How to avoid shopping for 4 months

July 22nd. I was leaving my current job as a waitress/actress working in NYC to work at a bank. The problem was I was still working at a theater in New Hampshire for the summer and I had been told by no less than 5 people that,  even though my resume stats were great, I had no chance in hell of getting a job at a bank because I had no experience.

See JillyP absolutely DE-TER-MINED to get a job at a bank (try to tell me I can’t do something, just TRY!) but since I had been waiting tables for the past two years I had no suitable “office work” clothes. So I went shopping with two of my most hysterical friends at the outlets, accepting or denying clothes based on the strict criteria of whether or not they “worked at a bank”. Point: I left Banana Republic that day spending over 350$ on my credit card for “fall clothes” then spent the rest of the day with LITERAL heart palpitations, nausea and panicking. I needed a beer (and unfortunately for me, any time I’m in need of a beer for stress related issues, it usually makes things TEN times worse; so of course I had a beer and felt worse. shhhheeeeetttt).

Since then, I haven’t been shopping. How have I done this?

I plan and BATCH my shopping for the season ahead.  Once a season I shop at outlet malls (still good quality clothing) and don’t randomly shop. If you do, you’re going to be way more prone to emotionally shop and as we just learned, that ends with beer and nausea which is gross. Even though that fated day of July 22  took probably 6 months off my life because of the stress, it was good to do because  I bought ALL that I needed for fall/winter. Even though I’m not wearing new shoes EVERY week, I still look really great and get complimented all of the time. I would bet you that last year between July and November I at least doubled the 350$ I spent on just emotionally unconcious spending.

I dont buy something unless I’d regret NOT buying it. I work in midtown Manhattan and  there are, I’d say, five of my favorite stores less than 3 blocks away at all times just begging to fill my retail desires. If there is something that I think I need/want/have-to-have I ask myself how I would feel if I left the store and didn’t buy it. Would I think about it later? 9 times out of 10 the answer is no and I can throw the item back on the display (haHA! You were trying to trick me into buying you but I OUTSMARTED YOU!) If I DO want the item, I put it on hold. The stores ALWAYS hold things for at least 24 hours. If it means that much, is that important, I WILL come back for it and its worth it. In Short: I ask myself: “If I got home tonight and didn’t buy that thing  will i still be thinking about it? If the answer is yes I put it on hold and then come back for it- if the answer is no, I put it down gracefully, smile softly over my personal triumph and leave.

I don’t bring my wallet on errands, I carry cash. When I go our for lunch/errands, it stays at my office. It sucks because I want everything (starbucks, new pretty blue earrings, arepas at the street fair today (corn bread with mozz cheese in the middle- don’t even get me started…) but it has to be done. As I’ve said in I cut up my credit card on Monday, if something is that life threatening, it will not require a cc first and anything else just isn’t. that. important.

 I change up my outfits and dress for my body type. (This is for all the ladies out there) I have 5 or 6 “go-to” items of clothing and I mix and match them up in all different variations. I get a compliment EVERY time I go out (I’m not kidding) and half of the time its on things that my friends have seen before but are seeing differently because it’s paired with something else. (And I also have amazing friends who would never judge me on whether or not my clothes were brand new, etc. )

 I stop, I sit, I think. I ask: Will this blah-blah-blah really make me happy? Then I repeat this process until I either stop lying to myself and move along or until I decide I really do need it and only then I’m allowed to buy it.

Hope these little tips help a bit!

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Ugly Hamsters vs. Peaceful Poverty

I read this story of a woman who is going on a spending fast for the next year: http://melaniespring.com/blog/fasting-time-to-start-saving  (amazing goal btw) and I started to think about shopping myself…

I haven’t been shopping since………… July 22 (I’m really good with dates and days- trust me on this). However only a year ago at this time I would  shop every 3 days or so- just to look extra delicious because I was working at this bar, and there was this guy that I really liked and… not a fond memory so we’re just gonna keep on trucking…

Since its been what feels like years since I’ve tried on a pair of jeans… I’ll relive my typical shopping experience for a minute:

First feeling: excitement. Seeing all of those glittery tank tops and cut off jean shorts (love those) swimming in front of me at Forever 21 and the Gap, I’d get giddy over how amazing I was guaranteed to look wearing them. But then another feeling would slowly creep in to accompany this idyllic haze: claustrophobia. I felt like a hamster running on that little wheely thing, my thoughts hypergeared: “that’s cute and that’s pretty and that’s BEYOOOTIFUL and wait, I’ll look  skinny if I wear that, I’ll be *sexy* if I wear that…” and at the end of it all an overwhelming sense of “I’m-never-gonna-have-enough” would hit me DEEP down and I’d throw down all of my preciously procured $3 thongs and elbow my way out of Forever 21 in a huff.  I wanted to buy everything and flounce around in it all but I was never going to get everything I wanted and somewhere deep down I knew that if I did it still wouldn’t feel good.   I defined myself by how my jeans made my a** look, how much my hair bounced and I completely forgot that my beauty and attractiveness came from how sincerely I could look someone in the eye and truly speak to them. The more I shopped, the more I forgot.

