Friday, February 02, 2007

Big Spender

For most of my adult life, there has been very little that I didn’t buy for myself if I wanted it; if I had the money (and sometimes, if I only had plastic), I would get it, from a nice dinner at a nice restaurant to a gadget of any kind. I wouldn’t say that I was a chronic spender, because I hate to shop, and that is mostly due to the fact that I despise the shopping process, that subservient uncomfortable experience that makes me loath the visit: Most shops geared for us regular folk are peopled by those that really don’t care for their jobs (now if you care about your job as a sales associate at Bullocks, don’t write and tell me about it; you’re the exception), and dealing with these people are one of my least favorite experiences. I play a game that I like to call, “Don’t Say Anything,” where I see if I can make a purchase without actually saying a single word, without having any type of interaction with the guy behind the counter. I usually win, as I’m rarely asked if I “found everything I was looking for” or if I am “having a good day.” They don’t care. They don’t say thank you at the end, they don’t tell me to have a nice day, and they don’t even give me a smile on my way out the door. They don’t care. I’m certain of it. My existence equates to maybe 30 seconds of their day, a transaction, a few buttons on the register, and I don’t think they really want to interact with me on any kind of level. It would be nice though, and rarely I come across an individual who seems to genuinely want to share a moment with me.

All of these unhappy feelings have left me with a most pleasant January, as this was our official family “Unshopping” month, redeeming our bank accounts after a sound scalding during Christmastime. Since I don’t consider what I do as “shopping” I instead like to call it the Month I Don’t Spend Any Money. As it turned out, the results were liberating and very much an eye opener to how I have been living all these years.

For starters, let’s give credit where credit is due, well, partially. Kara found the source of this idea on a blog somewhere out there and decided to give it a try, and since it went along with my main New Year’s resolution of not spending any money, I decided to give it a try as well. How hard could it be. Just don’t buy anything.

Here’s how I ended up: A few days after New Year’s, Kara, the kids and I went to Ontario Mills and ate a horrific lunch at the Rain Forest Café, where we spent more time looking at the decorations and animatronics than we did at the food they sneaked onto our table (and yes, “sneaked” is the past tense of sneak—it looks weird, I know, but it’s right). So, that was roughly 40 bucks, but the whole purpose of the trip was to buy some furniture for Natalie’s new doll house, and there went another 35 or so…but the reason it was so imperative to buy the furniture is because they’re discontinuing the line of toys and we needed to furnish the rooms before they stopped selling them.

After that, I didn’t buy anything that I didn’t need. Actually, I didn’t even buy the things that I thought I needed, and as it turned out, I didn’t need those even things. I needed a wall calendar, but since the one I currently have goes to February, I didn’t buy its replacement until yesterday, and I even turned down buying books…at a discount.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend money in January. I bought gas, I paid bills, we bought food and shoes for the kids. On the 10th, I went to San Diego and visited the aircraft carrier USS Midway and then went to a nice lunch at an expensive Italian place (my wine was more than my pasta). Last week, I went to lunch with a former coworker, and although it was only $15, it was a welcomed expense because I met with an editor and garnered about $1500 in article contracts for this month, a nice 100 to 1 investment. Technically, that doesn’t count.

As far as I can think of, that’s all the money I spent for the whole month, roughly $100, and I couldn’t be more proud. In addition, I learned something. I didn’t need all of that extra stuff that has been cluttering my life lately, the knick-knacks and gadgets that seemingly make life easier, or so they say.

Did I need another book? I’ve got 1400 of them in my office, and would another make me any smarter? Probably not, considering I have only read about a tenth of what I have as it is. Do I need another Matchbox (I randomly collect Volkswagen Matchbox cars when I see them)? I’ve got a couple of boxes of them in my office closet and not having another one wouldn’t make much of a difference. Did I need to buy Natalie a useless trinket that I knew she would love? No, I didn’t; her life isn’t that much less extraordinary without whatever it was, and just because it is purple, that doesn’t mean that she needs it. I can’t buy her love… at least not until she turns 16.

Where does that leave me now that it is February and now that my goal has been achieved? I’m not sure, but if I went back to my old ways, I think that I would be wasting all of the effort that I went through last month. I’ve proved that there is little I need, and I’ve also discovered that the useless things I bought before didn’t make me any happier (as it turns out, I’m a fairly happy guy).

Yes, I’m a different person, from a consumer point of view. I’ve reevaluated my spending habits, refocused my priorities and made critical decisions about how I want to live. I’m tired of the clutter. I’m tired of stepping over toys that were the flavor of the day… for only one day and are currently neglected in the middle of the floor. I’m tired of looking at my bank account at the end of the month, wondering where it all went.

I enjoyed saving money. I enjoyed passing on the temptation to buy stuff that I now realize I didn’t need. I don’t need a new pair of shoes. I don’t need a book. I don’t need to eat out. I don’t need to buy useless stuff for the kids.

So, how did I celebrate my new found financial freedom? Yeah, that’s right, I saw two Matchbox VWs at Target…and I bought them.

1 comment:

Tris said...

Good for you! You snuck in a "sneaked."


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