This weekend, I went to the mall with my sister and ended up buying a rather cute dress (in black). Being in the mall usually overwhelms me, but this time it triggered a desire to indulge in a shopping spree – I had an inexplicable yearning to buy things, anything. (I ended up spending $6 on a clearance Gap tank and $25 on that dress. Spree averted!)
This time of year, the urge to spend money is always noisier and more difficult to resist for me. Perhaps it’s because of a decade of back-to-school clothes and dorm shopping. Perhaps it’s because I need an excuse to get out of the house and spend time in air conditioning. Whatever it is, I’ve had a hard time reminding myself that spending money doesn’t make me happy. I think the clothes I buy will make me happier. The storage bins, the throw pillows, perhaps a bottle of nail polish. And while it’s true for a day, it doesn’t bring me real, lasting happiness. It gives me a bit of a happy high: “I love this new dressssss! How cute and stylish am I!?” but then the excitement wears off and I want to buy something else.
I have to remind myself that I have four garbage bags full of clothes I’m not wearing. That having less junk and more space in my house makes me happier and is better for the planet and our budget. Marketing and advertising are phenomenally effective on me – I convince myself that purchases can make me happier, thinner, prettier, more successful, and more calm. Here’s the thing: If I am not already working towards those things on my own, no amount of money spent at Target is ever going to make me happier, thinner, prettier, more successful, and more calm.
It’s not that spending money will never bring me happiness or that a temporary happy fix is somehow a bad thing, it’s just that I must constantly combat the idea that stuff makes me happy before I fill my house with junk and spend our hard-earned savings. That my stuff makes me who I am.
Here is how I am combatting this:
Don’t go shopping. The first step in combatting the urge to spend myself into happiness is to not go into stores. If I don’t enter, I won’t buy or covet. Period.
Okay, you can go shopping, but only if you go with a LIST. If I think of something we need, I write in on a list, so when we go to Target, I’ll remember all the odds and ends (floss, contact solution, tea) I want to get without aimlessly wandering the aisles and surely picking up some things I don’t need. DO NOT ENTER THE CLOTHING SECTION, ASHLEY. I AM SERIOUS.
Declutter. We’ve moved four times in our nearly five years of marriage and every time, I get all crazy and scream “WHERE DID ALL THIS SH*T COME FROM!?” (I rarely use profanity when not being burned or otherwise injured, so you know I mean business) (except Mike – he thinks I mean ‘laugh at Ashley attempting to swear – isn’t she so cute?’) Then I vow to never buy anything ever again ever because I hate packing. Decluttering usually reminds me of this feeling. Once I start to dig around and see how much stuff we have (which is sizable, despite my constant efforts to get rid of things), I feel less of a desire to acquire more things. Bonus: less clutter makes me happier.
No shopping emails. I unsubscribed from all deal sites (Groupon, Living Social, BabySteals) and emails from online shopping. It’s remarkable how much of a difference that makes; if it’s not on my radar, I don’t check the site. I don’t convince myself I could really use this (which, most of the time, isn’t all that great of a deal anyway – a better deal is just not buying it).