New rules – consumables only

Blahhhh. I can already see how hard this is going to…NOPE. I got this.

And I have to be stronger this time. I allowed myself wayyy to much leeway and “flexibility” last time. I ordered essential oils by the dozens, convincing myself they were for the family or the kids’ health. I did a bunch of thrift shopping, getting things I didn’t love or need really, but just needed to shop ish. I was a master at talking around the rules I had made for myself. I never even really started the consumables only three months that I was going to do, as I got pregnant and miscarried again and it just seemed too hard.

But I’ve got this right? I have new motivation (DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN! I want the girls and Sebastian to have all that they need and get to do all the things they want, and my random shopping/spending is getting in the way of that) and new control over my thoughts (YOU GOT THIS – I still haven’t come up with anything better).

And here are the rules this time around.

  1. Consumables only. Food, drink, toiletries (IN MODERATION, as my Beautycounter habit is almost rivaling my jewelry addiction).
  2. If I absolutely need something I have to clear it with you folks? With Mark? With the whole world?! Thrift shopping was a whole other world of difficult and complicated, and I just don’t want to get into it again. With thrift shopping there is only ONE of that thing, and the pressure to bring home items that are not perfect, but just ok, because they are the only one, is more temptation than when there are racks of the same items. I’m still losing weight from the baby and I am hoping I will need new pants in a smaller size soon enough. I’m not sure what to do when this happens. Suggestions are welcome.
  3. Things for the kids. NEED ONLY. Buy one of those things whatever it is, and no more. I tend to buy them two of whatever I think they need so they have a backup. This leads to an overflow of clothes, especially for the girls. “OH it’s so cute! She’ll look adorable in this! Oh you want that sparkly pink WHATEVER?! Sure!” And for the baby it’s even worse, cause he’s so dang adorable toooooo…Focus.
  4. Nothing for the house, obviously. Poor house, I’ve barely bought anything for it since we moved in, since I started the first round right after we moved in, then just always focus my spending on myself (sorry house).

It’s all the exceptions that I’m worried about. The “I need this”. I’m reallllly good at talking myself into needing something when I actually don’t. And if I tell Mark that the kids “need” something, then he goes, “Oh ok, well if they need it, that’s fine”. And then we both freak out about how little money we have about a month later. So fun!

I think a good base rule is going to have to be…NO ONLINE SHOPPING. This one hits me right in the gut because I love love love love love love love online shopping. Love it. I am one of those people that have my credit card info saved for my jewelry site, Old Navy, Amazon, Zulily (though I’ve managed to avoid that one lately), American Eagle, H&M…and so then you don’t have to go looking for your credit card to shop! (Though really, I have the number memorized, I use it THAT OFTEN, ugh, sad!) This makes shopping so dang easy, and so disconnected to anything relating to real money. Just hit “Place order” or “complete order” or whatever it is and BAM, it shows up on my doorstep (which is my favourite part, I looove mail!) and a month ish later it’s all in my credit card statement in a big lump sum. Boom, no pain, and alll the gain (of new stuff!)

I may even go a step further and try and not use my credit card at all. I’m going to explore this issue in a separate blog post/book review on Dollars and Sense: How we Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler, but it has a loooot of smart things to say about how credit cards create a huge gap in our minds from the pain of paying for things, ultimately making us feel like since we paid for it so long ago, we didn’t really pay for it at all, BUT WE DID! THE MONEY IS GONE! But you didn’t notice!

I’m wondering if I have to keep myself accountable by logging all my purchases here, or on my instagram (which is now linked properly on my home page) maybe? And then had to calculate the “opportunity cost” of each purchase (ie how many other things I could have done with that money)? Yes.

So recap:

a)consumables only
b) no online shopping
c) any spending has to be logged and accounted for and opportunity cost calculated

Start date: Monday July 15th. End Date: October 15th. Then I will re-evaluate.

