Week 52: The Struggle

Week 52: The Struggle

What will it take to rise above temptation? Honestly, I’m exhausted. What has this year taught me?: That we are so brain washed by consumerism that it is almost part of our DNA.

Literally, before opening this tab to write ( a tactic to shift gears out of temptation), I was, once again, looking at Blundstone boots. I WANT a pair of Blundstone boots. I don’t know what sparked this want, I don’t know , I don’t know…but I do. I am having such a hard time shaking it.

I can definitely create reasons for wanting a pair: they are well made and will last a long time (though from reading a few reviews I’ve seen that their quality standards may have slipped). They are great for the winter and spring weather here and can go from work ( I want something to slog in when I go on photo shoots. Read: my old cracked rain boots aren’t good enough though they actually do the job…I just don’t like how they look) to a night out, to hiking. And they pull on! What else could a busy mom ask for?

They are also: totally inappropriate for the upcoming hot weather(if I were to buy them now, I’d only get to wear them a short time before the season changes). They are expensive. I already have a pair of similar boots that are a bit dressier and have heels, but essentially a similar look. No one sells them at a physical store, so they must be ordered on-line which will be a little bit of a rigmarole if I don’t get the fit just right ( Aussie sizing is a bit different).

How much? $175 on average.

If it’s gonna last years, it could be considered reasonable. But then, consider my already full shoe closet. Yes, I KonMaried that closet quite well not too long ago, but it is still far from minimalist. I have shoes for most every occasion, and not many occasions to use many of those shoes.

I have gone through all sorts of mental contortions, from ‘just turn off the computer and stop looking…stop looking!’ to ‘ Well, if I earn them by booking two one hour photography sessions…and/or sell a few items on that Facebook sell page…”

The thing that stops me from pushing that ‘Buy’ button is when I think about how much work it would take me to earn that $175. Or how much in groceries that $175 would get for the family.

Today, with everything being so high cost, $100 is nothing. You spend more in one grocery run, half of that filling a tank of gas. That on a few items of clothing.

But for this mama who only really spends on necessities ie food and gas, who buys clothing rarely and then usually at a thrift store, and who doesn’t earn money regularly if at all…$100 is a lot. Yes that $100 will definitely and unavoidably be spent, but on what? There are so many true needs.

In the long run, are boots and the temporary satisfaction of that new/pretty item more important than my family’s nutritional intake? No. Are they more important than being able to power our car? No. More important than our  gas or electricity bill? No.

I could survive bare foot if I had to. I can survive being un-stylish if that’s the fear.

Heck, it would even be more worthwhile to set that money aside to save for my future “better” camera when I’ve earned my stripes as a legit professional photographer (when my earnings exceed my investment in equipment) and am ready to upgrade.

And yet the Consumer mind is strong. I have no doubt I will be doing some late night drooling over a glowing screen staring at reviews for Blundstones on Zappos...”Free shipping…order in the next 4 hours and 48 minutes to receive them by April 12!! “…Finger hovering over the “Buy” button, fighting the good fight.

S

 

 

Week 28: The View Will Cost You

Week 28: The View Will Cost You

I’m so behind on this week’s blog I considered just skipping it and combining it with next week. I feel like it is getting harder to find time to write than it was just a few months ago. Or maybe it’s flagging enthusiasm for this challenge?

Yet I soldier on because I do not want to be a quitter. I have started to think about what all this will have meant once this one year challenge is over. Will I have gained any knowledge about how I operate as a consumer? Will I have learned to tighten my belt? Will there be any significant changes in the way I spend money? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions.

Right now I am feeling both grateful for my life and the plenty that I am surrounded with and I am also stressed by the on-going financial issues that our medical bills from a few months back continues to plague us with. I am reminded of how lucky we are to manage to get away for the weekend, as we just did, on a mini family vacation to Yosemite. At the same time, I am frightened by how costly that ended up being and feeling slight guilt over that (more on that in a bit).

I’m essentially an internal mess. I want to be frugal and thrifty, yet time and again we end up spending. I am caught between wanting to be content with only the bare minimum and finding that sometimes spending is not only just necessary but sanity fortifying. I wonder if we are being wise to enjoy our money now despite challenges, or foolish and should be more cautious and knuckle down and save, save, save. I do not want to be a foolhardy millennial living off of credit like there’s no tomorrow. I think it’s safe to say that that is not the case, but sometimes I feel as though we teeter on that brink.

Last week I did some online shopping for “essentials” thinking that I was being efficient with my time and energy (my time is worth something, too, right?). Well, as it turns out, some items were not exactly right. Now, I had to deal with the rigmarole of returns. Essentially, I ended up settling for ‘less-than-exactly-right’ items and gave another item to a friend’s kid rather than make that effort to repackage and pay for return shipping. What I have learned from that is, a physical store is still preferred despite the effort involved hauling the kids with me.

