July Goals & Capsule Wardrobe

Clothing:

I don’t usually adhere to a capsule wardrobe – I think life is too unpredictable to follow a set of guidelines for clothing a month in advance – but while I’m away, I do the best to account for different possible activities and events. The clothing I brought with me for the month is being bolstered by having access to all of my around-the-house stuff, like sweatpants from high school and every college shirt I’ve kept. I’m treating the capsule wardrobe as more my “out and about” clothing, so that I have some amount of choice in what to wear – which also means that I won’t be tempted to buy something new over the summer.

First, this is everything excluding a belt, two pairs of earrings, two pairs of shoes, and whatever purses/bags I’m using. Side note, doing a flat lay of clothing which are mostly the same colour was a creative exercise, to say the least.

If I count the two pairs of shoes (not shown), I have 20 items that I’m working with for a month, which is more than enough, since I won’t be leaving the house every day – and there are plenty of combinations available. My final point about this is that I think some of the items that were left in the wardrobe that weren’t even considered should head to the Bye-Bye Bin if they aren’t worn by the end of August (or if I’m feeling particularly generous, the end of September).

Reading:

This month, I’m mostly reading from Libby and Hoopla, and I’m going to try to knock out some of the sampled/wishlist items that have been sitting in my to-be-read pile as of last October. I’ve already gone through two books in the last week, so I suspect that I’ll be able to give you a total count (maybe even reaching double digits!) in the end-of-the-month check in.

Using what I’ve got:

I’ve packed full sized toiletries with me for July since I had the room in my luggage (the shampoo and conditioner bottle absolutely were stored in a running shoe each for doubling up on storage space), so I can keep chipping away at using them up.

A topic of using what I’ve got that I haven’t really touched on yet includes my very old laptop (from 2013). I want to spend some time this month – roughly half an hour a day – going through all of my photos, documents, downloads, and other stuff to do a digital declutter of what I’m not using or have reason to keep. I know a new laptop is on the books for next year or the year after, but for now, I’m going to lighten the load a bit on how much is being stored – which will make the eventual transfer of everything be a bit easier.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m aiming for a post per week, and I’ll go for every Tuesday, but if festivities occur and I’m a bit behind, c’est la vie! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

Mid-Year Check-In

How is the No-Buy going since January?

Of all of my major categories – clothing, accessories, tea, body products, hobby stuff, and books – nothing new/new-to-me has been purchased or thrifted. I haven’t needed anything new in any category. Though there have been two clothing swaps so far this year, only one item (a plain black romper) of the seven I set aside has been kept. Barring books, I’ve been downsizing/decluttering or using up my stuff in the first half of the year (more on that below) – which I feel has helped with alleviating some decision fatigue along the way: I don’t have to worry about what products I’m using if I’m focusing on emptying something, I don’t need to make a choice about buying more stuff when I see an advertisement because the answer is already “I have enough,” and I don’t have the itch to buy a bunch of stuff in my down time. Lastly, for books, while I’ve been on target about not purchasing more, I’ve been looser with my expectations of needing to read only what I own versus what I have at the library, and I feel as though that’s made for a better reading experience overall. Oh, and my estimate that I could get through at least the first half of the year without needing to buy any new stuff was definitely spot on.

Do these goals still work for me?

Absolutely. I’ve been able to see the forest for the trees of just how much stuff I have, and that there’s really no reason to have a mega stockpile for just one person (as in, I think it’s certainly reasonable for a large family to have the Costco bulk pack of toothpaste, but I’m still not even halfway through). I’ve found that restricting what’s coming in and focusing on what I have is helpful in learning more about what I actually like to have/use; black tea and other teas with more caffeine were great while getting my degree, but I don’t need the boost now that I work full-time.

Regarding tracking my progress, I find that blogging and using Instagram has been most helpful. The blogging is great to look back on where I’ve succeeded and what needs to change, while the online community I’ve found has been inspirational and motivational (though I’m not as active as I had been in the beginning). The clothing tracker, on the other hand, is good when I remember to actually complete it. I do still want to see the data on what I’m wearing and how frequently, but I find that it’s easy to have it slip away and I’m playing catch-up at the end of the week. I will continue use it, I just need to be more intentional and set aside the time to do so, rather than brush it off.

How am I doing with using up what I’ve got?

I feel like the best way to see how much I’ve used and what is currently in use of the stock pile is best executed by using the original inventory photos. Body products and tea are where I’ve got the most visible progress, and I’ve added red Xs over the items which have been fully used up (or decluttered or donated), and green circles over the items currently in use.

