After years of resolving to overhaul my life every January 1st, I decided a while back to keep it as general as possible: be grateful and kind, try something new, don't be afraid to fail. Committing to a gym membership only resulted in my checking account seeing more action than I was by the time February rolled around, and I've given up giving up on chocolate. This year, however, I have one resolution -- and it's HUGE.
I will not shop for six months. It's only been six days since the year started and I'm still working out the rules, but so far I've decided that "no shopping" means the following.
What I cannot buy
- Clothes, shoes, lingerie, accessories
- Makeup, fragrance, and other beauty products (incl. hair care)
- Furniture, home accessories, art work
- Gadgets and tech (unless essential for work)
- Books and music
- Pretty things that are non-essential to living (for example: stationery, toys/apparel for my shih tzu Scout, Funko Pop, etc.)
What I can buy
- Food (groceries, restaurants)
- Experiences (for example: travel, visits to museums)
- Health-related items (including toothpaste and floss)
- Plants and gardening supplies - spring falls within the first half of the year and so I made this an exception
- Home cleaning supplies - I can be frugal, but never filthy
- Monthly grooming: hair cut and color, facial, manipedi, and massage appointments - this is part of my DNA, even mom was this way -- and heck, she was at the salon two or three times a week!
- Gifts (preferably belonging to any of the categories in my "can buy" list)
Look: I'm still working out the details. I'm the sort of gal who can easily try to rationalize how an exquisite pair of shoes could be classified under "experiences" -- but I know that would simply be defeating the point of this exercise. So what exactly is the point of this then? To prove to myself that there's very little that I really need and to save for what's more important. I've been asking myself lots of questions.
What if I run out of hair conditioner? I'll need to go through all my samples and use them ALL first before I can buy a bottle.
I love to read and listen to music -- why deprive myself of that? I won't; I'll just borrow books from the library and listen to Spotify.
I lost 15 lbs. and my pants are too loose now -- does this mean I'll look like a stupid boy in the '90s? No, I'll just get them altered (I've decided this is an approved expense).
Oh no, I'm going to lose Sephora VIB Rouge status! Still sad about this, actually, but just think of how much I will save!
For years I've been reading accounts of people who have given up all spending, but I simply can't adopt a Frontier House kind of lifestyle. What finally inspired me was this piece in the New York Times by the writer Ann Patchett, who gave up shopping for an entire year. I've decided to try it for the first half of the year, assess what I gained from the experience, and then keep going if I feel I want or need to. Although this may sound very superficial for some of you, my little endeavor will cause me to make significant changes in my daily life, perhaps even to my psyche.
For most of my life I saw myself as an Ugly Duckling who simply learned how to groom herself. I became interested in fashion and beauty because I saw their transformative powers early on. My dad once heard a fashion designer friend of his say that there was no such thing as an ugly woman, just a stupid one -- and he repeated it to me when I was still a preteen (to this day I don't know if it was merely a casual remark or if he was trying to tell me something). Once I learned how to make the most of my body type and features, I then discovered a desire to surround myself with the prettiest things I could afford. When I first moved out on my own and had very little disposable income, I owned exactly two sets of "grown-up" plates, cutlery, and glassware, plush towels, and soft cotton sheets. I had one cooking pan -- a Calphalon, which I purchased at Conran's Habitat at the Beverly Center. I'm hardly extravagant -- but I like things that are aesthetically pleasing, that smell nice and feel good. But as Astrud Gilberto once sang, "Tell me how long must I keep wanting things, needing things when I have so much?" This stops now.
Now it's time for me to make purchasing decisions that go way beyond what appeals to my senses. In the past six days I've purchased a cable that connects my work laptop to a monitor (for when I work at home), yellow sticky traps for gnats and flying insects (I brought my plants indoors for the winter), and takeout dinner from a nearby Japanese restaurant (a Friday tradition). Each time, before I pulled out my wallet, I asked myself carefully: do I need this? do I have any options that don't involve buying something? Satisfied with the answers -- there wasn't an extra one at work, gnats are gross, and relaxing date nights at home once weekly are hardly unreasonable -- I think I'm off to a good start.
Wish me luck. I'll report back in six months.