« The elusive night-appearing Bob emerges for daytime floor exercises... | Main | Katie & Armando, Part II »

April 10, 2008

Doing more with less

In late 2006 when I was at the very teetering edge of financial doom, I made a promise to myself to stop buying stuff for three months. You can read about that here, and how I got started. I had been aggressively paying down my consumer debt and legal bills for about two years and I was READY to be out from under the rock of debt, ready I tell you!

So I made a conscious effort to buy nothing but the very essentials (food, gas, cat littler, shampoo, toilet paper, wine) for three entire months. The goal was to eliminate the "I feel bad today so maybe I should buy myself this one little thing..." purchases and impulse buys and just plain old spending. Another reason for the cessation of shopping was to help me re-boot my mall-trained brain and re-evaluate what is really necessary in my life.

It was an excellent experiment and it made me much more conscious of how many times I would spend randomly just 'cause. Magazines, beauty products, house supplies, decorative crap, nail polish, shoes (it's going to be ninety degrees outside this weekend! I should buy a new pair of flip-flops to herald in the summer!) (even though I already have five pairs of flip-flops!) and all the little small and "it's on sale" stuff that adds up significantly over time.

I'm blessed and lucky because things did eventually turn around for me. I've worked hard and long to get out of debt and start saving and have enough for a nice trip or two and a coffee table that I love. But I don't want to get slide down the ladder again, I don't want to think, "Oh now that I can afford it, I want ----- and ---- and another ---, too!" I want, I want, I want. I DESERVE. I need! It's almost hard to remember that what we have isn't who we are.

I love my nice things, I am not going to lie to you. But I think my personal relationship with my stuff has changed over the past few years. I guess I noticed over time that a nice handbag didn't make me any less nervous about public speaking. Or that without a big diamond on my left hand I actually felt freer than ever. Happier than I expected. I like having pretty things, but I don't need them to make me ME.

I guess I used to think all my stuff gave me security, that it anchored me to the earth so I wouldn't just disappear, unseen and unknown to another living soul. My stuff felt like permanence, it felt comforting, it felt like it was part of me.

It was really just a whole lot of stuff I had to box up and move from place to place, pack, unpack, dust and clean. It no more made me a better human than eating cheerios for breakfast made me a track star.

It's easy to forget that we can be good, happy, interesting people without our stuff to present us to the world first. It's easy for ME to forget it. I realized all this last week as I was just about to hand my credit card over for yet another shiny, pretty thing I don't need but I knew I could now afford. I stopped for a minute. I didn't REALLY want it. And I definitely didn't NEED it. But I had wanted it back a long time ago when I didn't have two pennies to rub together, and all that time I carried it inside me thinking if I had it I would be happy. Thinking, "One day, I'm going to buy that, and I'll feel so good about life." Thinking it would be something to make me into somebody.

That's just silly. I put my card back in my wallet. I went on home and as it turns out I was not diminished at all because I hadn't bought some new shiny thing. I was pretty much the same old me I'd been all along.

I don't want to be foolish with my money ever again. Just because I'm debt-free right now doesn't entitle me to live beyond my means or spend just fore the sake of spending. And I refuse to dive back under that rock of credit card debt, I spent too long getting out of it.

Instead I think maybe I will focus a little more on all the great things already in my life.

Posted by laurie at April 10, 2008 9:48 AM