Updated on 01.12.09

An Impulsive Mood

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, I was in a pretty down mood. I mostly just wanted to curl up somewhere and hide from the whole world. I felt like a failure, mostly in a professional sense, but in a bit of a personal sense as well. I was really doubting my ability to write anything that could reach anyone.

I went for a drive. I had a weak reason for going – I intended to pick up a few items at the grocery store – but it was an trivial reason. I really didn’t need to go out at all. I didn’t really think that much about where I was going, either. I just felt like driving – simply doing something to make myself feel better.

Before I could blink, I found myself wandering around an electronics store. In my hands, I held a pair of headphones, and I was fully intending to buy them. Why? On the rare occasions when I actually listen to my iPod while walking around (instead of having it linked to speakers), I’m fairly frustrated by the “bud” headphones that come with the device, as they don’t fit in my ears very well. It’s not enough of an issue that I would ever rationally buy a pair of headphones to replace it – I might put it on my Amazon wish list (in case a desperate relative needs a gift idea for me at Christmas) and forget about it.

It was a complete impulse buy – something I hadn’t done in quite a while. I looked at the headphones for a while, even though I had already decided that I wasn’t actually going to walk out of the store with them. The question I kept asking myself, though, is why did I wind up in this situation?

This whole episode made it very clear to me how strong the emotional component to shopping really is. This entire journey – from leaving my house to going to the electronics store to holding a potentially expensive purchase in my hands (these were nice headphones).

I was in an emotional trough – and my immediate, almost automatic, reaction to that emotional trough was to buy something. It’s amazing to me that, almost three years after my financial epiphany, it’s still so easy to turn back to an old emotional crutch.

I’ve had a few days to reflect on this, and here’s what I’ve been thinking.

There can be – and there is for me – a strong emotional component to buying. This is something I’ve talked about quite often on The Simple Dollar, but this stunning little adventure outlines how true this is. If I were in a better mood, I would not have went to the electronics store. I was simply seeking a quick and easy mood lift – and I was seeking it through buying.

There’s an addiction component here as well. As I wrote the above story, I couldn’t help but think of how I was reminded of how people I know dealt with substance addictions. They would stay seemingly clear for years, then suddenly relapse back into their addiction. Almost always, I’d later find that the people who relapsed were suffering through a difficult time when they relapsed.

One powerful solution to this problem is to find other ways to lift my mood. A big part of the emotional valley I’m in is the presence of a pretty fierce Iowa winter (keeping me from going outside as much as I’d like) along with my fairly isolated daily schedule. Solutions? Go outside any time the weather cooperates and take a walk. Get some exercise. Interact with more people – I’m not entirely sure how to do this, but I’m looking for some community groups to join. Improving my mood makes me much less likely to reach out for an emotional crutch – which is what such impulse buying really is for me.

The ten second rule really came through for me here. I stopped at the checkout before making the purchase because the ten second rule is almost instinctual for me at this point. That little ten second pause made me reflect on why I was making that purchase – and I didn’t have a real reason at all. Instead, I put the headphones back on the shelf and walked out the door with money in my pocket and reflection on my mind.

If you are trying to get your financial life under control, you cannot let your emotions control your spending. The act of buying something will not bring you lasting happiness – just a little rush that will go away soon enough, leaving you right back where you were with less money in your pocket.

Good luck.

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  1. Matt says:


    I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile now, and you’re an amazing writer, and you’ve helped me change the way I think about a lot of my financial habits. Hearing how much even you struggle with these things like the rest of us shows me that it’s a continuous battle and that it can be done with some insight and willpower. Keep up the great writing!

  2. Daisy says:

    Great post and so true. Also, I subscribe to a lot of personal finance blogs on my Google Reader…for no particular reason really. I work in retail banking and I am in constant awe in regards to the financial disasters people end up in everyday, so personal finance is become a passion for me.

    Of all the ones I read, yours is by far my favorite. So please know you’ve reached at least one reader :)

  3. Wow, Trent! You sound like you were really down in the dumps. Hope you’re feeling better! Guess it happens to the best of us. You are doing a wonderful job here! Please know that you have many loyal readers who appreciate all that you do! : )

  4. Dawn says:

    Oh I have been there, many, many times. Your idea about finding other ways to lift your mood is a good one. I am dealing with a Michigan winter myself, so I know about the winter blues. My favorite activity is reading when I am in this kind of mood – but not healthy, productive financial books – I prefer pure bubblegum for the mind. Something funny and light. Going out to the library is a great way to get out of the house and indulge in acquisitional therapy. Pick up (and check out) CDS, books and movies. It is free, fun and beats the day after guilt.

  5. Very insightful post. You are correct that there is an addictive component to impulse shopping. An addiction arises because a person is using the substance and/or behavior to avoid pain. It is very wise of you to reflect on why you were feeling down. Finding community groups is a great way for you to not feel so isolated.

  6. CPA Kevin says:

    Why don’t you keep your kids home with you more often instead of sending them to day care? You won’t feel alone and they spend more time with Dad – both parties win…and you save money in the process.