For body products, I’ve chosen to focus on finishing up the liquid soaps first, since they take up the most room and I prefer to not travel with them (I try to pack light and keep to a carry on, so bar soap is easier).

For tea, the vast majority of the tea pouches have found their way into the tins, BUT I still wanted to highlight just how much more space I have now that all the pouches have been emptied. I have a neat row of stacked tins of tea that are easily accessible, and the only other tea stuff I have on the shelf are the three pouches without a X or circle on it, and the box of drawstring teabags. I go through waves of drinking tea, where I’ll have four large cups (about 3L or so) in one sitting if I’m working from my laptop mainly, or maybe 1-2 if I have back to back tutoring sessions – and then I’ll not have any tea for a week and a half.

For the rest of my categories – particularly for hobby stuff or writing materials – seeing the progress is a bit harder. For the greeting cards, I don’t have many reasons to send or write cards (though I’m sure I could send them for the fun of it), but I’ve been using some here and there as I can. The sticker sheets are the hardest to empty, since some of the pages are mixed content and I’m less likely to use the other half of the stickers. Maybe I can do a sticker declutter at the end of the year for sheets that haven’t been used at all the whole year – whether the entire page is still intact, or it’s a sheet that I’ve skipped over continuously.

What choices have I been able to make/things I’ve been able to do by not buying anything in my no-buy categories?

Travel

Unsurprisingly, my selected luxuries have been able to get more attention as a result of having the for fun money and a specific line in my budget for travel. Regarding travel, I’ve been able to visit family and friends this year more than I thought I would. I’ve been traveling light – which has been helpful while trying to navigate the messy airport situations in Canada right now – and not worrying about leaving space for something to take home, since it was only postcards that I took back (or nothing at all for my more recent travel). I’ve also come to recognise that the people I’m visiting care more about seeing me than what I’m wearing (shocker, I know), and so long as I’m comfortable in what I’ve got on, I’m good to go.

Entertainment

I’ve been to museums this year, and I have two comedy shows to attend this summer, plus a ball later in the fall. I’m not worried about what trade-offs I’ll need to make to be able to attend, and I’m making choices based on my comfort and being able to be present for the events, rather than trying to juggle too many things all at once (namely, trying to squeeze in shopping, whether for myself or souvenirs for others). I’m also finding ways to include my friends in the events, so it’s a two-fer, in that I get to spend time with them and I get the experience of the event itself.

Does anything need to be adjusted for the second half of the year?

For now, I think I need to give myself a bit of breathing room, creatively, and scale down to one post a week. Beyond that, I believe that the system I’ve figured out for myself works on good days, meh days, and bad days – I haven’t purchased anything, and at most, my clothing tracker is set aside when I’m too tired to complete it. However, if you feel like there’s something that could help me, please do let me know – suggestions are always welcome πŸ™‚

June in Review

This month was much more all-over-the-place than predicted, so I’m doing a review for this month today, and then a mid-year check-in for the 1st of July.

Clothing:

I wanted to think about what I would need according to what I’m wearing, but considering that I spent most weekends in not-my-regular-clothing, I don’t know that this month was the best time to test out how often I thought about having a pair of shoes that work well with navy blue outfits. I can confidently say, however, that the slip is not at all a necessity for now. Even with dressing up (semi-formal) and down (sweatpants from high school), there’s only one dress that I have where it would be helpful to wear under it, and I’m not planning to wear it any time soon. I do want to consider whether or not a navy shoe (flats, sneakers, or boot, but not heels) would still be worth it – and I think it will be easier to figure that out over the month of July since I’m doing a bit of a capsule wardrobe (which will be addressed next week!).

I did, however, have a chance to look over some of the bye-bye bin items that I’d been on the fence about and brought them to a secondhand shop that one of my university friends own. The pieces are all cute, but aren’t the right fit for me – the stripey dress doesn’t sit right (from a clothing swap), the floral dress makes me look like I’m from the 1880s (impulse online buy last year), I’ve worn the red wedges once and they don’t go with the rest of my closet (also an impulse buy, but from 2019), and the headband is cute but doesn’t match anything I wear.

Books:

This month certainly got away from me for reading, but that’s not the end of the world since I’ve spent the majority of the month meeting up with friend and family. I’ll return to the books when I have the time, since I have more “in-person” events and gatherings planned for the summer. What I’ve read so far has captured my attention and has been interesting, but reading while visiting with people I haven’t seen in 2+ years was not the priority.

