Why Do I Overspend When I Have No Money?

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I’m going through a quiet patch at work at the moment. It’s always like this in July, presumably because of the end of financial year. But it makes me a bit panicky – part of me thinks the slow pace will never pick up.

Yet I’m noticing a tendency to spend as if the quiet patch wasn’t happening. On a logical level this doesn’t make sense. If there is less money coming in, it should be easy to spend less, right?

Wrong. Humans are emotional creatures, and it’s for emotional reasons that we overspend. I was curious as to where my own urge to keep spending came from, and came up with a few theories. Along the way, I thought of some other motivations that can lead to overspending just at the very moment when you should be pinching your pennies. I’ve listed them below.

Once you know what’s really going on, you don’t have to beat yourself up about spending. Instead you can deal with the source of the problem, not just the symptom. For this reason I’ve provided some suggested solutions to the different reasons for spending when money is tight.

Scarcity – If you’re telling yourself you don’t have any money, that alerts your brain to a fear that you won’t have enough. Your unconscious may decide that it’s better to spend what you’ve got, and to ‘stock up’ on consumer goods because there’s no more money coming in.

Solution: Sooth yourself. Tell yourself that you’re in charge, and that you’ll do your best to spend wisely the money you have access to, even if it’s limited.

Giving up – if you’re already in debt then it’s easy to think ‘one more little thing won’t make any difference’. Your financial situation feels so hopeless that you may as well spend that little bit extra.

Solution: Start a budget, so that you know where your money is going. Keep checking it, and try to stick to it; if you go off track, simply adjust the budget and get back on the wagon again.

Treating yourself – If there’s not much work coming in and you’re worried about the situation, it’s tempting to spend in order to feel better and give yourself a mood boost.

Solution: Treat yourself with things that don’t cost anything, like a nice warm bath, a walk in the park, a nap on the couch, or just sleeping in on the weekend.

Boredom – If there’s not much work coming in, or you’re simply at home a lot, life gets boring. You may find yourself browsing your favourite shopping sites, or going to the mall, seeking visual stimulation; the human need for novelty is a classic reason why people shop.

Solution: Plan your time so that it’s quite structured. Include activities that are mentally stimulating and challenging. Seek visual stimulation in ways other than shopping, like going to a gallery or listening to some music.

Guilt – if you’ve been an overspender for a while, it’s easy to slip into a vicious circle. You feel guilty for overspending, and the guilt makes you feel bad about yourself – so you go out and spend in order to feel better.

Solution: Practise self-love, even if you don’t believe you’re worth it (you are!). Seek the support of a self-help group for overspenders or a therapist who specialises in spending issues.

Power – Not having much money can make you feel powerless. In contrast, finding a bargain, or choosing a tasteful bag, can make you feel very powerful. Ironically, this kind of spending is also disempowering because it’s preventing you taking control of your finances.

Solution: Look at ways you feel disempowered in your own life, and fix them. Work on your budget, and look at any issues you are having with self-discipline, motivation and changing habits. Learn assertion skills to use at work and in your personal life. Join a community group that works on a social issue you’d like to change.

Drop us a line!
I hope this helps. I’d love to hear of any experiences you have of overspending when you’re broke, and how you keep your spending in line. Meanwhile here’s a couple of resources if you have serious spending problems.

Help for overspending
Online discussion group: Shopping Addicts Support

Debtors Anonymous

Until next time!

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What Can I Recycle? An Inspirational List


When I first investigated going green, I truly believed I knew it all. Boy, was I wrong. Since the last time I’d investigated recycling back in the nineties (I know, I know), there’d been a transformation in the services available. There are now hundreds of social enterprises, and government and private programs, recycling everything from tin foil to computer keyboards.

There are also programs that collect and dispose of toxic items in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

You’d never know this if you relied on the mainstream media alone. Sadly, they aren’t that interested in recycling. A lot of interesting developments are going on behind the scenes, but unless you search them out on the internet, you probably won’t hear about them.

