Money Monday #1: Why I'm not shopping for 90 days
Have you ever had that moment when the topic of money makes you so sick to your stomach you think you might throw up? Where your palms sweat, your heart races, and your brain chants, “oh fuck, of fuck, oh fuck”?
That was me going into February. I sat down to work on my budget for the upcoming month. I plugged in my expected income. I entered my fixed expenses, charity giving, and less flexible lifestyle expenses (think dog food, school lunches, haircuts).
The budgeting program told me I had $114 left to cover gas and groceries. For a whole month. For three people and a 100-mile daily commute.
I sat there staring at the screen, that chant running through my head, terrified. What the hell was I going to do?
More staring, more swearing, more trying desperately to reduce my expenses. I didn’t have anything budgeted for entertainment, eating out, or even savings. Where was I going to come up with the money I needed to feed my family and commute to work.
Then came more staring, more swearing, and then I saw it. A $500 typo in my income.
I almost cried in relief. That feeling you get when the disaster lifts… nothing quite like it.
But I didn’t let myself feel the full sense of relief. Because I needed that typo as a wake up call.
It was the Universe hitting me upside the head with a 2x4 (again).
I had actually believed for several minutes that my financial situation was that dire. That it was possible I had dug myself into that big of a hole.
It doesn’t matter that I hadn’t. It’s that I believed that was possible things had gotten that bad.
Wake up call.
Let’s never feel that way again
While I am sitting somewhere just below the median income in Iowa, and the lower end of the middle class range for the state, I don’t have much wiggle room in my budget.
I’m ashamed to say that my monthly debt repayment (credit cards, car loan, student loans) exceeds my monthly household expenses (mortgage and utilities). That’s fucking scary.
And makes life suck. And is , let’s face it, stupid.
I’d like to go rock climbing at our local indoor place. Nope, nothing left in the budget for that $30 outing. A pedicure, it’s been more than a year.*
A major emergency? Hope it’s less than $400 cause that’s all I have in my emergency account.
Because things keep happening. Many trips by the plumber, new toilet, having to buy a used car unexpectedly and roll an old loan into the new one.
I didn’t have a big enough cushion. So stuff went on credit cards. Which jacked up the balances, which in turn jacked up the minimum payments.
And now it will take me 30 years to pay off the balances. That’s not an exaggeration.
Making a change in 2018
I knew going into 2018 I needed to make a change. Okay, I knew the same thing going into 2017, 2016, …
But that moment of budgeting. That made it all very, very real.
I had already decided that one intention for the year was to embody abundance. And trust me, someone who embodies abundance would not believe she came up $500 short in a month.
But what exactly does that mean, to embody abundance?
First it starts with shaking the scarcity mindset. Becoming aware of all the ways in which I have enough and being grateful for it.
I have a steady job, health insurance, a roof over my head, family and friends, two fur girls, money to pay the bills, a working car (knock on wood), clothes in good repair, a library card, food in the fridge.
I have enough. And I have embodied “enough” for years.
My whole life, had in fact, been circling having just enough.
I grew up working class, where money was always tight. I never actually knew how tight, but I was the girl in Lee jeans when Guess was in. But we always had food on the table, a roof over our heads, we always managed.
And I took that “we can manage” life with me as I became an adult.
I’m tired of having just enough. Tired of being able to manage. Really fucking tired.
I want more than enough. More than enough, so when an emergency happens I won’t have to freak the shit out.
So how do I get from the “just enough” mindset to embodying abundance?
Seriously, I’m asking. Because it’s been 42 years and I still don’t get it.
But that’s what the year is about. Because I have lived 15,330 days with an unhealthy relationship to money.
I’m not going to figure it in 1,000 words.
But I am going to try a few experiments.
And experiment numero uno is a 90-day shopping ban.
The shopping ban
First off, let’s re-frame this 90-day shopping ban. In reality, that’s exactly what it is.
But if I am going for an abundance mindset here, I don’t want to focus on restriction. I want to get comfortable and grateful for what I have, to see the abundance that already exists in my life.
That’s why I loved Live Free Creative Co’s More Than Enough Stuff challenge. Her family realized they had more than enough stuff and proceeded to go a year without buying anything (with a few rare exceptions).
I’m not ready to commit to an entire year. For now, I’ll be happy to see what 90 days can do.
Here are my rules for the “I Have More Than Enough” 90-day challenge:
- I will not buy non-consumable goods; this includes clothing, makeup, home decor, etc.
- If a non-consumable good requires replacement, it is replaced with a similar item
- I will allot myself a maximum $100 per month for fun money. This will cover eating out, movies, books, etc.
- Grocery spending will be restricted to only purchasing items on the weekly meal plan. No stopping at the grocery store for Kombucha in the middle of the week unless I use my fun money
- Home improvement project purchases are allowed if budgeted or an emergency (looking at you toilets)
Some of these rules will be easy to follow. First, I’m not much of a clothes shopper. I grew up always looking for the sale and only purchasing at stores like Target or JC Penney. I’ve since graduated to Old Navy, but I only buy the jeans when they are on sale.
But my desire to cultivate a capsule wardrobe in the last two years has decreased my fashion shopping. Couple that with my new personal commitment to only buy ethical and/or sustainable clothing that can last years and years ... well you can see that nixing clothes shopping for 90 days shouldn’t be hard.
Home decor, that’s going to be hard. Stuff my son wants also hard. And food. That is going to be the killer. A HUGE part of my paycheck goes to eating out, random stops at the grocery store to fulfill cravings, or midafternoon slumps that need a walk to the cafe.
Not being able to spend money on these things is going to be eye-opening. The first day of the challenge (I started on February 1, btw) I wanted desperately to run into Walgreens for Twizzlers.
Why? I have no idea.
If you’re interested in following along and seeing how this “I Have More Than Enough” challenge goes or if you want to explore your relationship with money as well, stop by on Mondays. For the next 90 days, I’ll be doing an new edition to Money Mondays.
Hope to see you back here soon.
*I will admit there is also some mom-guilt associated with spending money on myself when I can find $30 out of the blue to purchase a soccer team hoodie for my son.