the no-spend new year : one month in

This post is a continuation of the No-Spend New Year series. To read the introduction, click here.

There are 18 open tabs on my Chrome notebook. One is a reminder of an online creativity course I signed up for 2 months ago. Two contain images I need to print for my vision board. Two more are Google docs. Another is an Excel sheet documenting goat worming and CDT vaccines. Eleven are Etsy pages. And the last one, buried somewhere in the middle, serves as a reminder of all the posts I need to write, summed up within two paragraphs of partially formulated ideas I just can’t work through yet.

This was me a week ago.

My ability to distract from the real work I’m trying to do is astounding even to me, which is why I enacted this challenge in the first place. If I ever thought it was going to be easy, I was only fooling myself.

For a long time, shopping has served as a way to get out of the house; a reward for a week well-worked and an extra thing to do when I drive into Nashville to walk about Edwin Warner Park for an hour. It has been a transport into another way of being, a dream of another life, a false promise that finally getting that big pair of designer sunglasses might somehow transform me into the confident, creative, dashing woman I would much rather be. Or at least put a halt on all the busy thoughts running through my mind.

All those tabs? They’re the ideas, distractions, and good intentions I can flip between when my thoughts get frazzled. But in fact, they are an exact representation of how my brain must look at any given moment. When the words won’t come, when I just don’t feel like doing what I “should,” there is always something more instantly gratifying to satiate my appetite. Or so it would seem.

The 11 domineering pages of Etsy finds began with a promise I made to myself in December that I could invest in one vintage Coach bag before my spending freeze began. I knew which one I wanted, but I put it off too long and someone else bought it, which marked the start of an insatiable search for just the right one.

Except my obsession with making this “right” decision inevitably created a month of obsessive window shopping – which is better than actual shopping, but still just as damning. Plus, to make matters worse, it left an open door to a myriad of future impulse purchases. Throughout January, I found myself perusing gold necklaces, blazers, and designer sunglasses; looking at other vintage designers, old books, and new skin care regimes. I didn’t purchase any most of it, but I thought about it all the time. And that was no good, either.

So, why didn’t I just get it over with? Why didn’t I just choose one and move on? Again, I know myself well enough to know that this would never suffice. A purchase made to seal the deal, to put a stop to shopping, is always a bad purchase. Because it won’t be enough. It will never be right. There will always be something better, more perfect, more absolute. There will always be a incurable appetite for more.

Eventually, in lieu of making one big expensive purchase, I came to the carefully considered conclusion that I would instead make three, less expensive purchases: an ’80s tote for books; a ’70s saddle bag for style; and a smaller, classic British Tan crossbody perfect for errands, but in need of some serious refurbishing love – all certain to be utilized and perhaps even flipped for profit one day in the future.

A failure, yes. But a coming-to-terms. An admission that – in order to stop obsessing – I must stop searching and learn to accept what I’ve already had my eyes on for weeks. Not because I should get every little thing that I want, but because I must learn to trust my gut, make decisions, and move on with my life so that the real work can begin.

January was bound to be a learning curve, but February can’t afford these mistakes.