Curbing consumption can actually be healthy
Growing up, my parents consistently drilled in me the need for moderation and doing things steadily instead of rushing headlong into situations. It is the way of most Asian parents (especially if you grew up and live in Asia) and it has its pros and cons. On one hand, it teaches you patience and clarity of thought. However, the focus on moderation can also lead to a lack of motivation and spontaneity. Worse still, overly focusing on moderation can lead to one leading a mediocre life so as not to ‘be too different’ from others.
That said, I believe that moderation in the right measure, does not lead to mediocrity. In fact, moderation can be rewarding both financially and emotionally, especially when it comes to making purchases. Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that I was once a regular online shopper of fast fashion, who never had anything to wear. The more I shopped, the more unhappy I became, because I believed my need had yet to be fulfilled. I believed that eventually, I would have the ‘perfect’ wardrobe if I only shopped enough.
Well, guess what? That didn’t happen. I ended up with a fat credit card bill and clothes that weren’t really of good quality. Epictetus was right; because I shopped without any moderation, I ended up hating shopping and the clothes I had bought. When one of my ‘favourite buys’ fell apart in the wash, I knew my binge buying had to stop.
In an effort to return to my more moderate self, I have imposed a shopping fast on myself. I didn’t buy a single item of clothing last month and this month and November will be more of the same. I’m hoping my three-month shopping fast will help me stay centred and grounded, where before I was spinning out of control.
Where before I was spending in the range of RM200 a month on clothes, I am now parking the same amount in an emergency fund for a rainy day. I plan what I want to wear during the weekends and I have ceased aspiring for a ‘perfect’ wardrobe to keep up with the Joneses. Yes, I still feel the urge to shop right after payday. But I ignore it because I feel there’s a greater purpose to aspire to now.
Here’s what I’ve gained so far from my shopping fast:
1) Better financial management skills. By curbing consumption of unnecessary items of clothing, I have regained control of my finances and am learning to manage them better. RM200 a month of spare cash can go a long way when you add it up. In my case, it means a bigger emergency fund for a rainy day.
2) Time to gain clarity on what I really want. The habit of binge shopping often keeps you blind to your true purpose of being. It’s because you get distracted by external and internal ‘noise’, which detracts you from what you want. Just like food fasts, shopping fasts give you the time to re-examine what you really want and need.
3) A greater focus on general well-being. I’m using the time and energy I have on more important things than shopping now, such as writing and yoga practice. Instead of using shopping as a ‘crutch’ to make me feel good about myself, I’m now sharpening my writing skills and improving my physical health.
4) The ability to look outside, rather than in. Where previously, I was obsessed with how I look, I am now learning to re-appreciate the beauty of people, nature and things around me. I hardly look at the mirror anymore (not that I’ve become a slob, just less self-centred) and I smile and laugh a lot more today than I did two months ago.
In short, my life has improved tremendously in such as short space of time because of my shopping fast and I wouldn’t trade that for any number of shopping vouchers. There’s more to life than shopping and all it requires is a little self- discipline and some planning to keep looking good while saving money.
What have your experiences been concerning curtailing your spending on clothes? How successful have you been? Would love to hear your thoughts.