  7. McKenna says:

    This is, perhaps, one of your best posts. It is so clear how easily we can be our own worst enemies, but it also shows how we can reign ourselves in with conscious choices to be better versions of ourselves.

    I can imagine that sharing this “low point” might have been difficult, but I’ll bet this post helps a lot of people change their own ways.

    Thanks for an honest, revealing look at your inner self. Good luck with your new coping skills!

  8. Trina says:

    Good for you for catching yourself before buying! I find keeping receipts for several weeks, in case of buyer regret, also gives me options.

    As for the winter blues – I live in Maine, where winter days are also cold and gray, and motivation is difficult. Since you’re self-employed you could try the same thing my husband does. He stops working one hour early each day (4:00 vs 5:00) and we spend the extra time doing errands (which gets us out and about), playing an early game with the kids, or making a spectacular supper together, with music and conversation. One hour makes a surprising difference – you can be more efficient during work hours knowing you have extra play time at the end. And it’s addictive – now my husband gets out early in summer, too, and we go for a walk.

  9. Anne KD says:

    Trent, I’ve been guilty of this too. We don’t know anyone in the local area except for one neighbor. We don’t know of any groups to join yet, though I’ve been researching that on the internet. I find myself spending the day online instead of working around the house. The winter season is always hard on me, and it’s too cold today to spend time wandering around the neighborhood for a walk. Yesterday I went shopping for some decorative things- I bought two unfinished nightstand tables that I will seal and paint. The best thing about yesterday is that I know exactly why I went out (to get out of the house and possibly some social interaction) and I had a plan on what exactly to get (the nightstands have been on our list of things to get for the spare bedroom for months now). We keep a list of things we would like to get on Google spreadsheets which both of us can look at wherever we are. We cross off or add items when we think of them. That saved me yesterday from spending too much money. If we go out without a plan, we buy things we later regret buying.

  10. J says:

    I’d suggest looking into indoor exercise options. You could take some sort of exercise class (yoga, step, muscle conditioning, spinning), join some sort of community sports league (basketball, volleyball, master’s swimming), and so on.

    Sure, some of these things may cost money, but can provide very real benefits and get you out of the house.

    You can also look into purchasing the clothing you need for exercising outside in cold weather, it’s really not that expensive to get some snow pants, you likely already have a coat. Add in a balaclava (face covering thing), and re-use a hat you already have, and you have an outfit that will keep you decently warm even down to the single digits during a walk, with only your eyes exposed — and you can even cut that out with a pair of ski goggles.

    Decent prices on this kind of gear can easily found on places like Campmor and Sierra Trading Post, among others.

  11. Aya @ thrive says:

    The best part is, you regained conciousness and didn’t give in to the impulse. If only we could all be as strong-willed as you. I always think it’s ridiculous when I think to myself “I deserve a reward so I’ll buy this” or “I feel like crap, so I should cheer myself up” because clearly, no matter what mood I’m in, I find a way to justify my shopping.
    There’s so much psychology involved in shopping, when shopping seems like a mindless activity. If only we could all substitute the shopping impulse with something less destructive on our wallets.

  12. SoCal Girl says:

    You have a GREAT blog – professionally, I am totally jealous.

    I find myself in the same situation, sometimes – except at those times, I drink – quite a bit. Usually cheaper – but nothing to aspire to!

  13. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “you have an outfit that will keep you decently warm even down to the single digits during a walk”

    Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be enough for the last couple days in Iowa. It hasn’t reached above zero yet today.

  14. I think the 10 second rule is a wonderful gauge as well. I try and keep the family in mind when making a purchase. Will the family benefit from a new tv, or do I just want a bigger one. Does the family need a new 24″ Mac computer, or is it my selfish decision. I also tell myself, if I can make an additional $1,800 I can afford to buy it for myself, but it has to be above and beyond my normal income. The feelings quickly subside :)

  15. Rob says:

    Being “fairly frustrated” at something in my eyes would have been a good reason to buy. I used to be frustrated by the size cooler I used to bring to work. One was to small, and one was to big. I bought one that is the perfect size for my needs. Now that pain in the butt frustration is gone from my life. Getting something to ease ones life is no big deal.

  16. mrsmonkey says:

    This article is precisely why I enjoy reading your blog: you are a person with flaws who writes about your struggles so beautifully. your struggles are my struggles, and your resolutions are inspiring to me.

    this article btw, ties in with yesterdays, about the mid winter blues. DO get out there and since you’re in a buying mood, get yourself a full spectrum lamp. they’re relatively inexpensive, but do some research and find a highly recommended brand. and up your vitamins. you’ll get through this. it’s psychological AND physiological. it’s not simply being a neurotic indulged American.

    just so you know your words are helpful to some us us, an article you did a week or so back sticks in my mind…it was about bingeing after being frugal and it is what my husband and I do a lot. maybe not bingeing, per se. but we will spend a little more than we’d been spending because we feel so virtuous and because a need comes just when we reach a virtue pinacle.

    your solutions are often not what I need, but what DOES work for me is your process of finding what your solution needs to be. I do admire greatly your willingness to make the necessary sacrifices. they inspire me to sacrifice, too. maybe not as radically as you do – for example, unless I am VERY hardpressed, I will not make my own laundry detergent. but reading you reminds me that if I had to, I could and would and I wouldn’t be alone.

    thanks Trent.

