Six Hours

That's about how long it took after my last blog post for me to break my shopping ban. As I was driving home, I decided to get McDonald's for dinner. And I didn't just stop with a meal, I also got a shamrock shake ($9.72).

Then, on Saturday, I went to Michaels and bought a bunch of stencils and stamps. ($33.88).

Saturday night, I was watching a YouTube video that included watercolor painting and saw the Gansai Tambi paint set for about the millionth time and dropped $40 on that and some white gel pens I'd been wanting to try. I threw in some underwear, partly because I needed it but mostly to allow myself to justify the whole impulse to shop.

Finally, on Valentine's Day, I went to Taco Bell to grab dinner ($5.65). I don't care about Valentine's Day, I was just having a craving and indulged it.

Lately, I have begun to feel like one great big blobby consumer - nothing more. I earn money, I spend the money, I eat food. My apartment is piled with things.

And it's almost all about anxiety and loneliness. I see what's going on in our country right now, I feel hopeless and empty, I feel the absence of personal connections in my local community, and I go buy things.

I literally sit in my car thinking, "I don't need to spend money this way. It's not going to make me feel better." Then I do it, anyway. This seems to be one of my main coping mechanisms with stress and anxiety but it's not coping at all... It's self-sabotage.

Anyway, it's a day early but tomorrow's my birthday and I'm not blogging. My grand total for against ban spending this past week was $89.25. Rather than reducing to zero, I tripled what I spent in the three weeks prior. I might need to rethink and rejigger this experiment. Maybe a reset for a shorter time period. I'll think about that Saturday.

Three Weeks

I haven't written in three weeks because I was on vacation from January 26 - February 5. Woohoo! It was the first real vacation I've had since I moved to Indiana in late December 2015 and it was gloriously boring.

I've given myself a lot more leeway for spending when I'm out of town but still managed not to go crazy.

January 21-27
  • January 24 - Burger King - $8.36 - had a morning meeting away from the office and didn't get creative enough to bring a lunch that didn't need refrigeration.
January 28 - February 3
  • January 30 - Michaels - $10.79 - went to the craft store with my mom, realized later than I would have liked about 15 other things more than the one thing I chose to buy.
February 4 - 10
  • February 5 - Michaels - $7.48 - stopped when I got back to Bloomington and bought notebooks. Oy!
  • February 7 - McDonald's - $5.55
  • February 8 - Taco Bell - $6.60
Total spent against ban over the past three weeks: $38.78

I spent an additional $27.42 on fast food while I was on the road but that's allowable under the conditions of my shopping ban. Having spent about 26.5 hours driving during my vacation, I think my fast food spending was kept pretty well in check. Having snacks for the car and taking along breakfast as I set out from Bloomington helped. Honestly, I'm a bit shocked by how little I spent since I built in the fast-food-on-the-road-is-okay rule. My M.O. in such situations would usually be to "treat myself" A LOT but I just didn't for the most part.

Three weeks with less than $40 in against ban spending. I'm going to make my goal for the coming week $0 against ban spending. Going from around $13 a week to zero should be doable.

Goal: Accomplished

Last week, I noticed that fast food appeared to be a spending problem for me. [Just typing that I started to have a Taco Bell craving. Argh!] I'm back to say that I didn't eat any fast food at all this week. Yay!

In fact, I cut my against ban spending to less than $25 this week.

  • 1/13 - Amazon - $11.09 - Angela Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle
  • 1/15 - Michaels - $6.42 - some paper
  • 1/15 - Starbucks - $5.13 - chai and cake pops
I'm giving myself a pass on the book I purchased from Amazon. It's for a book club and I couldn't get it from the library in time. Also, it's going to help me learn more about smashing the white cis het patriarchy, which is definitely worth the money.

The paper at Michaels was a definite impulse buy that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't followed my habit of going there every week after getting done with my volunteer time at the animal shelter. I'll be avoiding that bullshit this week.

Starbucks was a mistake that resulted from not checking how much I had left on my gift card. I thought I had $5 or more left. Turns out I had $2 and some change. Oops. That won't happen again - I only go to Starbucks when I have a gift card. And now I have to admit that this counts as fast food. They have a drive-thru. It counts.

So, I lied, there was one fast food incident this week but I got my against-ban spending down to
$22.64, compared to last week's at more than $50.

I'm about to go on an 11-day "Christmas" vacation. Though I've allowed myself a fast-food-while-on-the-road exception, I'm going to get some snacks and try to make the 13-hour trip back to Northern NY with minimal fast food. I've also made plans for what I will be eating when I return from my trip and will prepare as much as I can ahead of time so as to avoid the trap of spending on fast food after being away. I guess we'll see how I do.

13 Days In

I'm not sure if I can even really say I'm on a shopping ban at this point. To wrap my head around it, I'm going to list the things I've purchased so far this year that I've (ostensibly) chosen not to buy.

  • 1/12 - Taco Bell - $6.42 - fast food
  • 1/10 - Jimmy John's - $12.00 - fast food
  • 1/08 - vending machine - $2.85 - trash food
  • 1/07 - Michaels - $3.20 - craft supplies
  • 1/04 - Taco Bell - $6.71 - fast food
  • 1/01 - Joann Fabrics - $5.34 - craft supplies
For a total of $36.52 that I hadn't planned to leave my wallet. This doesn't even take into account the random $15 I got from work that I didn't fold into my budget. I can hardly remember what I spent that on. So, if I'm totally honest, I spent $51.52 over the course of the past 12 days that I hadn't intended to.

