2020 – The Year Of Stopping Spending

2019 was good and bad.

I stayed vegan.

I gave up drinking alcohol for good. I know this is not necessarily going to save the world but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages and something that will go a long way towards saving my mental health.

I’ve cut down on plastic where I can, especially single use plastic.

I’ve walked or got the bus to and from work most days. In fact, since Joni started school in September I’ve only driven twice and Andrew has collected us a handful of times. Much better than driving to and from work five days a week.

Towards the end of the year I do feel like the wheels have come off a bit. Whether it’s eco-friendly fatigue, fatalism, being overwhelmed or laziness setting in, I’m not sure. But I’ve found that I can’t stop buying stuff.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she’d not bought any new clothes for herself or her two young children in 2019 apart from some pants. This is incredible and I felt kind of floored by it. I bought Joni a Christmas jumper and them both Christmas pyjamas that they only wore a couple of times. I justafied this by buying them in giant sizes so they could wear them next year. This resulted in much tripping over flapping trouser legs.

This lolly and a £1.25 ambulance were his favourite presents. We could spent less than £2 on him and, as long as he could run round in his pants at some point, he’d have had a happy Christmas.
Evan’s PJs will fit him until he’s a fully grown man.

I’ve also stopped questioning how eco friendly stuff is before I buy it. Hence we now have a new six foot tall plastic Christmas tree.

I intended to buy one secondhand but just didn’t and I don’t know why. Andrew wanted a new one so it’s partially that but I feel that a previous version of me would have stood my ground and insisted on a secondhand one. We now have a triffid of a tree that takes up half the room and creates a separate source of stress as there’s no room for all the new stuff they got for Christmas. A definition of a first world problem should you ever need one.

There’s also the little issue of spoiling the kids. I didn’t think they were particularly spoiled until Joni ripped off the wrapping paper of her giant new doll’s house and complained that it didn’t have a garage. I felt so angry and yet I’ve helped to create this tiny consumerist. I made her a garage out of a cardboard box and mentally put two fingers up at the kids’ adverts on TV.

Evan was happy with his presents, but he’s easily pleased and his idea of an awesome Christmas is running round in his pants eating chocolate coins. His vice is cars though.

Whenever we go into a shop that sells cars he asks for one and if he doesn’t get one, the tantrum that follows is one that can’t be covered up with a weak smile and a cheery ‘he’s fine!’ from me. It’s the kind of tantrum that generates pitying looks and grimaces from passersby.

So to avoid this I buy him a new car and then get stressed about where we’ll store it at home. To avoid this in future we will never leave the house again.

As I’ve given up drinking, I think a lot of this need to shop comes from needing a ‘treat’. I went into a frenzy on Boxing Day, desperate to get to the sales so I could buy some bargain Christmas stuff for next year. In the end I only went to Matalan and only bought a handful of bits, but I didn’t need any of them. I bought a gin glass for the non-alcoholic gin Andrew bought me that I don’t like and probably won’t drink again. So many eyerolls.

It could have been so much worse had Andrew not restrained me and literally driven me away from the shops to his parents house where the only place to buy anything is a Co-Op a mile away.

So what’s going wrong? I’ve never been a shopper, but something’s changed and now I need the thrill of a new purchase. So as with the all addictions I worry about getting (yes, this is genuinely something that makes me anxious), I’m going cold turkey.

In January 2020 my aim is to not buy anything. Bus and tram fare are ok, as is basic food. But treats such as non-alcoholic beer, fancy vegan food, clothes, ‘stuff’, is not allowed. I have cupboards full of food that’s waiting to be eaten and a wardrobe full of clothes I don’t wear. So I’m going to be creative with cooking and dressing and stop spending money.

I’m also not going to buy anything for the kids. It’s scared me how consumerism is brainwashing Joni, so we’re having a ban on children’s TV adverts (bye bye Milkshake!) and buying toys, even from charity shops.

I’ll see how January goes and if that’s a success I’ll take it a day at a time from February. If it all goes wrong you’ll find me rifling through the bargain bin in B&M by mid-January.

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