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Confessions of a Secret Spender

Guest post from Dizee of Doofy Dizze

I struggle with money.

There, I said it. The cat is out of the bag.

Some people seem to have a “frugal gene” – they always know the smart way to spend a dollar or save a hundred. I am the type of person who could figure out a way to spend money while shipwrecked alone on a deserted island.

Thriftiness does not come easy to me and I constantly work to find a balance between saving and splurging.

I understand the fundamentals – I use coupons faithfully, dutifully purchase items on sale, and lovingly care for my stockpile.

But I will still overspend. And when I overspend, I get cranky. Downright surly.

Many people will say I should work on developing my self-control. And, to a large extent, I don’t disagree. But with two kids, three dogs, a husband, a full-time job, a house, and a sick father – there are many times my focus is simply elsewhere.

Many days, I am doing good to have matching socks and a clean shirt on.

So in an effort to control my spending proclivity, I have come up with some ways to be Mindlessly Mindful:

Sweating the Small Stuff

Purchases under a few dollars generally didn’t register on my radar. For instance, I developed a hardcore McDonald’s hot tea/oatmeal addiction. These trips to McDonald’s would usually run me less than $5. But then I woke up one week and realized the drive-through attendant knew my order by heart.

Gasp, I had become a regular! I quickly totaled up my trips for the month – 12 visits! I was going Monday, Wednesday and Friday!

That was when it hit home – $60 on food that would only cost a few dollars to prepare at home. Tea literally involves boiling water, it couldn’t get much easier. Plus, it wasn’t doing my waist line an iota of good.

(I am happy to report the Drive-Thru girl and I are no longer BFFs!)

Using my Debit Card

Controversial I know, but I found cash gets lost in my possession. My wallet is the equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle for twenty dollar bills. I take out just enough money to purchase gas and keep a few extra dollars in my wallet in case of an emergency.

I also appreciate the accountability of the debit card. My husband can see my purchases — do I really want him knowing I had KFC, Taco Bell, and Burger King for lunches in one week? Not so much. This was especially true when I was also paying Weight Watchers weekly…

Avoid Trigger Stores

Just as Superman’s greatest weakness was kryptonite, the Dollar Store obliterates all my defenses. With everything priced at a dollar, I feel like Donald Trump. This is also true at my previous home-away-from-home… Target. I would walk in to buy toothpaste and walk out with a toaster.

I have found it is better for me to spend a dollar or two more at a store with fewer temptations. In the long run, I am saving major bucks.

Check Your Balances

You have to love technology. Back in the day, you had to have your checkbook on you to see what was in the bank. Now, I log into the bank daily and check the activity. It has become as routine to me as brushing my teeth.

With much of our bill paying being done online, this little examination is also a visual reminder of those pesky bills I can sometimes forget about (you know, little things like the mortgage or electricity.)

Scheduling Some Spontaneity

Does this seem counter-intuitive? I have found that knowing I can splurge once in a while saves my sanity and stops me from making a ridiculous purchase.

I allow myself a tiny splurge once in a while – a song on iTunes, a new tube of mascara. It satisfies my need to spend lavishly while also keeping me in check.

In the end, it comes down to doing what is best for you.

There are many times I judge myself against others I see online or know in real life. Just remember: Comparison is the thief of joy. My goal is to just be happy with who I have become.

Dizee is a wife and mother who is on a quest to simplify her life one day at a time. Each day she posts her successes (and failures) at Doofy Dizee. She would love for you to stop by!

photo source

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  • Nancy says:

    I love this! Your sense of humor made my day.
    I, too, am guilty of NOT sweating the small things, which really add up to big problems.

    Good humor goes a long way, in the not so humorous, task of budgeting.

  • Excellent article!! I have the same issues, and a lot of it comes from my need to be”furgal”. I find myself buying things just for the sake of a sale. Like my father used to say, “If elephant poo was on sale, you’d buy 10 pounds”. And he’s right, I probably would lol. The only difference for me is that I’m the opposite with my debit card. I HAVE to use cash or I will absolutely overspend. If I go to Target with $20 cash I know I’ll only spend that, but if I go with my debit card, I’ll shop every aisle for clearance items and likely spend $100 or more.