  17. Sean says:

    Trent, I think you’re focusing too much on the negative side of the story. To me, the key to this story was that a habit you have spent a long time setting up–the ten-second rule–did exactly what it was supposed to do, and prevented you from falling back into an old addiction.

    Take a moment to pat yourself on the back.

  18. Naomi says:

    I love you daily blog. I do daycare out of my home and your daily update pops up everyday when I am doing bookkeeping (yucky). I take a break and read your writings. It has really made me think about a few things in my life. Do to a list of reason longer then you want to hear my husband and I are filling bankruptcy and now going to living totally on cash. We have accomplished this for a month now and I am very proud of us. Your writing help me think of how to save money in ways that are not of the obvious like how to have leftovers and not eat the same meal twice. Your bread recipe is awesome! It is really an inspiration to read your writing everyday and know that we can do better we will do better and you are living proof that from ruin there is only one way and that is up!!

    Thanks so much for al you do

  19. Good for you! I mean both for your candid discussion of the situation you found yourself in, and for having the strength to snap yourself out of the auto-pilot mode that would have led to a costly and frivolous purchase.

    I can only relate so much to what you’re saying here. I hate shopping, so retail therapy is not a risk for me. But everyone has behaviors that they know aren’t all that healthy, and that are tempting when we’re feeling down. Your honesty in sharing one of those moments is really helpful to me.

  20. mrsmonkey says:

    here’s my solution for mid winter blues (and I get really bad ones in Jan and Feb). I start painting my house. most people do this in the spring but not me. in spring, I’d rather be outside in the mud anyway. I start on the house now, right after the holidays, and I find it helps me through these cold and dark days by brightening our little house, making it cleaner and prettier.

    my husband thinks it’s a little nutty and no doubt he is right..it IS nutty. you can’t open the windows (here in CT we’re down to 15, and believe me, it IS COLD!). but once you get working, you warm up from the labor and just seeing the walls change color, to see the little scratches and fingermarks of last year go away and brighten up, is in itself cathartic.

    being an artist, my surroundings, what I see are very important to me, so this helps me feel better. and it serves our home. I wash the curtains, I wash the woodwork, I clean the windows on the inside and it looks better and I feel better.

    I realize you want to create but I have found if you’ve tried to push it and it doesn’t come you have to put it aside and do something else. maybe a house project might be a good way to work through any block or depression.

  21. Karen says:

    Terrific article! I’m a relatively new reader and am totally hooked. Your book reviews are beyond super. My reaction to your “failure” comment was adament: No way could someone who writes as well as you do feel failure! So, “Way,” huh? Generous of you to share. Comforting and inspiring, too. Thx.

  22. brooke says:

    last winter, i finally invested in a pair of snowboarding pants and they have made a huge difference in my willingness/ability to go out into the cold nebraska winter weather. it is crazy cold here, today, but i managed a thirty minute walk this morning, without too much discomfort.

    i don’t recall if you’ve previously mentioned a pet in your family or if you’d be willing to adopt one. i have found that taking my dog to the local dog park (a bit of a drive, but worth it) has provided me with a new social group and we walk circles around the place as our dogs play. this provides me with time out of the house, social connections with people that i would be unlikely to meet in any other way, exercise, and a compelling reason to brave the weather conditions – be they rain, shine, or subzero temperatures.

  23. Melinda says:

    Hi Trent,

    Have you considered that you may have a mild case of SAD? http://ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/pdf/0202.pdf I actually wondered this a few days ago when you mentioned feeling bad and not getting outside.

    I hope whatever this mood is that’s affecting you lifts soon! (((((hugs))))))

  24. hg says:

    I’ve telecommuted from three different states during 8 of the 10 years I’ve been at my current company. While this has been great in giving me flexibility, after my last move it was pretty stressful. As you have experienced, working alone from home can be very isolating – What works for me is from time to time to go to the local library or the local coffee shop to work. Both have free wireless internet, I get to see people and hear the buzz of activity without being caught up in conversations myself. This keeps me alert, keeps me away from the laundry and dishes that tempt me away from my work, and provides familiar faces. At the coffee shop I have a favorite seat – the manager jokes that I should rent it out when I’m not “in my office”. (And as an aside – although at first I got into a mocha habit at the coffee shop I have since saved money and calories by switching to hot tea – since I don’t go daily I calculate that this is much more affordable than keeping up a business wardrobe!)

  25. Heather says:


    You say that the frustration was partly because you were feeling that your writing wasn’t good enough and you would never be able to reach people.

    May I just say that you reach ME everyday. You are the bright spot in my day and I am always so grateful that you post so regularly so that I can count on reading you every day. This is one of two blogs I subscribe to (the other is The Four Hour Work Week) and I’m always really happy when yours pops up.

    Because of you my husband and I stopped using our credit card at all right before Christmas. We haven’t cheated once and I owe it to your daily posts.

    I would also like to add that we are not in debt at all. We make a lot of money, but reading your wisdom each day made me realize how much we could be giving to charity. We were already giving 20%, but have decided to give away as much as possible. So, due to your work abused children and sick children are receiving more charity as of a month ago.