Even local councils, who offer many recycling services, don’t always do a great job of promoting them.

The following is a list of items that are recyclable in my local area, Malvern, in Melbourne, Victoria. It’s mainly meant as inspiration for you to seek out services in your area, because recycling services tend to be localised, often at the local government level. However, a few of the services listed here are Melbourne or Victoria-wide.

A great place to start if you’re in Australia and want to search out recycling services in your area is the Recycling Near You website.

Of course, these kinds of recycling services are no substitute for government action. As well as doing our bit, let’s tell our MPs that the excessive packaging and over-reliance on plastic has to stop, and that recycling toxic items like batteries must be mandatory (as it is in Europe).

Recycling is better than throwing out, but in the case of plastic especially, it’s equally important to try to use less in the first place, and there are some tips for doing that here.

The list below isn’t exhaustive. This website provides information on items that can and can't be recycled throughout the UK, and it runs the gamut from spectacles to eggshells. Also, I haven't included paper and cardboard because unless you've been living on Mars you will know about these.


My local council, Stonnington, runs a battery recycling service. Malvern Library has a box on the loans counter where you can deposit batteries for recycling.

Another option is Batteryback™, a free service run by the Victorian Government that recycles old and used household batteries. The batteries can be dropped off at some Bunnings, Coles, Michaels Camera and Officeworks stores. The list of stores can be found here.

The list of batteries they recycle is impressive, and includes batteries for:
  • mobile phones 
  • video cameras 
  • digital cameras 
  • hearing aids 
  • cordless phones 
  • portable electric shavers 
  • cordless power tools 
  • laptop computers 
  • palm pilots 
  • remote controlled toys 
  • portable video games 
  • portable disc players. 
Recently ALDI supermarkets teamed up with Planet Ark to offer a free battery recycling service in every store. There is a dedicated recycling bin located at the front of every ALDI store where you can drop used AA, AAA, C, D or 9V batteries, both rechargeable and non-rechargeable.

Hard plastic

Local councils differ in the extent to which they allow you to put plastic in the recycling bin. I’m lucky in that my local council recycles plastic, but I had no idea the kinds of hard plastic I could throw in my recycling bin. I knew I could recycle yoghurt containers, but apart from that I was pretty ignorant. In fact, I can put in my recycling bin:
  • pen cases and lids (not the ink tube) 
  • takeaway containers 
  • plastic bottles for household items – eg, cooking oil, shampoo, vinegar – including the lids 
  • bits of hard plastic that often come with groceries, eg the plastic clipper used to secure plastic bags on bread. 
It’s important to wash thoroughly any plastics that have held food, shampoo etc. before you throw them in the bin.

If your local council doesn't enable plastic curbside recycling, pressure them to provide it!

Floppy disks

I managed to find somewhere in Melbourne that would recycle my obsolete pile of floppy disks! I had to search around a bit, and as the group I found were a volunteer outfit I happily gave them a donation of five dollars. They are Computerbank, based in Victoria Street, West Melbourne, a not-for-profit group that refurbishes donated computers for low-income people, students and community groups. If you have a laptop you’re ready to let go of, speak to them first.

Plastic bags

Most of us know that supermarkets recycle plastic bags but this is still worth a mention. My local Coles and Woolworths have bins in which you can place plastic bags for recycling. You can recycle supermarket plastic bags and the heavier store bags, packaging film (eg plastic packaging for paper towels, toilet paper and junk mail), as well as drycleaning plastic. However, cling wrap, compostable bags and prepackaged food bags, including frozen food bags and prewashed salad bags, normally can’t be included. Remember to ensure the bags are clean before you put them in.

If you like to shop at supermarkets other than Coles and Woolworths, individual IGA stores seem to do their own thing when it comes to recycling, so you may need to contact your local store to see what they offer; my nearest store, Ashburton, doesn’t provide the option of recycling plastic bags.