    • Dizee says:

      hummm… my reply didn’t work so I am going to reply again – Sorry if it is a duplicate

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      The elephant poo line is classic!!! Love it!

      Have a great weekend!

  • Kate says:

    I love the honesty of this post! In a world full of money saving & frugal blogs, it is easy to start believing that everyone else is a natural saver! Nice breath of fresh air to read about someone who is probably more the norm than the articles about savers (which I LOVE, they inspire me!). The first step to changing our ways can be recognizing the cold honest truth (whether that is being a spender or being stingy!). Thanks for sharing!

  • Kristy K says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! I am similar in so many ways. I do a lot of mindless, speedy spending and if I feel a money crunch, I tend to spend MORE not less. I started working part time this school year and we’re able to loosen up our budget a little, but I’ve found that I’m actually spending much less than before because I don’t feel so trapped.

    I agree that the little things add up. I’ve tried a spending notebook to keep track and that helped somewhat.

    Thanks again for a great post!

    • Dizee says:

      Thank you for the kind words!!!!

      The spending notebook sounds like a great idea! I will have to give it a try!

    • Michelle says:

      I feel like this too! Money is tight, but this week we have a little extra, and I just almost spent $75 on a new backpack/ lunch box for my daughter, who already has 2 backpacks and 2 lunch boxes, but she wanted a rolling one and its on sale. I stopped myself when I realized how crazy it is to buy her a third back pack, but I just thought “I don’t know when we will have the money again so I am going to buy it right now!” But if I knew we would have the money next week, I wouldn’t have even thought about it.

      And target, my goodness, I cannot go in that store! I went today for diapers and came out with $100 worth of “deals”.

  • SandyH says:

    I need to know how to keep my resolve from flying out the window when I’m faced with Target or anywhere else for that matter. My biggest expense is groceries, and while I shop Aldi I can’t get everything there. This is where it all caves in., my “secondary shopping” at the other grocery store. I way overspend, nearly every single time. I cook and bake a lot, but it’s only my husband and me now. (How the heck do we go through so much food anyway??)

    • Amber L. says:

      I actually find it HARDER to cook for two people than to cook for more. I have a hard time at a grocery store, but I have found if I have a list, and go over my lunch break, I’m not as prone to overspend. I stick to my list, have a limited amount of time in which I can shop AND I don’t have the space at work to store three huge bags of items. If shopping on lunch break isn’t an option, maybe set a timer on your phone when you walk in the store. See if you can accomplish all your shopping in X:XX amount of time. Make sure to be realistic and try to shave minutes off your time everytime you go in. Get your NEED items first and if you have a few minutes leftover, visit your ONE favorite aisle to browse (for me it’s the coffee aisle). And you could also limit yourself by not taking a cart (a huge saver for me!) and also load your car full before you leave. Allow yourself only the front seat for your groceries. If you know the pram is in the trunk, and the items for donations are in the backseat you won’t be so tempted since you will have to play tetris just to get the items in the car. Maybe one or a few of those ideas would work for you? I have also heard some people say they only go to the store once a month. I personally couldn’t do that since I have a tiny house and a preschooler = little storage and sometimes a big eater, other days not so big an eater. I would waste more, in my opinion. Best wishes!!

  • Magen says:

    I am the same way with cash! I rarely have much cash on hand, but when I do it feels like extra money and I spend it super fast on random things. Just keeping an eye on my debit card purchases consistently is definitely the way to keep my spending in check.

  • MK says:

    Why did I have to read this before heading out for the day? Hasta la vista, cupcake I had been dreaming about…


  • Starlight says:

    This is one of the most realistic posts on frugality I have ever read. Amazing work. 🙂

  • Carla says:

    Really liked this post! Very well written and we all need the reminder that what works for us isn’t necessarily what works for other people (i.e. debit card use). We need to try (and fail) a few things until we find out what fits. We also need not to feel guilty when our process doesn’t look like others’. It’s easy to get into a “this-and-this-alone is what you must do” mindset.

