Chapter 19 – Cold Turkey

SplashWater

It’s Day #57. That number is like a splash of water to the face. Bracing. A moment of shock and surprise — and then the realization.

It’s real. I’m doing it.

It’s no big deal anymore.

I started this year vowing I wouldn’t spend money unnecessarily.

I was sure this experiment would fail.

It hasn’t. And that’s a problem. Because success is boring. Conflict drives story. Complacency stands still.

And that’s why I’ve been silent.

HOW PAINFUL IT WAS

In previous posts you’ve heard me whine. Shopping is my hobby, my safe space, my pint of ice cream! It’s the pan of brownies I ate half of, that cigarette I snuck even though I quit twenty years ago. Don’t hold me to it!

The blog was interesting when I moaned about how painful it was not to buy things.

You loved me when I felt depressed and deprived.

You understood when I complained it was worse than any diet.

Here’s the thing. Once you do it, it’s hard, sure, but you actually see results. The credit card bill becomes something you can actually wipe away with one payment. You not only stop accruing debt, but you also like feeling free of worries and fears about money.

PARALLELS

It’s a privilege to decide not to spend money. There are many of us who live paycheck to paycheck and they don’t have the luxury I have.

I also realized why this has become far easier than I thought it would be. Far easier, let’s say, than a diet.

You can go cold turkey and quit shopping. You can’t go cold turkey and quit eating.

So at first there were parallels to quitting other bad habits — like alcohol, recreational drugs, eating junk food. There was withdrawal. Irritation, mood swings, sleeplessness. When we feel bad in one area due to self-denial, we try to take away the pain in other small ways.

I’ll admit that I gained a bit of weight because I needed some way to comfort myself.

When I saw what I was doing, I stopped overeating.

We all have our necessary addictions.

HERE FOR THE STORY

And when I opened up Downspend.com and realized I hadn’t posted in weeks, I felt as if I’d let you down. Because you’re here for the story, probably, and not necessarily the success.

The success has been quiet, the setbacks big and noisy. I had a car accident which required me to rent a car, a $600 expense I hadn’t planned on. Once the car was officially declared totaled, I had the worry over having to buy a new or new-to-me car. And the odd thing was, the angst wasn’t over getting the car but spending the money.

I liked not worrying about “paying off” things. Taking on a monthly car payment felt like the bars of the jail cell were rising up around me.

The truth is, the car payment isn’t mine to shoulder alone. It’s a family expense. My husband, the original Mr. Frugal, made sure we got a good deal. And now I have a new car that’s energy efficient, a plug-in, and as long as I connect it to an electricity source each night, I end up using less gas and spending less money at the pump.

BEHIND THE CURVE

And this weekend when I booked two roundtrip tickets to Scotland to celebrate a big-number anniversary this fall, I didn’t rest until I found rock bottom airfare. When you get into the habit of saving money, your fingers are reluctant to let any dollars needlessly slip through.

Earlier today, my friend Ellen sent me a link to a New York Times article. Of course it was about a woman who decided to go a whole year not spending money… and of course she blogged about it back in 2013. And wrote a book on it.

So yeah, I’m behind the curve. Nothing new happening here.

The only thing that’s new is my shock and surprise that in a handful of days, it’ll be two whole months in which I haven’t frivolously bought unnecessary things.

Where did the time go? Seriously, where?

Thankfully, I know where the money went. Nowhere. It stayed right here in my wallet.

Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash

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