Most people make resolutions to get their act together at New Year’s, but I like to pick any old upcoming month of the twelve available, make a resolution or two, and go for it. Most months, I don’t make any. But for May, I’ve made two: update my blog every three days, and go on a spending fast.
On my calendar, I’ve made an UPDATE BLOG note for today. There’s only an hour or so left in the day, but that’s fine; I just have to write something. And if I end up writing a sad and gimpy little excuse for a post, well hey–it’s not as if I have a readership, right?
The whole point of this resolution is to get into the habit of posting in the first place. That’s it. Now that I’ve resuscitated this poor, neglected critter I’ve got to keep it breathing if it’s ever to sprout new legs and walk again. I get the feeling that someday soon I’m going to want it to not only walk, but to run–so I’ve decided to stick with it through each ragged breath.
The spending fast I’ve committed myself to is a simple idea: make no unnecessary purchases for an entire month. Pay the usual bills, buy groceries, attend to any crucial unexpected expenses (such as a vet bill or car repair), but that’s it. Don’t eat out; don’t buy fabric, books, art supplies, or other “useful” extras; don’t spend money on entertainment; don’t grab coffee, snacks, or any of the countless small purchases that add up.
After I started painting on pre-printed textiles, I got a little crazy seeking out suitable fabrics to paint on. Right now, I’ve got enough printed fabric to last me until the end of the year–or longer–even if I keep working at my current feverish pace. I also have everything I need to print my own fabrics, should I run out of a favorite design. So there is absolutely no reason for me to buy anything more. I have all the paint, brushes and mediums necessary, as well as stacks of canvases (bought at deep discount last year, and untouched until now). I also have stretcher bars, and while I might not be able to come up with an 11 x 33″ or 27 x 36″ canvas should the inspiration strike, that’s okay. I don’t need to set foot in the art supply store this month. I also have an enormous stack of books I haven’t got around to reading yet, so there’s my entertainment.
That I save a lot of money during the month I do a spending fast is the most obvious benefit. During my month of not-spending, I have to stop and think about every single purchase I make. If I’m coming off a long period of free spending, I’m accustomed to just buying the stuff I want without much internal debate. So the first few days are the hardest because I’m like a junkie denied her fix. It’s appalling to realize how strong my “I want” impulse is, and what a spoiled brat I can be when I can’t just buy something, or solve a transitory problem by throwing money at it.
It’s the aftereffect, however, that makes it really worthwhile. By the end of the month I’ve done a lot of housecleaning, donated loads of stuff to Goodwill, made at least two trips to the dump, and completed at least one major project around the house that I’d once bought all the materials for but put off doing. Instead of accumulating more stuff, I purge the stuff I’ve already got. I never plan to do it; it just works out that way.
And once I’m in the habit of not-spending, it takes a while to get back in the habit of buying stuff again. I don’t dash out as soon as I can and start buying all the things I thought I wanted during the month of horrible deprivation I just imposed on myself. Instead, it takes me up to two full months before my old spending patterns start to reassert themselves, and six months or more before I realize I’m being incredibly stupid and mindless about money again.
I’ve made a half-assed effort to do a spending fast at least once a year, preferably twice. But after giving it some thought, I’m going to try doing it on a quarterly basis. I’m going back to school this year (ah! there’s yet another post!), and if I’m going to absorb the cost of tuition with minimal pain I think it would be a very good idea.
Okay, it’s 11:58PM; I’d best post this before it turns back into a rotted pumpkin…