I will also confess to cute, sparkly, holiday appropriate shoes that I impulse bought for my girls. There was definitely no need there. I thought perhaps that I would use them in our yearly photo shoot ( my internal spending trickster came up with that one!), but have decided on a theme that actually will not include sparkly shoes. Sooo…I have been staring at those shoes, set right by the door with tags on, debating and debating. To return or not. Every time I think, ‘ok, I’ll return these’, I envision my littlest running around with those sparkly Mary Janes and she looks so CUUTE. But, when it comes time to take off the tags, I can’t. Maybe I will change my mind and want to return them….20161025_185125.jpg

So, they sit there yet. My eldest’s sparkly shoes with the tag on have made it as far as the trunk of my car ( she has a pair of shiny shoes already)…now to look for the receipt. I don’t know why this is so gosh darn hard for me. Honestly. And in accordance with the rules I laid out when I started this challenge, if I am unable to return items I’ve spent frivolously on, I need to give away items. So, I will focus on that. More purging is in order!

And about Yosemite this weekend. It was amazing. It is one of the most picturesque places one could ever hope to visit. It is definitely something as many people as possible should see. It also happens to be one of the most expensive State Parks one could visit. For a two night stay in their tent cabins (camping sites were already booked up when we booked  a few months ago) we were out almost $400. Then take into account that you aren’t allowed to cook there (lots of bears, drought with the potential for fires) so you need to buy dinners at approx $35 per meal for two adults and two kids. Also, the gas to travel 5.5 hours in both directions. Also, a $30 entrance fee for any and all visitors to Yosemite. All told we were looking at about $600. Now, the reason we like to camp is because it is the most affordable way to have a vacation. This did not fall into that category. It really did not. But we went with friends and they were all in and so were we. We had an absolutely marvelous time. The girls loved it. I loved the ease of having a cabin with beds, a bear box, a working light, and no food clean-up. It was quite fantastic. Aaand it is something we will not be repeating for quite some time!! So, yeah, there’s some guilt, but there is also gratitude for the fact that we could do it at all. 20161022_072900.jpg20161022_171652.jpg

So, what is this blog all about this week? I dunno. A sort of confessional. And I feel the need to admit that I am really feeling quite embarrassed about all of this. I set out to do this “no needless spending” thing with a lot of enthusiasm and optimism. As it turns out, I feel like I have been failing at it quite miserably. I am embarrassed that more often than not this has been a list of my failures. Why does it matter? It just does. I know that this blog is mostly just talking into the wind, but for the few of you who are reading (for which I am grateful) I want to be able to say that I am making progress, that something is shifting within me. I want answers to my query: why do I want to spend? I will have to just end with no answers, as yet, reached.

love and gratitude.

S

 

 

Days 96, 97& 98: The Costco Conundrum

Days 96, 97& 98: The Costco Conundrum

Man, the big box stores sure have it dialed in.

You might go in there for necessities, but the temptations abound. Things you never thought you needed or desired are there in heaping piles yelling “deal, deal, deal!”

Moreover, they usually contain the allure of being also a name brand. What IS it about the name-brand that gets me so lathered up.I’m definitely a sheep when it comes to that. I have been so conditioned to value the brand name…even though I KNOW it is not necessarily synonymous with quality. That in fact, some of those name brands are FOR SURE using cheap production and slave labor to further their brand. And yet…

Here was my temptation:

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The material was incredibly soft and flowy. Perfect for a momma who just wants to pull on some pants and forget about them. The fact that they were name brand added a little bit of hope (on my part) that they would be a little stylish too.

In the next aisle was underwear. Who doesn’t need underwear?

I don’t. Especially not the ones with a man’s name written all the way around the band: Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein.

If a man’s name has to be written on my underwear, it better be my husband’s.

Yet, still, two days later, I keep thinking about just nipping back into Costco to pick those pair of pants up. Luckily, there is no such thing as “nipping in” when you’ve got two under three.

Did I tell you that I used a loaner ukulele while I was visiting family in Canada?

Well, I did, and it was far superior to the one I own. Superior by far. I will never be the same. To know what quality sound the ukulele, if made well, can emit has changed my view and enjoyment of the instrument irrevocably. I now covet that ukulele, which was hand-made by a luthier in Hawaii. Even took a picture of my beloved on the eve of our separation:

And I’ve found myself compulsively looking at ukes for sale on Craigslist and googling “how to make a ukulele” as I realize more and more how expensive a good one can be.

Since I’ve been back I’ve been dreaming about just “stopping by” a music store to “try out” their ukes. Laughable thought with two kids in tow who are more likely to run about tearing instruments from displays than sitting quietly by my side, listening to me play excerpts from my favorite songs.

