‘Happiness Project’ author Gretchen Rubin: Know how you spend

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Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

Elana Seibert

Recognizing your spending patterns—good or bad—can help you to organize your life in a way that makes you happier and more productive, says Gretchen Rubin. For example, Rubin, who is the author of seven books, including “The Happiness Project,” found that it was helpful to realize that she was an “underbuyer.”

“I had bought into this idea that I had to hold myself back” from buying things, Rubin says. “Underbuyers tend to pat themselves on the back for being frugal, but I’m also really cramping my life in a way that’s not necessary.”

Underbuyers often run out of things or don’t have what they need when they need it. Rubin would put off a purchase for as long as possible—waiting to buy a winter coat until January when inventory is slim, for instance, or not making sure that her daughters had mittens even though it was cold out.

Conversely, “overbuyers” look for chances to buy. “They’ll do things, like buy a gift without a specific gift recipient in mind,” Rubin says. Overbuyers are inconvenienced by all of the things that they purchase.

Although not everyone can be classified as an underbuyer or an overbuyer, recognizing whether you fit into one of those categories can help you to modify your spending habits. For example, Rubin now forces herself to buy several items at once, so she faces the point of purchase less often but still has what she needs. To avoid overspending, overbuyers can think of the store as the place where they store an item, which they can get when they need it, Rubin says.