I was watching a TV show the other night. In it, a woman walked into her home arms full of bags from a shopping spree. When someone took note and commented, she replied “I had a lot on my mind today”. Yeah, okay. So? I used to be like that. I shopped to relieve stress, I shopped when I was sad, angry, and annoyed. I thought that was what people do. It is, after all, a myth perpetuated by the evil media that buying things makes everything better. Having a bad day? Go buy yourself a little something special. Why is that? Why not instead perpetuate the reality that spending money unnecessarily not only won’t bring happiness but will often create more stress and unhappiness, especially if you’re spending money you don’t have. I’ve been there. It’s not fun and it’s not worth it.

I know that there are a lot of other things I can do than spend money when I am in need of a pick me up like these frugal ways to improve your mood. I don’t disagree that a little splurge or treat for ourselves now and again is valuable. It’s not as if I don’t do things for myself still. But I don’t do them with the expectation that because I am treating myself to something, I will somehow find true happiness in that latte or new pair of jeans.

Just the other day, I was unmotivated and feeling unproductive. So instead of sitting home with the kids amidst the mess I had no desire to clean up, we left the house for 5 hours. We went to the park and playground where the kids happily played for an hour while I chatted with other parents. Then we went to Target where I walked in with a list of not exciting stuff we needed for around the house like dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, new sponges, ziplock bags and garbage bags. Not exactly the kind of impulse this will make me happier shopping I used to do. And when I walked out of Target having gotten some rocking deals if I do say so myself, THAT made my spirits lift. Saving money on things my family needs is exhilarating. A trip to the Barnes and Noble train table where we met friends and our kids happily played without having to spend a penny was up next on the list. After returning home from our afternoon out, Drew thanked me for all the fun. It doesn’t matter to her if we go somewhere that costs $20 to get in or is free. She just likes being out with friends and enjoying the outdoors. She does also, admittedly, LOVE Target.

I don’t know what it is. My life must just be richer and more fulfilled now because it’s coming awfully naturally to me now to do things on the cheap (or free!). It’s exciting and fun. There are so many thrilling and fulfilling things to do in life that make me feel really great. It must be something about that inner happiness and not feeling like I can buy my way out of a bad mood anymore. It’s freeing.