Christmas time can be the discount bin of emotions. There is the occasional gem but there is a lot of stuff that is no bargain. Yes I am talking about the neon leg warmers of feelings, guilt. In recent years I’ve been a little more savvy in my approach to my finances for Christmas. I put aside a set amount a month and create a budget. By Christmas time I know what I have to spend on everything from gifts, food, travel and clothes. Since I know the amount I will have, my brain has a framework and things seem to slide in rather neatly. That is the financial side. The other part, the emotions thing, can occasionally grinch it all up for me. It doesn’t just leave me with a curled lip patting my little dog while looking down on Whoville. It tends to push me down the mountain and bundle me in any layers of guilt I might roll across. In the past the temptation was to spend without a budget because I didn’t have any money anyways. Excellent logic. Now the temptation is to purchase that one extra thing. I say I do this because I want to give and that is true. I say that those I love are worth it. They are but honestly I also want to feel good and pretend that I’m not as pinched as I am. Gift giving season makes me think about my finances and I don’t want to. Worse I do not want anyone else to know that I cannot buy them the ultra deluxe turnip twaddler with the GPS feature. This is when the worst of the guilt appears. It is the irrational guilt, the things over which I have no control, the things I should not carry, that jumps right into my shopping cart. This is the big ticket item. Out of anything you pick up this season this is the one you cannot afford. You have to put it back.
The real harm in this sort of guilt is that it usually brings its seedy little friend judgement. We label ourselves for things that are out of our control. I feel guilty for not being able to live up to some artificial standard. I feel I have failed and it must be my fault. Rationally I know this is not true and it is this truth that has to guide my feelings and behaviour. I have to switch from distorted thinking to accurate thinking. A great blog post on doing this is Renee Jain’s http://blogs.psychcentral.com/stress-better/2014/11/forget-positive-thinking-try-this-to-curb-teen-anxiety For this Christmas season I want us all to receive the gift of freedom from unreasonable guilt, the freedom from judgement that should have never been.
This blog is primarily about frugal living. That being said, the ability to spend less than we make is a many tentacled wonder. Some of my worst spending decisions come when I am tired, stressed and depressed. Most of the year I can glide by with canning, crafting, thrift shopping and humour. At this time of year the days are shorter, the seasonal affective shut down code is punched, and I feel the need to make it “the most wonderful time of the year”. (I will now have that ear worm playing in my head all day). I start to droop. I hit the drive thru or buy the packaged food. I sleep more, indulge more and spend more. My ability to make wise financial decisions in compromised.
My emotional well being hits my bottom line.
I realize that most of us intuitively know this but how does this help? Knowing and dealing are very different. I will share one positive perspective that does help. There is a verse in the bible that says, “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”. No matter what your beliefs there is truth here. Gratitude. It is a key to taking control of your perspective.
You know the things that weigh you down but what about the things that buoy you up?
I was recently invited to take part in the 100 days of gratitude challenge. What if you kept a gratitude journal? Write down 5 things for which you are grateful. During the day think of different things to write. This will keep your mind on your blessings. Share these with chosen friends and family. Blog them or Facebook them or another outlet of your choosing. You need to dwell on them, express them and share them. It will shift your focus and give you a fighting chance.
I have a great deal for which I am grateful so I will start with the colour red. All my life I believed I could never wear red. I was told it did not suit me. A few years ago I met a man who saw me differently. As we walked through a local market he picked up a red scarf and said it would be beautiful on me. I started to object but he put it on me and said it was perfect and bought it for me. There were no mirrors except for his eyes. I felt timid at first but I wore the scarf every day. Eventually I started adding the colour into my wardrobe and felt joyous. He had given me the gift of the colour red and I am grateful.
I wish you all a season clad in the garments of praise.
There is nothing so frustrating as dealing with crossed arms, a protruding lower lip and a scowl deep as an underwater trench. There is no reasoning with it and it is exhausting. That was me at lunch.
