Friday, February 1, 2008

A New Month

It's the first day of February. Today our credit card bill is due--you know, the credit card where I charged all of our Christmas purchases--all of them, even the new stove. I don't think I told Rob, but the Fraud Prevention Department called me the day after I bought the stove. It was kinda funny. Last night I paid the bill online, so I guess now we "officially" own all our Christmas stuff.

I'm amused that I chose the word "stuff"--because that's really how a lot of it felt on Christmas morning. Honestly, Rob and I returned much of what we got each other. I knew even as I bought some of his "stuff" that I'd probably be returning it, and sure enough, on December 26, I did. It was almost like we felt this expectation that there be a minimum amount of gifts for each other to open, so we bought just to meet the minimum--really, Rob bought me pajamas that were too big (and he knew this) because they were out of my size. Just so I'd have something to open. That doesn't feel like Christmas spirit. It felt ... off.

And after returning everything on December 26 at an almost empty mall (I didn't have to wait in line anywhere), I wasn't pumped about taking that money and getting some bargains. There were signs everywhere--60% off! I didn't want to buy anything. The woman in Ann Taylor was practically begging me: "really, we have some great deals...sure you don't want to look around before I do this return?" I just wanted to go home.

I don't know what was behind my not wanting to buy. Was it because I just felt like we'd bought too much? Shopping for so many family members at once adds up quick. Too much of anything can make you feel sick. Was it because the general economic news has been so dismal? Who wants to spend when all the news is telling you that bad times are ahead? Presenting family members with a gift card to their favorite store just really felt like a hollow gesture this year. And yes, I have a stack of gift cards too. They're gathering dust--even the cash from my grandfather--and cash money usually burns a hole in my pocket faster than you can say "you're on fire."

So for January, both for economic reasons and I guess I'd say "spiritual" reasons (my spirit, not any Holy ones), I've just not been shopping. My biggest single expense this month was $140 to sign Bobby up for teeball. And I didn't like paying that. No trips to Target, no stops at the teacher supply store (I have a secret addiction to teacher supplies.). I did spend $28.00 at the fabric store to make the kids' Valentine presents. No clothes, no expensive shampoos. I have been working on spending my $50 gift card to Borders. I've stopped in about every week to buy a new magazine or two. That's really been my only indulgence this month.

At times, my "not shopping" has felt like work. I'm constantly thinking about how I don't need to run to the store every couple of days. I'm constantly reminding myself that I have enough--of whatever. And in spite of the mental wear and tear, not shopping has felt pretty good. I guess the way to get to a "homemade Christmas" (which is something I'm seriously considering) is to wean us off the unnecessary accumulation of material goods. Slow down the shopping so that it becomes a habit and then a way of life.

So now that it's a new month, I'm wondering if I'll be able to maintain my newfound...I can't even come up with a word...perspective, maybe? The FlyLady says that it takes twenty-eight days to form a habit. Well, it's been thirty-one days. Am I going to run into Target today and blow $100 on crap for the house? I have to go in there today--I have some prescriptions to refill, so there's $20, and I need dog food, now we're up to about $40. I don't want to blow my financial diet here. But it also feels like it's about more than just money. I think this is also about learning to realize that we have enough, more than enough really. I hope to train myself to resist that urge to get more--to repress that need to hoard stuff. Because stuff is not what makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.

I suppose all of this could fall under the description of "New Year's resolution," and I think beginning in January is good. With the spending hangover of Christmas fresh in my mind, I can begin now to visualize the kind of Christmas I want for 2008. And I can take all year to get the rest of the family to adjust their expectations. Scaling down expectations, changing the focus of holiday celebrations to the actual holiday and not the material goods that accompany the celebration. It's going to be hard work, but I feel this is important. With the first month under my belt, I can begin to put my plan into action. After all, we have a Valentine's celebration, and then I have to start planning Caitlin's birthday party. And Rob turns forty in March...getting through March 12 is going to be big challenge, but it's a great opportunity.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

So true...paring down. I personally felt GROSS this Christmas.

Working in retail (my company is and I walk the fine line between wanting people to buy and feeling overwhelmed with how much people consume.

The frenetic belief that by buying a perfect present will make a child's life happier. Ironic, because, I for one, think a 3 year old is happy pulling kleenex out of a box and a 7 year old will always remember the day he made a castle with his day out of a cardboard box.

So balancing my philosophy with running a successful business is a tough road to go down.