So it’s 2021. The year that life returned to normal.. Covid would soon be a distant memory, or so we thought? The vaccination programme is currently underway and jabs are making their way around the most vulnerable and soon working their way round to me.. so life will at some point get back to normal – whatever the ‘next’ normal looks like.
I wrote a post in June of last year focused around spending only on essentials. It was well intentioned and I have to say that it worked really well for about 5 months. Now for the excuses – we were back into a second national lockdown, then we went into the very confusing tier system..followed by a Christmas that knocked me for six. My self-control went out the window. I have to be honest – a deep rooted anger and depression took hold and I became subject to my ‘wants’ once more. Not only that – I wanted to buy my family and friends gifts, show them how much I missed them and support small local businesses. I didn’t want Christmas to go unmarked, I didn’t want my family to feel like I’d forgotten them and I wanted to do my best to support the businesses that really needed my custom. All of these excuses seemed valid at the time. I didn’t think about ‘baking’ gifts, or making them myself – I just thought about spending.
It’s easy to make excuses. But also I think it’s important to remember that we are actually human. Change is hard. Change is hard when you’re trying to improve yourself but it becomes so much more difficult when our lives our upended and we don’t have certainty. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and we crave the familiar. Change also takes time and change is about realising that you are going to make mistakes and that you have to be accountable for those mistakes.
So let’s focus on what I learned about my spending. My spending habits are closely linked to my emotions (we’ll come onto that in future posts.) – when my emotions are all over the place, I’m all over the place. While I can maintain my core values and non-negotiables…my challenges and areas of self-development seem too fall by the way side. I was really frustrated when I started writing this post – feeling a sense of failure at my lack of self control. But then I went back to the fact that I am human and change is hard. It’s not about being lazy, it’s not about not being able to do something. I am trying to recondition myself and change ingrained habits and perhaps I need to appreciate the fact that I am aware of the person I am trying to be and want to be.
Thankfully, sense did take hold of me just before the new year and I recognised that I was slipping into a spending frenzy once more. I examined why that was – uncertainty breeds a level of fear and lack of control and when you buy something and you get that instant rush or feeling of excitement; it eases that worry. It’s a plaster and doesn’t deal with the root cause.
For me, my formula is simple:
Uncertainty equals (anxiousness and stress) combined with (not seeing loved ones and continuous bad news) which equals a LACK OF CONTROL
I am someone who needs control and who needs focus.
I made the decision to essentially reset and on the 29th December as my last pay packet in 2020 arrived into my bank account – I reviewed my finances and examined where I was and on what I was spending my money on.
With the knowledge that a lockdown was imminent and knowing that we were in the middle of winter…I recognised that my easiest win was to stop spending money on clothes. While I am very discerning about where I buy my clothes from; purchasing second hand, off of eBay, Depop, small businesses and reputable ethical retailers – I had flopped big style as I’d started buying ‘little treats’ in early December for myself, thinking that I deserved them after having to cancel my wedding, I hadn’t been able to see my family, I’d got through a really hard year… oh woe is me. My life is really not hard, not in comparison to others and I am actually a little cheesed off at my wallowing – life is hard but I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
Remember though, we often fail because we try to do everything in one go. I’m not the model citizen for getting everything right BUT I am someone who will reflect when I’ve set myself a goal and examine why it failed and figure out how to go about improving what I did before. I know that I was successful at curbing my spending for months.. so what happened and what did I learn from falling off the wagon? Change happens when we try.
I’ve now managed a month where I have not bought a single item of clothing or footwear. I intend to keep it that way.
Each month, I will be introducing a new area of focus and while January was clothing, February is all about takeaway food – with food being the only real comfort during lockdown and my desire to support our local businesses for fear of them disappearing – I’ve gone from takeaways as a treat, to takeaways as a staple in my diet, not good for the bank balance or the waistline…
This is a challenge of sorts but also a slow and steady lifestyle change
….and while I intend to keep this up until I’m at a point where I feel comfortable and have developed a good balance, I’m conscious that it is better to take one day at a time and try and achieve a little each day.