Fast forward to today. I haven’t shopped in 4 months and I must confess-the idea of new running shoes or lululemon workout pants is di-vinnnnne… but I am more happy now (not having shopped for 4 months) than I ever have been in my life. I don’t feel like an ugly hamster on a wheel just trying to “keep up”, I get home from work and rest and relax instead of scouring the sales bins at H&M, I cherish what I cook because frankly when you’re lacking funds, food is the one necessity that you can’t REALLY get away with not buying  and therefore enjoy to the fullest (please see recent post on Freezer Chicken). This is all while my “work” heels are so broken and worn down that I’m clicking on the last remnant of the heel (the metal), I’m recycling the same 5-7 outfits to work every week, and I  haven’t had a dinner out at a nice restaurant in…. I honestly can’t remember.

But I read more. I laugh more. I engage more.  So even though this current state of poverty isn’t exactly comfortable, it’s turning out to be quite… peaceful.

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I cut up my credit card on Monday.

I have 50$ for the next two weeks (for groceries, car bombs, laundry, and truck dudes-see last post), but it needed to be done. This could be considered insane considering my financial situation. I know this, and maybe not everyone will agree with my decision (“what if there’s an emergency?”) but I. Am. Sorry. It needed to be done.

No wait, I’m not sorry. I am thankful that I FINALLY have decided to cut the shi* and take responsibility for my financial life in a scary, but definitive way.

Here’s why I did it:

 1. I live in New York City. If ANYTHING happens to me that is THAT IMPORTANT, ATROCIOUS, LIFE THREATENING, I can guarantee you that it will not require a credit card first.

If something does require one, then it can wait. Or there are ways around it. Ask for a payment plan at the dentist (my current situation). If you drive,  give someone your ATM card to hold when your car gets stranded (and you have no way of paying the guy immediately but can ask your significant other, parent, grandparent, etc. for money to borrow). There is always a way out.

For me, as long as that credit card stayed in my four-year-old purse (really, what do I buy if my purse is four years old?), it would be used. Especially because it’s October and Christmas is coming.  Psychologically, the idea of not being able to buy my mother presents would hurt me more than seeing my credit card debt go up. ( I understand that this is a misguided “paradigm” shall we say; I should instead shower her with love and affection not things she’s never going to use…)

2.  The debt shi* has got to end. I’m getting a huge bonus this year. And none of that money is mine. It belongs to Target Visa. And that SUCKS. All I’ve bought of note with that card was my computer two years ago. I literally cannot name one purchase I have made with it since-besides alcohol at the bar. I’m serious (and I dont have like, 500$ in credit card debt. Its not pretty, believe me…more on this later).

3. Cutting my card supports the “what do i really need” theme that is hitting me so hard over the head that I can only conclude that it is exactly where I’m supposed to be in my life; defining my true values and aligning my life with them.

I only need: Food, Water, Shelter, and Clothing to survive winter in NYC.

You want to know how I felt the second after I did it? Relieved. Isn’t that funny? Relieved! Like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Even though I may be out of money in a day, I’m ok with it. If it means that I have broken this cycle of debt to payment and not really being in control, I feel RELIEVED. Its OVER. I can start again.

So I guess what will follow will be more trials and tribulations related to Freezer Chicken and Truck Dudes but I’m looking forward to them. I am currently eating really bad chilli (its basically marinara sauce) that I made in hopes of sustaining myself for a week- but you know what? I’m sucking it up. Chilli that was supposed to be delicious is terrible but I have all my teeth and limbs and I dont have to walk ten miles in the snow to get to school, etc., etc.

See? Things are more in perspective than they have been in over 2 years.

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Freezer Chicken, Spin Cycles, and Truck Dudes- how I survived on 67$ in one week in NYC (groceries included).

I was not in a “good way” financially a while back and I think the things I did to survive and the lessons I learned are worth noting. It helped me to realize that even when you’re really financially f*****- there’s always a way out.

 A few things I did to keep my sh** together during these hard times:

  1. Borrowed paper towel rolls from work. I needed them and they were readily accessible so they were just… borrowed.
  2. Borrowed toilet paper from work. See above.
  3. Borrowed hand soap from work. See above. (I’m not a terrible person I swear, just a girl who needed to wash her hands and lucky enough to have a place of work that wants to help her do this).
  4. Washed needed-for-tomorrow-clothes in the bathroom sink. Frankly, the only way it’s different from using the laundry mat is that I don’t have a spin cycle button.
  5. Attacked the freezer. I had so much damn chicken that I had never used. Shame on me.
  6. Ate the same thing every day. Things get much easier when you buy in bulk, and a meal that is composed of freezer chicken and sautéed red onions is only around 2$ (freezer chicken= 0$ and onions= 2$.)
  7. Bought .75 cent coffee at one of the truck dudes instead of 4$ coffee at Starbucks. 3 benefits here: 1. This .75 cent coffee is TEN times better than Starbucks. 2. The truck dudes need the moolah more than Starbucks. 3. I’m just using 3 to justify the fact that even in dire financial straights, coffee is necessary- I don’t care what you think.
  8. Got books at the freaking library. I love, love, cannot-say-it-enough, love books and I need to read ALL of them but for the love of Zeus, why have I always bought them? Besides my nearest and dearest, books only take up space and the library is WAY more amazing then my little brain could have ever conceived; especially here in NYC.

