Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the joy of Christmas (shopping)

Last week I went to the shops for my second (and last) extended session of Christmas shopping, a necessary annual re-entry into the world of spending, after 6 months of very little spending as I attempt to pay back our credit card debt.

As I wandered aimlessly back and forth along the aisles of Greensborough Shopping Plaza, I could feel the soporific spending state creeping over me once more, induced by the hermetically sealed, climate controlled, bewildering world of the modern shopping mall, deliberately created for maximum loss of control.

I could sense the subtle pull from within and without: "Come on...it's not that much...the kids will love it...you bought one last year...they'll be disappointed if you don't buy it this year...it's on sale...go on, buy just one more, it will be useful..." I was encouraged that I managed to resist the siren call, with 1 or 2 exceptions. What was at first a struggle has finally become a way of life.

So what have I learnt so far? I look back on 6 months of spending less than I have spent over a similar period for many years, and realise that lower spending has become habitual. I no longer feel like rewarding myself, as I did earlier, with that one thing I've always wanted once the debt has been paid off. In fact, the idea of buying expensive things I don't need has (at least for now) become slightly repellent.

After 15 years of battling the temptation to over-spend, I no longer expect it to go away just because I don't feel tempted right now. I know from many, many bitter experiences how quickly a mood of over-confidence can be overtaken by a bout of helpless spending. I know that, like an alcoholic at their most clich├ęd, I will live with this temptation for the rest of my life. I will always have to be careful.

And knowing how easily I am still tempted, I will persist with my main strategies. I'll continue to avoid shops whenever I can, preferring the quick grab to the long, slow shop. I'll keep boycotting catalogues, and buy items at full price, not on sale, if it means only visiting the shops once (better $20 more for 1 full-price item we need than $200 for 6 sale items we don't need).

Above all, I'll continue to resist the unspoken assumption that I have a right to regularly buy new things. I no longer budget a generous amount for the kids' and my personal spending each week - in fact, this has probably been the most effective change I have made this year.

They say it takes 28 days to form a habit. Well, I now know it takes 3 months to produce a mood of over-confidence, 4 months to reach a state of discouragement, and 6 months of slow, hard slog to create a new lifestyle. And the rest of my life to live it, with God's help.

1 comment:

Rachach said...

well done Jean!
That is so encouraging.