Towards the end of 2017, I’d set up a moratorium on shopping, temporarily banning myself from buying anything considered a luxury rather than a necessity for the entire year of 2018. Now almost 6 months into the moratorium, it’s been an interesting journey of discovery about myself and others.
I received a gamut of different responses ranging from shock (“What! No chocolate! No ice-cream! How to survive?”, to which I gleefully, probably shamelessly, asked for their generous donations) to disbelief (“You sure you are going to be able to stay the course?”, to which I would humbly agree that I do not know if I would survive a year) to skepticism (“I am sure that you are not going to be able to stand it”, which only strengthen my resolve to prove them wrong) to cheers of support and encouragement to curiosity (“Why? Money not enough?”).
My own brother’s response was the one that stood out for me – he was happy and excited, because he finally now had an opportunity to buy a birthday present for me that I would want and would appreciate now that my self-gratifying credit card swiping tendencies (or capabilities depending on how you saw it) were being curbed significantly. No more head scratching because I would have beaten him to getting the “next big thing” gadget or plaything for myself. Problem solved! No more headache!
Two days after I’d published my post and publicly swore off shopping, I realized that in my exuberance, I had overlooked my plans to buy a good underwater camera for my dive trips and should probably have waited till I got around to it in the post Christmas sales before making that oh so public declaration! I was sorely tempted to break my moratorium or suspend it but I stayed the course (albeit very miserably) even in the face of a dive trip in early January.
Thankfully this sad state of affairs did not last long. The universe found a happy marriage of crisis and opportunity: enter said brother mentioned above happily to the rescue and I gratefully (truly, deeply, verily!) received my birthday gift of a TG5 and underwater casing. And I had to relearn a lesson on patiently awaiting my gift where once upon a more consumeristic time, I would just have reached for my credit card and done the retail exercise of swipe and sign for instant gratification.
Other family members and friends who had read my blog post were also lovingly opportunistic in topping up my stash of alcohol (which some might argue is a necessity and not a luxury), chocolates and ice cream.
I surprised myself with the number of times I managed to hold back valiantly from buying something. I was very consciously steering clear of temptation: throwing all those glossy sales and promotions mailers and catalogues I receive in my mailbox into the recycle bin without nary a glance, unsubscribing from marketing emails, not thumbing through the in-flight sales catalogue on my many business trips, and staying away from malls, especially from techie shops, and from online stores.
And whilst I thought Technology and Gadgets would be my weakness, I have not caved in that area (probably thanks to my brother for satisfying that craving!).
Shoes. Shoes turned out to be my Achilles heel (no kidding!). When my boots had fallen apart and could not be repaired and the cold winter dragged on during my business trips, I decided that boots were not a luxury but a necessity. So on my next business trip, I made a pit stop at a shoe shop with the good intention of just picking up 1 pair of boots. I was not to prevail. The near starvation diet of no shopping unleashed a pent up hunger and impulse the moment I stepped into a shoe shop for the first time in 5 months. I am ashamed to admit that I ended up buying more than 1 pair of footwear: The bodycount? 3 pairs of boots, 1 pair of slinky heels and a pair of ballet flats. In my defence, the designs were beautiful and they were very comfortable … … okay, fine, I admit I caved!
So overall, sans shoes, I did shop (and spend) a lot less, focusing on using up my spare (or excess) inventory of stuff and buying only what I needed when I was down to the last bottle/box/set (which has only started to happen recently).
And there was a ripple effect. Challenging myself to think more intentionally about what is truly needed and what is excess consumption did impact other aspects of my life besides shopping. I was more intentional in my choices when I dined out or went grocery shopping. And when stuff broke down, I tried to repair it. Well, operative word was tried. When the coffee machine broke down a few weeks ago, I did ponder for all of 5 minutes if being able to make a caffe latte at home was a necessity or a luxury… I concluded “necessity” and promptly went online and got a good deal with a discount of 52% on a new machine. Okay, so maybe I do need more work on keeping to the shopping moratorium, but you have to admit, a future without caffe latte might be pretty dreadful…and there was no harm since there was a discount no?