    So next time you feel like you aren’t making an impact remember this comment and know that you are making a differnece in lots of people’s lives.

    Keep up the excellent work, Trent!!!!


  26. Anne says:

    Greetings from WI. Where even though it’s about -20 with the wind chill, it’s still nice to see the sun shining :)

    I really liked this post. I am guilty of the same thing but, thankfully, the fact that I hate driving puts an automatic break on it. I really quiz my inner “gimmie gimmie” before I’ll get in that car. Is it really a jelly bean emergency? Will the video game be there on Thursday when I was planning to go to the store anyway? I think it would be a much bigger struggle if I didn’t have the automatic negative reaction of “eeew, car” between me and impulse buying. It’s fantastic that you’ve managed to get your 10-second rule so ingrained!

  27. Carol says:

    Trent…let me just say you are a breath of fresh air. And you are reaching lots of folks. Just recently I was talking to my neighbor who’s husband lost his job…she was telling me about her newly found quest in frugality! I was so excited to hear all she’s learning and our mutualy friend Trent’s name came up! I don’t have many kindred spirits in my neighborhood….I’ve been a student of frugal life for the last 20 years so I could stay home
    with our 6 kids. You’re right up there with The Tightwad Gazette in my book! Make sure you go outside everyday and get some sunshine!!

  28. KC says:

    Funny, you were looking to replace the “bud” earphone from your iPod. The ones that went with my Inno went belly up a year ago. I replaced them with the other ear phones – the kind that are small, but not “in-ear”. I hate those things – they are too big for my ears – fall out with any sort of tug or snag on the earphone wires. The buds were great. I was looking at a $2 pair on eBay today.

  29. Cathy says:


    I think we are all dealing with the winter blues. How about trying the YMCA or local college gym for exercise? (Power walking has really helped us over the last few weeks to feel better.)

    BTW, I read your blog daily and absolutely love it. Your posts are very motivational!!

    I just received an email from Amazon.com. Your book has just been shipped to us!! I am looking forward to reading it!!!!!

    You are an incredible writer!!!! Thanks for all that you do!!

    Best wishes,

    Cathy G.

  30. teelag says:

    Trent, you have no idea how much your writing reaches people and makes us want to live better lives.

    You are my first stop after I check my email in the morning. I always get something from your daily posts…keeping an idea journal is the big one for me. You have also “pushed” me to try my hand at making money from a hobby that I love, which is something my procrastinating self might not normally do.

    It is nice to know that even though your are very successful, you still can have a weak spot to spend money when feeling down. It makes me like your blog even better, since it really reiterates that anyone can have a weak moment, it’s really just what you decide to do with that moment…not buy!!

    Hope it warms up there a little for you!

  31. Gabriel says:

    Great post Trent. I’ve had those days and times too, and sometimes I remember to get out and exercise, other times I forget and give in to the impulse to find short term relief, whether through shopping or eating or some other crutch. Thanks for the reminder on what to do when feeling low.

    Keep up the great work!

  32. janet says:


    Don’t feel bad. I live in sunny so. cal. and the weather has been absolutely beautiful. The other day I was down/depressed and went antiquing, just to look. Guess what? I spent 50 bucks that I truly did not mean to spend. I beat myself up for a few days (not fun), and then let the whole thing go. Next time I will take a walk and think about it before I get into that car. I really learned a lesson. Thanks for being so honest with your readers.

  33. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    Great post, Trent. Keep’em coming.

  34. Sharon says:

    Is there a Toastmasters Club in your town? It is a great place to meet interesting people and build public speaking skills that will really help in marketing your books.

  35. PF says:

    Do you have Sorel boots? Carharrts? If so, you can go out in anything. Even 15 minutes outside is sooooo invigorating. I take my 14 month out hiking for 15-20 minutes in some really cold weather and we both come back in happy, fired up and hungry.


  36. jreed says:

    You reach people when you write openly and honestly about your life’s journey focusing on frugality without sacrificing quality of life. You turn me off when you just have to be right…your comment 8 is for what reason? You must reach people…there is so many times I’ve taken you off my “favorites list” after one of your pompous responses only to find myself retuning in at a later date to find out what you are doing now.

  37. sharon says:

    Trent- first thanks for your great posts. You’re doing great work and what you’re doing is needed and I look forward to receiving your newsletters.

    Thanks also for being so candid, I too work from home-first time ever- and am having a difficult time dealing with the lack of personal interactions. Although I do have meetings they’re not exactly personal so I try to have lunch with my old co-workers, have joined the choir and am taking an art class. I also exercise using workout tapes/CDs which various people gifted me or I go for a walk. However, I still get in a funk and although I don’t go to stores have found that I was going t the supermarket more often. Once I realized it was retail therapy I stopped and have taken on the challenge to use everything in my pantry and freezer until they’re empty…I love cooking so finding new recipes is good plus I have lunch and try to get hubby to take lunch to work.

