In addition to our articles on tips, tricks and advice for getting your budget under control by reducing how much you spend on “stuff” because of our culture’s addictive consumerism, we have a few projects for you. These projects are designed to be both fun and useful and to help you get outside of your own head and conventional thinking when it comes to what you spend your money on. To some degree, we’ve already walked you through the process of determining how many unnecessary things or splurges you’ve purchased in the last six months (or year if you were ambitious) in the article we posted on setting goals and getting your budget together. But that tactic is very specific to creating a budget and it sort of forces you into using a spreadsheet or line item style of thinking that may not actually be very natural to you. In this version of the project, we give you some other ways to tackle that same task that may work better for you.

So, Let’s Start By Thinking About … How You Think!

There’s a reason that we used a line item, spreadsheet style methodology in our budgeting and spend article. It’s because that’s truly the effective way to look at numbers and budgets. It’s why accountants use ledgers and spreadsheets. But there may also be a reason that you are not an accountant! Maybe numbers in general are kind of overwhelming to you. Maybe you just don’t want to think in linear order. Maybe you learn better in other ways. So the question is, if you don’t think in lines and numbers, do you think:

  • Visually?
  • Audibly?
  • In Tactile Ways?

Only you can answer that question, so if you’re not sure then take some time to consider it. Once you do, here are three other ways to complete this project.

If You Are a Visual Thinker …

No matter what thinking style you use, you’ll probably have to go through the process of reviewing your spend and figuring out what you purchased in the way of “stuff.” If you think that this is just not going to work for you, the alternate way is to keep track of “stuff” purchases for the six months moving forward so that you can log them as they happen. Either way, you’ll need some supplies.

  • Colored paper or note cards
  • A digital camera and printing options
  • A cork board or magnet board (and tacks or magnets)

Once you’ve created a list of all of the “unnecessary stuff” you’ve purchased over a six-month period, take pictures of each thing (or, if you’re artistically inclined draw them). Then tape or glue the picture to a note card or piece of paper that’s color-coded by the month in which you made the purchase and note the price on it. As a side note, be completely honest with yourself about what is necessary and what is a splurge. Now, arrange your cards by month on your cork or magnet board. You’ll have a visual that shows you exactly how much you bought month-by-month and how much you spent. It certainly resonates more strongly with you now that you’ve seen it visually, doesn’t it?

If You Are an Audible Thinker …

Your project is the least time consuming if you’re an audio learner, but like with any other version of this project you’ll need to either go back through your banking records or instead keep track of purchases moving forward for a six-month window. Your supply list is much shorter though!

  • You need a mobile device or laptop that can capture audio and video!

That’s right. We’re telling you to keep a video blog of your unnecessary “stuff” purchases for six months. Talk yourself through it! Show yourself the stuff that you bought on the video and then go back and look at it later and listen to your emotions or reasons for why you bought it. Keep all of your video blogs in one location so that at the end of six months you can go back and re-watch them. You’ll be surprised how much you realize about your actions when you simply take the time to talk them through out loud – even if it’s to a camera. If you want, you can even post them online and start a valuable trend!

If You Learn Through Tactile Experience …

We’re sorry, but you’re going to have to live with some clutter! Whether you’re reviewing backwards and looking at the previous six months or tracking forwards through the next six months, we need all of the unnecessary “stuff” you purchased to be put into piles. You’ll also want to put notes or stickers on each item detailing how much money you spent on it. How big is that pile? How much space does it take up? That’s when you’ll realize how much of your budget is going to extra “stuff.” You need the physical experience.

No Matter What Method You Use, the Goal Is the Same

Why are we taking the time (and the resources and the space) to do this project? Because “stuff” in the world of addictive consumerism has become more of a theory than a fact. We all need to take steps to realize just how much we’re filling our lives with materialism and how much of that stuff we don’t need (and often don’t want). Saying that you want to improve your savings or budget by spending less on “stuff” is easy, but truly internalizing what that means may not be easy. We think that this project will help open your eyes and guide you in digesting the “stuff” problem – no matter what method you use!

Follow along with our January 2017 resolution of learning to control our budgets by spending less money on “stuff” and letting go of addictive consumerism on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: ana campos via Flickr