When I started my shopping ban in January, my main focus was to save money so that we could purchase a home. Not shopping made a HUGE impact on our finances and allowed us the ability to accomplish that goal only six months into my challenge. In the same month that we finalized buying our house and moved, I had committed to a community theater production and found out that I was pregnant with our fourth baby.
I didn’t think much of it at first as the nausea hadn’t started and I was excited about a new home and performing again. However, the stress of balancing two major life events and spending a massive amount of time rehearsing caused me to slacken my grip and lose focus on the ultimate reason I was doing this shopping ban.
It wasn’t to be able to purchase a home, it was to be conscious about how we spent our money, to reach a financial freedom that didn’t result in the constant pursuit of “new” that masks our human desire for perfection.
I am not saying that I have been horrible and shopping a ton, but I have certainly made some purchases that broke the shopping ban.
At first I justified them because I had not considered the fact that we would be renovating a fixer upper in January and would need to purchase not only paint and brushes but curtains and a bench and a dresser and the list grew and grew. Living in our tiny duplex, I hadn’t even considered home goods being an issue because we had no need for them. Our dressers were destroyed hand-me-downs but they served their purpose. We only need the four chairs for our table. Blinds came with the duplex. It was easy to avoid those aisles at the store.
Home items haven’t been the only issue though. Being pregnant for the fourth time had me looking at my maternity wardrobe with frustration. Most of the things that I have were purchased second-hand during my first pregnancy and at this point were falling apart. I have also always had summer babies, and here I was staring at a pregnancy that would end in January. That is a very different set of clothes. So I have bought myself two pairs of jeans (second-hand), a pair of leggings, a sweater (second-hand), two dresses (one was technically a gift from Kyle), and a shirt that I don’t groan with annoyance looking at for the billionth time. A local mom gifted me a maternity coat and I am feeling much better about reaching January. However, the whole summer I have been trying to figure out how to justify these purchases to people who knew I wasn’t shopping. In the meantime, a new school year and my birthday approached and I bought some art for our home and school clothes for Max (half of it second-hand and half new-new). I made a trip to Target a few too many times, usually for totally reasonable purchases only to find myself wandering other aisles and finding something that I had been making due without for six months. I could go on and on, but ultimately I came to the realization that I had totally lost focus on my purpose for this whole challenge in the first place.
It shocked me how easily and slowly it had happened.
I knew I would make mistakes, but I so badly didn’t want to disappoint anyone who was watching to see if it was even possible.
Talking with Kyle last night, I expressed my disappointment and he reassured me that I had not done as badly as I thought, only that maybe I had lost focus and avoided the need to reassess when changes occurred and that really the whole point of this challenge wasn’t really to buy a home (that had only been a tangible goal) but to learn to be more thoughtful and purposeful when buying things.
Learning is part of the challenge, so some mistakes will happen.I want to finish strong though. I want to be proud of myself for the efforts that I made to change the way money is spent and used in our home and so with the help of my husband we came up with a revised challenge that acknowledges the fact that we are working on a fixer upper and are expecting a baby after the new year. So here it is:
Criteria for Purposeful and Intentional Purchases:
- Assess with whether a purchase is a want or need. The key to this is being honest with oneself which is really hard to do when surrounded by hundreds of tempting items. Sometimes finding a less cluttered area or even closing your eyes (I have totally been that weirdo who looks like she is meditating in an aisle) helps to find clarity when you feel overly stimulated by a plethora of choices. The store provides so many options leading us to ask, “Which do I want?” when in reality the question should really be, “Do I actually need this?”
- Purchases should be either beautiful or useful to us. It should be something we love, not a temporary fix or something purchased because of convenience. Is this something I will always want is a great way for me to determine whether I find it useful or love it. This is especially true for finding items as I make a house a home.
- Ask myself, “Does this align with my long-term goals?” It helps to have concrete goals you are working towards. After purchasing a home I didn’t have a concrete goal and that is part of why I lost focus. My new goal is really focusing on our student loans. This way, each time I make a decision I can think of our student loans (which I hate and make me sad) and decide whether or not the purchase is worth it. Is it worth spending the money on some buckets of blue paint for our living room now or can I wait and make the best of what I have? After all of your thoughtful suggestions from last week on the house update, it made way more sense to hold off on painting until another time. I would rather spend that money toward student loans or in this case, shelves by the fireplace for all of our books.
Sometimes starting this shopping ban feels like the worst idea ever, but only because it requires a lot of self-reflection on your weaknesses (which is never enjoyable). Even just nine months into this, I have discovered so much of my growth comes from acknowledging shortcoming and working towards building them into strengths. That’s life in general isn’t it? We can spend a lifetime fighting to ignore and dismiss our weaknesses, but when we physically, mentally, and spiritually take the time to look into ourselves, the truth is there and working toward aligning ourselves towards it brings a more rewarding feeling than any half-priced discount we could ever find.
p.s. All these pictures are from a trip to Lake Tahoe at the end of the summer.