Exceptions I can foresee:

-Girls will need indoor shoes for school (and I’ve tried the second hand shoe route and they NEVER fit right, and we have about six pairs in the basement that no one has used because we all struggle with second hand shoes)
– Mira will need a new backpack for grade two.
– Pants, if I magically lose more baby weight
– clothes for Sebastian, though we have a lot of hand me downs that are great and may preclude any shopping

I think that’s it….Sorry, long post, but I had to write it all out as I thought about it it seemed:D Thanks for sticking with me! Anyone want to join me in my consumables only trimester??

I don’t have time to do this right now….

I just got the email reminding me to renew my blog and my meaghan.sych domain name. And I was reminded of alll the amazing lessons I learned in my nine-ish months of buy nothing new. And how I’ve forgotten all the things I have learned. And how I just bought three pairs of shoes online cause I had a shitty morning with the baby (I had a baby since we last chatted, after a second miscarriage -did I talk about both miscarriages here? I don’t remember and wow I’ve really fucked up the punctuation in that sentence) and needed “retail therapy”. Food and shopping are my ultimate crutches and I can’t indulge too much in food because I’m trying to go dairy free for the baby and trust me, there is NOTHING fun about dairy free. Gummy bears only do so much.

I’ve just put aforementioned baby down for a much needed nap, the four year old is downstairs playing with her new toys she got for her birthday (new new, ordered off Amazon cause I’m like ten seconds away from a Prime membership and WHO AM I?!) and I really really don’t have time to blog right now, but maybe that’s when I need it the most? I didn’t have time to shop second hand for her birthday present, I didn’t have time to shop second hand for alllll the shoes I just bought, or the tank tops I ordered last week, or all the jewelry I ordered the month before that…but honestly, I have spent SO MUCH TIME (ha, I really am back) taking shit back to stores that I wonder what takes the time? The shopping? The thinking about shopping? The planning the shopping? Seriously, I need to go back and re-read allll my previous blogs because I have slipped sideways, and as a family of five, we gonna need every last penny. Even the minivan we bought was new (though that was mostly out of my control because my in-laws were involved. And everything where my in-laws is concerned is out of my control. Actually it feels like a LOT of my life is out of my control. The baby’s sleep schedule, my own sleep schedule, my children’s moods, my moods, my husband’s job situation, my diet, my own schedule in GENERAL. This is why I shop. It’s something I can control, something to enjoy, something to perk up these days of exhaustion and drudgery. Did I ever close those brackets? Nope.)

 

So maybe after I re-read those old blogs I’ll be a bit smarter again? Doubtful? I might need this again, in these days of retail therapy to deal with baby-life, I might just have to find time to write, to think, instead of just to react. So maybe see you again soon….

 

 

A month ago….

Was the last time I wrote! I had great ambitions to write some blogs over Christmas break and save some so that I was all prepared. I did not accomplish that. However, I have done lots of thinking and wondering and so here’s a quick recap of the last month, and some thoughts moving forward.

December. I committed to cutting out Instagram during the day. I actively pursued this, by moving the app icon to the last page of my phone (does that make sense?) so that I couldn’t just tap it while I was looking at my phone, as I had been wont to do in the past. I felt like my brain was emptier, calmer, that I wasn’t always being interrupted from some other thought. Instagram is my place to “shop” clothing and decor wants as well, so I felt like I was less in the zone of WANTING in December. Which helped, leading up to Christmas. I let it slide a bit over the holidays, but a freak accident with a houseplant left me with a “huge” corneal abrasion, an eye patch, and limited vision. This certainly helped my avoidance of Instagram, as it would, literally, give me a headache. I spent lots of time in bed, with the blinds low and my eyes closed. My husband brought me lots of audio books, which were a big help. It shifted my priorities though, as I made time for my kids first, and then rested my eye. It was a bit of survival mode at it’s worst, but left me feeling a bit rested and free from instagram.

HOWEVER. I was gifted MONEY for Christmas. For SHOPPING. This. This led to an increase in thought on what I could buy, what I should buy, what I wanted, what I needed, and where to get it. It turned into a bit of an obsession. Dear friends suggested that I give up the money and gift card or save for later. That idea made me shrink in horror and clutch the cash even tighter! I tried to use it wisely. But it triggered something in my brain that had lain dormant. I couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t, save it for later when something I really NEEDED came up. I have been wearing the same three pairs of jeans for 7 months, and the same three pairs of boots since the cold weather hit, so I convinced myself that I NEEDED new versions of those. Did I really? Probably not. The pants are comfy and cute and I got myself a new tuque, which I really did need. The shoes are still up for debate. I find myself wanting to send them back just so I can SHOP again. So that the possibility of something NEW is still there. Now, with the cute shoes here, I can’t dream of anything new again for another 5 months. Although my birthday is in there somewhere.

