Thursday, September 19, 2013

sleeping in the bed you've made; or, a metaphor

In June, I made a "no spending" challenge. The challenge is simple: I cannot buy anything for one year. There are exceptions of course, food, necessary hygiene products, and other sundries. But, no new clothes. No new toys. No unnecessary trips. No nonsense. I am trying to make sensible decisions about money and finances, something I have never really done. And as they say, any journey of 1000 steps begins with one step, and for me, learning how to curb my spending and getting out of debt is the first step.

Three months into this challenge, I am learning things about why I spend money and what I think I am getting. For instance, I love to shop. It is one of my most favorite activities. With each purchase I am not just buying an object, but feel like I am building a life. I imagine what I will do wearing that sweater, and it isn't just the sweater I am buying, it is the experiences lived in that sweater that I am buying. But in reality, it isn't the sweater that makes good times. Those good times don't need props to happen. It doesn't really work that way. I am also really good at getting good deals. Coupons, sales, fashion steals, I am a maven. However, you get what you pay for. And what I paid for was a party dress: not a party. A poster of France: not France. Uncomfortable shoes that are not taking me anywhere. It's just stuff. It's not a life. I do see the importance of having nice comfortable appropriate clothes. It's just important that I see them more practically.

It is not just the psychological aspect to shopping that I am dealing with now. I am also dealing with the consequences of buying the wrong things. Cheap things. Frivolous thing. Impractical things. For example, that duvet cover I bought last year that was such a good deal? Well, it turns out it was very cheaply made. The purple color has faded to an awful brownish mauve color. The "cream" leaf print has grown dingy (probably from the purple dye bleeding into it) and is now really more the color of old socks. The cover has shrunk and has permanent wrinkles that would likely not come out even if I did iron it--which I am not going to do.  In short, my bed looks sad, old, faded, wrinkled and tired. In the past, I would have just bought a new one. But now, I have to just live with it. There is nothing really wrong with it, it is just unattractive. It will keep me warm for several more winters.

The unintended consequences of the choices I made without really looking far enough down the road--or without looking ahead at all--are the ones I am living with now. The material side is easy to see. Last year I bought a bunch of flats from a popular chain store, one we all know the name of (it rhymes with Bold Mavy), that makes cheap clothes that aren't really meant to last very long. In a year, I have worn out the black and brown ones, and now I am left with silver, green, and of all things orange. Those silver flats that I bought without really thinking are not so great when you have to wear them all the time. God only knows how silly I will look when I am left only with the orange. Sigh. Those clothes I bought on clearance that fade, shrink, and lose their shape over time are not such a great deal in the end.

 So here I am--on my journey to trying to get my financial life in order so that I can have a future--walking in inappropriate shoes and last season's jeans, thinking about how many times I just made a decision that felt right in the moment, but wasn't really built on any sort of plans. One thing I do know, when this year of no spending is over, I am going to shop much more wisely. For, if I am going to take this journey of 1000 steps, I should at least have some sensible shoes I can walk in.


  1. It seems I have the same connection to shopping that you have. I enjoy it so much, and I've passed on that enjoyment to my daughter. This past summer, I've had some health problems, and doctor bills have totaled over 1000. In addition to that, I've had to pay my car insurance, the taxes on my car, and have had to buy a new mattress, all within a 2 month span. This means that I am now broke. Completely. And I've had to prioritize and each time I get bored and want to go shopping, I realize that it's not an option. I've realized that after moving to a small town where, even after a year and a half, I have made NO friends, I shop when I'm bored. I shop when it's cold. I shop when I want to take my daughter somewhere "fun". I shop, shop, shop. And now that I can't, I've figured out that there ARE other ways to spend our time. It's been eye-opening. (But, I won't lie; I do miss it...)

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you have had a rough patch. Here's to bluer skies and less expensive entertainment! Would you mind sharing some of your activities that you are using to replace shopping? I have to admit to watching more Netflix and playing facebook games.

  3. Thanks! I fill in that time with crafts, trips to the library and to the local park. Last weekend, I built an obstacle course throughout my house for Wintress to play in. As you can see, I've replace most of the time I would be shopping with kid stuff, but it's been fun, and it's probably better to do these sorts of things with my daughter instead of shop, anyway.