This is not an exercise in self-flagellation; it's just something I'm going to do every week or two to keep myself accountable and to better understand where my temptations lie. Guilt over this is useless, so I'm going to acknowledge that this is where I am and commit to doing better over the coming week.

Since my biggest temptation seems to be fast food (*cough* Taco Bell *cough*), I'm going to concentrate on avoiding that over the next seven days. One of the strategies I'm going to employ in this regard is cooking some really delicious food this weekend, including pulled pork and homemade bread. I think I am also going to take my credit card out of my wallet on days that I am not likely to need it, which means every week day because I do my grocery shopping on Saturdays.

Major steps forward include joining, which is helping me clean the shopping spam out of my inbox so that I stop "just looking," and I haven't placed any online orders since the ban started. I wasn't concentrating on avoiding online purchases but it has definitely been a source of impulse consumption for me, so it's a win to realize that, though I've looked around several shops, I've managed to talk myself out of each purchase.

One specific item that I was very tempted to buy was a new case for my tablet. The one I had recently broke, so I got a new one that turned out to be spectacularly awful and I started searching for another new one. Then I reminded myself that I already had one that was uselessly covering my old tablet (to be donated) and it turns out that its nicer than I remembered, though it could use a little cleaning. Instead of buying new, I used what I had and am perfectly content with the result. #winning

Until next week!

Taco Bell: My Kryptonite

Last evening, after work, I tried to go to the library. As I should have expected, there were no parking spaces. There are never any parking spaces because our library has like three total and I'm pretty sure lots of people park there and then go to nearby restaurants. FREE PARKING! And no one can prove they weren't at the library (at least, no one's gonna try). I also didn't have money to park on the street because who the hell carries coins anymore?

Anyway, I didn't get to park, meaning I didn't get to get the books I reserved, meaning I was very disappointed. And, in my disappointment, I went to Taco Bell and bought myself dinner. Fast food is one of the things I've decided not to buy over the next six months. So, for the second time in 4 days, I broke my shopping ban.

Rather than viewing this as a failure and taking my normal fatalistic, fuck-it perspective, I'm trying to see this as a lesson. One of my triggers for spending (and eating) is frustration and disappointment. Last night, I did both.

Did it make me feel better? No.

Did it help me get closer to achieving any of my goals? Definitely not.

As I contemplated this situation, I started telling myself that maybe I need to ease into this ban a bit more, go easier on myself. The thing is, though, this ban isn't even really hard on me - the things I'm choosing not to buy are things I don't need and/or already have in abundant supply. So, instead of easing up, I'm going to learn this lesson about my behavior and do better the next time.

Also, I'll celebrate the fact that I've talked myself out of many purchases, including the books I'd like to get from the library... if there's ever parking. ;)

Day One

I'm actually on Day Three of my shopping ban, which will last 181 days total, but I thought I should admit that I broke one of my commitments on Day One. I bought art supplies. It wasn't a lot: just some elastic cord and fabric stabilizer that I used in the construction of a traveler's notebook. And it was *only* $5 total (yay coupons!). NBD, right?

It's not really a big deal but NBD spending is one of the reasons I've started this challenge. Going to a store for something "little" every day adds up to not having the money for bigger unexpected expenses. It means saving up for trips or other big ticket items takes longer than necessary or never happens at all. It means feeling too financially strapped to freely give to people I love and organizations doing good work. It also means realizing, as I purge unwanted items again and again, that the reason I'm surrounded by crap I don't care about is because of my NBD spending.

This post is a reminder that the challenge I've undertaken is not some sort of torture or deprivation; it's a way to refocus my priorities and to pursue bigger goals that I've been blocking myself from by constantly dribbling money.

  • Short-term goal #1: Save $250 to purchase bulk quantities of paper and book board by the end of March.
  • Short-term goal #2: Spend within my monthly income in January and February despite travel plans.
    • Sub-goal: Don't buy banned items while traveling.

New Focus

It's been over a year since I posted and, as I restart, I'm refocusing.

Two things that have become very important to me over the past several years are simplicity and mindful spending. Practicing simplicity has been a lot easier for me than curbing my impulse spending, so I'm embarking on a challenge inspired by Cait Flanders, a Canadian personal finance blogger who, for two years, embraced a shopping ban.

During her shopping ban, Cait had very specific rules about what she would and would not buy. I've decided to do something similar. And, for my own benefit, I'm going to write about it here. Making resolutions is easy but, without accountability, mine usually fizzle - like my running habit.

My shopping ban will begin January 1 and continue until June 30.

The reasons I have decided to undertake this challenge are:
  • to be more generous,
  • to stop accumulating and consuming mindlessly
  • to save more money, particularly to build up my emergency fund,
  • to pay down my student debt, and
  • to start bookbinding again.
The things I will refrain from buying are:
  • books, including notebooks and journals
  • stationery and art supplies
  • home decor and furniture (unless something is broken AND needs replacement)
  • bags and totes and wallets and storage containers
  • fast food (unless I am traveling out of Indiana)
  • casual clothes
  • toiletries and cleaning supplies (unless I run out)
Some of these items will be easier to refrain from than others - the toughest will likely be art supplies and fast food - though I will have one outlet for my art supplies fancy.

As you can see, one of my goals for the next six months is to begin bookbinding again. In the past, I've been able to make some extra money by selling my crafts and I'd like to do that again with more intention. So, though I won't be buying stickers and paint and washi tape like they're going out of style, I will need to source and purchase the supplies needed to produce and ship my books and other wares. One of my first challenges will be sourcing paper for the pages and davey board for the covers. If, at the end of six months, I haven't been able to turn at least a minimal profit, I will reevaluate this project.