Archive | May, 2012

Mindful Spending

14 May

I’m not really such a big shopper, first because I believe there’s always some other, better way I should be spending my time, and second because I hate the particular cocktail mix of emotions that accompanies me on any shopping trip, which I would characterize as a splash of breathless desire (“Ooh!  I want that!  And that! And those!”), a dose of Puritanical guilt (“You don’t need any of those things.  Don’t you have an ounce self-control?”), and a dash of mild depression (“I can’t afford that and that and those anyway, so I might as well go home and feel sorry for myself.”)

Plus, it always seems like everyone else at the mall is less conflicted than I am.  They’re not only carrying bags from three different stores, but seeming to be having a good time doing it, which sends me into paroxysms of worry about the future of Western Civilization.  “We’re all a bunch of Marie Antoinettes,” I start thinking, “gorging ourselves on Kate Spade bags and purposely mismatched socks and iPads, while people in China are living like conscripted monks in dorms and working hundred-hour weeks to make this crap.”

This sort of thinking tends to make shopping not so fun.  Which is why I’m not really such a big shopper.

What I am is a mindless spender.  I see a Dunkin’ Donuts Drive-through, and the next thing I know, I’m ordering a cup of coffee from a disembodied voice coming out of the giant menu board.  I read an interesting book review in the Times, and, without hesitation, click on the Amazon link and order the book.  Great writer’s group meeting?  I take myself out to lunch ‘cause I’m feeling good.  Long morning at school?  I take myself out to lunch ‘cause I’m feeling stressed. Standing in the check-out line at Target? Add a cold Diet Coke to my cart just ’cause.

So, for much of the first week of “Reduce and Make-Do,” I’ve felt more than a little like a dog wearing a shock collar.  I drive by Dunkin’ Donuts, and start to smile at the thought of a nice, hot cup of Joe when –

Bzzt!  Not a necessity.

As I leave school, I think, “wouldn’t it be nice to treat myself to a nice sushi lun—“

 Bzzt!  There’s leftover grilled chicken in the fridge that will do just fine.

“I really need  a pedicure—“

 Bzzt!  Need?  Oh puhleeze.

“I’ll just grab a diet Coke from the vending mach—“


“I really don’t feel like cooking. Maybe we’ll just go out for—“


Nevertheless, I made it an entire week without purchasing anything other than groceries, and the involuntary twitch in my eyelid is almost entirely gone.

I went to the grocery store on Sunday – Day Six – and bought only the groceries that were on my list.  No impulse purchase of a package of freeze-dried Goji berries – ooh!  19 amino acids, plus cancer-fighting trace minerals! – or Patchouli scented soy candles or another pair of reading glasses because they’re just so cute, and who can’t use another pair of cute reading glasses?

I can’t say that my avoidance of mindless spending freed up copious amounts of time or money, or made me feel any different at all.  Although I was pleased to discover that I still remembered how to cut my own toenails – just like riding a bike, except with bending over and toenail clippers.

I can say that by the second Thursday of the month – Day Ten – my kitchen cupboard looked like Old Mrs. Hubbard’s, and my children were moaning, “There’s NOTHING to eat in this house,” and it was actually almost true.

But so far, no one has actually starved to death.

My kitchen cupboard. Entire contents: one tub of whey powder and a half a bag of pita chips.

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