So where were we?
Last week I was bringing you up to speed on my progress of minimizing my belongings. But, I must share something I simply could not overlook. I realized I needed to take a look at our expenses, or where our money has been going.
At least, it seems to me I will not be successful in reaching my goal of getting rid of half our belongings (and keeping it that way) without examining our level of consumerism.
And I’m going to take a healthy measure of responsibility here because, while my husband handles our bigger picture finances, I’ve always managed our day-to-day budget and done most of the shopping.
Overtime, we’ve taken our hard-earned money (I haven't really earned that much but...)and bought all this stuff that I’m discarding. That hurts a little. A lot, actually. To tell the truth it makes me feel a bit sick when you look at what is by the door ready to go.
So, in order to not repeat the cycle of mindless spending and retail therapy, I’ve got to get real here.
One spending category of significance is the number of subscriptions we’ve signed up for over the years. To date, we have been subscribers to the following services:
SiriusXM Radio, Rhapsody, Audible, Sam’s Club, TruGreen, Terminix, AOL, our local cable t.v. provider, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Showtime/Amazon, Meaningful Beauty and Dollar Shave Club.
Having easily nixed 5 of these services right away, I take another look and notice we are subscribing to 5 different services that require us to be sitting in front of a television.
I don’t know about you, but most of my mindless eating happens in front of the television...or any type of screen for that matter. I love grabbing a package of Twizzlers to snack on at the movies or some chips and salsa while indulging in some juicy bit of Vanderpump Rules, Masterpiece Theatre or Keeping Up With the Kardashians
(sorry not sorry).
Three years ago, we hosted an exchange student from Germany. A sweet natured girl, polite, quiet, just how I like all visiting teenagers to be in my house. A few days after her arrival, the girls were settling down after school in front of the t.v., their regular decompression practice, and I heard one of my daughters offer, we’ll call her Edda (in case she’s tuning in), a snack.
Out of the mouth of this normally subdued, carefully measured girl came this barely contained exclamation, “You Americans are ALWAYS EATING!”
I was like... b*tch what?
After careful consideration and some peanut butter crackers, I’d come to the conclusion that, for our family, I think this gross generalization might be true. The t.v. is always on and someone is usually eating in front of it.
This isn't a new habit or anything. But is it cultural?
I remember, having been a stay-at-home mom for many years, sitting my little girls down in front of back-to-back episodes of Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer with their little sippy cup and bowl of Cheezits. They loved it. And I really needed them to, cuz honey, momma needed a break. (we were living in the south then and we all got accents.) And I wasn't the only one...all my girlfriends set it up this way. It's the only way we ever got anything done!
So. Let’s bring this back around. Because I’m making a pretty useful connection here with two things I’m working on:
mindless eating and minimalism...M&M's
Which brings up the subject of a book I’m currently reading, for the second time, called Mindless Eating, no surprise there, by Brian Wansink, PH.D. Wansink is the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and has conducted numerous food studies, finding that no matter how many strategies we put in place to eat less, we are sabotaged by endless and constant cueing from our environment, encouraging us to eat more, often without realizing it.
In his book Wansink writes a chapter called “The Hidden Persuaders Around Us”, where he discusses the curse of the warehouse club. Most of these are familiar to us: Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and Costco, where for around $40 you can buy a membership and shop exclusively in their store.
He says after doing so, “The natural inclination is to run through the store like Julie Andrews running through the fields in The Sound of Music, buying enough stuff so you can recoup the price of the membership. If you can save $5 by buying the 48-pack of flavored water, all you have to do is load 7 of these 48-packs on the pushcart flatbed to break even on the membership deal.”
So while the first curse is to overspend, even on things we don’t need, the second curse happens after the purchase when we’ve schlepped it all home and stored it in every available crevice in the house from the garage to the basement...to the windooows to the wall....
So. You know bulk foods come in either these massive single open containers or in these huge multi-pack bundles. Wansink says we are munching down these large containers for around the first 7 days, then we start slowing down because we’ve grown tired of the food, causing them to become “cabinet castaways”, being pushed to the back and eventually thrown out to make space. So that $5 we saved at the time of purchase isn’t really much of a savings at all if we’ve thrown part of it away in the end.
In the book, he suggests taking a look at these oversized multi-packs, such as the 48 count package of instant oatmeal. Wansink says that having a 48 package of anything negatively affects us in two ways. The first is what he calls “the salience principle”.
“These 48 packages tend to get in the way. You seem to see them everywhere, they fall out of the cupboard when you open it, they pile up on the counter, and they hide other foods. As a result of their salience, you end up eating them much more frequently than you normally would, particularly if the food is convenient to eat. They are there...every time you want a snack.”
The second problem that comes from having bulk quantities of food around relates to the idea of “norms”. Suppose you “normally” have 2-3 boxes of cereal in your pantry at a time. Wansink says, “If you find yourself with only one box, it’s a signal you need to buy more. But if one day you find yourself with 12 boxes, you will tend to eat them up so the right number will be in your cupboard, and so you’ll have room for other foods.”
In his book, Wansink suggests a few tricks to warehouse club members, such as repackaging the big single open containers into smaller containers, hiding the extras in storage spaces, such as your garage or extra freezer, and resealing big packages with tape which makes them less convenient to open on impulse.
But for me, I’m really resonating with these scientific studies, they satisfy what I already know intuitively...that, personally, Sam’s Club isn’t saving me anything.
There are two things I hate running out of: coffee K-cups and razors (there are 4 females living in this house). These are the only reasons I signed up for membership to begin with. And with the nearest club being 1 hour and 40 minutes away, not only has it caused me to overspend and overeat, it has COST me valuable time. Good-by Sam’s Club.
Good-bye cable television. Good-bye Ladies of London, Real Housewives of Orange County, Matt and Savannah...and I’ll probably be the last to know who ends up sitting next to Kelly Rippa in the mornings.
I feel lighter already...
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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