What prompted the idea that I wanted to go a month without buying anything?
There is something freeing about not having money to buy something. It frees me of the expectation of having to make that decision. I've played with this from time to time -- I taught a class in Experimental College called "How to Go 2 Weeks on Your Last 10 Bucks".
That was during the 1990's, a time when I was temping for as long as I could stand it, then taking time off to write for as long as I could. I kept a roof over my head--that was my priority-- but beyond that I didn't take much seriously in the way of expenses. Utilities were usually included in the houses I shared with people. I didn't have medical insurance. Public transportation didn't cost much then, and I was young and healthy and often walked to work if it was less than 2 miles away from wherever I was living. Nile Spice soups were less than a dollar. So was an apple. The money I got from jobs I viewed pretty much as disposable income. I bought books. I had an expensive coffee habit (that I've kept going for the last 20 years). I spent, I didn't track, and if an emergency came up, I trusted the Universe would provide. The Universe (in the form of my parents) often did.
What I learned from this period, especially during times of relative poverty between blowing my paycheck and finding another job, is that you can do a lot of things with a paperclip, or a straw. Dinner can be a can of corn eaten over the sink.
I always had more than I thought I did. When I was feeling particularly poor or sorry for myself, I would make a list of everything in my room or apartment -- everything I owned. I had notebooks and pens. Art supplies. 32 hair ties. I'd open my kitchen cupboards where I thought I had "nothing to eat" and I'd finally cook the pasta and pour a can of tomatoes over it, or sometimes a can of beans.
I was creative and figured out that everything can be re-purposed. I remembered that things can be laundered in a bathroom sink with a couple drops of shampoo. I took scissors to my own hair and the result wasn't as terrifying as I'd thought it would be. I enjoyed the creative challenge that being poor(ish) brought. I didn't need to go to movies -- I had way more unread books than I thought I did. In a pinch, a cup of tea would stave off caffeine withdrawal headaches.
Lately, I've been re-doing my room and sorting and organizing all the stuff I've accumulated in 9 years of living in the same place. At the same time, I've noticed a number of things have happened that all lead to wanting to live a simpler lifestyle.
That said, I did a wallet makeover today: I put all money and credit cards aside. My wallet now carries my bus pass, library card, ID, and insurance information. My first dilemma appeared: should I or should I not take out the gift cards? What if I need those Starbucks "rewards" for just in case? (In case of what? Medical emergencies? An overwhelming need for a mocha that cannot be satisfied, and builds for days into homicidal impulses if I can't get whipped cream on top?) My second thought is that it's cleaner and more in line with my original motivations to buy nothing -- and to let go of being a consumer -- if I put them aside too.
Virginia Lore enjoys living life as an experiment and frequently steps out of her comfort zone -- when she's not hiding out in her room with the covers over her head that is. You may email her: email@example.com