And did I make ethical, non-fast-fashion (is the opposite of fast fashion slow fashion? Have to look that up) choices? The shoes, yes, I bought Toms, which I think (possibly mistakenly) that they are a step in the right direction (get it, cause they are shoes?!), and the tuque and pants I purchased at a local store, supporting a friend, but it wasn’t a HUGE factor in my shopping. I honestly wanted to get the most bang for my buck –  the most possessions I could with my money. Not investing in a single piece from a company I’ve watched for a while that is made and manufactured right here in Canada.

So, I could definitely benefit from another 5 months of this! I was doing so well, but it’s like gambling, or smoking, or any other addiction. One hit and I feel like I’m right back at square one! In the meantime I’m cleaning out the filing cabinet, got rid of some more children’s clothing, and keep looking at my bookshelf and thinking I could purge down some more. (BTW, I still had the receipt from renting out a locker in my 4th year of university in a file. Like WHO NEEDS THAT?! Oi.) I’m also hoping to move forward with a career in editing, starting some editing courses online, and planning to start a freelance business! Wish me luck!

Moving forward with the challenge, January is going to be a lean month because of Christmas expenditures, and we are now paying property tax (Yikes). In February I think we will make it a CONSUMABLES ONLY month. It’s a short month, thankfully. But the idea of putting off things that the kids NEED for even a short time, has been something I haven’t attempted before. So. That’s where I stand. For all 27 of you who read this, thank you for a great start to the project last year, and please feel free to suggest some topics or areas you’d like me to look into on this topic. I’ve just started reading a new book on the topic, called “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay, which is reminding me of all the reasons I started this, and shooing all the lovely shopping images out of my head! Hoping to be more consistent and on time with these blogs this year!

 

HALFWAY DONE. Quit now or keep going?!

Wow. I didn’t think I’d make it this far. Except that I honestly haven’t even thought about quitting. Until today. When I thought about quitting. It was a strangely liberating feeling, that I could decide whether I wanted to continue or not. I think I will continue, but it was a lovely idea, that I was actually in control of this project, and could decide to cease or not. I think I’ve probably been way too lax with myself in a lot of ways.

But I digress.

I think having a complete moratorium on shopping for new clothing for myself has been good for me. It has required me to sort of stop, drop and think before just saying “I deserve X and Y and Z” and ripping out the credit card. I am much better able to observe my habits and know when I’m trying to solve internal problems with external solutions (see here for more on that). And when I am feeling like the end of the earth and need a retail therapy pick me up, I spend a LOT less on second hand items. And it isn’t nearly as often, and it isn’t the same. There isn’t that shiny, magical, life-giving quality to second-hand clothing or purses, or shoes as there is with new items. And it’s also so much harder to find something “perfect” at a second-hand store. You end up with something you didn’t really want, but it’s there, and it’s a steal, and you should bring it home cause it likely won’t be there next time. There are exceptions to this, but not often. A loooot of the clothes I’ve purchased second-hand I’ve ended up ditching a few months later. It’s a lot harder than shopping new. That being said, it’s amazing what you can find SOMETIMES. But it’s a process, and it’s slow, and as a mom of two under 4, I find it almost not worth the effort. But not buying new has definitely made me realize that those cute ankle boots, or that adorable poncho, or that gorgeous diaper bag aren’t going to make ME better, or smarter, or stronger, or happier. The power of “stuff” has (mostly) dwindled.

Another challenge: the library. I tend to request like 5 books at time and then they all come in at once and I don’t have time to read them all, and I inevitably leave the one that is due first to the last minute and end up having to request it and wait for it all over again. Probably need to minimize my library list and come up with a better way. Make a list of all the ones I want and then request them slowly? I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books to read in a very non-minimalist kind of way. I have about 3 or 5 on the go at any one time and think I need to have at last two with me most of the time. And they tend to be large books…next project: Minimize reading materials. Just something to work on for myself. I think I have more time to read than I do!