(While ALDI doesn’t appear to offer plastic bag recycling, it’s only fair to mention that they are the only supermarket not providing free, single-use plastic bags to customers.)

Food markets may also have their own sustainable plastic bags policies. Victoria Market, for instance, is phasing out free, single-use plastic bags. Alternatives include biodegradable bags, ‘green bags’ designed for multiple use and paper bags.

Computers, televisions, printers and computer parts 

When it comes to e-waste, there are a number of options available to me.

My local council offers its residents free recycling of whitegoods, TVs PCs etc, if dropped off at the waste transfer station (or ‘tip’ as we used to call it!).

Borondoora Council, a few suburbs away from me, runs a free e-waste recycling service at its Riversdale Recycling and Waste Centre (they wouldn’t take my floppy disks, hence the previous search). Items that can be dropped off for recycling free of charge, for non-residents as well as residents, are:

  • televisions 
  • personal computers 
  • laptops, notebooks, palmtops and tablets 
  • computer monitors 
  • computer parts: hard drives, motherboards, cables, internal power supplies, DVD and CD drives 
  • computer peripherals: mice, keyboards, joysticks, game-pads, scanners, web cameras 
  • printers and scanners. 
The e-waste recycling service is a free scheme, but the Recycling and Waste Centre will also recycle the following items for a small fee:
  • game consoles 
  • video and DVD players 
  • radios/stereos 
  • power tools 
  • kitchen and household appliances 
  • whitegoods 
  • universal power supplies.

Printer cartridges, mobile phones, light globes, car batteries and car parts, scrap metal

Stonnington Council specifies that light globes can’t be put in the recycling bin. However, the waste transfer station does recycle light globes and fluoro tubes free of charge if you live in Stonnington. They also provide free recycling of car batteries, automotive oil, scrap metal, car parts and mobile phones and batteries if you drop them off at the transfer station. Contact your local council to see what they offer.

My local Officeworks store has a drop-off bin for recycling old mobile phones and printer cartridges.

Garden waste

My local council offers the option of hiring a green waste bin, emptied every two weeks, for around seventy dollars a year. They will also provide free recycling of garden waste, including tree branches, that is dropped off at the transfer station.

Cans, tins and aluminium foil 

Some local councils, mine included, offer curbside recycling of aluminium, aerosol and steel cans and tins, as well as aluminium foil. Contact your local council to see if they do.

Cansmart is an Australia-wide industry body that promotes the recycling of steel. This page has a guide for preparing tins to place in the recycling bin.

Chemical and hazardous waste 

Detox your Home is a free service for householders to dispose of potentially dangerous household chemical products safely and easily without harming the environment. It’s run by Sustainability Victoria in partnership with local governments.

Victorians can take their household chemical products to a Detox your Home drop-off point at a permanent site or through the mobile service. The Detox your Home mobile drop-off service accepts a wide range of household chemical products; check the webpages for details. However, I rang the information number and they couldn’t tell me which hazardous chemical products are actually recycled.

Pharmaceutical drugs Pills and medicines that have been sitting in the cupboard too long pose a potential risk to children, and can cause harm to the environment if flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. The Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) project enables consumers in Australia to take their unwanted medicines to their local pharmacy for safe disposal in an environmentally responsible way.

Until next time!
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Latest Thrift Store Finds - Jacket City!

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I was going to call this blog entry just 'latest thrift store finds', then I realised that most of the finds recently have been jackets! Which is just as well, because Melbourne has been going through a chilly winter; the days are often pleasantly sunny but it's freezing.

First in the parade is my ten dollar birthday jacket below. I found it on my birthday in the Vinnies store in Ashburton. It is doublebreasted so I was a bit doubtful at first as it seemed too fitted to be comfortable when buttoned - but it's fine, and looks great buttoned up. Love the cherry red colour. The label is Just Jeans and it is surprisingly good quality considering.

