7 Lessons from Saving for Showbags

7 Lessons from Saving for Showbags

I’ll admit it.

Showbags were my thing.

We used to make a yearly trip to the Sydney Easter Show, and I’d spend weeks beforehand saving, planing and dreaming of the treasure and treats found within.

Here are some of the life lessons learned while saving for showbags.

1. Save using incentives

The showbag was my incentive. And what an incentive it was! Full of very cheap, ‘not for individual sale’ goodies.

I knew exactly what I wanted and what I was going to get. Conversely, when I’ve simply saved, with no goal or incentive in mind,  my urgency, commitment and dedication hasn’t been as strong.

Next time you try to save – or achieve any objectives – give yourself tangible rewards along the way. And of course, give yourself a big reward when you get there!

2. Figure out your budget and set a target

I knew what I wanted. Now I needed to figure out how to get it.

Saving for showbags was an sophisticated process: I’d figure out my current savings, usually by looking at the free cash in my draw and wallet; then I’d review my income – the $5 per week from pocket money and chores; and finally I’d figure out how much I should have at show time.

I was ready. I had my budget and my savings target.

3. Do your research

The last thing anyone wants when they purchase showbags is feeling like they’ve been ripped off.

I’d tear out the Easter Show insert from the Sunday newspaper, circle my wishlist, tally it up, and go back through to match the numbers. When I got to the show, I was focused on what I needed.

Impulse purchases were out. Peer pressure was out. If I didn’t stick to my list I’d be susceptible to temptation and forgo something I really wanted.

4. Set up systems that help you reach your goal

I had a little white box and cut a money slot in the top. I used sticky tape to secure the edges and lid. Then I starting adding my money. Every time I deposited, I’d scratch the new total in pen on the side, crossing out the old total.

For some reason, this low-tech device gave me something tangible to track my savings. And somehow it prevented me cracking into it to undo my good savings work.

Having robust systems is important, and these days putting your money into untouchable accounts will help. So will automatic payments and updates on your progress.

My sister had a very good technique for a while – her spare cash was safely hidden behind a photo of her dog. Kleeo the black Labrador was a beautiful, goofy dog and every time my sister thought about accessing her cash, the dog would stare back, longingly conveying the usual human-to-dog  ‘No’ directive.

5. Enjoy the rewards

When money was added to the money box I got excited to see the numbers grow. The list of showbags was circled and next to the box, so I had an immediate reminder of what I wanted to achieve. These simple feelings of achievement and hope provided small rewards, and kept me motivated.

And then on the day, I still remember proudly packing the $42 dollars in my velcro wallet, pulling out the list of showbags, and walking around the massive, burnt-sugar smelling, caravan-filled hall.

I’d dart from one caravan to the next, looking for familiar bag designs and excitedly reaching up to the window to claim my well-deserved rewards.

Looking down at the 7 showbags, I felt satisfied and accomplished. These bad boys would keep me buzzing on sugar for weeks.

6. Once you own something, the joys are quickly forgotten (or eaten)

I did it.

I reached my goal.

And I was surrounded by a vast range of cheap treats. The sugar high was amazing, but quickly diminished and turned into a sugar crash. After a day or two, the treats lost their luster. The triumph of saving for showbags and reaching my goal was forgotten.

The irony of ownership is that once you have an object of extreme desire, the desire starts to fade. All the build up. All the anticipation. Over.

Make sure you celebrate and enjoy the moment, but keep one eye on the next challenge to overcome the inevitable crash.

7. You might look back and think it pointless (and you might have ended up with crap) but the experience of targeting and pursuing anything is worthwhile.

Now, being all grown up and fairly health-conscious, I wouldn’t dream of saving for showbags. The too-sweet sugar. The worthless stuff that clutters the house. In fact, many past purchases and pursuits now seem redundant. Even embarrassing.

But if you were to tell me that before I bought it, I would’ve thought you mad. That was my dream. That was my focus. That was all I wanted.

We’ve all got experiences that seem so mundane, so insignificant. But looking back we see the stitches of the past  forming the seams of our experience today.

I look back on the techniques and lessons learned whilst saving for showbags, and see that they’ve helped me continue to plan, save and reach financial, career and business goals. Heck, they probably even inspired the creation of my financial goal-setting tool.

It seems showbags were an early vice. A dream that helped me learn to plan and pursue. 

While many ideas, thoughts and directions have risen and fallen from that dream, the the skills I developed shaped many of my paths through life.


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