Yesterday as I was driving home I had a wicked urge for fried chicken. Today I woke up with my first thought being that chicken. I would love to say that my self-discipline alone was enough to prevent the purchase but luckily I had lunch all ready to go and I knew I’d have to blog about it. 🙂 The impulses for immediate gratification didn’t go away once I decided to change my life. I was only distracted from them. One of the best tools I have is to surround myself with the voices of others with the same goals. I go to the veteran fighters, see what they do and try and emulate some of their moves.
One of my favourites is Mary Hunt http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/marys-perspective/quiet-the-urge-to-splurge/. She has ongoing facebook updates with articles, books and a website. The Year of Less blog, though no longer updated, had daily and monthly challenges and everyone seems to be buzzing about a book called “7” by Jen Hatmaker. All these bits and pieces help when my impulses are having a temper tantrum.
One of the things I liked in the Year of Less blog is the intention to make one small change each day. It causes me to think and deliberately pick something to improve. Some days it has been as minimal as sorting out the junk drawer. Today I’ve been tired and really out of sorts. Today I think I will take a sampler of baby steps.
I will mend one shirt, reduce my wardrobe and my son’s wardrobe my one item each, and put on a five minute timer as I tackle my filing. In honesty I still really want that fried chicken and onion nuggets but I will finish the night with a nice cup of hot cocoa and be in bed by 10. My mom used to say that with cocoa and a good sleep things are always better in the morning. She was usually right. Thanks mom.
Do you have favourite sites you follow to encourage you and help keep you on track? Feel free to leave a comment on this post.
This last week has been a nasty kind of hectic and left me bone weary. This is usually the worst time for me to try and eat healthy and look after myself. Money usually streams through my fingers and it all goes to food or the rough equivalent. I know when I am exhausted and stressed I eat solely from the four basic food groups: drive thru, delivery, frozen and Pepsi.
I have had a shower that refuses to shut off on request, a backed up sink with a belligerent blockage, the tenant’s kitchen tap burst and his bathroom tap could not even rinse his toothbrush. I had to bring paperwork to Canada Government Services, complete a type of audit for Revenue Canada and more forms for yet another branch of Federal Government. The toughest part was that my lupus was flaring and created a titanium strength fatigue along with a wisp of the blues. Each morning I felt like I’d just pulled two all nighters and couldn’t focus. Even dressing/getting ready can take up to an hour. Sometimes just lifting the pots and pans were too much and I’d sleep for 14 hours at a stretch or more. This would usually be the perfect storm for bad eating.
What came next was a surprise. After spending Monday racing from place to place it was already 2:00 pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch. I thought about the foods available at the local drive throughs and something happened. I realized I didn’t want them. I thought about what was in the fridge at home and my brain started putting together a meal. In fact it was a far superior meal to what I could have bought. All during the drive home I expected that at the last minute I would think of something I would prefer but it didn’t happen. I found myself pulling into my driveway and going inside. Now for the non-addicted ( as in addiction being used as a term to cover lazy and unhealthy behaviour that I routinely choose) this is normal. For an exhausted stress bunny this was exceptional. I found this pattern repeating itself for several days. OK I did breakdown and get a small hamburger and fries at McDonalds at 10 pm one night but I had just met with my ex-husband’s new wife for the first time. (She turned out to not only be beautiful but an amazingly nice and authentic woman. I even forgave her for being so slender. )
I know I’m not out of the woods with stress eating but I think I am slowly turning my pantry into my go-to place for food.
Thursday- $5.34 spent on 4 litres of 1% milk for Josh. Lunch was naan bread with sauce, cheese and Italian seasonings. Dinner was lazy beef stroganoff on egg noodles with red peppers and a side of carrots. Cinnamon buns for dessert.
Even though I’m getting to the end of the month and the end of the “Eat Your Pantry” challenge from the Year of Less I know I need a lot more practice before this becomes a permanent habit. I still have a lot of goals yet to attain and I need the accountability so we will see where I can bring this to and be happy even if I am penny pinched. 🙂