One year ago, I began a 6 month shopping ban. You can read the epic saga right here, but, in a nutshell, I was shopping and spending unchecked, causing financial damage, and feeling utterly lost and out-of-control. So – as many style bloggers have done before me – I decided to create a self-imposed ban. I knew quitting cold turkey would just backfire, so I allowed myself $10 per week to spend on used clothing, shoes, and accessories. Nothing new for 6 months besides gifts.
It was fun and it was hard and it was weird and Already Pretty readers had varied reactions. Some were supportive of my project, some fascinated by my progress, and some mean about my slip-ups … which is why it took me until now to give a real update. And when it was all over – back in April of this year – I went to SF and shopped my little heart out with Audi to celebrate my freedom.
And then I continued to celebrate.
And seem to be continuing, even now, to celebrate the end of the ban. Which is to say that, although I have not dented my savings – the $1,300 that I wanted to keep as my safety net – I have not actually saved. Which means a LOT of money has gone out the door and a LOT of gorgeous things have been procured. And a LOT of guilt and anxiety over it all has been experienced.
To be clear, a portion of my paycheck goes directly into retirement accounts. I have a pension. HM and I have a joint savings account to which I have contributed faithfully, every month. My credit card is still hidden in an undisclosed location, I have been paying it down, and will not retrieve it until it is paid off and an emergency arises. Lest you think I am utterly incapable of fiscal responsibility, I share with you these facts.
And yet, I have not put one thin dime into my personal savings account in six months. And despite the aforementioned guilt and anxiety, neither has eclipsed my desire to spend. I feel like I am still rebelling against those self-imposed restraints, still panicky at the idea that, any minute now, my ability to buy things I want and love will be stripped away.
I said to Cal, “I think I need another ban.”
And she said, “Um, I think what you need is ANYTHING BUT another ban. You purged for six months and have been binging ever since. Try another tactic.”
I said to Trinknitty, “I have such issues with shopping.”
And she said, “Seems like you’re fine with shopping. You love doing it, it’s your major creative outlet, you’ve got the space for your acquisitions, and you’re not putting yourself into debt doing it. YOUR problem is with saving.”
And it’s good to have friends with brains, who understand me and can lay down the law. Talking to them forced me to do the thinking I’d been avoiding for so very, very long. So here comes the really personal, confessional style stuff.
Cal and Trin are both right. Although I learned a lot from my shopping ban, and it was a journey that taught me about my reasons and triggers for spending, and it put me in a better financial place, the bottom line is that it didn’t actually CHANGE my behaviors. It gave me insight, but it did not change me. And another ban will not change me, either. The root of my problem isn’t shopping. I love shopping and have the financial and storage capacity to shop regularly and allow myself to enjoy it. I express myself through my style, and making that activity forbidden just makes it all the more tempting.
I have money problems. I have had money problems since I was 10 years old and discovered the power of money and started taking $20 bills out of my dad’s wallet on the sly to buy candy. The main problem I have is that the act of spending money is strongly linked to both independence and power in my mind. I love to feel independent, love to feel powerful … so spending whenever I want to is a behavior I find hard to keep in check. Whenever I make a large or unnecessary purchase, just before I hand over the debit card or click “buy,” I actually do hesitate. But then an insistent voice pipes up, saying, “HEY. It’s YOUR money. You can do whatever you want with it.” And I buy. And I feel momentarily in control, and independent, and a little rebellious. And I have not figured out what, if anything, can be done to create balance.
Other contributing factors:
- I don’t get a lot of buyer’s remorse: I LOVE the stuff I buy, and only return it if it doesn’t fit. I’m not buying willy-nilly, I’m buying quite mindfully.
- I don’t enjoy saving. I get no pleasure from seeing a big balance in my savings account, and am yet to feel like my savings are a great accomplishment or asset.
- I am not emotionally in touch with any savings-related goals. I’m in a place where building my wardrobe and exploring my style is pretty close to top financial priority. (I realize that will change as I age, but for now … that’s where I’m at.)
- Two years ago, my house was broken into and both our cars stolen. I was in NYC visiting friends at the time. I am STILL scared to travel for long periods, freaked out about leaving my home unattended, which means a fairly normal savings goal for someone in my position (travel) is actually a bit repellent to me.
- I am stubborn and have a hard time changing my own behaviors.
Trin also said, “Just pick an amount to put into savings every paycheck. Anything outside that, you get to spend.”
It is a simple plan, and for a while it worked. I have backslid since then, to be completely honest, but I still think this is still my best option. And I am doing it now.
I don’t need to shop less. I am the only one who gets to decide when I have enough shoes and dresses and necklaces. And as someone who regularly donates clothes to charity, gives items away to friends, repurposes items, and sells on eBay, it is likely to be an endless cycle of things I love coming in and things I’m done with going out. And that’s completely fine, considering my life and lifestyle. What I need to do is spend the money I have earmarked for SPENDING, and save the money I have earmarked for saving.
So that’s where I’m at. I am yet to connect with my emotional motivator to save money, but I’m going to try to just make saving a habit. Not necessarily conceptualize it as saving “for” something, but just saving to be wise and prepared. I want to make my peace with this aspect of being an adult that has simply never clicked for me, but I don’t really know how or when that will happen. Still, I need to prime the pump and become accustomed to regular, uninterrupted saving. And the plan of simply saving a chunk of each paycheck and spending the leftovers seems simple and makes sense.
So here goes …
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Not to be repetitive, but while constructive comments are always welcome, spiteful ones are never welcome. You may think any number of nasty things about me because of how I’ve handled my post-ban behavior and finances, but I will not publish those nasty things here under any circumstances.