Step 1: Stop Shopping

Gaylord Palms Resort
So, yes.  Jared and I are talking about traveling for an extended period of time as a family.

Although talking is probably not the right word.  We’ve exchanged a few emails that contained mostly sentence fragments. (Which, by the way, is not always the best idea.  Apparently “want to leave for year. travel.” is not automatically interpreted as “with you and the kids” and may accidentally cause heart attacks.)

We had conversations before the kids came home.  A few after we got back from New York.  We’ve asked questions and made clarifying statements as one of us is falling asleep or on the way to somewhere.

But that’s what counts as talking for parents who work full time, isn’t it?

My point is, there are, as Jared says, “still a lot of decisions to be made.”

What I know right now is this:

I now have a really good reason to stop shopping.

I’ve been more and more concerned about waste in the last several months, especially after the oil spill reminded me of the consequences that can pretty easily be tied to my own rampant consumerism.  I’m almost always frugal and fairly environmentally conscious, but I’ve gotten more committed to both of these ideas recently.  I just don’t want to piss away the valuable resources and gifts that are given to me, you know?  I want to mindfully use what I’ve got.

So as we were packing for New York City, I mentioned to Jared that I would be taking a break from shopping just as soon as we were back from New York.  After all, why set myself up for immediate failure?  New York City is probably not the best place to start a self imposed shopping ban.

“What does that mean?” Jared asked.

I wasn’t exactly sure, but I threw out the ideas I’d strung together at that point.  A month to start out.  A year after that?  Buying stuff the kids needed was OK.  Food, obviously, was still going to be purchased.  I wasn’t going on a spending hiatus so much as a purchasing hibernation.  I wanted to stop accumulating new stuff.

“Cool.  I think I’ll do that, too,” he said.

And we headed off to New York for our last shopping hurrah.  Ironically, the only thing I actually purchased in New York City was a bracelet.  I paid $16 for it at a street fair in Hell’s Kitchen.  I kept looking for things to buy, mind you.  I tried on shoes and shirts and dresses.  I wandered in and out of shops and department stores and Bergdorf Goodman, for Pete’s sake!  But I kept looking at the item in my hand and thinking “really?  Is this worth it?”  And time after time I decided it was not.

I guess that means I’m ready to stop buying stuff for a while.

Especially if I’m going to try to travel the world with a family of four at some point in the foreseeable future.

Of course, swearing off shopping is a little odd when you have a shopping blog.  (In fact, if I remember my coding correctly, ever instance of the S word on this blog automatically links to that blog.)  I wasn’t sure if that meant I’d be closing Buy-Her down or what, but then I realized that I have lists and lists of things that I’ve been meaning to review that I haven’t gotten around to.  I also have stacks and stacks of brand spanking new things that haven’t even been used yet.  I could update a review blog every day for a year without having to make a new purchase.

And if that isn’t a sign that you maybe need to take a break from buying stuff, I don’t know what is.

I’m kind of excited to see how much money I can save.  Yes, excited, because those are the kinds of games that sound like fun to people who grew up poor.  The LET’S SEE HOW MUCH WE CAN ACCUMULATE IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT!! game has always given me a thrill – except, of course, when I was losing.  I hate losing.  I hate losing that game especially.

I’m also fascinated to note the changes in my thinking already.  It’s been just over a week and I can already see that my thinking about stuff is shifting.  I’m amazed how quickly my mind goes from “crap, I want that,” to “hmm… what are my alternatives here?”  I find myself paying closer attention to the samples and freebies that have been piling up in the bottoms of drawers for years.  I find myself re-evaluating my definition of needs and wants and frivolous.  And so far, I’m excited!

Of course, it’s only been a week.

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  1. Nyt says:

    There’s something extraordinarily freeing about killing the consumerism. Whether it’s about freeing up money or space, or both, there is something that allows one to breathe just a little bit easier. To live well and lightly at the same time is no small challenge, but it is rewarding in its own way.

  2. avitable says:

    I admire your restraint. Yeah, it’s only been a week, but you’ll be able to keep it up for much longer, I have no doubt. :)

  3. naomi says:

    Gah … I had this long and rambling (but heartfelt) comment posted … and it got eaten by the i-net … dangit.

    Anywho – good on you! (to borrow from all of my new Aussie friends)

    restraining from buying something is so much easier when you have a dream in the back of your mind!!

  4. Nanna says:

    You know, I found it kind of scary how FAST that rampant consumerism sneaks up on ya. Especially if you’ve had a period of deprivation. But good for you, chica.

  5. This forced poverty that I am in has made me see that I used to buy a lot of crap. Now, when every penny can either help pay a bill or feed us, I find myself thinking “wow, is my life going to be SO MUCH worse if I don’t have that?” Many times the answer is no, and I move on.

    Good on you for taking a step towards a great goal. I’m jealous of course, but I also want to travel the world after the kids are grown. I just don’t want to deal with kids while I travel because I am selfosh like that. heh.

    Me? I’m cleaning out my house of a LOT of the stuff I kept “just in case”…I am bordering on becoming a hoarder, and that’s not cool….

    Good luck keeping the spending to a minimum!

  6. Hockeymandad says:

    Wow, there is a sense of commitment in this post that is truly inspiring. I have no doubt you will succeed at this venture. The rewards will be wonderful.

    Now, can you convince some others to do the same? ;) lol

  7. Finn says:

    And never forget that you have me to pick up Buy-Her slack once in a while.

    The fun begins when you start finding ways to multipurpose things. I use vinegar and water as a glass cleaner, weed killer, etc. Baking soda is a great exfoliator, garbage disposal cleaner, laundry additive… etc.

