Spending Freeze FAQ: Why I Started It and What It Looks Like in My Life


I first announced that I’d be doing a spending freeze on Instagram a few weeks ago (you can watch the video here). I’ve heard from so many people who are supporting this shift and have also received a number of questions. I felt it would be helpful to write a post answering a couple of the main questions that have come up along the way. 

Let’s get into it!

Why I Started a Spending Freeze

I was taking a deeper look at our finances with the business and the amount of projects we had going on. I was spending a lot to go fast (i.e., hiring out work instead of doing it myself). It was expensive, it was stressful, and it felt like it was necessary until I actually paused and asked… is it?

I ultimately realized I was getting caught up in spending because of the way I thought things were supposed to be. It’s very jarring to live in a beautiful house, have everything the way you want it, and still feel empty. (This is not intended to complain or seek pity! It’s simply an honest reflection on how constantly seeking improvement doesn’t necessarily improve your life at its core.) That realization was a good wake-up call for me. It was a good opportunity to ask myself whether my spending was aligned with how I’m actually comfortable living.

I was spending a lot to go fast. . . . It was expensive, it was stressful, and it felt like it was necessary until I actually paused and asked… is it?

The other more personal reason I started a spending freeze is that I am impulsive. Spending money has always been an all or nothing thing for me. My therapist views it as a behavior that’s both a compulsion and a coping mechanism. When that kind of spending is justifiable for work, it becomes even more complicated. I wanted to figure out what I was trying to address with a hit of dopamine from buying something rather than sitting with whatever feeling I was experiencing. For me, what this is getting to the root of is ultimately deeper than solely a budget issue. 

What This Spending Freeze Looks Like in My Life

The core area this affects is work.

This particular spending freeze is essentially a hold on any big projects. This includes anything I would hire a contractor for or anything that costs more than ~$1K. Right now, at the start of the freeze, we’re not really spending any money on projects at all. I can already see that this is pushing me to be more creative in the kinds of micro-projects I am pursuing.

The thing about work projects (which, in my case, typically relate to home decor) is that costs spiral quickly. Even though I work with sponsored partners and am gifted pieces as well, there are still plenty of costs associated with designing a home. Tasks like hiring someone to hang wallpaper or paint a room add up fast. 

This spending cap for projects also helps me think about how I want to execute projects in the future, after the spending freeze has ended. Things will be planned instead of rushed on impulse. That way, I can really decide what’s important, where I want to spend, and where I want to save. I think there’s more room out there in the realm of content for this kind of slow design approach.

In my personal life…

I’m almost entirely on a spending freeze when it comes to buying new clothes (although I’m occasionally gifted clothing from brands). I found myself in a closet full of clothes unsure what to wear, and I knew something had to shift.

We’re also planning our meals a little bit more so what we need for any given dish is already in the fridge or pantry. I love to cook off the cuff but sometimes when I’m tired and don’t want to spend the energy deciding what to make, it’s easy to just order takeout. 

This spending freeze is, at its core, about being more intentional and pausing before doing.

There’s a middle ground between completely ignoring an issue, want, or need and addressing the issue, want, or need immediately. Whenever I really want something, I find that it’s helpful to write it down and make it a tangible thing on paper, then pause before buying. If after some time it’s still front of mind for me, I’ll consider buying it. If I forgot about it, it’s ultimately not something I need to purchase.

I designed this spending freeze around my own mental health and my personal life, which is different from other people’s. If you’re interested in trying this for yourself, I’d encourage you to take the time to reflect on areas in your own life where you’d like to make some changes. Spending freezes go far beyond the health of your wallet. They’re also about making more peace with who you are as a consumer. 

How Long I’ll Continue the Spending Freeze

I would like to continue this through the summer. I’d like to go long enough that I feel a significant shift in how I spend money to solve “problems” in my life. This especially relates to those that could be solved by pausing, finding calm, and moving forward in a thoughtful way. 

I hope this helped clarify some things for anyone who was curious to know more! If you have any other questions, please feel free to shout them out in the comments below.

BY Kate Arends - May 23, 2022

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Katie S.
May 23, 2022 1:18 pm

Last year I made my new year’s resolution be to not buy a single new item (obviously things needed for real life didn’t count – shampoo, groceries, etc). I was only going to do it for one month and I ended up doing it for six months! It truly changed how I viewed shopping/consuming and has opened up an entirely new way to live for me, one where my actions align with my values.

May 23, 2022 1:40 pm

I did something similar out of necessity a few years ago when I was planning to leave a job. I curbed purchasing everything – even sometimes to a fault (like new bras LOL). Thanks to the pandemic and a few other things in life, I never actually went back to my old ways of spending. And somehow in doing so I was able to carve out a dream life to save for, and now I happily put the money toward my future self / home, and I’m happier for it. Another thing I’ve learned is that once you realize you’re… Read more »

May 23, 2022 2:08 pm

I applaud your efforts to slow down! When you were doing colors for the basement, I was worried you were moving too fast for your family’s long-term use of the space.

May 27, 2022 10:50 pm

I would love to try a spending freeze, I’ve had the idea many times but never followed through. My justification is alway “it’s such a good deal” and I tell myself I’ll be happier once I have this “thing” but that happiness is usually short lived and I’m chasing the next thing.

Paola G.
May 31, 2022 8:40 am

Thanks for sharing your spending freeze and the reasons behind it. I found it helpful since I struggle with impulse buying and I also use it as a coping mechanism like you do. I am trying to be mindful when I feel the urge of shopping and deal with the feelings behind it.
I think it is a good idea to do a summer spending freeze. I am off during the summer months which means more time in my hands. I definitely don’t need anything since I have a closet full of clothes and shoes.

February 7, 2023 10:26 pm

You have my admiration for attempting to take it easy. You could have moved too quickly when choosing basement paint colors to consider your family’s long-term needs.

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