I must say, on the no spending front, I am feeling rather discouraged. I am having a really hard time not desiring things. Even as I look about my place in discontent, wanting to rid myself of excess, I still desire new things. Why? It seems so at odds with what I envision for my living space, my mental and spiritual space. So many times I catch myself thinking, ‘yeah, I can just buy that and not post about it. Who really cares if I break the rules. I’m being too strict.’

Who cares? I care. I care to know why I want to purchase things so compulsively. I want to know why I think some object will make my life better, make me more attractive, more together, more stylish, more interesting.

What is the hole I’m filling and why is that hole there?

So many questions. I guess that’s what all of this is for. So I keep on examining and blogging, as imperfect as this experiment is.

 

Days 66-71: Normal

Days 66-71: Normal

Slowly, every day, little C has returned to herself. It was touch and go for a while. The first day back from the hospital (Monday) I watched her like a hawk and she seemed to be in so much pain still. I almost called emerg back to check if her continuing pain was normal. At night she would whimper and cry out. I couldn’t tell if it was from pain or nightmares (of the hospital?) but she wouldn’t (and won’t) tell me because she is afraid that more will be done to her. I feared something had been missed, but ultimately I went with my gut, because so far it has served me well, and I decided to wait. The next day, she was still whimpering from pain, but better. Every day, three doses of oral antibiotics and Tylenol as needed. So much Tylenol. Hard to see her consume almost an entire bottle when I have only ever given her such a drug once before this illness. But then, finally, she didn’t need it. Today, Friday, she is much skinnier than she was a week ago, but she is definitely herself…throwing challenging tantrums, being her charming hilarious self, making us negotiate every damn thing because she is stubborn as all get-out. Ahhh. Back to normal. Deep breath and appreciate this.

As for not spending…well, I have definitely failed. I have thrown caution to the wind and spent on things at my sister and brother-in-laws coffee shop, Engine House Coffee, bought T-shirts at the caves we went and visited yesterday, splurged on poutine and other treats. I am trying not to go over-board as a “thank god we are back to normal, lets spend to celebrate” kind of way…even though that is definitely an impulse I am feeling and trying to examine.

I also happen to be on “holiday” as harrowing as it was this past week, so I feel like a tourist in this town and want to enjoy it.

So, yeah, I’ve failed on the no frivolous spending front. But I am not going to quit. What I am going to do is assess these feelings, these impulses, try to reign them in and also atone for them when I get back. That means, I am planning to do a lot more paring down when I get home. We live with excess. I had begun a KonMari inspired cleansing of my home, but failed to complete it. I think I will renew those efforts to eliminate.

My hand eczema has calmed in direct relation to the drama of a health crisis calming down too. While C was in hospital, the inflammation, weeping and drying was so bad my hand was an unbending claw. Since then, the layers have peeled off and my hand is mostly back to normal, though quite red and occasionally itchy. The treatment plan, with the help of my mom, is to do green clay compresses almost every night, followed by a coating of castor oil before putting cotton gloves on for the night. Also, several times a day, after washing my hands, I splash nano-silver all over the affected areas and air dry as it is antibacterial and helps quickly seal open wounds. I am not following any specific diet, other than avoiding shell fish and citrus as recommended by TeeMing, the Chinese doc I saw in Toronto.

So far so good. I am afraid of a re-occurrance, but one day at a time. One day at a time.

Enjoying having my hubby here for a few more days as C fully recovers. Hopefully we can get a beach day in and a bit more sight seeing. Though it was not the nicest way to get daddy here (via an emergency), we are sure glad he’s here for part of our vacation.

 

Day 20: No One Said It Would Be Easy

Day 20: No One Said It Would Be Easy

Seriously? What do I have to do to get shopping out of my brain?

It’s been 20 days. I’ve purchased nothing but food for the family and myself, and one treatment to aid the healing of my eczema.

Yet… I considered going to Costco for a few needed items. But I caught myself thinking gleefully of wandering the aisles just “to see” what they have. So I shut me down. We went to the park instead. I don’t need anything from Costco immediately, and I have enough greens to get me through to the Saturday market where the fresh produce is much, much more quality.

And then…at the park I fell into conversation with other moms, as I am wont to do. Suddenly we were talking about baby shoes “oh, what shoes are those on her feet?” “keens” “Oh, keens are great” blablablablabla. I found myself promoting keens (they are good) and then the conversation moved to great deals and baby gap and old navy yadayadayada.

Needless to say, I had visions of great sales, the newest kids fashions and the excitement of thinking of my cuties walking around looking all fashion forward.

It’s not to say that a girl can’t dream. But for the foreseeable future, such visions that get the old shopper heart rate going, must remain just that. I was disappointed to discover that my brain is still wired towards the pathway of: “it would feel great to shop for a few things”.