Using What I’ve Got:

So, I got no prep done for the incoming journal thus far, but I’m setting aside the day tomorrow to work on it. Between packing and travel, work, and keeping myself going through a busy spot, there wasn’t the creative motivation (nor time) to really dig in and figure out what I want my new planner to look like. I still want to take the time to make it look cute and use up what I have, so that I have a base structure figured out, and then I can add a bit of flair as I go.

Overall, I had ideas that would have worked out had there been a bit less busy-ness, but considering it was for mostly good reasons – and not at all due to procrastination – I’m not worried about it. As I mentioned above, I’ll do a mid-year review on the 1st, and then July goals will follow on the 4th. Thanks for reading!

May in Review & Empties + More!

This month both dragged on and got away from me, somehow, but the busy is not over yet.

First off, goal review:

Clothing: Everything from the summer bin has made it onto hangers or into drawers, and that’s a win for me. Rather than going through every item and adding it to the tracker book, I thought it would make more sense to add items as I wear them – which will make the book more chaotic, but I also feel like it’s a better use of my time to focus on what I’m actually wearing. Approaching it this way, I think, will also let me flag the items that don’t get worn, since I won’t be flipping through pages on pages to find what I’ve only worn once.

Books: My reading has been quite off and on this month – while I was able to finish the O’Keeffe book in no time, I felt like I needed a break overall from the topic of art history and from the format of the books (I’m not saying that the artists’ lives coming to an end was wearing on me, but most of my non-fiction doesn’t end on end-of-life topics). I’m going to choose one book at a time for now, and I’ll say what’s next in Thursday’s post for June goals.

Using what I’ve got: The cards were a hit with the students – they thought it was a lot of fun to be “invited” to the activity, so it was definitely a “good” use of the item.

Onto Empties:

This month, there was more “refill the tin” for tea, and then the rest of it was regular, “these have been emptied out.” I’m on the fence about how much of everything I still have left: should I be pleased that my prediction in January that I won’t need anything at least until June was correct, or should I do a deeper reflection on the consumerist habits that got me to this stockpile in the first place?

The “More”:

I have two points to address, first about the wish-list, and then about scheduling for posts.

  1. Wish list: Though there isn’t anything “new” that has caught my eye and met the parameters set in January, I have been ignoring the fact that I’ve had a small list of items that I’ve been cycling through considering and ignoring over the last few years. For the most part, these would be counted as “basics,” like a slip to wear under a dress, or items that fit well with the rest of my wardrobe, like a pair of navy flats or lace-up shoes – considering how much navy blue I wear and that I like my looks to be monochromatic. On the one hand, these are thoughts that have come up again and again – I think the slip has been on my mind for at least 5 years – so maybe they’re worth getting/asking for as gifts, but on the other hand, I’ve gone this long without them, so how much do I really “need” them? I dunno, it’s a wishlist, not a needs list, so I’m a bit stumped at the moment.
  2. Scheduling: I think for the months of June and July, I’ll keep it to one post a week. I’m going to combine outgoing and upcoming monthly goals into one post, and pair empties and bye-bye bin as another, so that I can still have two other posts on different topics. As for August, I’ll be working in a live-in language learning accelerated course, so I think I’ll take the month off for posting. This may change if I have time over the summer to plunk down and type out a handful of extra posts and just schedule them, but I also want to give myself the freedom to not work and be more present. Either way, we shall see.

May Goals

Let’s jump right in!

Clothing:

It’s finally warm enough here to switch out my winter clothing for my spring and summer stuff. Usually, I have a habit of shoving the new seasonal items into my closet alongside the fall/winter clothing, but I want to try reducing the visual clutter of items I know I for sure won’t wear between May and September. I also have my spring/summer clothing to go through, both for the sake of decluttering, but also for adding the items to the clothing tracker (which I’ll split up bit by bit – even doing some 20 items a day is a chore). I don’t think I need to make a point of specifically aiming to wear everything throughout the month (it’s definitely not quite shorts weather yet), but I want to instead see what I’m most drawn to.

Reading:

Art history still seems to be keeping my attention well enough, so I’ll keep going for it with more Taschen books. I happened to have finished the Matisse book over the weekend, and had already pulled Georgia O’Keefe to read, so I’ll just be adding Keith Haring for now. If I happen to finish both, I’ll see what I’m feeling – mythology? ancient civilisations? fashion? fiction? – and choose from there.

