The Thrifty Paradox.

Since we began our thrifty adventure, I have noticed something very strange.

You have to spend to save.

Yes really.

The secret to our improving financial position is that I am spending money more frequently. I feel I should explain.

When we first started trying to tackle our worsening financial position, we convinced ourselves that if we were just more disciplined, bought fewer things, went out less, said ‘no’ more, then it would just happen that we would spend less and the debt would go.

This is the impression given by TV shows such as Spendaholics, where people are given £40 for the week and told to get on with it and then, as if by magic all of their problems disappear.

But, month after month we made no inroads. We ended up each Christmas in exactly the same position as the previous, in fact usually worse. And we we’re cross, grumpy, and feeling deprived.

(Christmas is my personal financial line in the sand…I’ve spent the last three in a state of abject panic. I will know I have succeeded in turning things around when I can get through a whole Christmas break without crying).

This ‘no spend’ , ‘be more disciplined’ approach simply did not work.


Just like when on a diet, you can’t cut all food from your life, you still have to eat. Trying to eat nothing at all just leads to crankiness, cravings and an unhealthy relationship with food. It also leads ultimately to bingeing. The key is to eat an abundance of the right quality foods in the right proportions, at the right times.

So it is with spending. Unless you really want to take up a no spend challenge (I know people do, but I consider them to be financial anorexics) you have to spend something. The children need school uniforms. We all need food. Friends have birthdays. I have a birthday! I like going to the theatre. I enjoy meeting friends for coffee. I need to drive a car. Our hair grows and we don’t wish to look like scarecrows. And Christmas happens every year, God dammit!

The secret for me has been to be more mindful, and to take more opportunities to buy. Yes. I shall say that again. I shop more.

When I was trying to avoid all spending, I would only go to the shops when a purchase became absolutely necessary, leading to panic buying. For example, the kids uniform would all be bought in one mad panic the day before school started. No surprises here but shops don’t tend to offer discounted goods the day before school starts. They also tend to not have a lot of stock left. I would end up paying inflated prices on things that weren’t quite right. Now, when I see that there is an offer on an item of uniform, I’ll buy it and put it away for when I need it.

Previously, if a friend had a birthday get together, I would rush to the shops that morning, and buy something in such a frenzy, that the gift was neither prudent or appropriate. I have now assembled a little box of ‘thoughtful gifts’ that I have picked up in sales, markets and on the internet.

The internet is great for picking up bargains. Facebook pages such as Facebay and Bargain Buys for Busy Mums regularly post details of hugely reduced items. It was via this page that I learned of the massive reductions in a House of Fraser sale. I managed to pick up 10 children’s Christmas gifts for £50. Full price on these items would have been £150. I also bulk buy items such as loo roll and washing powder from sites such as Groupon.

In addition to being a more cost effective way to shop, a further benefit of this is that it has put me back in touch with my local community. I live in a beautiful midlands market town but I rarely visited our town centre, more frequently choosing to get in the car and drive to the nearest retail park.

I now cycle to the town centre regularly and find that the items I can pick up outside of the usual high street stores are unique, and reasonable. I have made other connections too. While picking up some sausages in the local butcher, an old school friend served me, and we got chatting. In addition to serving meaty delights, she had recently set up as a mobile hairdresser. She now cuts the kids hair at a fraction of the cost of our old salon.

I often hear people say that they don’t have the time to shop like this. And that used to be my reasoning too. I felt I was far too busy, and I genuinely thought I was saving time doing everything by the seat of my pants. But I now feel I SAVE time by shopping in this way. I already have the kids uniform. I don’t have to waste a whole day dragging them reluctantly around the shops, and then find time to go back and pick up the bits I’ve missed. Likewise birthday gifts, hostess gifts, Christmas gifts etc. It’s easy to mistake feeling rushed and panicked for being busy. I am busier with work than I ever been and shopping in this way has actually freed up a huge amount of time and more importantly mental energy.

I Would love to hear your thoughts. How do you shop?

Lots of love

The Thrifty Ninja xxxx