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Today's post is a guest post from one of my new favorite bloggers: Melissa at Mom's Plans.  Melissa writes great tips that every parent can use.  One of the things she advocates that I think can be a huge difference maker in any household, is menu planning. I would highly recommend that after reading the great article below, you spend some time on her blog! 

When I was working full-time, my life was quite hectic.  I had two small children, my husband was a full-time graduate student, and we both often brought work home.  We had very little time to relax and spend time together as a couple or as a family.
Gradually, I fell into a dangerous pattern of thinking that went something like this, “Today’s meeting was so stressful; I am tired and annoyed, and the last thing I want to do is spend 30 minutes going home to cook dinner and then spend another 30 minutes cleaning up and trying to get the kids ready for bed.”  So, I would swing by the local Chipotle or Qdoba and justify the expense because we made enough money to meet our bills and it “was only” $20 or $30 for dinner. 

Once in a while this way of thinking would be okay, but it became a pattern, and we would go out to eat a few times a week.  We didn’t go in debt for this, but we weren’t able to save much either.  I found myself taking on additional jobs at work to earn more money so we could save more, but that only increased my stress level and lead me to spend more money.  I was a hamster on a wheel that kept spinning faster and faster.
I recently quit my full-time job to stay home and care for my now three children.  My husband is only a few weeks away from finishing his degree, and he is now working full-time.  His salary combined with the freelance work I do at home when the kids are sleeping gives us about 3/4s of what my old salary did.  Money is tighter than before, and that has forced me to evaluate my spending. 
Things still get stressful, but I no longer seek refuge in a meal out.  Instead, I am trying to find other ways to relax such as calling a friend to talk, taking my younger kids for a walk or to the park, or listening to music (or Dave Ramsey, for inspiration).  As I work on controlling my spending impulse, it has become clear to me that what I really wanted every time I brought dinner home when I was working full-time was a little time to relax.  Instead of spending money, I should have given myself permission to unplug for a few minutes when I came home and just relax.  Of course, at the time, I was so stressed I didn’t realize this.
In today’s fast paced world, it is easy to spend money for convenience or because it will supposedly make our lives easier.  Yet do the conveniences make our lives easier, or do they simply make us a hamster on a wheel that is spinning increasingly faster?
Do you spend money unnecessarily to combat stress or because you think you deserve it?  If you don’t, what do you do to control these impulses?