YNAB Podcast Episode 58: I can list all the clothes I own. You?

This episode aired on November 26, 2012.

Hello YNABers. My name is Jesse Mecham and this is podcast number 58 for You Need A Budget, where we teach you four rules to help you stop living pay check to pay check, get out of debt and save more money.

Today I’m going to tell you about a massive accomplishment that I have under my belt now. I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement – not that I’m going to… not in that way. I’m thinking about retirement in general. I’m not totally sold on the idea from the outset, honestly. I think I’d like to stay busy and sane. But in thinking about planning for your retirement, or maybe just when you downshift a little bit, the number one killer to your nest egg, number one that you can control is your expenses. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about that – the expenses.

And then I read a book recommended by a friend, by a lady – the book was called ‘Seven’, it’s a Christian book if you’re interested – and I quite enjoyed it. This lady takes a stand on seven different issues over seven months. The first month she eats seven foods – that’s it. The second month she only wears seven items of clothing, not including underwear. There was one month where she did some serious cutting down on waste, recycled a ton – that was cool. I liked what she had to say about taking care of… you know, taking care of your food, like growing your own food and all of that, so they started to garden. Anyway, there was a lot of cool stuff there. It was excellent if you like… if you’re along the lines of the Christian genre. That was… I honestly read more non-fiction, like ‘how to’, so this was a little bit of a break from the pack, so to speak. But she inspired me. And I think her name is… I can’t remember the author’s name now, darn it. I think it’s Jen… Jen something. The book’s called ‘Seven’.

I was in line voting and this lady asked me what I was reading. The line was two and a half hours long to vote, and the lady says, “What are you reading?” I was kind of worried. I had to put my phone in airplane mode because I only had 7% left and I wanted to be able to read the entire time I was in line, I was reading this book. So I told this old lady next to me – by old I mean like 80 – she says, “What are you reading?” I say, “Well, I’m reading this book called ‘Seven’.” She says, “Oh, that book is excellent. I really loved it. I didn’t really like the movie – I didn’t think it was that good,” and she was talking about the movie Seven with Brad Pitt, that I’ve never seen and probably will never see because that is not my thing. But I thought it was funny that this 80 year old woman HAD seen it, based on what I’ve heard of it. Anyway… And Morgan Freeman was in it as well – which makes me kind of… kind of sad that Morgan Freeman’s gone, but… Shawshank Redemption, my favorite with him; or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner – that was Kevin Costner. Okay, I’m getting off track!

So, I’m reading ‘Seven’, I get inspired by this clothes thing and how much excess clothes this lady had that she got rid of, so I say, “I’m going to do the same thing.” So, this last weekend I got up a little earlier than normal and I went through my closet, and I just made a MASSIVE pile. And then just this morning I drove down to DI, which is like our Goodwill, and I unloaded it. I feel great. I left the pile in my room for five days to see, just in case, if I might need one of those things that I was going to throw away – I did not. I threw away eight ties… Threw away – I didn’t throw them away, I gave them away. Hopefully someone else will be able to use them. I just threw… got rid of eight ties, two suits… one suit that I bought just a year ago and Julie just never liked it. That was kind of hard for me because I thought, “Well, I’ve bought it – it’s a waste of money if I don’t use it.” But I wasn’t using it, so it was a waste of money anyway. Someone else can get a suit that’s been worn six times and get a good deal on it.

I made a list here of all the clothes I own now. I’m going to brag a little bit – I’m telling you, I feel good. Two dress shoes – black and brown; two casual shoes; two work-out pairs of shoes; a pair of slippers which you could call my work shoes, honestly; a pair of snow boots and a pair of work boots; eight pairs of socks – we’ll see how that goes; two work-out shorts; one work-out pants; six work-out shirts; one suit; two slacks – dark and light; one jacket; one pullover; two sweatshirts – one for working out, one not; one coat; three dress shirts – one blue, two white; two collared short-sleeve shirts; one collared long-sleeve shirt; six t-shirts; two pairs of jeans; one work shirt. That is it. That is all. And my closet, the hang-up section of my closet is maybe 18 inches, maybe two feet across, and it’s awesome. And I think it’s a good exercise to do right as we approach the holiday season.

So, my challenge to you… Well, I should say this to you; let me finish this thought. As I got rid of a lot of stuff that I never used, it empowered me to not purchase other things. Now, think about that for just a moment. We are talking about being able to live on less, live with less, consume less because you have less. And I’m going to suggest that when you have more, you also consume more; that the amount of stuff you have acts like a magnet for more, so pretty soon you’ve got more and more and more – until you get rid of, I think, eight trash bags of clothes. Not all of it was mine, but a good bit of it was, and I never used it. How many shirts can you wear simultaneously? So how many do you need?

It was interesting because my mother-in-law was here visiting as I was doing this, and she and I are opposites in about every way. And she could not stand that I was getting rid of that stuff. But I went off of that interview that I had a while ago with Jill, the organization expert that helps you de-clutter, and I started from “What do I need?” Do I need three suits? How many can I wear at one time? Just one. So I will keep one suit. And I tried to work in the laundry cycle and all that to make sure I wasn’t having to do laundry every day.

But I just want to leave you with that. We’re coming up here on the holidays now. Thanksgiving is over. Hopefully you did not participate in Black Friday – no, I’m… Today’s Cyber Monday. Oh dear. That’s something I may actually participate in because, you know, I get to sit and… I don’t know, just click on things and purchase. It’s so much better than not getting trampled. As we come up on the holiday season, look around at everything you have, think hard about what really matters, and let that guide your gifting decisions. And tell people that maybe give you gifts; tell them what you really want is not more stuff. I’m going to be letting my family know that I really don’t want clothes, and yes, just see how it goes.

But I can only tell you from my own short – very short – experience that it feels good, and that I feel more aware of my purchases, of my consumption and of my resistance to it. I feel like I’m empowered, I feel a little more clarity. It feels good. I’ll leave you with that.

Until next time, follow YNAB’s four rules and you will win financially. You have not budgeted like this.