You guys have only known me for a little while, and only in the time since I decided to stop being a total idiot. So you don’t have the full picture of how bad things were when I was adding to my debt on a daily basis. But you know enough about my past to realize that I don’t say this lightly.
I think I actually did it. I have conquered my addiction to overspending.
You know what I did yesterday? I went to the mall. Jayden decided to sell all his Wii games to buy an Xbox 360 – “The Wii is lame, Mom! I want to play online against all my friends! And I need Halo!” – which made me incredibly sad because he’s no longer a little boy and he’s growing up so fast, etc. etc. Anyway, we went to Gamestop, traded out the games for the Xbox, and left the mall. I didn’t go into any other stores. I didn’t even WANT to go into any other stores.
I had two debit cards and two credit cards in my wallet. I made some unexpected money on Friday that hasn’t been earmarked for anything in particular. Every store was advertising holiday sales. Two years ago, any one of those variables would have helped me justify a shopping spree; the trifecta would have made it a sure thing. Yet I wasn’t even tempted.
Another example – about a week ago I was really stressed and decided I needed some retail therapy. Here’s what happened:
enablers friends on Twitter suggested all kinds of stuff I could buy. Purses, shoes, books, jewelry…. All the things I love and used to buy constantly. And I spent a few hours looking online, determined to find SOMETHING to buy for myself. Eventually I gave up and played a game on my phone instead.
A year ago this month, I decided I was over my debt. I put all kinds of crazy rules into place to keep myself from wasting money. I switched banks. I started building my emergency fund. I made a budget. A few months later I started this blog, where I could hold myself accountable for my spending and find a different outlet for stress.
Over the course of the past year, those actions went from something painful and really hard to maintain to a habit I can’t break, even when I want to. To be honest, I never really thought my whole mindset would change – I knew I could improve my situation, but I thought I would always struggle and fight my own impulses. I didn’t expect to transform into a being that actually makes good choices on my own.
In Remission, But Not Cured
I’m not patting myself on the back too hard just yet. Sure, I’ve made a ton of progress. Even with unemployment on the horizon, I’m more confident about my financial situation than I’ve ever been. But that doesn’t mean I can stop paying attention.
I still love gadgets, purses, shoes, and books. Now, though, instead of blindly throwing them in a shopping cart every time I leave the house, I plan ahead and make sure I can afford them first. But who knows what would happen with the right combination of stress and opportunity? At any moment, I could relapse and spend $500 on clothes. Or electronics. Or random items from Amazon. (Not that I’ve ever done any of those things. *whistles innocently*)
No matter how long I’ve maintained my good behavior, I have to keep going – keeping track of my spending, saving for the things I want, and planning ahead. One thing I’ve learned along this journey so far is that life creeps up and smacks even the most prepared people in the face. Especially me, considering the way things have been going!
Many of you are on a financial journey of your own. What progress have you made? Are you in remission with me yet?