Still in need of winter clothes, I found this trench coat in the Don Bosco store in Sydney Road, Brunswick. It's not particularly warm though, as the fabric is cotton drill, but I feel like a fifties detective in it. I must to something about the right lapel, which flops a bit.

I picked up the retro-style jacket below only yesterday - by far the best bargain I've found in a while - for fifteen dollars, it's Jigsaw no less! I found it in a little op shop in Caulfield that I peruse frequently, but am rarely lucky in. The woman who served me said she had had her eye on it - I don't blame her! It's quite formal, but may be useful for meetings with clients:

I wasn't really looking for another jacket because half an hour earlier I had picked up this little beauty from the Vinnies in Auburn Road, Hawthorn, for the same price:

Just to vary things a bit, I pounced on this amazing pair of trousers - eighties if the incredibly high waist is anything to go by - a couple of months ago at the Brotherhood store in Bentleigh. They are warm and in great condition but the waist is just a tiny bit small, and I don't know how people put up with those high waists - quite uncomfortable! For $1.50 you can't complain - they were on the bargain rack, which is unusual for a store that is usually aware of vintage trends:

I would dearly love to buy more sweaters and trousers from thrift stores, but good quality items in these categories seem harder to come by. Perhaps the quality of jackets is higher because jackets tend to be sturdier and don't get washed as much, and possibly people tire of them before they become worn out.

What do you think - do you find jackets easier to buy at thrift stores, or do you have any tips for buying sweaters and trousers?

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Great tips for successful op and thrift shopping.
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Chipped Thrift Store Treasures: Celebrating the Beauty of Imperfection

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Do you ever buy chipped things? I used to have a horror of anything that wasn’t perfect and whole, but now I embrace the odd chip, scratch or dent as long as it doesn’t detract from the look of a piece.

Herewith, a showcase of some chipped things I love.

I bought this large ceramic vase for ten dollars at my local thrift store / op shop. It’s very heavy – it’s  been fired in a kiln, and has a lovely glaze. I’m not sure of the level of skill of the person who produced it – there is no identifying signature at the bottom – but the glazing and colour are very soothing. I discovered there were chips on the inside of the rim when I got it home, but they’re not that visible so I’m not too worried about them.

I bought this decorative vase from an op shop for about ten dollars, but didn’t realise the sculpted flower on the top right was chipped; it's difficult to notice. Still I love the detail so much I don’t really care.

This cement (I assume) pot was bought at a garage sale for a couple of bucks – I really should keep some sort of record of prices I pay for things – and the sculpture that makes up the rim is chipped. It’s really supposed to have a plant sitting in it but instead it sits happily enough in the corner of my bathroom to the right of the vanity basin, slowly accumulating black mould (which I recently scrubbed off it so it’s not looking too bad). It has a kind of decadent Roman, neoclassical feel to it.

I bought this picture from the Brotherhood op shop in Bentleigh. It was very shabby chic when I bought it (shabby being the operative word) but is now even shabbier after a piece of the frame on the lower left-hand side fell out a few months ago. I suppose I could mend it with suitable glue – I tell myself the missing piece simply adds to the olde worlde appearance.

This little birdie sits on my front porch. Because its tail was already chipped it cost about four bucks at a local garden centre. It sits precariously on narrow little toes and I chipped its little beak once, when I tipped it over accidentally. I feared it would be useless but somehow it still retains its birdiness.

It’s easier to accept imperfections in something that has always been imperfect. When a possession we’re invested in gets chipped or dented, it’s as if the ego itself sustains the injury.

Then gradually the change becomes incorporated, and we stop seeing it and feeling it. It's like a tiny scar, reminding us of all the injuries, bruises and deeper wounds we ourselves have sustained. It also reminds us that imperfection is the essence of beauty, life and growth.

Until next time!
If you enjoyed this blog entry you might also like: In with the Old and Out with the New - Shopping and the Search for Perfection. 
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