What I miss most: wanting something, and just going out and finding it right away. Not having to search through like 1-2 or sometimes 3 second-hand stores. Or wait until I have a gift card for said store. Or being limited to the one store I have a gift card for! It’s all the rules, really, that frustrate me.

What I’ve been super lax about: Christmas presents. I’m trying to stick to four Christmas presents each for my girls (something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read). I bought local for their something to wear, I bought second hand for books and for the oldest’s something she wanted, but otherwise…it’s been new. For three of my nephews we ended up using a gift card we had from our wedding, for the Bay, on toys. And I’m trying to make some shirts for some gifts, but honestly, I’m not trying too hard to stick to the second-hand rule on this one. I think given my time limitations (kids) and my realistic knowledge of my sewing skills, it’s just not possible this year. And given that the biggest issue with my spending was on new items for myself, I’m not totally worried. Maybe next year I’ll be better at it! I also bought new for some outfits for the girls for Christmas pictures. Which I really do feel a bit guilty about. I had this vision in my head of what I wanted our Christmas card pics to look like, and I just didn’t want to sacrifice that, or go looking for 10 hours for second-hand versions. In the end the little one refused to wear her adorable denim overall skirt so that went out the window anyways. But I apologize to the buy nothing new adjudicators. I take a fail on that one. I didn’t buy anything new for myself though!

So. To continue to a full year or not continue? There are days when I want so so so so so so so so so badly to just run across the road to the mall near me and buy SOMETHING. A purse that is just perfect. Boots that would solve my clothing woes. A new sweatshirt that would be just perfectly cozy. But instead I usually manage to talk myself out of it. Which I think was the point of the exercise. So do I quit now, or keep going to see what kind of lessons lay before me? I feel like there’s still so much to learn. I want to start thinking about a zero waste home eventually. I want to cut down on the time I spend trolling social media (I think this will be my December project). I want to learn to meditate more. I want to eat better. Will not buying new help me with any of those goals? I have no idea. It frees up time, that’s for sure.

Where do you see I’ve fallen short? What can I improve on? Should I keep going? Or have I learned what I needed to? Thanks for coming along for the first six months!

 

Belated 5 month check in

Well, I’m like a week late (maybe two?) for a 5 month check in and really I should probably just wait now until November 12 for the BIG HALFWAY POINT!

So I’ll tell you about the few things that I *kind of* cheated on, and how Austerity October is going.

Things I sort of cheated on:
1) Kindergarten clothes/supplies: MY FOUR YEAR OLD IS PICKY AF. We tried second hand stores, truly. But we could NOT agree on indoor shoes or find a backpack at the consignment stores. Her winter coat and snowpants and fake uggs with puppy ears on them are second hand, but she picked out these amazing silver David Bowie ankle boots with stars on them for her indoor shoes (hey, they still have non-marking soles) and a unicorn backpack. Sometimes, you just can’t find everything second hand.

2) Presents for others: Some, like my lovely sister-in-law, don’t mind good quality used goods for their kids. Others, I felt COMPLETELY awkward even THINKING about buying second-hand for, as there’s something about gifting really good gifters with second-hand gifts. Not that second-hand is bad, just feels…cheap…sometimes. Unless you score an AMAZING FIND and then it feels like the best gift you’ve ever given!

3) Sewing machine: My dear friend Chelsea gave me her sewing machine for free about six months ago (was it that long?!) and I used it and loved it…until it stopped working at my sewing class over the weekend, and seams that should have taken 15 minutes took me an hour and 40 minutes while we tried to fix the problem. So I bought a new one while I was at the store and feel great about it. It doesn’t stop in the middle, I don’t have to re-thread the bobbin every 10 minutes because it has frozen, and even threading the bobbin is soooo much easier because it’s, well now I’m getting into weird sewing geekery so I’ll just stop.

4) This ONE Time Magazine that was dedicated to Happiness and I just could not figure out how to get it at the library.

