Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Experiments in Consumerism

Oh, okay, here’s something to update, and you can all (All! Ha! Listen to me!) help keep me on track. February is going to be the Month of No Purchases. Actually, I started over the weekend, so it’s going to be a little over a month. But I’m beginning a strict curtailment of personal expenses. The catalogues are going straight in the recycling bin as soon as they hit the mailbox. The emails are being deleted as soon as they hit. I’m staying out of the stores, and I’m going to cut down on food and happy-hour expenditures. No new shoes, just because they’re such a good deal. No new music for a while, I’ve got so much on my iPod that I listen to so infrequently. No Starbucks – the firm provides passable coffee that I doctor up so much anyway. No quick runs to Chick-fil-A for lunch – I’m going to plan ahead instead. Leftover city, here I come.

It’s time that I recognized, officially, that I am a spendthrift. (“Hi, I’m Jenny M, and I like to shop.”) I can justify just about any purchase, and I need to stop it. I’ve actually been working on this for a while. I have nearly paid off my clothing store credit cards – I’m making the final payment to J. Crew this week. I’d already stopped going to Starbucks around Thanksgiving. But I took a look – a REAL look – at my bank account and was astonished at how much those “drink or two” evenings after work add up, and how quickly “a quick lunch” becomes money down the drain every day.

I’m not placing an absolute moratorium on spending. You’ve got to go to the grocery store, and you’ve got to buy birthday presents and I’m not going to kid myself and say that I’m not going to get a drink after work now and then. But it’s time to grow up and accept responsibility for my spending habits. A friend said this past weekend that she’d gone a month without buying anything for herself – anything “unnecessary,” that is. And it just struck me – that seems like it would be so easy, and I expect it’s really not. I’ve become accustomed to not having to think too hard about whether or not to buy a new shirt or a new pair of jeans or a new book, and I’ve lost touch with any sense of how quickly the money flows out: just as quickly as it flows in. That makes me feel vaguely panicky, although we are by no means struggling. When I look down the road, that’s not how I want to feel. So, I’m challenging myself to step back and get it under control.

This New Years’, I did something I’ve never done before: I opened a savings account. And it feels good.
Call it a hiatus, I guess.

I was already thinking about restarting as of February 1, but then one of the blogs I regularly check out (the FABU Sundry at mentioned that she'd be catching up on her commenters' blogs this week and I felt shamed into starting my comeback early.

Woo! (And, hi? Hi.)

I don't think there is a lot of catch-up to be done, because the reason behind my prolonged absence is: work. Work, work, work. There were a few holidays in there with the attendant travel, but the utterly boring, snooze-inducing truth is that we just got massively busy at work in November and December and I ended just about each day with a headache that felt like a tiny house-techno party was happening in my skull and the last thing I could contemplate was cracking open the laptop to stare at the screen some more. So I didn't.

(One thing I've been noticing lately with blogs, and not that I'm noticing this with my own blog, mind you, since I don't exactly have a "following" -- per se, but when someone with a fairly regular schedule stops updating for some reason, people get crazy mad. Why? I mean, go read something else, you know? It may be disappointing not to get your daily fix, but it's a freaking BLOG and life happens and stuff and why do people feel like the blogger owes them something, somehow? So weird. I know I've said it before, but I feel it bears repeating, often. The internet is weird, man.)

So, life rolls on. We had the extended family (both sides of the extended family) over for Thanksgiving and I wish, wish, WISH I had taken a picture of the decor before the masses arrived because I went all Martha Stewart on the house, if I do say so myself. We got out the nice crystal and the nice dishes (even though we were a couple of place settings short) and brought the kitchen table around into the front hall to extend the dining room and it looked awesome. I think it was about 20 people, but only about 16 at any one time. Sit-down dinner for that many people is a lot - or it is if you live in the boonies and people don't make it all the way out to your house much for this sort of thing. Fortunately, I have wised up in my old age and this time around I farmed out the side dishes and left the turkey and a couple of do-ahead desserts for myself.

Wilbur continues the life of the nomad. He was able to spend most of December at home, which was so much better than what I had feared -- that he would be on the road a lot more and not able to .... well, I was going to say spend quality time with his family, basking in the warm and fuzzy glow of the holidays, but who am I kidding? I wanted him to do stuff around the house. And the other thing, too.

But life has been fairly uneventful for us over the past couple of months. I will go back to writing my posts in the evening, which seemed to work pretty well the times I managed to do it -- and now that things are slowing down a bit I should be able to keep myself from weeping uncontrollably when I look at the laptop in the evening.