    Also? Tape pictures of the places you want to go to your computer and look at them every time you want to buy something online.

  8. Sheila says:

    My husband and I are on a shopping hiatus/savings extravaganza because we’re saving up for our home purchase and our decision to have me do the SAHM thing for a while.

    We each have an “allowance” of $30 a week. This is to be used for lunches and any snacks or small purchases we want to make. If you run out of money, you better make sure you wake up in time to make your lunch, otherwise you’re gonna be hungry. We’re sticking to it religiously. Of course, if there is an emergency like “oh crap I forgot my excedrin in my other purse and my head is killing me…must go to CVS” then that doesn’t count against me. But “oh look! A new book!” yup – totally counts against me.

    We stock up on things when they’re on sale and we have the coupons to back them up. For instance, I haven’t bought tampons, razors or shaving cream in four months and still have some in my closet – and I bought all of them for like $10.

    Sounds crazy but things like that really help boost your savings. Especially because, if you’re like me, you go to the store for tampons and walk out with $100 worth of “stuff” that you hadn’t planned on buying.

    I have billions and billions of money saving blogs in my reader because, for us, reducing our spending in as many ways as we possibly can is a big deal for us.

    It’s also practice for when we’re down to one income and don’t have the extra money to spend willy-nilly.

    I wish you guys much luck!

  9. Lisa says:

    Having a goal makes it so much easier! I’ve tried the savigs account game but then im like….ooohhh something shiny! Every time I try to do this it seems like it makes me want to shop more. The deprivation theory I guess.

  10. Sybil Law says:

    I’ve kind of given myself a buying/ shopping ban; self -imposed and with absolutely no declarations to anyone. I only buy something for myself when it’s necessary. (Um, minus those two pairs of Converse but the one pair was REALLY a steal. Also, no more shopping with my mom.)
    Ahem.
    Anyway, it’s funny, because my husband and I were also saying, and have said, a few times, that we should get an RV and go travel around the country for a year. Home school the kid that whole year and just GO. I would love, love love it. We’re kinda serious about it, too.
    You and I are along the same wavelength these days…

  11. MainlineMom says:

    Ohhh this is so me. I am really starting to dislike consumerism, mine especially. But I love fashion and I write fashion posts that get lots of traffic! And I have the money…but I need a big goal to NOT SHOP. I was thinking that goal might be adopting a child, but my husband isn’t quite on board there, which makes it not a concrete goal yet. I do think about things differently, but I still fall for the awesome deal on something I really like.

    For the record, I think your goal is awesome and I wish you the best of luck.

  12. Fair play to you Britt. We are saving like mad to go to Florida in October this year, Spain next year and New York the following year. We have curtailed our spending so much since we decided to see more of the world as a family and its such a great feeling to see the numbers rising on our saving accounts.

  13. Jared says:

    Hallelujah!!!!!

    Just kidding. I will help as much as possible. You have really made me start thinking of spending and the environment etc recently and surprising even to me it has been very appealing.

  14. Faiqa says:

    You may find this hard to believe, but I already kind of do this. Sort of. I mean, I’m very careful about what I buy and make sure that I use what I buy. Also, I’m not telling Tariq about this because he’s going to embarrass me by calling you a communist or something. So, shhh…

  15. Terri says:

    Love the idea of traveling as a family (although it would be my husband’s worst nightmare). My New Year’s resolution was to not shop atTarget for a year (because I LOVE Target). I’ve been successful so far (even w/ having two kids in diapers). Been amazed at how much money I have saved and how much less crap has come into our house!

  16. Tina says:

    Sigh….I try my best with this. I do the same thing. I try and go shopping only for what I intend to buy. I ask myself if I truly need it or if I want it. It’s the sales that kills me. That JCrew final sale does me in every freakin year.
    Best of luck to you!
    Tina

  17. Superjules says:

    Aw MAN! Way to make me feel guilty for the ridiculous amount of stuff I bought today at Home Goods and TJ Maxx! [ hangs head in shame ]

  18. muskrat says:

    Isn’t this like a duck swearing off water?

  19. I have a weird relationship with shopping. For one thing, I love some THINGS. Like pretty appliances, bath products, home decor, antiques. But the process of actually finding and buying those things makes me anxious and jumpy and makes me want more things I didn’t even know existed before I spotted them in whichever mega-store I happen to be in. We bought a house back in March and for about two months I was shopping constantly–I’d need this or that and go to Target, and before I knew it I’d be coming out all dazed and wondering what happened, with $350 worth of stuff in my cart. Now I just stay out of those stores. I still love antiquing, because I can spend all day hitting estate sales and antique malls, spend $10, and still have a great time. It’s the thrill of the hunt and the experience of looking at all the pretty things I love. When I go to the big box stores or the mall, I feel like I’ve failed if I don’t come out with a purchase. And I don’t enjoy it. So I stay away…and I have more money in my bank and less crap on my counters.

  20. My mother will buy anything and everything in sight and I have a hard time not doing that. I will see something I like, carry it around the store, and more times than not, I put it back on the shelf before I leave.

    I think this is something that, once you do and stop the extraneous shopping, this will be a habit you repeat for life. This will be a good thing. Good luck, hon!

  21. Good for you! I have been on an unwanted spending hiatus (no money or jobs and all) and the new influx of actual CASH leaves me a bit heady at the possibilities…

    That said, I love getting rid of stuff. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the donation truck pull up and drive off with bags of stuff we no longer use. Ahhhh…. It’s wonderful.

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