  • Halie says:

    Love this post – I clip coupons and love deals, but it never fails that right before payday I’m logging into online banking to find out where all the money went. I find myself on the phone with my husband going over all of the odds and end purchases and explaining why THIS month just happened to have a few extra necessities. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that THIS month is EVERY month. I’m going to start using cash for our “going out” funds and might use cash for grocery, but how do I track those odds and ends?

  • Deana says:

    Thanks for this! With all the websites and blogs that I follow I always see how someone can do it better than me! I have trouble with my grocery budget. I use coupons and shop sales and do everything right except for STOP! I can’t seem to get enough. If I have 20 bottles of ketchup and they go on sale again and I have the coupons to get 20 more I will. It’s nice to have a stockpile but if some is going to go bad or get lost or put me in a financial bind to get it I shouldn’t yet most times I do. I have recently tried to re-assess the way I do things. What works for me probably won’t work for others but that’s ok. My problem may not be the same others have either. I just feel a relief reading this post. Although our struggles aren’t the same, they still leave us struggling. I now feel more normal in the fact that I can’t always buy $120 worth of groceries for $30 a week and need nothing else for my family! I will continue to work on my problems but enjoy each of my own accomplishments! I will stop comparing everything I do(or don’t do) with others and just smile because I am doing something!

  • I love this!

    I am a super frugal person. Your post is a great example of where so many are struggling to keep spending in check. The phrase, “It was only a dollar” really irks me, because those dollars add up, and as someone who usually doesn’t even HAVE that dollar, being around people who feel like that dollar spent (which turns into several) is no big deal makes it difficult for me in conversations. I remember someone telling me (in a very pushy manner) that I should participate in an activity. “It’s only $2,” she said, but that was PER CHILD! And I have 7 children, so that “only $2” was really $14, and I don’t have $14 for that.

    The strangest one to me was a woman who suggested that I sign my children up at the YMCA. “It’s only $20,” she said–again, per child. The person suggesting it had just lost her home and was living in someone’s casita. It highlighted to me the importance of not thinking “It’s only” in ANY amount.

  • A very funny and informative post. I am the same way with cash! But my husband can’t stand debit cards so we don’t have one. I think I will start writing down everything I spend on so I can see where the heck it goes. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dizee says:

    Thank you Crystal for sharing my post!!! I greatly appreciate it.

    And thank you everyone else for all the kind words!! I am so happy you enjoyed the post and it is nice to know I am not the only one who struggles with money!

    You all rock!

  • Sarah says:

    I love this not typical frugal post. Especially the debit card mention and the avoid trigger stores. We used to live in a large city with pretty much all store options (including the cash guzzling Target, WalMart & Dollar Tree!!!) and we now live in a very rural area. We have Kmart, Vons, Smart & Final, and JCP. Although prices here are significantly higher, I spend much less. I used to easily go drop $20 at dollar tree or Target clearance and feeling like I was scoring great deals. In reality, I was just wasting my $$$ on things I didn’t need. Living in the middle of nowhere has really helped curb my ‘entertainment shopping.’ =) Thanks for writing this.

  • Denise says:

    I like what you said about the debit card keeping you accountable! You are so right!!! My husband gets $20/week to spend as he pleases and I don’t care when/where/how! But if he swipes the debit card after his $20 is gone he knows I will see that he spend more than his allotted spending money!

    On the other hand…I started taking out our grocery budget in cash because I wasn’t doing a good job of sticking to it!

  • CK says:

    OMG this is funny b/c it’s so true. I tend to be frugal by nature but in the last few years have found that my spending has increased dramatically in an effort to have a life but it has quickly spun out of control for me.

    I checked out Dizee’s site…highly recommend it!

  • Cricket says:

    Completely agree- I am another personality type that does much better with plastic than cash. Our monthly budget for ALL purchases is $200 (including Christmas and birthdays!). Having to reconcile those statements each month really brings us face to face with every purchase instead of thinking “it’s just $5, no big deal” Just like you said $5 quickly became $60. The best compromise I’ve come up with for those that need a strict cash budget and having the digital tracking to reconcile with each month is to purchase a prepaid visa card or gift cards for the stores you typically shop at. You can pull up transaction dates for either!