Using what I’ve got:

For my financial literacy courses, I have an activity planned for them this week which is focused on price comparison in the context of different groceries charging more/less for the same items. To make it more fun, I’m including the instructions of the activity in some of the cards from my stationary box that I don’t think I’d use otherwise (it won’t be all of them, but it will be a solid dent in the pile). The intention is for the cards to feel similar to an old-school dinner party invitation, with the double purpose of the design on the front of the card being how I split up the groups (i.e., everyone with a blue card will be in the same team).

If I have the time this week, I’ll have a look at stages of change & shopping habits – and if not, that will be next week’s post!

April in Review

I feel like this month has flown right on by, but I’m also doing my review a bit earlier than usual. Anyhoo, let’s get into it:

Clothing:

I’ve managed to wear just about everything that I’ve set aside as my visual cue for not being worn yet for shirts and dresses. In keeping up with my tracking on a semi-regular basis, I’ve noticed entries for earrings and a few pairs of pants I hadn’t worn yet – which allowed me to experiment a bit more than I probably would had I only been focused on shirts and dresses. Fun bonus, two of my outfits of unworn items got compliments at work – even though both were outfits I’d been hesitant about wearing (hooray for perspectives other than my own!). The items I haven’t gotten to wear are not season appropriate – two burgundy/red dresses are much more fall/winter, and one frilly black and white dress is too late spring for the rain we’ve been having.

Books:

Finished both of them in about two weeks, and now I’m slowly getting through the Matisse book from the same series. Reading before bed has been the easier choice for now, though I suspect if I maybe put my phone down more during the day, I might be able to squeeze in some reading time, too.

For Fun Money:

Without messing up my budget, I’ve found ways to have fun – well, in the future. I booked a flight to go visit with friends from university during the summer in the US, and then take advantage of attending a Just For Laughs show while I’m in Montreal for the rest of the summer. These both factor well into my budget, and I managed to squeeze in a bit of “treat myself,” with a stop at bulk barn after going to the bank, and stocking up on some of my favourite chocolate. All in all, goal well met.

Next week, I’ll have my May goals ready for you – and depending on my workload, I just might dip my toes back into some psychology and shopping. Thanks for reading!

April Goals

With the first quarter done and the sun’s warmth returning (kinda), I feel as though I’ve gotten a seasonal boost of motivation and I’m ready to get back into what I was working on before March’s hiatus.

Clothing:

The average temperature through to the end of the month is supposed to be around 12C, so I don’t think I’ll be pulling my sun dresses out just yet. With this being the last month before I do the seasonal swap out, I’ll mirror my February challenge of finding things I’ve not worn yet – but with a focus on unflipped hangers, rather than remixing combinations. It’s mainly tops and dresses that fall into this category, which shouldn’t be too difficult to pair with the rotation I have for trousers and skits for work. What I’ve done so far is separate the unworn from the worn items and placed them at the middle of my closet so they’re easier to see – and with the 20 or so items, I should be able to wear each one at least once by the end of the month, especially if I plan what to wear either the night before or at the beginning of the week.

Books:

I’m going back to picking my own books now that I’ve finished reading the last of my library loans (digital and physical). I’m going to read at least two art history books, one about Friday Kahlo and the other about Marc Chagall. I know a bit about both, and I’ve seen Chagall’s works in person, so I think it would be easier for me to get invested in their stories. The books are also visually pleasing and roughly 110 pages each, so it should be easy enough to get into.

Using What I’ve Got:

With the prospect of travel back on the docket, I’ll focus more finishing up my bottled body care products that wouldn’t be allowed through security – as opposed to alternating between bottle and bar soap. For planner stickers, I will finish working on doing a memory spread in my planner of my two weeks away in March, especially since I have pages of stickers dedicated to travel, dinners, and other fun plans. I haven’t got anything specific in mind for yarn, nor for writing and stationery supplies, but I’m keeping an open mind if something crosses my path.

For Fun Money:

I want to be more intentional about treating myself for my efforts or if I feel like it, especially with there being a handful of new places to eat having popped up in town in time for spring. If the weather is nice and I just so happen to walk by the mom & pop smoothie shop, then why not support the local economy? But on a more earnest note, having felt guilty and hesitant about spending the for fun money while traveling because I forgot about it isn’t a feeling I want to carry forward. I need to get in the habit of being aware that this line in my budget exists and shouldn’t only be spent at the end of the year because I held out for 11 months. I don’t so much have a negative relationship with money (I’m quite fond of spending it, actually), but I don’t want to develop any miserly habits and miss out on little blips of fun for food and experiences in between the bigger stuff.