Ok, so there you have it. Confession in full.

Austerity October.
The goal was mostly about food, if you will remember, I was appalled at how much we spent on “out” food (as opposed to closeted food? Bad joke, sorry.) So I set a budget of $400 a week for food, and have been tracking it in a notebook. Yes, I’m sure a spreadsheet would be much more “efficient” but my brain just doesn’t work that way. I need it written down where I can see it and add and subtract right there. Dunno why. And we’ve done really well at it! The first week we struggled a little bit, and were only $23 under budget (we did a grocery run AND a Costco run). But week two was $103 extra, and week three was $75 extra. I think we’ve been a lot better at cutting down any little extras like tea or a drink out, but we still had one date night this month, Mira and I went out for a movie together (she needs Mama-Mira dates these days since she’s at kindergarten and Lilia gets more mama time than she does.) So, we still managed to enjoy ourselves even while trying to be frugal! So I’m pretty happy with how Austerity October has turned out so far.

AND, in like THREE DAYS, my Starbucks ban is over! If you don’t remember, I gave up Starbucks for something like 100 days because I bought yet ANOTHER stroller. God, I love strollers. Second-hand of course, but to off-set the cost I haven’t bought myself a Starbucks since like August I think. I mayyyy need it this week! We are still using the same meal delivery service as I haven’t checked into the others that my friends on Facebook have pointed me towards. In this sense I’ve had a bit of inertia, and just like to  keep things the way they are! But I do need to change it at some point as the girls aren’t getting the exposure to other foods that I want them to!

Hope y’all are doing well  out there, any questions about this buy nothing new journey so far? Anyone trying it out for themselves? Love hearing from you all!
Happy Tuesday!

Too many things at once

That’s what’s happening this month: I’m trying to do too many things at once. Ha! This month, more like my entire life.

I got Leo Babauta’s book ” The Power of Less” from the library last month sometime, but due to the fact that I have TOO MANY LIBRARY BOOKS, I didn’t get around to reading most of it. I skimmed it in the last two days before it was due, and all I really got was that to succeed at making new habits, you have to focus on ONE HABIT AT A TIME (sorry, I’m in a caps lock kind of mood today, maybe because I’ve been yelling at the kids all day – not really- so I’m just going to keep yelling at you – not really).  Even while I’m writing this I’m thinking about the calculations I should be doing so I can give you a total of how much money we spent so far in October on groceries, I’ve got one ear out for the kids (since we just put them to bed), and I’m watching Sarah off the Grid on TV. Sort of.

You’ve heard it all before that we aren’t paying ATTENTION (sorry) to any one thing these days, and it’s true. I find the worst days as a mom are the days when I spend more time on my phone than paying attention to the kids. And it’s not just because then they seem to act out because they want my attention, it’s because my actual THOUGHTS seem to act out because they want my attention! (Even now, I just went to open a new tab in my browser to flip through Facebook as I pondered a thought, am I REALLY pondering anything while I’m doing that?!) I can’t focus, I’m a million miles away, and a lot of the time I’m a lot less satisfied with the NOW. Which ALWAYS (God, I have to stop) leads to me SHOPPING (nope, can’t stop, won’t stop). Like it did today. (Bought bathing suits and ugg-like boots for Mira second-hand at my favorite Once Upon a Child location today (conveniently right near the yoga studio I’ve been frequenting)).

But I was talking about habits! I skimmed the book, focus on one habit a month. Got it. I’m going to focus on fitness in October. I’m recovered from surgery and my body does not seem to be metabolizing fat at ALL, let alone the way it used to (which wasn’t great to begin with) and I’m a grouchy mess, so I started with one of my fave kinds of exercise. Moksha yoga. I used to love Bikram back in the day when I lived within walking distance of the studio just off Whyte avenue, so I figured if I can’t do Ukrainian dancing, I’ll do yoga. And I’ve been totally loving it. It has made me so much calmer (well, a bit anyways) and has been a great focus. As we go into winter it’s going to be lovely to hide in a warm yoga studio for an hour or more every few days.