  • Jennifer Gray says:

    I added up all those .35 charges added to our debt card purchases for one year (many places in CA charge .35 as that is what they are charged)…in one year along we had $231(ish) in processing charges. Some places will let you sneak by and run it as a credit card; but most gas stations and grocery stores are wish and make you push “debit”…and then they add in that process fee that they are charged. $230 a year means more money I could have spent on Christmas gifts or clothes for the kids.

  • Lisa says:

    I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing! Everyone has strengths and weaknesses (I’m also a frugal lady who LOVES to shop/spend). This post is a great reminder that you have to find what works for you!! LOVE it!

  • Anna says:

    Great article! We are now nearly 2 years distant from 2 years of unemployment and while I do my best to be frugal, write things down, stick to a budget, I can feel the resentment growing. So now I have started more sizeable splurge budgets for both my husband and I. If I know that at least once a year I can go to Macy’s and buy what I truly love, and not just what is on the sale rack it keeps me from going insane. I know many truly enjoy finding the deals and embrace the challenge of a frugal lifestyle and I applaud your tenacity. Even as we went through our hardest times, I still dreamed of the day when I wouldn’t have to feel so deprived. I know it will come one day, so I am cautious now.

  • barb says:

    Loved the article and loved her site. fun, fun!

  • Laurie says:

    I thought this post was me to a T!!!!! I make decent money and pay myself first etc. Have an emergency fund,but also have small CC debt I love to spend money on small things. I do not have a hard core grocery budget etc. When I need groceries I go to the store. I do not clip coupons,but that is ok with me. This was the best post I have read. I have no will power so I would like to say I am frugal,but not really. Does this bother me? Not really. Would I like more in my accounts sure,but at the end of the day I am happy and if tomorrow never came I would say you can not take it with you.

  • I loved this post, thank you for letting me know I am not alone. I love, love, love a good deal, so much so I will buy 12. 😉 Over the years I have had to take a hard look at myself and I realized all the “saving” I was doing with my coupons and deals wasn’t really saving us anything. So I did the same things you did, avoided my trigger stores (Target is totally mine too, those darn red clearance stickers suck me in every time 😉 less out to eating more home cooking (helps to actually use the food I saved so much money on 😉 and finally just admitting to my self that I am not as “frugal” as I thought I was and its ok to admit I have limitations. Once again thank you!!! I think you are well on your way to recovery. 🙂

  • Annie Kate says:

    LOL I’ve been telling my kids I should stop ‘saving’ money or we’ll go broke! Staying home helps.

    And when I want to get stuff, I go to the library and get as much as I want for free, including DVD’s. It works for me.

  • Jacqui says:

    Oh, this is me. It got so bad that I finally had to give my husband my debit and credit card. I was the worst at Target/CVS/grocery store. I would just go in for a few things and spend $30 or $50 and do that 3-4x a week!

    I finally went to a strict cash budget for groceries that I get weekly. I do have my debit card back but I don’t even think about it now at the grocery store. Instead, it made me a better shopper/couponer. If I wanted to spend, I had to make it work in my budget. I even have a budget for my newspapers, ink, and paper so I won’t overspend to get my deals!

    It works for me, but I know the temptation to overspend and go a little crazy always lurks in the background.

  • Jessica says:

    I also love the accountability of the debit card ;). I am not disciplined with cash for some reason.

    • Guest says:

      I third that. :-). Writing down every purchase in my check register when I use my debit card shows our OVERALL budget as opposed to my grocery or medical or whatever budget. I find that is much more impactful than when I tried to do the envelopes.

  • Bethany says:

    It’s so nice when I can read something and think, “Yes! I’m NOT the only one!” As someone who just went to the store for milk and celery and ended up spending over $100 I can totally relate! I’m heading over to your blog. I think we’re kindred spirits 🙂

    • Dizee says:

      LOL! Yes! I think we are kindred spirits!

      I hope you enjoy the blog.

      And thank you everyone for all the great comments! I would literally like to hug each and everyone of you!

