Week 33: Good News

Week 33: Good News

I’m sitting in my car, typing this out on my smartphone while my kids sleep in their car seats. I don’t dare to try and move them lest they both wake and end my precious few moments “alone” with my thoughts. 

What happened this week? Thanksgiving and the ushering in of the official beginning of the Christmas holidays, though by gosh the stores already had that started even before Halloween.

You know, the biggest change in me, perhaps, is the growing sense of disgust I have for our consumer culture. No, hear me out, I am still a consumer, but I have significantly slowed myself down. I think that it is perhaps in our best interest that we all do this. 

For quite a few years now I have had an over arcing feeling of being duped as a customer. The feeling coming from the fact that more times than not, the product I am purchasing does not have the level of quality its price would seem to imply. This has always irked me and has only grown more intense. The rise of the name brand as value over true workmanship and quality is craziness. The fact that it is more about the label than the actual item quality is beyond absurd if you really think about it. It most certainly points to something not quite right where our heads and hearts are concerned. Clearly the trends in our consumer demands point to something on the level of desire and group acceptance (or envy?) rather than for a purpose or function. 

The most recent trend in clothing, “fast fashion”, thanks to brands like H&M, is super troubling. It is all about the aquision of the newest trend, but in its purchase it becomes almost instantly obsolete because it is made so badly that one wash and it is more fit for the trash can than anything. Stores like Forever 21 are so massive and so piled high with merchandise, one can instantly see the excess and the impossibility of all of it ever being purchased or used. In an effort to push more and more product, fashion now has more “seasons” than there are actual seasons.

And to what end? Where is it all going? If these shoppers, like I, are shopping to fill a void, this is a symptom or evidence of an epidemic. 

In my news feed I saw a horrifying video juxtaposing our consumption and advertising here in the West beside the actual workers slaving away in factories making this junk. It looked like some apocolyptic sci fi future inwhich the elite live in a bubble of complete ignorance and excess while the rest of the planet exists in a Thunderdome type post Armageddon…only it’s real and it’s happening now and we are the ones in that bubble.Factory workers making clothes they themselves will never wear can’t possibly know why it is that they are stuck produce disgusting amounts of clothes for an insatiable population overseas, and we in the West seem to be incapale of seeing ourselves for what we are: slaves to a consumer cycle that is encouraged through targeted advertising and brain washing leading us to consume beyond our means, and destroy our own world and by extension our lives through waste.

I am certainly not immune.Consumerism, obviously as evidenced by this whole year long challenge, is deeply ingrained. I need to begin to look into companies that look to the environment and their community rather than their coffers. Yes, their clothes will be more expensive, and this is where I struggle, but truly it is worth it. I want to know that what I am buying takes into consideration where and how the materials are gathered, who makes them and if they are treated fairly, as well as quality (for the price will thing last)? I have been saying for years that I just want a few choice, quality items in my wardrobe. It’s time to put my money where my mouth is. If we all took care about which companies we supported and didn’t go for the garbage fashion, there might actually be room on this planet for all of us. But as of now, the West goes on blindly consuming what the rest of the world churns out for us, and we are creating more than our fair share of the waste, diplacing others from the dream of a clean, bright future. Are we really so selfish? Does our vanity trump life?

So, given all that, I need to do more research, find other companies like Patagonia, and buy only from them.

This Thanksgiving I also realized how exceedingly lucky I was to be sitting in my own home, eating dinner with my family with a table over flowing with abundance. So much so that I felt like we needed to ask random strangers on the street to partake…which of course, scaredy-me couldn’t actually do. I realized though that as my kids get older, I want to take them out to do some community service, do something outward rather than all this inward selfism. I thought about how fulfilling it would be to truly be thinking of others instead of just me and my family and how worthwhile it would be to show my girls this possibility.

So those were my thoughts this week.

I also did some early Christmas shopping for the girls, because I had a chance to get away for a few hours. I didn’t have much time do I had to spend and spend quickly. It felt weird. It felt possibly excessive, but it was also fun.

What was really cool this week was that I managed to sell two of my hubby’s old bikes and he sold our old Toyota, so that was a nice chunk of cash coming in.

And halleluja…drum roll…we finally got reimbursed for our medical expenses! Gahhhh! A small (actually HUGE) holiday miracle. I am so grateful to my husband who dealt with all of that all these months.

(Ok, it’s been almost two days since I started this post and I have been having the hardest time getting back to it to edit. If I leave it any longer it just won’t happen. So forgive me if this post seems rough, but I just need to publish it and move on! This tired mama has no time for perfection. Sorry for any spelling errors etc!)

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Week 32: Media Ban?

Week 32: Media Ban?

So, I don’t think it’s just me. Since the election, I think a lot of people were triggered to activate their compulsive behavior. I read a lot of facebook updates where people were choosing food (and drink ) as their comfort. I cannot exclude myself from that group. The nutritional content of my meals have been questionable at best, and there was a definite spike in my sugar intake. I also have a handy bottle of wine at the ready. A definite F it approach to life has taken hold.

