No More Shopping for Laura DiSilverioI didn’t make a big deal of it with anyone, not even my family, but my New Year’s resolution was to give up shopping. “What brought on such a drastic and un-American resolution?” you may well ask.

I Have Enough

Let me hasten to point out that I’m not a shopaholic—not even close—and my resolution isn’t about saving my family from the financial ruin of overdrawn bank accounts and maxed out credit cards. I don’t have 400 pairs of shoes, a closet full of designer labels or every kitchen gadget created by the inventive people at Williams-Sonoma. I don’t replace my furniture as often as my disposable razors, and the van I drive is a 2001 model that hemorrhages oil. I live a solidly middle class existence. But what I have is enough. I don’t need more.

I have enough clothes to keep me from going naked until I’m 87, unless my weight balloons or plummets. I have chairs and beds that keep me off the floor, and a vehicle that gets me where I need to go (mostly to my kids’ activities). I have a roof over my head and healthy food on the table (unless the aforementioned kids talk me into making pre-packaged mac-n-cheese for dinner–blecch). I am happy with my “enough,” so why does the urge to shop overcome me from time to time?

A Hollow Prize

I have enjoyed shopping since I was young, as much for its social aspects as its acquisitional nature. I can remember specific shopping outings with my mom and with various friends, including a spree in San Diego on a business trip with my buddy Linda. Buying a great sweater for 70% off gave me a buzz. Finding just the right necklace to go with a jacket put a spring in my step. Still does. But those feelings are so transitory and mostly don’t survive the first wearing (or use) of the new item.

In recent years, I have “rewarded” myself for accomplishing something—finishing a book, completing some other task—with permission to go shopping. I headed off to the mall or the outlets and spent four to six hours cruising the sale racks or shelves, frequently coming home with new merchandise, having spent a hundred bucks or so. But—and here’s the kicker—I was finding the shopping less and less fun, never mind fulfilling or renewing. I was driving home at the end of the day with the feeling I’d wasted my time. The dry mall air sucked the joie de vivre out of me. Trying on a new camisole with the jackets I already owned felt . . . shallow, self-indulgent, pointless. I felt uncomfortable thinking endlessly about my adornment, or stuff, stuff, stuff to clutter my already-too-cluttered house. (I did mention I have teen girls and a husband, right?–so you understand why my house looks like someone set off a tactical nuke).

Many of you are saying, “Duh, Laura. Shopping is pointless; it perpetuates a consumerist culture that portends the end of our society.” You never liked shopping to start with, or you’ve always been better at budgeting, or you have more of a social conscience and donate the money I’d have spent on a new lipstick to the Sierra Club or a battered women’s shelter. What can I say? You’re more evolved and mature than I am. However, I’m making progress . . .

Cold Turkey

I decided to give up shopping cold turkey. No more impulse magazine or nail polish buys at the King Soopers. No more “just browsing” at Stein Mart. No more shopping . . . period. With that resolution, though, I needed to look for new ways of rewarding myself or giving myself a break. I wanted to find activities that renewed or relaxed me, that made me feel better about myself and my life. I confess, even though I haven’t shopped at all this year—okay, I still buy groceries, but no clothes, home goods, make-up, etc.—I haven’t found a new activity to reward myself with. I made a list at the first of the year of things I thought would be rewards—meditate, visit the art museum, hike on a new trail, do a colored pencil drawing—but none of that really fits the bill. (I already exercise—some would say obsessively—so don’t bother pointing out I could go to the gym.) I’m not sure why, but I’m pondering it. And even though I haven’t yet embraced a new activity, I’m not returning to my old shopping ways. I’m happy with my shopping cessation plan . . . I just need to find a new way to give myself a break.

What’s Your Reward?

Please share your thoughts. What do you do with “me” time? How do you reward yourself for reaching a goal?

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