Later this week I’m dropping a spicy opinion storage bins, and then on Monday, I’ll be back at another instalment of psychology and shopping. Thanks for reading!

Quarter in Review – January to March

With the first quarter of the year coming to a close, I thought it would be good to check in on my goal progress and see if there’s anything that needs to be adjusted.

Clothing:

So far, so good, I haven’t bought anything new or thrifted. There was one item that I picked up from a clothing swap – a dress for warmer weather – and two items that were in my maybe pile that got put back before I left. I’ve also decluttered some 20+ clothing items since the beginning of the year. I did have a bit of temptation when a new activewear line was released from Joe Fresh, but other than that nothing had been added to my wish-list or particularly caught my eye. I feel that the fact that I still haven’t worn everything once through is helping me to immediately reconsider making any purchases. I’ve also been lucky that nothing has needed to be replaced, so there’s been no need to browse online or in store for stuff. I haven’t brought in any new/new to me accessories either, which is great considering I still haven’t yet worn all 60+ pairs of earrings that I own (so it’s not like I’m lacking new-to-this-year things to wear). Lastly, regarding tracking my clothing, shoes, and earrings per wear, if I have the energy at the end of the day, I’ll add the tally marks right away, if not, I’ll do it every 2-3 days.

Craft Supplies:

Slowly but surely, I’m making my way through my yarn and planner stickers. Pens are harder to go through as quickly, but I haven’t bought any new writing utensils. Through travelling earlier this month, I had picked up postcards and was careful not to buy more than who all I wanted to send to – so nothing has been added to a stockpile, but I haven’t used up any of my other stationary. What’s important to highlight (hehe) is that there’s nothing new in this category either.

Tea:

I have drank so much tea since January, and yet somehow I’m still barely making a dent in the quantity I have. I make anywhere between 1 and 4 cups of tea a day (sometimes double-sized in my huge mug), so progress is there, but sometimes hard to see since I keep all the tea in tins. Same as above, nothing new has come in.

Body Products:

When I made the estimate that I wouldn’t need anything until at least the summer, I was 100% right. I’d even be willing to wager that I’m going to last a bit longer on certain items, like toothpaste and body wash (liquid and bar soap). The only “new to me” items are hotel shampoo and conditioner that my mum passed me before the second leg of my trip (she wasn’t using them and I could still get through security with them in my bag), but other than that I’ve just been chipping away at what I have.

Books:

I have a bit of a mixed review for this category: I haven’t bought anything new, but I’ve only read two of my own books this year. Making the most of my local library (physical and digital branch), I’ve read or listened to some 10 or so books since the beginning of the year. I think what’s drawn me more toward the library is the “newness” factor of content, or finding old series that I never finishes/aged out of but still wanted to know how it ends. I’m pleased that I’ve read more than double in the first quarter what I read in all of 2021, though I’m looking for ways to recapture the “wow” factor of the books still left on my shelf. I don’t know if I want to do something as extreme as flipping the books around on the shelf, or select titles through a random generator – or maybe I just need to slow down and choose what to read based on more than just the title. In fairness, packing light but wanting to read on my trip meant that I’d opt for e-books and audiobooks, and the trip wasn’t planned until later January/early February, so I couldn’t have predicted that when setting goals on January 1st.

Bye-Bye Bin/Empties/Wish-list:

I believe the bye-bye bin format will still work for me, as it’s been the same method I’ve been using for a few years now. Regarding empties, I find this to be rather helpful in seeing what I’m using, as well as how quickly (or how long) it takes for me to go through a given product. Lastly, for the wish-list, I still think the parameters I set are what’s best for me – there’s no reason to lower the bar just because nothing has met it yet.

Anything Else:

I’m pleased with how experiences-focused my plans have been thus far, as well as what I’m looking forward to for the rest of the year. I feel that being more mindful and intentional with my budget (including my “for fun” money) means that I’m not opening up my banking app at the end of the month and trying to figure out where my money went after I went off the rails with impulse purchases. Additionally, I’m more inclined to answer “yes” to looking at an experience (solo or shared) of “is this event worth 10 hours of work,” while the same question geared at clothing or other no-buy categories are a resounding “no.” Other than reading my own books, I don’t think there’s much yet that I need to change about how I’ve been approaching my no-buy year – but I’ll be sure to keep you posted if that changes πŸ™‚

Skewed Numbers

How many times can you brush your teeth from one tube of toothpaste? Maybe you don’t know the exact number of brushings or days, but you could probably estimate the number of weeks or months before you need a new tube.