  • Amber Davenport says:

    This was written for me! My hubby & I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, so we do the cash envelope system but it’s not working for me. I take cash from 1 category to spend on another and I blow through cash within the first week of the month! I’m at a lose on what I should do.

    • Stephanie says:

      Just a suggestion that has worked for me (we too went through FPU and cash was not working for us at all): We are able to have extra checking accounts linked to our main account. So I created one for me and one for my husband that feeds out of our main account. I put money into my checking account each week that will cover my gas and groceries (and anything else I have to spend money on that week like hair cuts or planned outings). Then I use my debit card for that account only. It works so much better for me. I track my spending from my two categories on an envelope (Got the idea from and that way I know how much of my grocery budget I’ve spend and how much of my gas budget I’ve spent. Hubby gets his gas money and “fun” money put into his checking account and only spends out of that one each week. All bills are still paid out of our main, family checking.

      Sorry it’s such a long comment and I hope it made sense! I got the idea from the blog I linked to above if you want more clarification.

  • Andrea Boots says:

    Thank you for being real about this! I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, and I appreciate your ideas for getting things in check. What a blessing to read from someone who struggles like I do and who found a way to make it work!

  • EJ says:

    Totally agree with not keeping a lot of cash in the wallet! If I pay with a card, I know that the purchase will have to be accounted for, but cash just feels like “free” money that’s easy to waste.

  • Kristie says:

    My favorite post EVER! I love your humor, transparency, and practical suggestions. The internet has a tendency to become “Perfecto-land,” leaving readers feeling quite small and alone. Your post was real. Thanks for posting–I need to check out your blog.

  • debbie says:

    I so agree with this article. I tend to spend to much money buying great clearance. If the price is 75-80% off regular price . I will buy double or triple the amount that I had initially planned. Last week I went to sears looking for a swim suit . I found 4 swimsuits for $ 5.00 each. So I bought them . I only needed 1. The rest will probably go on unworn. Often my weight and size fluctuates. So I may only get to wear it for a year.

  • Tara H says:

    Great post! I could definitely see me in there! Thank you for sharing. I’m looking forward to re-reading it …over and over! 🙂

  • Ashley Smith says:

    Wowza! This was probably one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read here (and I’ve read here a LONG time). All I can say is a big THANK YOU! Hubby and I were talking about my spending tendencies, and you hit it to a “T.” Very practical and encouraging! Blessings!

  • Allie Z says:

    Spot on! I couldn’t agree more. Toothpaste –> toaster. YES!

  • Dorothy says:

    I am so glad that I am not the only one who does better with a debit card opposed to cash! All the frugal advice says to use cash but I have found with cash I can “hide” my purchases and no one has to know how much I’m spending (plus I often forget where I may have spent the money). If I use my debit card my husband can see what I spent and where and it really keeps me accountable.

  • Sharon T says:

    Great article that I can relate to!

  • Lynn says:

    Like most of the other commenters, I loved the honesty of this post. But what caught my attention the most…”Comparison is the thief of joy”. So often most of us feel we are doing so well and then read a blog or someone else’s story and begin to doubt our own efforts. It is nice to have the reminder that we are all on our own journey!

  • Stephanie says:

    I feel like I could have written this post myself. I frequently dismiss the small purchases because it’s $2-3 and that doesn’t really make that big of a difference in my account…right??? Before I know it, I’ve spend $15 in a week on “little” stuff (coffee, dollar spot items…etc.).

    I also CANNOT carry cash. It’s much easier for me to spend cash than overspend on my debit card. I have a personal checking account linked to our family account and I only put my gas and grocery money on it each week. I know exactly how much I have to spend in each category (and I add more if there is some other expense I have to take care of that week). If I want to spend more than that on something else, it has to come out of the family account, which my husband can check on (he can check on my personal one too if he wants). I tried the cash system and it just did not work for me at all. I was flying through my money and not knowing where it went and having to borrow from one category to cover another.

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this!