I would be interested to see the statistics on shopping in America post election as well.

But okay, enough. I need to stop talking about the election aka E day, because seriously, my head is going to pop off.

This week I seriously considered a media ban. Not because I want to be uninformed, but because there is TOO MUCH information and opinions flying about. I also can’t stop compulsively re-posting  articles here and there that encapsulate my thoughts in more coherent ways than I can …which tend to be very satisfying rants. Again, we probably don’t need more of that in our feeds. I can get sucked into it for hours, but much like a cold overcast day, or a burger bun that turns to mush mid consumption, it affects my mood. I found myself feeling impatient and being short with my kids. Yes, what is going on in our world right now is important, and I can’t turn a total blind eye, but my kids truly do come first (I am also acutely aware that we may not have a world left for our kids due to this Armageddon…but like I said, enough! Enough.) ( Oh gad I SO want to rant right now…but self restraint…)

I did not, in fact, ban myself from all media. But I did do away with the smart phone at night. That in itself had a great impact as I actually managed to fall asleep without stressful thoughts whirling around in my head ( since E day I’ve been waking up in cold sweats and/or not sleeping much at all). I also am starting to think that putting my opinion up on a feed is just the most passive way to get involved. I think that yes we need to have strong opinions and yes we need to fight, but it’s going to have to be something more tangible, something in the physical realm. My mind is still trying to sort it all out, what can I, as a mom of two wee ones, do to be actively fighting/protesting what is to come?  I’ll let you know what I arrive at (okay, no more politics, my mom will kill me. I don’t blame her for worrying that dissenters will be flagged. Seriously, this shit is getting scary.)

Deep breath. New topic.

I love people. I love being around people and eating good food. Arguably, perhaps I started to overload my schedule with play dates and dinners with guests, which all ads to the impact on the wallet, but by god it is a NECESSITY. So yes, I have been to the grocery store a few too many times (read: every other day) this past and current week…and yes I will be right back at it tomorrow since it’s Thanksgiving in two days, but it’s all been food. For the love of food and company. It’s good for the soul.

My one comfort splurge arrived in the mail this past week. 20161122_081839.jpgIt has already been put to good use. It is so awesome to have so many songs at my finger tips. It definitely helped me get into my happy place more than once this week. And it does the spirit good seeing my littles sing along and dance and clap while I play.

I also received a most delightful care package from my Auntie in Canada. Some great clothes for the kids as well as a Derek Alexander bag for me; one that I had coveted while visiting in Canada. It’s pretty much the perfect bag, black and nondescript, easy to wipe clean, with SO many useful pockets. I can have dipes and wipes in one pocket and then my own personal items in another, with tons more left for whatever. Two water bottles fit on either side. Anyway, it’s perfect. I am so spoiled. And last week or the week before I mentioned how others doing similar challenges don’t even accept gifts from family or friends…I can say that I am definitely not playing by those rules! Thanks Auntie!!20161122_083352.jpg

And now, because it’s Thanksgiving week and Nana has the kids ( and I am already two days late in posting) I bid you adieu and try to get some things done that I might not otherwise be able to!!

Week 31: In Which I Discover My Main Shopping Trigger

Week 31: In Which I Discover My Main Shopping Trigger

So, as it turns out, the fear/anxiety/shock combo inspires a sort of fatalism in me that overrides any sense of self control/self preservation.

I suspect this might be something I am not alone in.

This week sent shock waves through the population. I am not going to go into it because that might just open a flood gate( If you are reading this post years into the future, I’ll give you a hint: US Election 2016).

This post is not about politics, it’s about discovering my main shopping trigger which is extreme negative emotion. The fatalism that comes with that is what leads me to want to abandon any self regulation I might be constraining myself with. Luckily I have no alcoholic tendencies, no interest in drugs, little to no time for television and no interest in video games or god forbid, extreme exercise.

So what was left for me, aside from hiding from the world, was shopping. By god, it felt like the end of the world was neigh so what the F, who gives a orange shit turd, let’s shop. Unlike my usual approach these days, which is to try and not even open my computer when the urge hits, I immediately started pulling up screens on items I wanted, reading the reviews and toying with putting them in my cart to see what it would total. Would the shipping be free?

Only, I also discovered something else about myself. That I care more about this effort to curb my spending through self reflection. I could see what this compulsion was, and instead of hitting “buy” I just took a deep breath and closed my computer. I had screens open on new ukuleles, used ukuleles, music, clothes. I shut it down. Yes, I opened it again, but then again, I chose to shut it down.

What I did buy was groceries. I breathed through my anger and powered past the extras and just bought groceries and even avoided the junk “comfort” food.

Okay, I did get two things online: dried elderberries ( I plan on making my own elderberry syrup for cold/flu season this year) and…a book of ukulele music (which I agonized over long before this week…but which became a necessity after this week, because music can transform bad moods into good! I’ve been playing my uke a lot this week).

