January 8, 2007
Stop Buying Crap: My One Week Progress Report
Don't worry, ya'll won't have to hear weekly news bulletins on the exciting process of not buying stuff. I'm just saying, preemptively, in case you were skeered.
At the first of the year I made a resolution to stop buying all non-essential stuff for three full months, from January first to April first. The whole premise of this resolution is to see how much money I can save by just not buying stuff. Whenever I want to buy something non-essential, like shoes or something new for the house or yarn, I'm putting it on a list to "Buy Later." It's funny because some of the things on my list from Day One aren't things I still want to buy. For example, I had a fleeting urge to get one of those scrubbing bubbles automated shower cleaners. Saw it on a commercial, ya'll know. The urge passed.
The hardest thing for me to do is break my automatic habits. And I have lots of them! My brain likes to run on autopilot as much as possible to free up energy for daydreaming and fantasizing and worrying.
My autopilot controls all the basic stuff so I don't have to even think on it: I park in the same general area at the mall. I put my keys in the same place, have a morning routine, that sort of thing. And apparently I shop on autopilot, too! I was at the grocery store yesterday -- the REAL grocery store, not the 7-11 -- buying groceries for the week. This is a kind of new experience. I generally don't plan very well for weekly shopping. In many ways I am like an ADD-addled 7 year old child, wandering the aisles looking for a puppy, or maybe Oreos cereal. (In other ways I am a 78-year-old wino looking for the best price on cabernet... or pinot... or cava... or whatever...)
So the real grocery store is kind of overwhelming, with so many choices and all. But recently I started reading "You On A Diet" by that cute Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Roizen, and they say it's perfectly fine to automate your breakfast and lunch, eating basically the same thing every day.
This was the happiest news. I tend to go in food phases, finding something I like and eating it every day (usually at breakfast). For a while it was Trader Joe's yogurt with blueberries and walnuts. Then it was yogurt with granola. Now it's Cheerios. I could eat Cheerios for breakfast every day for the next three months and be perfectly happy, but sometimes I feel self-conscious about being so... boring. Who eats Cheerios every freaking day for breakfast? Aren't you supposed to mix it up? Is this even normal, or healthy?
But Dr. Oz says it's a good idea to automate simple meals like lunch and breakfast, because it takes the guesswork out of eating and food prep. Plus, this gets me eating a decent breakfast every day (better than McMuffins, anyway) and it's cheaper. So he's smart and cute! I love that Dr. Oz.
Anyway, that is how I managed to find myself at the real grocery store, buying enough Cheerios and milk for a week plus stuff for lunchtime turkey sandwiches and a few things for dinner. And as I was standing in line waiting to checkout, I browsed through a few magazines and automatically added them to my groceries. Just like that.
Luckily, no check out lines in the entire city of Los Angeles move quickly so I had time to realize what I was doing. I was on autopilot -- just shopping like nobody's business -- adding about $12 to my bill. As soon as I realized it, I put the magazines back. Then I scanned through my grocery pile to make sure I hadn't accidentally added in a new coffeepot, or some flip-flops, or a DVD. They sell all that stuff at the big grocery store! No wonder I like the 7-11 ... it's smaller, and you have less temptation to buy fuzzy house slippers along with your Cheerios. And new pot holders.
So, aside from that little blip at the grocery store, my no-nonessential-shopping-until-April-1 thing is going fine, mostly because I didn't go to any stores this past week. I sort of cheated before January 1st and pre-shopped a little, going to Target for all the household stuff and Michael's and Unwind for yarn (bad, bad, bad) (but so good!). I even had more time for doing other stuff since I didn't have to go run my normal errands first thing Saturday morning, shopping at Target and BevMo and the pet store and wherever else I always thought I just had to go.
I read a story last week about a group of friends who did this for a whole year (!) but I will be happy to make it to the three-month mark and re-evaluate. Mostly I want to just save a little money, get out of the shopping habits, and figure out what is really essential as opposed to what I'm just buying to make me feel better. I figure you can do just about anything for three months. And I need to get back to the budgeting basics so I can pay off all my debt this year. I almost cannot imagine what it will feel like to be debt-free, not having anyone you owe money to. Lord, I'll probably fall over with happiness.
Then I'll probably go buy some yarn. Or Oreo cereal. Or fuzzy slippers... WITH CASH, of course!
Posted by laurie at January 8, 2007 7:25 AM