In 2018, I took a vow of no shopping. In this series, I discuss the challenges of kicking my materialistic habits, my efforts toward a simpler, happier life, and everything that happens in between. If you're interested in what inspired me to start this journey or wonder what I have bought so far this year, please check out my Year of No Shopping page. These pages will never contain affiliate links and will never be a sponsored post.
January came in like a breath of fresh air. Unlike previous years, 2018 felt heavy with promise and opportunity, as if I was holding a pen in my hand and finally put it to paper, the ink bleeding and curling outward to fill the capillary fibers of the page. One word: Prosperity. The seeds of starting my own website and small business could be planted this year, and the time I have left could be more meaningful, less fraught with endless desire. It was in this fertile soil that my "Year of No Shopping" project began.
I'm currently reading The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, the story of how an enormous cultural divide prevented American doctors and their Hmong patients from properly caring for a child with epilepsy. The Hmong believe to tell a story in its entirety, you must start at the beginning of all things. Every story is connected to the last. And so, let's begin with my feelings on spending money and its current state of evolution in my life.
Since I was a child and through college, I have had a pretty fluid view of money. I think many people see money as a finite thing you own and should hold on to, but for me, money seemed more like a current running in and out of people's lives in varying degrees. Like oxygen or electricity, as long as you had enough to keep your AC running and treat friends to the occasional dinner out, you were good to go. And if someone had so much money and declined to be generous (in my opinion) with it, I looked down on them like it was a major flaw in their character. Writing these words now, I realize how scandalous that sounds, especially as an adult with friends and family who spend so much time worrying over their finances - never enough, never at the right time. I am fortunate that I have received a leg up in this world - a loving family who provided some financial stability, good mental and physical health, and limited exposure to discrimination due to the color of my skin or my gender. I can also say I have worked hard, in the last five years especially, at becoming an honest, reliable, and moral person that treats money and other people's view of it with care.
Even before we were married, my husband happily managed our finances and still keeps routine track of the flow of money in and out of our lives. We have a joint checking account where both of our paychecks are deposited and all our bills are deducted. We also each have separate savings accounts, personal checking accounts, and various retirement pools including our 401Ks and Roth IRAs. We're allotted $200 each month from which to purchase clothes, non- appliance electronics, books, DVDs - basically, any purchases that are not discussed between us. This allowance rolls over, so if we're saving for a big purchase, we can use it for future transactions as well. I know $200 is an enormous amount to some people, and an impossibly small amount to others. I've heard both in equal measure, and a lot of it depends on whether or not someone has children. As an aside, my husband is not participating in the "Year of No Shopping" project, but he's on board with it. I'm also allotted a veto vote for all non-allowance purchases he makes, and he's extremely respectful of that.
One Month of No Shopping
Week 1 of January was a breeze. I was riding high on all the gifts I received at Christmas, rocking three new pairs of Athleta yoga pants (thanks Chris!) and a fully stocked make-up drawer (thanks Beth!). At the end of December I tried not to go crazy "stocking up" in anticipation for my no shopping year, but we did purchase a 1-year membership to Ebb and Flow Yoga. I also bought a pair of black Clarks ankle boots as well as ton of souvenirs from our Thanksgiving trip to New York City.
By Week 2, marveling at all my free time, I decided to take up my ukelele again. In the process of trying to remember how to tune it, I stretched a string so tight it broke. It struck my palm but stung my pride, and within minutes I was on Amazon ordering a new pair of ukelele strings (which are still sitting next to my unstrung ukelele, by the way). It was too inexpensive for Prime shipping, and I simply could not wait any longer to get those strings - my mastery of the ukelele depended on it! I hurriedly added on a set of 12 Mason jars (we already had plenty) convincing myself we needed them for smoothies and salads. Within minutes of placing this online purchase, I felt miserable. I had let my emotions overwhelm my reasoning and broke my own damn rules in less than 14 days after the challenge started. Instead of cancelling the order, I just wallowed in self-disgust and wondered how I had let a box of empty jars get the best of me.
By Week 3, I had another weekend without shopping under my belt and was gaining back some confidence. I started working on my website, celebrating all the small victories that come with creating something for the first time. This button works! This account has been authorized! Instead of going to a store, I marked some local tourist spots off my bucket list like Java Cats (Atlanta's first cat cafe) and the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights (mind-blowing MLK exhibit on the second floor). I signed up to volunteer at the gift shop and gardens for Oakland Cemetery so I could spend more time in a place I love with people who cherish it. I signed up for Wanderlust 108 in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, a mindful triathlon of running, yoga, and meditation with a group of coworkers (I won't be taking any swag home). I took my husband out on a date night in Athens, GA for the first time in years - veggie tacos at Cali n' Tito's followed with a performance by Abbey Road LIVE! at the Foundry.
By the final week in January, I had cut meat, dairy, and eggs out of my diet almost entirely and was eating more fruits and vegetables than ever. Eating plant-based has allowed me to eat more mindfully, as I don't have to worry about contributing to another's suffering or environmental degradation - thoughts that would often bubble up when I focused on my food before. And because I'm eating this way, I've lost a couple pounds without trying. And because I've lost a couple pounds, I feel better about myself. All this positive energy has not gone completely unnoticed by my husband either. In fact, he's gotten so into our new diet that even his coworkers are now bringing in vegan desserts and offering to make him food.
I know this all sounds completely unrelated to shopping, and I can't really explain it, but...I feel like one good thing I did for myself started a chain reaction that just keeps rippling across all parts of me. I don't know if it started with no shopping, but that is the only resolution I made this year and the only one I've focused on maintaining. I could not have predicted all these changes in me, nor do I expect to see such dramatic results every month of this project, but I am really looking forward to what the rest of 2018 has in store.