    However, I just bought a new phone headset as the previous two I’d gotten didn’t work well (no one could hear me) and I need hands free to be on the computer and it’s for work. So I don’t see that keeping or using something that doesn’t work well is frugal when you end up more frustrated. I want frugality to be not just about how I spend my money but to provide a process by which I can lead a calmer more thoughtful life unencumbered by stuff. Just a thought, and thanks for your good work.

  38. MaryAnn says:

    Going out is probably the best you can do for this sort of depression. I recall feeling this way when I first moved far from home, to go to law school. I was so down I wanted to head home and switch to a school there, but my mom told me to just go out somewhere and not make any decisions yet. I followed her advice and went on a walk along the beach boardwalk (you can be just as down in the California sunshine as in the Iowa winter). Sure enough, I enjoyed the fresh air, met some nice people and stayed. I’m still in California years after graduating from law school. To this day when I feel down or stressed, I go out for a walk and see people.

  39. KoryO says:

    In Trent’s defense, it has been insanely cold here in Iowa. I’m sure he’s looking forward to not worrying about risking frostbite if he stays out longer than 10 minutes just like I am. (That is not a joke, there really have been winter warnings on the television here in SE Iowa about it.)

    Hang in there, Trent! It’s supposed to get warmer for us soon!

  40. jo says:

    A really outstanding post, written from the heart and a timely reminder to me that no, Jo, buying something new *isn’t* the way out of the blues.

    A group activity? How about learning to knit or crochet and joining the stitching group at the local library or Community Center? If you don’t know how, folks in the group would love to teach a newbie (our group does that a lot). Yarn on sale at JoAnn’s or Michael’s or HobbyLobby isn’t *that* expensive (trust me on this one, I know from experience) and yarn workers will give you yarn if you need it. Groups like Project Linus can *always* use what you create — our library stitching group donates to Project Linus, the VA Hospital, and individuals in need.

  41. Jade says:

    Well, I’m another person here in sunny CA and yet I’m suffering from winter blues as well. I suppose part of my problem is that I can look at the calendar and know that it is January and this weather is just not right. Seriously, it’s been hitting the low 70’s all week. And I’m saddened by the lack of rain because that will mean the drought will continue and I’ll be having a 4th of July party on a brown lawn again.

    I’m thinking that part of my January blues can be attributed to the post-holiday crash/letdown whatever. No more pretty decorations everywhere, and the happy festive mood has just disappeared as we all return to ye old grind. Lots of sunshine (and I’ve been spending more time outside trying to enjoy it) doesn’t seem to help that much…

    I did discover today though, that I get a euphoria similar to going to the bookstore by going to the library. In fact, I enjoy the library more because I know I won’t have any nasty surprises on my credit card bill when I get home, and I’ll have to return the books in 3 weeks so I won’t have to figure out where to store them long-term. And if I get a book that looks interesting and then I get home and find I have no desire to read it, that’s okay, I just take it back to the library. Retail therapy with no clutter, and more money in my pocket.

  42. Tall Bill says:

    Hey Trent; Go for the Sony MDR7506 headphones, which are professional and available just about anywhere for $99.95. Comfortable, clean, accurate, industry standard for the broadcast industry & many recording studios. You would pay more than 3 x as much to buy anything better with very little improvement over these. These can be used with anything having a headphone jack of either size. You have enjoyed good music over the years with your traveling kit & it’s time to treat yourself with an award which will allow you an escape without spending imported fuel. Thanks for being honest and human over the years – you’re an inspiration via the internet!!

  43. friend says:


    I like the honesty — thank you.

    The posts I sometimes find tiresome are lists of links or rehashes of what other bloggers have said recently — but just about every blogger seems to do that from time to time!

    In terms of quality and originality, I would say you are up there pretty close to J.D. (my favorite). — And I credit you for getting me started with ING, which has been a great practical benefit to my life.

    Spring will come — hang in. (Eat some chocolate!)

  44. Melissa says:

    I understand your need to get out and interact socially with people. Especially if you work from home. There is a great online organization called “MEETin” (www.meetin.org) that is based in most cities around the world. However I did check, and there is not currently one in Des Moines… but you could always start one up!

    MEETin.org is an online forum to bring people together from all over for fun, low-key events without paying membership fee’s. I’ve met a lot of really cool people here and always have a blast at the events. (Again… most of the time the events are free or relatively cheap).

    Check it out!

  45. todo es bien says:

    Strange, when I thought about writing this I was going to say “Trent old friend…” and the reason that I was going to begin that way is that you have been so consistently generous and forthright about your life experiences with us that I feel a sense of intimacy in our relationship. Upon reflection it is of course completely one sided, you are generous with your inner journey, while almost completely unaware of ours. I feel confident in telling you that very often your blog is really meaningful and often “reaches” me, and I know that this is most certainly the case for many others. I am sure you know this at some level too, but I understand how a black mood can swallow you up. I have been cursed with fairly consistent depression in my life (varying in intensity from garden variety to very dangerous) and of course there are lots of things O can do about it, though often I do nothing. At any rate, I really appreciate your efforts, you invariably do a good job and sometimes a great job. Yours is one of only 2 blogs on the entire internet that I visit daily. Thanks for all you do, keep your hands on the plow. Best regards, jcw

  46. Gail says:

    Hey Trent,
    Did you ever consider joining a book club? It may not cure your longing to be outside in warm weather, but a book club is a great place to meet people and have some laughs. Our libraries here in NJ have tons of book clubs. I met a few women at a Mother-Daughter book club, and we enjoyed each others’ company so much that we decided to create our own “adult” one.
    Another suggestion might be volunteering. Even though you are a busy person, any organization would appreciate any time/skill you might have to offer.
    Hope my suggestions are as helpful as yours are!! I look forward to reading your blogs everyday!