 (Moral here: USE YOUR RESOURCES)

A few things I realized I could do to provide for myself during REALLY hard times:

  1. Eat only the food from work. That way I never have to spend a dime. (I work in a special place).
  2. Shower at the gym. If I ever get kicked out of my apartment (not happening, but still a valid concern) I can pay 20$ a month (cheap gym!!!) like the homeless lady does and shower there every day while still toning my hammis- everyone wins.
  3. Sleep on friends couches. My friends love me and I love them and I’ve seen most of their couches and they ARE comfy so I’d be ok.

 See? Its never that bad. You can always find a “way”.

 The Most Important Part:

I realized that I’ve gotten into this nasty habit of thinking my WANTS are my NEEDS. I do not NEED Starbucks, I do not NEED 3lbs of wild caught Alaskan salmon, I do not NEED to buy the Eat Pray Love CD so that I can increase my multi-cultural listening pleasure.

After this week of spending only 67$- including groceries I might add- I realized how little I NEEDED and was able to focus more on the important things: why am I here? where am I going (metaphorically speaking)? I think we all get so caught up in CONSUMING (to fill some type of void)… that we forget how to be grateful for what we have right now instead of focusing on what we want tomorrow.

 

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How personal finance knowledge can make you look sexy at a bar

How? Please, continue…

Have you ever walked into a room and had the wind knocked out of you by someone near by? (We’re gonna use a woman for this example). You look at her and there’s this visceral reaction of jealousy and admiration; you want to pick her apart mercilessly while simultaneously becoming her very best friend? Well I have, and let me tell you I’ve spent many hours examining WHY this person makes me feel this way and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

1. She doesn’t need ANYONE to be happy. She is happy as a clam all by herself at the bar, chatting it up with a bartender or a random person near by.

2. She can chat with everyone because she is extremely confident- never projecting “they wont want to talk to me”  rather “oh, they look interesting, I want to talk to them”.

3. She doesn’t need anyone to buy her a drink; she can buy it all by herself-thank-you-very-much. And as a result of all of her chatting from one and two, someone usually buys her a drink anyways. (Even if they don’t, she can still pay for her drink plus a BIG tip).

4. She radiates beauty. And no, I’m not talking 36-24-36 beauty. I’m talking about the “I-have-my-shit-together-because-I-can-support-myself-and-its-effing-awesome-type-beauty”

5. She looks put together and relaxed. Even if she has a mound of curls on her head and is sporting cowboy boots- She is in control of her life and she knows it.

The connection I’m trying to make is this: knowing your financial situation allows you to be in control, and because you are in control, you are confident and because you are confident you are *sexy*. Having a savings account that you automatically contribute to, knowing exactly (to the dollar) how much you get paid each month, contributing to a 401K, keeping cc debt low to nothing, and still enjoying the things in life that are important to you… all of these things enable you to feel strong and most importantly, attractive.  And as a result you are *sexy* and everyone wants to buy you a drink at the bar. See? Everyone wins!!!:)

P.S. I know all of the things I said about 401K’s, cc debt low to nothing, etc. sound like a Willy-Wonka-dreamworld-esque-club that you didn’t get the evite to, but believe me, I’m with you and I have many plans for us to get our shit together financially…:) Stay tuned!

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So… I have a question for you…:)

Why are you at work?

 We all work for two reasons (hopefully):

1. Because we’re genuinely interested in what we do and have a passion for our career, and

2. Because we need money.  (And we need money for reasons besides the obvious, like  feeding ourselves and providing ourselves with shelter so as not to die on a frozen tundra, etc.)

So. We work because we need money.  Which leads us to the fact that we are trading our time  for money and when we really examine what money is (simply a means to buy things- something to trade for things) we realize that we are ultimately working to buy things. Which is fine- its good! its fun to buy things! (I know I enjoyed my $1.45 small hazelnut coffee this morning ) but what I really want to know is what do you work to buy?  What are the things that you make a mental note about buying once you get your paycheck? What are the things that come up most often when you look at your bank account?

Bottles of wine? Shoes? An IPad? Coors light? A ring? Books? A cruise?  (this last one is my personal favorite purchase in the last year).

What do you work to buy? I’d love for you to answer this question below however you’d like, really simply or really in depth:

I work to buy….

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