This is too hard

Or, is it?

Honestly, that’s what I’m finding difficult — not the lack of shopping, but the second guessing, the self-doubting, the occasional criticism, and the constant wondering.

“Is this really a challenge worth doing?”

“Is it worth writing about?”

“Am I truly a ‘Fasting Consumer’?”

Well, let’s take a look. It’s February 18th. What, so far, has The Challenge cost me (and my family)?

It has stopped me from browsing stores in search of awesome deals on end of season clearance. Would I have purchased anything by now if it weren’t for The Challenge? Um, probably not.

Peter wanted to buy a special grip for opening jars (and then he succeeded in opening the jar) and maybe a stand for his tablet. Aurora wanted new hair clips. I wanted new cleats for winter running. Today, a gorgeous wool rug appeared in the swap and sell group I follow on Facebook. Our living-room rug is a little tattered …

I’m sure there were other things, but I can’t think of them. How fantastic is that?

We haven’t run-out of tinfoil yet, or elastics, ziplocks, soap, shampoo, or detergent. But I have set up a neighbourhood soap exchange. It’s like a cookie exchange, only instead of bringing “chocolate chip” and walking away with chocolate chip, ginger, oatmeal raisin, and shortbread, I hope to bring “bar soap” and walk away with soap, shampoo, conditioner, all purpose cleaner, dishwashing detergent, and, if I’m lucky, some bath salts. Our first trade meeting will be on March 9th (hopefully before I run out of anything).

I wanted to hang some mugs under a shelf, but we didn’t have mug hooks in the basement. Oh well.

Oh, and I might have gone for a massage by now if it weren’t for The Challenge. Extended medical covers most, but not all, so they’re off limits this year.

I’m keeping a close eye on what we’ve got in the house and am making a conscious effort to conserve all “non-replaceables.” If we can use an Abeego or a cloth bag instead of a ziplock, we do. I’m a pro at wrapping with the tiniest piece of tinfoil, and I’ve lost count of how many times the foil has been washed. I do laundry less, vacuum less and sweep and mop more (vacuum cleaner bags!), and I reserve my precious face cream for the negative double-digit days.

Still, is it that hard?

No. It really isn’t. It may get harder yet, but for the time being, it’s pretty close to life as usual. Kinda disappointing, actually. (I’m a glutton for punishment.)

But there was one thing that was hard. I stopped buying lattes. Yes, that’s right; ever since Coffee and Confessions on January 27th, I have not bought a single latte (or other fancy drink) — not even on mother/daughter date night. Big deal, I know. I’m sure many of you have never bought a latte. (But, we all have our thing.)

Truth is, so far, the biggest personal reward has come from the most challenging sacrifice. I thought no lattes would mean deprivation, but in reality, it has meant freedom.

Freedom to realise that it is not the latte I enjoy, but the time spent with my daughter — the opportunity to share with her an “adult-ish” moment, to reflect on how grown-up she is and to remember her childishness as she licks the whip cream off her nose. I love taking her for hot chocolate after cello, but I don’t need a latte too. I can share in her joy (and make some tea when I get home). Perhaps, later in the year, I will talk to her about other ways we could celebrate without even her hot chocolate, but I want to model it for a while first.

Having made the decision to no longer buy lattes, I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. In Easy-peasy, decision’s breezy, I described how lovely it was to silence the part of my brain once dedicated to making purchasing decisions.

I never realized how much of my brain was being used to consider if I would go for a latte, and if so where, and when. Often, the inner conversation ended with, “No, you will not go. You went a few days ago, and your budget will soon run out.” And then, disappointment. And, to a certain extent, a feeling of deprivation. Truth is, I don’t think that that “deprivation” would have been silenced had I had a $100 budget for lattes, or even $200.

But somehow, just saying “no” outright has silenced all feelings of deprivation and has replaced them with contentment and freedom. Interesting. And to think that “lattes” weren’t even originally considered in The Challenge.

Realizing that great freedom has come from making what was once considered (a mere three weeks ago) to be a great sacrifice has made me curious. Perhaps this challenge really isn’t hard enough.

Perhaps we could benefit more from our year of consumer fasting if we could think of additional things to give-up.

The more I get used to not consuming, the more I want to not consume. The freedom of “letting go” is addictive. Perhaps more addictive, even, than “stuff”?

And so, to feed my new addiction, we are going to try to keep taking more things away as the year progresses. Perhaps we will find we have gone too far. Perhaps we will continue to find we aren’t going far enough. There’s only one way to find out.

Having cut activities, experiences, and, of course, the purchase of all “things,” there are few areas left to explore, but food consumption is a big one.

We will now cut liquor from our budget. We used to have a shared $20/month ($10/person) budget for alcohol. It wasn’t much: about one beer/week if drunk at home. But still, it isn’t necessary. We won’t be teetotallers. If someone offers a glass of wine, we’ll most likely take it (and appreciate it all the more!), but The Fasting Consumer will no longer purchase alcohol.

Cheers to the future!

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8 thoughts on “This is too hard

  1. Good for you for keeping at it and not giving up! Your consumer fast is important. What you consider to be a fast is not fasting compared to what the majority of people on Turtle Island (also known as North America) can buy, not to mention a large population in this city. Our economy is global and many of the things we can afford to buy have been made by third world children.

    • So true! The global economy has for a long time been a huge factor in my consumer decisions – from clothing to food. The sad truth is, often (but not always) the cheaper we want things here, the greater the social and environmental cost to someone somewhere else. For this reason, this fast is not primarily about saving the most amount of money possible, but rather about divorcing stuff and becoming less dependent on a global system that hurts people.

  2. I like to shop second hand, especially clothes for myself and the boys. And that’s great for me, that I can benefit from someone else shopping at Gymboree or any other expensive store out there. Likewise, you can benefit from someone else offering you a glass of wine, wine that they bought, but you didn’t have to. This is not at all a criticism! I wholeheartedly admire your challenge. It’s such a complicated thing when we start to dissect every little piece of how we live and contribute to and benefit from our community and the world. Let’s keep talking about it, though, and encouraging each other along the journey… 🙂

    • I agree! Let’s keep talking!
      Thanks for your comments, Ashley. I too love buying second hand when I am buying. I get so many nice things (often for nothing) because other people wanted fancy new clothes for their kids. Well, okay then – thank you! I’m hoping that this challenge will teach me a lot about community, and not just as a “mooch” but as someone who is offering valuable things to her community and learning to be both a giver and someone who isn’t afraid to be a little dependent on others (rather than forever dependent on my own stuff).

  3. Wow! That’s inspiring. I will definitely email you as I would love to hear more about how you did it.

    I have to be careful, though. As much as I’m loving spending less and less (ironically, we spent a ton this month because of heating bills for the frigid winter and our dog is sick and needing x-rays/treatment), I have some values surrounding food that are pretty important to me. I’m not out to “cut costs at all cost” so to speak.

    It’s not about “getting the best for my family” but more about considering regenerative consumption over destructive consumption and considering things like labourers, farmers, community, and sustainable food options for all … blah blah blah. I could go on forever (looks like I should write another post!)

    Point being: YES! Despite the fact that for me it is not about seeing how little I can spend, I would love to learn from you because I’m sure there are a bunch of things I could limit that don’t involve cutting my social or environmental values (that I know you share) but that involve cutting luxuries. (Ehem. Cheese. Fancy cheese… )

  4. Pingback: Less stuff; more fun! | The Fasting Consumer

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