  47. i.artist says:

    It happened to me yesterday! Temporary insanity coupled with a great sales pitch, beyond the 10 second rule and I succumbed! Kept the receipt though
    and will return… to fully restore virtuous reason.
    Thanks Trent, for daily inspiring and encouraging the rest of us.

  48. MG says:

    Never fear, readers; not even the coldest Iowan winters could stop Trent from fishing for compliments…

  49. steve says:

    “self-medicating” and distracting oneself with an activity to fix a depressed mood *are* two valid methods of dealing with sad or depressed or unpleasant feelings. It’s true that they don’t tend to work for long. Exercise tends to work better than most methods in dealing with and eliminating “down” feelings, in my experience.

    As to the shopping aspect, I think a major part of the attraction to going shopping is the social component– when you go in a store (depending on the store) you will be around people, and will interact with them in some way and that just feels good. That’s true of any business–the more people already in it, the more attractive it is to people walking by.

    One thing I have noticed is that it’s nice to go to my local library during the day. People are there reading and studying (it’s a nice library) and it’s warm. Although it is quiet, and you’re not supposed to have conversations with people in a library, just having people around feels nice.

    Maybe you could start up a book discussion group or a walking or running group of 3 or 4 people. People you could get out with and share some activity and conversation on a regular basis. I look forward to hearing more from you.

    As to the coldness, I’m not really with you there. If it’s important for your health, mental and otherwise, to get outside and be a little active during the day, I would encourage you to make it happen by putting together an appropriate set of clothing so that you are comfortable when outside.

    Traditional peoples like the Inuit knew how to be *comfortable* in these temperatures. It’s a matter of the right clothing, and knowing that in cold weather, to stick to moderate activity only and not allow sweat to develop. Water vapor needs to be vented out of your clothing (hence looser fitting neck openings are good for being active in the extreme cold) before if condenses and starts to chill you.

    Best wishes, and thanks for all your great articles.

  50. I find it fantastic that you’re able to pick apart your own life in this fashion.

    Perhaps we could all observe you and notice this, but you can capture your own moments of weakness in such a profound manner. This will go a long way towards giving you more things to write about.

    Don’t worry either, you reached us.

  51. Studenomics says:

    You feel like you can’t write anything to reach anyone? You have over 47000 subscribers and each post has a decent amount of comments. Imagine blogging almost day and having very little traffic and almost no comments. You should take great pride in the fact that you are a full time blogger that touches many lives on a daily basis. If you went away and stopped posting, over 47000 people would be pretty upset.

  52. anjelica says:

    Thank you Trent, for sharing this. I’m exactly the same way. I wish I had your 10 second rule a couple of years back. I’m deep in credit card debt and am working my way out; it’s been hard because my family thinks I must be stupid to let it happen to me. These past few months knowing that there are inspirational people like you who know what it’s like are out there and are willing to help others has been a blessing.

  53. willamettejd says:

    What a great post. 99% of us have been in this situation before. Here are some tips that help me when I’m feeling an impulsive buy coming on:

    – Engage your body: do 100 jumping jacks. In your living room. Fully clothed (don’t “put on your workout clothes).
    – Engage your mind: visit your local library and peruse the magazines, DVDs, books, and music. It’s like a store – but everything’s FREE!
    – Engage your emotions: call or text message a friend or family member, tell them a joke, tell them you were just thinking of them.
    – Surprise a friend: get out of the house, surprise a friend by stopping in (but read their cues…do they want to you leave/stay?…be OK with just “saying hi because I was in the neighborhood”)

  54. kim says:

    Hi Trent. I’m a little worried about you. I’ve noticed a subtle undercurrent in your posts lately and I’m worried you might be at risk for depression. I’m saying this because you’ve had several major life chanhes lately. You finished and published your book – coming off of a great high like that can be difficult (depending on the sales nubers in this economy, that could contribute too). You also have just transitioned to being an at home worker. The reality of having no one to talk to during the day can be very difficult to manage. You also just had an illness that lasted for a while, which can weaken your coping abilities in general. Try to get out more. Join a gym and work out there. Talk to other work at home people to find out about how they achieve balance. 90 minutes away from the house each day to excercise/socialize may make you happier and more productive. Another alternative would be to look into teaching a blogging class at your local adult ed. – an alternative income stream, a notch on you professional resume, and socialization. Also, consider speaking to a therapist if any of this resonates with you. A good therapist can help you make a plan now, before things get bad, to help get you back on track.

  55. Carmen says:

    How cold is cold?

    It’s been around minus 7 where I live for a couple of weeks now (yawn). But that is still fine to go out brisk walking without any special clothes such as snow pants. I wear joggers, t-shirt, fleece, jacket, hat, scarf & gloves. Sometimes I have to remove my jacket! A good pair of shoes however is important in the event that the ground is icy.