Luckily the urge wasn’t strong enough for me to want to really act. But I did think sort of wanly about how it would be, oh ,345 days, until I could perhaps wander into one of those stores.

Now, clothes can be a necessity. And if the kiddo suddenly has another growth spurt, new clothes may become necessary. But as far as I see it, summer is almost upon us and T shirts and shorts can accommodate a little additional length. So can pants, in fact, as they conveniently become 3/4 length. Not until that drawer really starts to empty out will I consider a trip to the store, and when I do, I will bring with me a list of the items I need and the quantity too.

Did I mention that I also felt, as I talked about deals, good buys etc.  like a fraud? Yeah. I knew that I was talking the talk but no longer walking that walk. It’s a good thing…but I also felt that if I mentioned my shopping detox I might become a pariah among these moms who clearly embrace consumerism ( as I had a mere 20 days ago!). Crazy.

Wow. This challenge is incredibly eye opening.

I’ve got a lot to work through and observe in myself, but I am feeling good. I am on the right path.

 

Day 17: A Looong Road Ahead

Day 17: A Looong Road Ahead

It’s day 17. That is over two weeks! Not bad…but I have a looong way to go. I keep looking inwards to see if my resolve is wavering. A year is a long time. Temptation to spend is everywhere.

I was just thinking how this eczema break out could easily lead me to over spend on natural “cures”. At my itchiest, I get desperate to try anything. So far, I have spent on a Silver Gel to calm the wounds, I just went out and got some topical iodine to test myself for deficiency, I bought ingestible bentonite clay, I’ve also ramped up my veggie purchasing in order to make green smoothies. Even after all that I caught myself thinking of other things I could try/buy, and made myself look at what I already had in my cupboards. I have a wealth of supplements, I had a detox tea wallowing amidst my other teas, I had a half used bottle of castor oil that has healed my skin in the past, I had an open box of topical green clay.

So, I just need to stay aware, not get caught up hoping the next product will be the magic cure. Most important is that I am working from the inside out- topical is all good, but if I don’t fix my insides, it will just come back over and over. I am finally ready, after years of just suffering through, to deal with this. I am determined to get healthy, mentally and physically, all at once as it turns out!

A pretty funny aside: I just googled “is it normal to experience gas when taking green drinks”. Lol. My body is processing to say the least.

So here’s the list of what I am now avoiding:

Spending on anything but necessities

sugar

dairy

caffeine

 

I made a curry tonight and didn’t eat the naan! That was HARD. But it feels good too. Universe, family and friends, give me strength to see this all through!!!

 

Days 14 & 15: Detoxing on All Levels

Days 14 & 15: Detoxing on All Levels

I’ve been a little distracted. I’ve dealt with some skin issues over the years, flair ups of eczema here and there that I’ve largely ignored. Well, for whatever reason, it’s reared up and will not be ignored. I’ve been so itchy this last week it’s been all I can do to not scream.

I need to get this under control quickly or I’ll go insane. I’ve had enough experience to know that a lot of this is tied to diet. So…on top of detoxing from shopping, I am also going to need to gently detox my body…namely removing sugars from my diet and flushing my system with a lot of liquid. I’m a nursing mom so I can’t just fast and start fresh.

So, I am going to be relying on my farmers’ markets to supply me with nutrient dense greens for smoothies and meals quite a bit I think.

This weekend was a challenge as we went to a parade/fair. SO much stuff to see and buy. I must say that I am rather proud of myself. I managed to pack a lunch for me, my mother-in-law and my kiddos so that we wouldn’t be tempted by all the fair food. There were a surprising number of freebie items that we took advantage of- including free ice cream samples which handily provided the “treat” my toddler was hoping for without having to spend a dime ( I stoically passed on the sugary ice-cream myself).20160423_123851.jpg

I allowed one grown up treat- we went to a coffee shop and I got a cappuccino, a steamed milk for my girl and a latte for my mother-in-law. Money well spent for a reprieve from the noise and bustle of the parade filled streets. However, given that it was my one treat in 14 days…I was rather disappointed to end up with a rather acrid cappuccino. Boo. Being the person I am, I did not go and return it for another…though perhaps I should have. Life is too short to drink bad coffee!!

Surprisingly, it wasn’t so hard to not spend during the event. I did worry that I would be a more boring companion since it was clear that all sales booths were out of bounds for me. But my mother-in-law reassured me that I brought all the entertainment she needed in tow with me in the form of my kids. So, it all worked out well.

Some change was spent on a balloon hat that a man I can only really call a “balloon master” made for my very excited kid. A tip seemed appropriate and well spent.

So, to detoxing on all levels! Here we go!20160423_131342.jpg