Thursday, May 23, 2019

Setting Myself Free

My daughter pulled me aside and looked me hard in the eye. "A shopping ban? You're doing a year-long shopping ban? Do you really think you have a problem with shopping?"

Well. I mean, not exactly a problem. 

My husband has been a bit puzzled about my shopping ban too. He's one frugal dude, but I can't remember a time he has ever complained about the way I spend money or asked me to cut back.

But isn't it always a good idea to cut back on purchases?

At least a year and a half ago, I bought this letter board and hung it in my garage, next to the door that we all pass through twenty times a day. My plan was to post not inspirational quotes or wacky sayings, but a list of the beverages we keep on hand in the mini fridge that sits just to the right of the sign.

I've been turning this question over and over in my mind, twisting it this way and that like a uncooperative Rubik's Cube. I've asked myself to be totally honest about why I took on this shopping ban in the first place, and what I hope to gain from it. 

Originally, I got the idea from reading The Year Of Less, and drawing inspiration from a twenty-something personal finance blogger's journey of finding herself by buying less.

Honestly, I enjoy denying myself small pleasures in the moment and working for long-term goals.
I like putting rules and limits on my behavior and seeing what that feels like. Though surely there would be other benefits too, the shopping ban just sounded like fun. 

But I soon discovered a problem. The board came with a gazillion letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, which was great. But the manufacturer's idea of a good storage arrangement was a pair of small cotton drawstring bags. Yeah, right. 

My letter board hung on the wall for an easy eighteen months with the same, strategically useless message of "HELLO" while I pondered my options. Eventually I sussed out an ideal acrylic letter case on Amazon, but for one reason or another, never got around to actually purchasing it. 

But then I read this article: Just buy the f**king latte.

Let me give you the gist of the piece:

According to this financial adviser, our society sends women the patronizing message that we are bad with finances, that we waste money on frivolous things like lattes and shoes, 

and subtly teaches women that we should be ashamed of the ways we earn, invest, and spend our money,

all the while ignoring the deeply established gender gap in wages and benefits, and implying that men are skilled at earning and investing money but women should focus on pinching pennies. 

Oh, snap. 

Instantly, I felt a truth bomb explode in my toes and zip up my body to my gasping brain.

Immediately I saw myself in those words. 

And I was assaulted with new insights about just how messed up my game of financial self-denial might be.

This month, I grew tired of my nonsensical deadlock. 
So, in violation of my shopping ban, I broke down and spent thirty bucks on the organizer, 

In light of this epiphany, here's what I've decided.

I'm still keeping my original commitment to my shopping ban.

Twelve months of extremely limited purchases, according to the rules I set out for myself. 

neurotically trimmed each symbol from the fiddly plastic racks, 

But. When I recognize the need for something that will bring value to my life,

something I have thought long and hard about buying,

something I can't make do with an item found among my existing possessions,

I am going to buy it. 

and tidily sorted them into their proper new homes. 
Angels sang and the sun shone all around and I now feel very happy and accomplished. 

No guilt.

No shame.

No regrets.

And I'll share here about whatever it is that I decide to buy. 

Best of all, I took my letter case in hand and marched out to the garage where I updated my letter board to serve its intended purpose. With my beverage inventory posted for all to see; my friends and family no longer need to kneel down on all fours to peer into the depths of the dark mini fridge, and the asterisks help me keep track of which supply is running low. 

Sirius was a bit worried about me lurking around the open garage door with a camera. But as you can see, his concerns weren't enough to knock him off his feedbag.

Because my shopping ban, 

 my rules in life,

should never be designed to bind me up, but always to set me free. 

* * * * *

Read more about my journey to mindful consumption:

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