Three Months Without Shopping or Takeout Coffee

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As of today, I’m one quarter of the way through my yearlong shopping ban, and let me tell you: it’s been a roller coaster. One day, I feel happy and content, proud of the time that has passed so far and confident I can stay on track for the next nine months. The next day, I’m writing a list of things I want, and trying to shut up the inner voice that’s telling me I could technically buy anything I want and just not tell you guys. I’ve beat the voice every time, so far, but she still comes around… more often than I’d like.

I started this challenge thinking it would be a great way to save money. One month in, I felt accomplished already, and began to see how it might inspire others to take on similar (albeit probably shorter) challenges themselves. Now that I’m three months in, however, I have to tell you that a ban like this will not come without a lot of external challenges; things that you can’t foresee but which will test your resolve, beyond just having to break old habits and wanting to give into cravings. Here’s where I’m at in this journey:

Takeout Coffee Update

In August, I shared how my first month without takeout coffee went. At the time, I’d found that the most challenging thing was simply paying attention to the triggers for my cravings, and understanding that I would have to change behaviours and thought patterns I’d learned over nearly 15 years. As of right now, I think I can say I’ve been successful and am now done with that part, as I very rarely crave takeout coffee anymore. In fact, one of the best parts of my day is waking up and realizing it’s time to fill my French press. I’m practically drooling, just thinking about it.

Part of me wonders how successful I’ve really been, though, since I actually drank a lot of takeout coffee in August and September. If you remember, my rule was that I couldn’t have takeout coffee in Vancouver or Victoria, but I’m still allowed to have it when I’m travelling – and I have done plenty of that. I will still stand by my statement about not craving it, though, as I’ve been home for two weeks and can’t remember craving it once in that time. But I think the real test will be when I’m home for 6-8 weeks from mid-October to December; not only because that’s a long stretch of time for me to be at home, but because the cooler weather comes with fewer opportunities to invite friends to go for walks or hikes. What do people typically do then? Go out for a warm drink to fill their bellies. I may need to invite people over more often, instead.

Shopping Ban Update

As for the shopping ban itself, I’ll start by saying that books continue to be an issue for me – well, now it’s mostly e-books. When I see that a book I want to read has been traditionally published, I get sad for a few minutes, then remember the huge stack of unread books I have at home and the very little time I find to read anyway. If I really want to read them, I add myself to the waitlist at the library. As it turns out, I’m still waiting for all of them, so this has worked in my budget’s favour. When I read the description of an e-book I want, however, and see they are just $0.99-2.99, I still have internal temper tantrums.

The one time I really struggled with the shopping ban, though, was after that breakup. I’m fortunate to have amazing friends who supported me through it, but there are those first few nights where you go to bed alone and can physically feel the emptiness seep into your bones… ugh, I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. It was in those first few days that I realized I do have a trigger that makes me want to shop: loneliness. I also think that because the situation was out of my control, I wanted to do something that was in my control, which was to buy myself whatever would make me feel better. I dreamed about giving up on the ban, and buying some new clothes and an iPhone 6. I even went to reserve one on my cell phone provider’s site and nearly completed the form. But I knew I shouldn’t (and the bill for it would’ve sucked).

Even though I was mad I couldn’t shop at the time, I’m now so grateful I had the shopping ban looming over me. Seriously, can you imagine what I might’ve done if the ban wasn’t in place? Five years ago, old me would’ve put all brand new furniture + way too many nights at the bar on her credit card, and financed a brand new car. I know, because I did that. This relationship wasn’t long enough to spur that kind of damage, but I definitely would’ve bought myself a new iPhone. According to the Loneliness Loop, this means my level of materialism is acquisition as a source of happiness: “These materialists buy things because they feel an emotional deficit in their life that they want to fill with stuff. They have a very clear idea that something will make them happier.” Fortunately, I’m learning how to recognize and push past that.

Anyway, despite having to face that emotional trigger to shop, I’m still happy with the results I’ve seen in the past three months. Every time I log into my online banking, I can’t believe how much money is in my chequing account. (We’re not talking thousands, but I’m never down to $20 before payday, like I was for so many years before.) I’m only spending money on what matters to me (the basics + travel), versus wasting it on things that don’t, and I’m finally meeting my savings goals. I don’t think another nine months of this will be easy, but I feel armed and ready for whatever is next.

Can you remember a time when you wanted to shop because you were upset?

Flickr: duncan