But I got distracted a few days in (shocking) and am now totally overwhelmed. I’m doing a sewing class, I’m making duvet’s for the girls, I just jumped into learning about Essential oils as a more natural way of cleaning, diffusing, boosting immunity etc, I’m thinking about taking the advanced sewing class, friends are taking a doula training course which I was thinking about taking so I’m thinking about taking that, and I’ve jumped back onto the organizing committee of a fundraiser for my dance group. AND trying to get the kids to their various activities etc etc etc. FOCUS IS GONE. Le sigh.

But I’ve also felt a lot more like myself lately, so what does that mean? That the yoga is working? That I like being busy? That my brain working in a million directions is fun, and would work if I wasn’t staring at my phone all the time instead of perfecting the art of the mini-focus (do one thing at time while I’m doing it but then switch to the next thing?) But at this moment I’m a mess with all the decisions I feel like I’m facing!

How do you function? Pile it all on and then freak out until it’s all done (that’s me) or pick one thing at a time and focus on it (that’s our friend Leo in the book).

OH, and money:

Last week we spent $377 on food which was JUST under the $400 budget I had set. It’s only Wednesday, but so far we’ve only spent $200 on food, and I think we have almost enough stuff to last us until Sunday (except yoghurt, we’ve already gone through a tub of it and that may not be enough for the week). It’s been an interesting challenge, I’m trying to think of ways to use up what we have without buying more of the few things we use all the time. I think we’ll start things like making a big pot of soup on Sunday afternoons for at least a few lunches of the week to cut down on how much canned soup we buy!

I’m almost at the four month mark of buying nothing new here folks, I think it’s been a process, and I don’t think I’m there yet! When I’m stressed, I want a CHANGE (oh there I go again) and I want NEW and I want SHINY. Maybe I’ll do a four month-check in next week for you. Sorry this was a day late, the Thanksgiving weekend threw me for a loop (along with all the other things I’ve been juggling, right?) Stay warm!

 

No-Spend Crackdown

So we spent a lot of money on the house in August and September. Trying to get those last-minute outside things done before the snow flies (and my in-laws went away for a month) and get the inside things done before we had Mark’s whole family over for a housewarming. Haven’t managed to get our poop in a group to get anyone else over for a warming of the house, but we’ll get there!

So the credit card bill is OFF THE CHARTS for this month and next, which is terrifying. So. Meaghan to the rescue. I went through allll of our statements, credit card (both of them) and debit statement, and catalogued all of our savings into Food, Take Out, Gas, House, Girls (anything for the kids), Liquor and Other. Yikes. It was a bit terrifying.

For August we spent $1400 on food, and then a SEPARATE $600 on take out!!!! Oh my goodness. And then September wasn’t that much better at $1500 for food and $200 on take out! (Take out includes things like Subway lunches for me or the girls or Mark, pizza nights, date nights etc). So we basically were spending close to $500 a week on “food” for 2 adults and 2 children. That seems astronomical. How much is “normal”? Help!

So October has been deemed “Austerity October”. Oh, some of the other categories were pretty high too, as we had ballet, gymnastics, and swimming to pay for, House stuff was insanely high as previously mentioned, liquor was probably higher than it needed to be (#summer) and I took a sewing class and got my machine serviced. And so on and so forth. But we need to think smarter about this stuff living on one income, so I am trying to track all of our expenses again this month, and we’ve agreed on noooo take out foods, only groceries, and trying to use up a lot of what we have in the fridge/freezer/cupboards before buying anything else. We aren’t broke, but we are making little headway on saving for anything big that we want. New bathroom, minivan. Retirement.

It’s only the 3rd and we already BOTH cheated yesterday. Mark had to stay late for work and needed supper, so we agreed that he got Subway and I got a chai. With the money that we got from selling off random mini toilets/potties from the stash that we barely used for Lilia. She went straight for the big potty. I digress. Extra money came in, so we spent it. SOOO responsible *crying emoji face*. We will get better. It was so bloody cold yesterday that it sucked all the joy out of the day. Today is lovely, so I’ma go look out the window.

Give me alll your tips for saving on groceries for a family of four. Or just you! Just HELP! And GO.