What I wasn’t able to curb, was my compulsive reading of news on my smartphone. That’s a problem. I am seriously thinking about a media ban in my future. But for now, since the media is what I use to: keep this busy mama informed, and most importantly, keep this mama writing about and sharing her no spending challenge, I will be keeping the media for the immediate future.

And that’s it folks…oh yeah. I bought vinyl. You can read about that here and tell me if it was a necessity or not.

Week 30: Swing States

Week 30: Swing States

I’m not talking politics ( please god, no more! One more day to go!), I’m talking me swinging from one emotional state to another. The one state is wild optimism, the other is discouragement.

I’ve been trying to do the math. This is my report for week 30…that’s 7.5 months. What in all that time have I achieved/discovered/changed about the way I spend money?

Before I answer that question (or attempt to) let me just say that the feeling of defeat or, rather, discouragement is coming from the fact that I encountered a few other blogs and posts on facebook by other people doing a similar challenge as myself. One did no shopping for anything new at all for 200 days. The other did an entire year of no shopping. The second gal  really went all in, I mean, all in, no coffee, no car, not even accepting gifts from family.

Now, I know I shouldn’t compare. For one, these folks were doing it without kids; that makes a huge difference. I can’t see myself giving up driving or turning away gifts of clothes for the girls etc. It’s not a challenge to see if we can survive, it’s a challenge to see what it is that motivates me to want to buy unnecessary things. So, in that, some of the motivation is different.

This is just typical of me, though. I see someone doing what I am doing and perceive them to be doing it “better” and I want to call it quits. I deflate. I lose inspiration. The fact of the matter is that no one is entirely original, there is always someone doing what you are doing; some better, some worse. What I need to learn is that it doesn’t matter, because the way I do things is uniquely my own approach.

So, no I have not cut out spending entirely as the one gal. Perhaps my approach is not laid out as clearly as the other writer’s. I also saw, in my searching for those particular articles to link in, that there are a heck of a lot more articles out there regarding “no shopping” or “slow shopping”.

What I should really take away from this is that, clearly, in our society today, shopping in excess is a problem. Many of us are trying to figure why and how to fix it. That’s okay. It will take an army of people and ideas. Maybe, for the next generation we will start to reconsider how we structure our country’s wealth (right now a captialist system dependent on endless and increasing spending- where do we put all this shit?!?) and start to innovate and redesign the direction in which we are heading, towards something more sustainable, environmental and supportive of humankind (ie, not relying on slave labour to sustain low prices).

So here I am, having swung from discouragement back to optimism.

I forge on.

 

All that said. I am SO tempted. I have been obsessing all week about getting a new uke. I love and have been playing the entry level Kala shark uke I picked up, about 8 months ago just before the start of this challenge. I love playing it. It is a joy and I cannot seem to get enough. And now, I want better.

Do I need better? No. I just want.

How do I reconcile those feelings? I could use some mental tricks to make valid my need for a new uke. I DO use it. A better sounding, all wooden uke would encourage more practice. BUUUUT…does my current uke work? Yes. Does it sound good? Decent, yes. And, most importantly, will anything about the quality of my life change with a new uke? Probably not.

I’m also coming to a point where I wonder if I need to lean in a bit more; get more serious and strict about how I spend. I’ve bought the occasional fancy coffee while out and I have been buying lunches out more often than I’d like, simply because I have burned out with the food prep. For the longest time I made sure to always leave the house with the girls, extra clothes, toys, diapers and a complete lunch spread, repleat with snacks and enough to share with friends whom we most certainly bump into or meet up with on a daily basis. But I am spent…and so I spend. Guh.

Oh, and did I mention that my hubs just bought a new “used car”? yeah. He needed for work and it was very inexpensive, so that was definitely “legal” spending, but something to consider when I think about how much money we might hemorrhage on any given day and what I can do to staunch that.

I won’t go into the details of all the spending, the temptations averted or not. I will say that it goes on, but that I have definitely slowed my spending. I can say that the 7.5 months have changed us in that spending is not at the fore- we go out and play instead of walking the aisles of stores, save for grocery Mondays. Most spending is on food, basic necessities not food related are second, frivolous a small third. I think it will have a lasting impact on the kids- I managed to stop what had begun to be a “can I buy this?” kind of awareness in my eldest. Now she couldn’t care less about shopping, “could we please go to the park, mommy?” If nothing else, that is a big success and a motivator to keep going.

I am considering stopping the use of the interwebs and smart phone in regards to browsing. That is the biggest tempter. When I use the web to research ukulele’s it inevitably leads to looking at prices and then online stores. Also those facebook buy/sell/trade pages. I can see that they add temptation that I don’t need. The down side to giving up the latter, is that I have managed to both sell items and buy some needed items at deep discounts (ie, remodeling our kitchen and my kids bedroom, which are on going projects and could benefit from some thriftiness). But is it worth the time and temptation? I don’t know. We’ll have to consider that more fully.

 

I have to go. The night sets in and the kids demand attention. I don’t know that I answered  the question I set out at the beginning. I certainly have swung from one end of the pendulum to the other. I hope this post is somewhat coherent.

Goodnight.