    • Kacie says:

      I want to know which bank you guys are using that does the linked checking accounts! That sounds like just the ticket for me and my “free spirit” hubs–cash/envelope system does not work for us, but with the debit card, and checking in every day at least once (often two to three times/day if I count checking from my phone), I am better able to keep a handle on the cash flow. We do a lot of online shopping (even for groceries, as we buy a lot of organic foods and our local co-op also runs primarily through online service) and bill-paying, and so we already juggle money around on the internets… seriously curious about this bank and linked accounts. Seems like a great idea!

  • Susan says:

    This was a hoot! I can totally relate – Thanks!

  • Stephanie says:

    This post was a breath of fresh air and very courageous! Thank you so much!

  • Heidi says:

    I loved this post. Just today I gave all my cards to my husband, even the debit, and told him to hide them. I have balances on all my cards and I don’t like that. I would see a deal and would not be able to pass it up. In fact, I would buy multiples of it. I would go to the store for a couple items and leave with a cart full. I treated the debit card just like a credit card. And forgot about the automatic bills that came out of it too. Now I am going to just take cash and a calculator to the store. I need to retrain my brain. Or I will put us in the poor house with sales. I have a new motto, It’s not how much I save, it’s how much I spend that counts.

  • Jen says:

    Went over to your blog and I’m sorry to say I had to stop reading. My laughing out loud keeps waking my husband who is sleeping. I’ll have to go back another time. You’re a funny lady!
    Great article here too, I always feel like something is wrong with me because cash doesn’t work for me. It just doesn’t. And yes I’ve tried. My debit card helps me keep everything in check.

  • Linda Gordon says:

    Great read and I too am an overspender, but luckily I reconize it and I am working towards changing my habits (baby steps!!).

  • Dizee says:

    Wow! You guys are simply fantastic! Thank you everyone!

  • Lety says:

    As soon as I read “Avoid Trigger Stores” I thought of the dollar store! I often have to go back through my basket to weed out my wants.

    Reading the various categories of your tips has made me realize another big spending area for me. Make-up. Before becoming familiar with CVS I only bought make-up when I was completely out of something. I didn’t wear it often so as to not run out. But now, I find myself buying make-up often because I feel I am getting a great deal on it at CVS. How can I pass up buy one, get one half off, get $5 back when you spend 20, get $3 off a purchase of $15 in make-up, plus the manufacturer’s coupons discounts? I don’t! And end up spending at least a few dollars every week. Granted, a make-up item is much less expensive than previously, but I’m not saving overall if I’m making a purchase every week. I will definitely stay away from the make-up aisle for a while.

    Thank you for this post! It truly enlightened me.

  • Tammy W. says:

    I am the same way! Cash & its promise of secrecy, the lure of dollar-store bargains, & the need for an occasional splurge are all issues for me. Do others also find that buying online, even w/ shipping included, ends up saving on impulse buys? (Especially since we live at least 30 min. from most stores, that’s a huge money-saver, here!)

    We’re not all like Crystal, & that’s okay! Thanks for posting!

    • Crystal says:

      Wouldn’t the world be boring if everyone were like me?? 🙂

    • Kacie says:

      I shop online! Groceries, even! And it saves me tons! I am so bad about trigger stores… Target is the worst! Everything looks amazing, half of it is on sale or clearance, and I just make a mess of our finances every time I go. When I shop for most things online, and relegate all other grocery purchases to once a month and strictly from our carefully planned list, I do so much better! Amazon and Vitacost save me so much money, as I have Amazon Prime (student account, so half price for now) and purchase only when I have enough for free shipping through Vitacost (also use my Upromise card and account to get 10% cash back). Nice to hear I am not alone in the online shopping/saving idea… It really works for me.

  • Donna says:

    5:42 am reading this so I appreciate the simple writing style…and the common sense approach to a topic many of us struggle with. Splurge on mascara…may work for me.

  • Shelley S says:

    This is me. I have to make little splurges to keep myself from going nuts. Great post!

  • Melanie says:

    If you can handle them, swap the debit card for a credit card! Set it up for paid in full automatic payments and it works just like your debit would (so long as you don’t go over balance, if your debit card gets declined often them you’ll want it avoid credit). With 2% cash back I made $1200 dollars last Year! Woo! Free money to spend on splurges and savings.

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