    The air is usually very crisp and deliciously fresh which is great. It helps loads if there’s some sun, but that has been hiding a lot recently. Following this with a good coffee and croissant, ideally with friends, is one of my favourite ways to spend a morning.

  56. Vicky says:

    Great post, and so true. And you’ve gotten some great ideas. Do you ever do your writing in a cafe? The kind that’s full of people chattering, inspired art and that provides bottomless cups of tea or coffee? For me, I find I don’t always need to be dealing directly with people in the cold winter but to be in and around a social atmosphere helps you to feel you’re not alone.

  57. katy says:

    Your voice is always a comfort, whatever your mood Trent. What I try to remember when I’m feeling impulsive, whatever, is try to track the ‘trigger’. What was I thinking before I put on my coat to go to x? What made me upset?

    Speaking of headphones, I need a pair. I have been making do with a pair that worked through one side and my husband said ‘that’s a good way to lose your hearing’. So I am looking for reasonable priced headphones (thanks TallBill).

  58. Daniela says:

    I do this as well, but i add food to the mix. I have been struggling with spending and eating for years now. when i get upset i go to the store or to a restaurant i really like but isn’t in the budget and i get something yummy and fastening and i eat way too much

  59. f1owerprincess says:

    When I get bummed out like you did, I do the same thing. It’s what my mom has always told me to do, go out around people and maybe buy a small something. I go out to the mall or the library. Sometimes I buy something, but my purchases are always relatively small ($25 or so) and give me a little pick-me-up, like a new lipstick or book. I thought a lot about this the last time it happened. It was before Christmas and I bought a couple things for gifts. I realized that part of the reason to go out is to be around other people. Like I said, I go to the mall. I can be all gloom & doom at home, but I don’t think many people can go to the mall or the library, where there are so many other people, and walk around scowling and feeling miserable. Well, you can feel miserable, but when you walk into a store and someone welcomes you, responding in a polite-not-bummed-out-friendly voice is required, and just a little bit of that can help you calm down.
    I read The Happiness Project blog and she has written that people should try to act like they want to feel. This is true and I think this is why going to the mall or library or being with others is so helpful. Just being around other people, even if you don’t have a conversation or much interaction, can really help you adjust your attitude.
    I guess that retail therapy can cause a problem, especially since it does not tie into the frugal life, but for me going out and sometimes spending $20 can be that boost every once in a rare while that I don’t get bummed nearly as often.

  60. EngineerMom says:

    Great post!

    As for exercising outside, I live in the Twin Cities, so I feel your pain! My husband and I made a very intentional purchase of good-quality cold-weather gear for this very reason. We both like to walk and run outside, and the only way to keep doing it through the winter here is to invest in the proper gear.

    REI has several “scratch and dent” sales throughout the year, through which you can get some good gear for much less than it would normally cost. Each store also has a bulletin board in the entrance where people can post available and wanted gear. One of my coworkers got a really nice ski jacket from a poster for about $25 because the poster had lost weight and it no longer fit.

    LandsEnd and LLBean are also good sources of quality gear – clothing, boots, etc., that are actually worth the price you pay for them. My mom is still wearing her LLBean down parka, and she bought it when I was in middle school! (I’m now 26)

    Hope some of this is helpful to getting you out of the house.

    Good luck in the icy weather!

  61. beloml says:

    North Face makes high quality cold weather gear, too. I wear my husband’s hand-me-down parka and it looks brand new. He got it for his 17th birthday, and he’s about to turn 40.

  62. Seth says:

    The Apple headphones are crap. You should get some new ones. Spend $20-$150, but replace them. You won’t regret it.

  63. Lisa says:

    One of the reasons I truly appreciate your writing is that you can be so honest about not being perfect.

    When I’m feeling down I read a LOT and that leads to buying more books. Books are good for you, right? At least that’s the line that makes it very easy to rationalize buying them. That and I buy them on sale. Its not *quite* an addiction . . . but there is definitely a trigger there.

  64. KellyB says:

    Your posts touch MANY people (myself included) and many also consider you our favorite blogger. Just look at some of the posts above! If you don’t already, make a file of some of the most positive responses to your blogs, so you can go to it when you’re down and re-read the uplifting comments. You may also want to make a vidwo of your kids doing something funny so you can watchit and lift your spirits when needed. We all love you Trent! Keep up the GREAT posts.

  65. Kaycee says:


    I love your blog and read it everyday. I even go back and read some posts over and over again when I need motivation. You have really helped me start to dig myself out of the financial hole that I created.

    Please don’t ever think that what you write has no impact.

  66. Moneyblogga says:

    Sorry, but I think you have to allow yourself some “fun money”. Do you do that? You’ve been on your straight-n-narrow financial path for some three years now, I’ve been on mine for a year and it gets tough to keep telling myself that I can’t buy anything. I think you know enough now to determine where to draw the line and a purchase of something that makes you feel good here and there isn’t going to break the bank at this point. There is a difference between buying something that you will use/can afford and buying three of the same thing and filling your house with crap you don’t need. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and buying stuff for the sake of it is a symptom of a much larger problem. So you’re not perfect – none of us are.

