This is Part II of IV in my Arbitrary Disciplines series.
As you’d expect, I make very little money. It’s par for course in the service industry. Since Novemeber or so, I’ve been stressed about how little money I have. To be honest, I am not even exactly sure what I spent my money on. As a joke in my apartment, my roommate and I call ourselves “Frugal Bitches” because we’re always swapping coupons. Nonetheless, to combat my lack of funds, I recently tried to go a couple days without buying anything. Let’s just say I’m no Judith Levine. It was heartbreakingly difficult. I would be swinging out of Walgreens with my Cookie Dough Blue Bell and teal fingernail polish before it even registered that I had bought something unnecessary.
And then, I had a revelation: If I don’t buy things, I don’t have to work for money.
Be careful how you read what I have just written. I’m not saying I don’t want to work. I actually love working very hard. But I want to work on the things I love, i.e. writing poetry, drinking tea, creating this blog, doing DIY projects, volunteering at the farm, etc., instead of working somewhere I am not nourished for money to fund my unnecessarily expensive lifestyle.
This is not a hard thing to grasp. But somehow, it is a fundamental breach in my understanding of work. While I have never had lots of extra money in my life, I have always had enough. Enough to never have to say no to reasonable desires like beer with friends or a trip to London for Spring Break or new leather sandals that I’ve been eyeing. But paring down your desires to the most essential ones means that you can limit the amount of money you need to make.
SO JUST STOP BUYING THINGS!
Right? This simple thought has consumed me for about a month now. And I am ready to take things one step further and start some new habits. I have developed 3 rules to guide me.
1. No Credit Cards
I was a fiscally responsible college first year and I signed up for a student credit card in order to build credit. I am proud of my younger self for thinking ahead, because now I do have great credit. However, I’ve become lazy in the past few years and use my credit card without thought. In order to bring my attention back to my spending habits, I am going to do away with them for 1 month. Only cash until May 9, 2013. Leo at Zen Habits has a lot to say about credit cards here.
2. Essential Categories
I am only allowed to spend money on those things that I have deemed essential to my happiness. This includes experiences – concerts, sparingly dining out, movies, artistic performances; things necessary to further my creative pursuits – business cards, possibly a camera; good food – not ice/cream or sweets and this will be MUCH less once my farm share begins in May; rent – duh; and gifts – I have a lot of friends graduating that I want to support this next month with small (hopefully handmade) gifts.
3. No Online “Browsing”
This is probably the hardest guideline for me to follow. Anytime I am bored, and since I deleted Facebook, I start looking at Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, or World Market sale sections…. just because. I don’t need anything. My wardrobe and home are well (and beautifully) furnished. I was using “buyer’s salve” to calm the anxieties I felt coming up in my life. This is paradoxical since it was the presence of the things themselves that would make me squirm!
So why do this? These practices are arbitrary. That’s how I began this entire section. And I will keep repeating myself. I am not committing myself to these habits because of their inherent value (though there is a lot to be had). When I limit the number of things I have or impose random rules on my life, I am crafting a structure, a scaffolding, on which to build my life. It’s not the actual rules so much as the discipline. These practices offer a place for your mind to land. To ground you. Rather than soothing our anxieties and fears with purchases or even worse destructive behavior, give your thoughts structure to focus on. Arbitrary disciplines. A living, moving, walking meditation.