. I still make some purchases out of habit.

Things Unbought

While I've made two purchases in the ten days since starting this project, I've mostly stuck to my plan. In fact, I'm thinking about it all of the time. (I'm thinking about it this very second while I have the Amazon page for Sapiens open as I write this article, and I see a couple of other interesting graphic novels…)

Let's use movies as an example.

As I've shared many times before, I buy a lot of films off the iTunes store. Too many.

On the flight back from vacation, I watched Mission Impossible 2 (awful!) and Mission Impossible 3 (fun!) via American Airline's in-flight entertainment system. The next day, I decided to watch the rest of the films in the series. I had previously purchased the fourth and fifth episodes on iTunes, so no problem. But I don't own the most recent installment, Mission Impossible: Fallout.

Under normal circumstances, I'd just spend $13 to buy the movie from iTunes. Not during this spending moratorium. And I feel like paying $4 to rent it also violates the rules I've set for myself. Netflix didn't have the movie in its library…but Amazon did. Whew!

True story: I am not even joking when I say this, but Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is now my favorite film of all time. For real. And it's not even close. My other faves include Alien, Crouching Tiger, L.A. Confidential, and The Big Country. I was shocked at just how good MI5 actually is. Again, no joke: I've watched it three times in the past three days…and I plan to watch it again this afternoon, if I get my work done. I've heard about people who watch the same movie(s) over and over and over again. I never thought I could be one of those people — until now.

While we were at the beach, everyone — even the kids — bought stuff except for me. I wanted a t-shirt, but I knew that buying it would break my spending moratorium, so I didn't. The only non-food item I bought was sunscreen.

In the meantime, I've deliberately been avoiding known spending traps. I'm not looking at Amazon. I'm not reading comic-book blogs. I'm planning ahead to read books I already own instead of trying to find books that I don't.

Final Thoughts

As I said when I announced this project, it probably seems silly to many of you. I get that. You're the folks who don't have natural spending tendencies. But I am not one of you. I am one of those who has to force myself to make smart decisions.

And even when I'm deliberately trying to do the right thing, I still make mistakes. I buy $6 games for my nephew. I buy $26 books at the airport.

Here's the thing, though. I'm not going to beat myself up about these choices. For one, they're very minor in the grand scheme of things. For another, the whole point here is to build awareness into my actions and to make use of the things I already own. I'm not expecting to achieve absolute zero spending.

Now that we're home, the real work begins. It's one thing to avoid spending in a novel environment. It's something else entirely to stick to spending moratorium in day-to-day life while adhering to established habits! How will I do when I head to the grocery store this afternoon? Can I force myself to buy only what's on my list?

Anyhow, I don't intend to provide weekly updates on this project, but I do think it'd be fun (and useful for me) to update you on my progress now and then. So, that's how it's going after ten days. Let's see what the next ten bring…

More about...Travel, Temporary

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Terry C
Terry C
2 months ago

Always remember, libraries are your friend when you want comics, books, movies, and tv shows without spending $.

Cb
Cb
2 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

If you like audio books or e books you can get them from your library now using the apps Libby or Overdrive. I’ve been doing this all throughout the pandemic and I LOVE it.

mary w
mary w
2 months ago
Reply to  Cb

Or if you like *real* books, see if they do remote pickup. I order books online and when they arrive at my branch I visit and they put on a table outside.

JoDi
JoDi
2 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

No website and curbside pickup? Yikes! Don’t think I would have survived the pandemic without those. It was bad enough that they weren’t doing interlibrary loans with other counties for a while!

Steveark
Steveark
2 months ago

How did you end up at a timeshare if you don’t own one? Or how did you know it was a timeshare if you got it through VRBO or AirBNB? Sounds like you spent very little, I’d consider that true to the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

David @ Filled With Money
David @ Filled With Money
2 months ago

It may feel unnatural in the beginning but you will soon get used to refraining from spending. The 7-year old story was interesting. Hopefully Minecraft had a refund policy where if you have buyers remorse in less than a day, they give you all of your money back, no questions asked.

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
2 months ago

Congrats, for a week long vacation I would consider only having those two purchases as a win.
I too often wonder how the YouTube algorithms are so fine-tuned that it knows my 5 yr old is looking for Sonic the Hedgehog after just “so” in the search bar.
FWIW, I’ve only rewatched MI 4, 5 and 7 during the stay-at-home, but I’ll posit Fallout as my favorite (primarily for Cavill’s character).

Loretta
Loretta
2 months ago

I would love a weekly update on your spending moratorium! The psychology of why we spend is fascinating. I highly recommend Dan Ariely’s book Small Change. My library has the audiobook. It is witty as well as informative.

J. Money
J. Money
2 months ago

You’ll get more conscious about things as you go on 🙂 The first couple of weeks is always *finding* all those habits you didn’t even know you had! I remember showing up in parking lots at the mall or Best Buy and then wondering why the hell I went there when I wasn’t supposed to be shopping, haha… After that I started catching myself a lot more. (and for the record I think it’s GREAT you broke your rule for someone else on the Minecraft game.. especially when it can bring so much joy to someone! Similar to charity, to… Read more »

Cb
Cb
2 months ago

good for you JD! I’ll admit I’m one of those people who’s not much of a spender, so it’s easier for me. However, from watching my husband (who is more normal) one watch out I’ll share is the grocery store. It can become a substitute for getting that novel spending rush. Not the worst thing in the world, but not ideal if you are trying to get at the root of the behavior. Always great to make a meal plan and then a corresponding grocery list, and shop from the list.
Good luck in this experiment!

KAREN L
KAREN L
2 months ago
Reply to  Cb

Good point, groceries stores also sell a lot more than just groceries!

Joe
Joe
2 months ago

That’s a good start. I think it’s okay to mess up here and there. We rarely buy souvenirs these days. They just collect dust and take up space.
BTW, those Minecraft videos are so annoying. The gamers are all super loud and obnoxious. I hate them all. My son watches a ton of those annoying video clips.
Good luck with the day to day spending.

Ringo
Ringo
2 months ago

I usually take photos as my travel souvenirs. Nothing fancy, just using my phone. Favorite subjects are friends, local plants, and interesting architecture or landmarks.

Caro
Caro
2 months ago

I am very much an on-off switch for spending – either I buy pretty much nothing, or else the money just keeps on leaking. I rarely look at stores so I am mostly set to off but when it’s time to do the Christmas shopping, look out.

Dave
Dave
2 months ago

JD we have decided to do a spending freeze here as well. Our only exceptions are the following:
Construction work that was scheduled before Jan 1st (currently being done this week)
Socks/underwear
Sneakers (because I go through them with level of walking we do in the spring, summer, and fall, upwards of 10 miles/day)
Books by my favorite 4 authors
General house/food/dog supplies
Dinner out/Take out no more than twice a month

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