  67. SS says:

    Hi Trent,
    Yes. I do this too!!!! I go to the thrift store
    and don’t due to much damage. I will not buy
    things new anymore such as clothes, furniture.
    I bought my car new a few years ago-Jeep. There is nothing like a new Jeep. This is my first new car that I have gotten. I will have it for a long time. They last forever and easy to fix. But, everything else I buy used except cosmetics, etc.
    All my furnishings and linens are bought at the
    thrift store. I find some great things. I would
    suggest doing some charity work. Help out some where and definitely take a walk not drive but
    walk in the fresh air to get exercise. Even if
    you sleep in your sweat outfit and go out in it
    if you feel lazy. Just put on a coat, gloves,hat
    and appropriate for your weather. Not if you are
    going to get frost bite in some areas I hear they
    are like Michigan. Just don’t go out. But if it
    is safte take a walk. You will love it. Borrow a neighbors dog and ask if they will pay you to walk the dog. Start a dog walking service.
    Exercise, Charity are my recommendations.Fresh Air. Walking is good for you. Hope this helps.

  68. Karen M says:

    I think the point of the article would have been better served without the self-pity in the first paragraph. Someone who has a blog that reaches thousands of people and a published book should not be despairing about their professional achievements (or perceived lack thereof) on said blog. Unless they are “fishing for compliments” like the comment above says.

    I was actually surprised to see a comment from Trent here. Although it was to mention how cold it is in Iowa– just like it is in most of the top of the country right now. This blog has stopped feeling like a conversation about frugality and more like a lecture.

  69. The Debt Guy says:

    I absolutely am victim to this and it is one of the small changes that I am trying to make to help my current situation out. Glad you fought your way out of it!

  70. kristine says:


    You are a good writer. As someone who still has a lot of ties to the publsihign industry, and some inside scoop, I can say it is near impossible to get a book published right now. Granted, your books is in one of the only areas that is expanding right now, but even so, most big houses have informally stopped even reading manuscripts. They are all downsizing, and plan to continue downsizing this year.

    So..if you were not a good writer, even if your book was about frugality, there would be NO chance of getting it published. You’ve built up a following that also contributed to that success.

    So enjoy your success, and realize that part of your blues may be just the anti-climax that comes after reaching a big goal. That “now what, what does it mean?” feeling. It passes once you are knee deep into the next goal.

  71. Shannon says:

    The Consumerist links to an article that speaks to the connection between shopping and dopamine:


  72. Kate in Canada says:

    For headphones that won’t break your budget but still give good sound, my daughters & I all LOVE SkullCandy. Lots of styles, sizes & prices to choose from.

  73. Sandra says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for almost 2 years now, and I have to chime in with many others here that you have certainly reached me and made a difference in my life. During the last three years I’ve made a slow transition from retail worker living with my parents to supporting myself completely on self-employment income doing something I love and working down student loan debt like crazy. Frankly, I don’t think this would have been possible without having learned many of the things that I have learned from your blog, and also from Your Money or Your Life, which I picked up because of your recommendation. So anyway…that’s my two cents on that matter. This is an inspiring post, by the way.

  74. Allison says:

    It sounds like you were in need of a little shake-up – a new experience. Instead of driving when you are in an impulsive mood, how about going for a walk? If you are walking you’ll be less tempted to buy something you’ll have to lug home, and perhaps you’ll see new things that spark your interest and imagination, making you forget you were ever bored. Even a short walk can snap you out of the doldrums.

  75. Tadgh says:

    I know it wasn’t the point of the article, but I’ve had the same problem with iPod ear buds and I found a cheap solution: foam covers. They fit better now and, I think, they sound better. I got mine at radio shack, but since you are trying to stay out of the electronics store, you can google “ear bud covers foam” and find them online for next to nothing.

    You have an excellent blog, btw.

  76. Lauren says:

    Interesting post. I had new headphones on my wishlist for a long time too, but kept holding out (I delay pricey purchases too.) I finally bought a pair of Sennheisers on ebay for around $30. The difference in sound and comfort level is amazing and I’m certain they will last me a long time. Plus, as you probably know, those bud headphones can be damaging to your hearing, so it’s a health investment too. So, I”m just offering a friendly suggestion to buy the headphones and then feel HAPPY for making a worthwhile investment :) How do you feel about using wise purchases as means for a boost? I think it’s OK to feel happy when we buy something if it makes us happy.

  77. Amy K. says:

    Hi Trent,

    I worked from home for quite a while when I first moved, felt very isolated, and the limited contact with others really brought me down. I feel for your snowed-in state.

    I suggest taking the kids to the library – our library has a Dads-and-donuts program, which I think it as much for the dads to chat as the kids to play. Kids are an easy introduction to other people. Or, if you prefer adults-only, maybe your local Rotary or Kiwanis meeting. I think you’ve said you’re a member of Toastmasters, right? I’m trying to think of groups I know that meet for lunch, to get your out of the house mid-day ind in to some place warm, rather than the Iowa chilliness.

    Good luck finding the right fit for you, and staying warm this winter!

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