I have minimal concept of how long it takes for me to finish just about any product. Part of this has to do with having more than one on the go at the same time (think of having a lip balm in your purse versus in your washroom, as opposed to only having the one – and how much longer that would take you to finish it), or from sharing with others (I’m sure I’m not the only one to have used the same shampoo bottle as my mum while growing up). When I went away to university, I was surprised at how quickly I went through body wash and toothpaste on my own. I still don’t know how long it takes for me to complete a lip balm.

Sure, there’s the fact that different products will be different sizes and viscosity, so how quickly you hit pan or empty something will be influenced by that, too. Though I think were I struggle – and how this has influenced my excessive shopping – has to do with having taken a scarcity mindset when purchasing stuff which will eventually run out. Take the following sticker sheet, for example:

I use one sticker per day of physical activity, to track on a year-long calendar that I’ve made some amount of movement that day. I started with these last year, using some 200 of them, and continued on for this year since I’m using the same calendar format. I took this photo back in February, already concerned that I would need to find more stickers for the rest of the year. Actually, to be more honest and accurate, I was stressed that I would need to find more stickers for the rest of the year. This was my gut reaction to seeing that I had fewer than half left, despite there still being more than enough to get me through to June. Thankfully, my first thought wasn’t to purchase more, but to go through the sticker booklets that I thought might have equivalent/similar ones that could be used. I did happen to find more than enough of roughly the same size, so the stress is no longer there – but it’s also something I don’t want to carry as stress in the future.

While it’s certainly an ongoing learning process, my skewed perception of how long something will last has definitely influenced how I’ve shopped in the past. Even in a climate that has all four seasons, the amount of clothing I have is far more than I need, as evidenced by the fact that I barely have enough space to store all of it – let alone enough days in the season to wear it all. I also have bought five of something (candles, crochet hook sets, art history books) thinking that I will need more immediately if I like something even just a little bit. Even with library books, I’ll take out the first two of the series in case I like it enough to want to continue reading immediately.

None of those items are necessities (well, clothing for the sake of being adequately dressed is), but the combination of lacking delayed gratification, bargain hunting, and being a bit of a collector, I generally end up with more than I could need within any definition of “reasonable amounts.” I’ve found that things I’ve already been doing this year – being more intentional, having an inventory of my stuff, keeping track of empties, not buying anything new until I’m all out – has helped with re-calibrating my perception of “enough,” even if the learned response is still “uh, oh, need more!” when I reach the halfway point of something.

I’d be very curious to see where my head’s at when it comes to reaching the last of a category (say, liquid body wash, though I still have 10+ bars of soap), and whether I deem an arguable “necessity” to be worth refilling. For the record, body wash absolutely is, though I’m thinking about hair masks as optional. Once I get to that point, I’ll be sure to offer an update.

Selected Luxuries

I like nice things. I’m sure you probably like nice things, too – whether experiences or physical items, there’s something out there that brings you happiness to have or experience. Nice things in moderation is the way to go, but I didn’t start with that mindset.

Going from being a student with a minimal budget to working full-time with minimal expenses (no student loans, no car, meal plan through work), I welcomed lifestyle creep into my life like a long-lost friend. Frequently travelling within and between provinces each month, attending symphony concerts like I wrote for the Arts & Culture spread in a newspaper, and shopping bargains like it was a part time job was my life from 2018 to early 2020. Granted, I didn’t go so all out that I bought luxury goods like designer bags, shoes, and clothing and wound up in massive debt, but I was definitely buying and doing more than the average person could expect to do in a sustainable way (neither for my bank account nor for the planet).

After slowing down significantly last year, I had a look at what I’d been spending my money on the most – and what mattered the most to me. As much as I love clothing, I have more than enough at this point and I don’t need more (not to mention that I’m still decluttering). Tea, planner stickers, and craft materials are still abundant in supply and there’s no need to purchase anything more for this year at all. What I miss most about my pre-2020 life (other than seeing family) was the solo adventures to museums, concerts, events, restaurants, and festivals within eastern Canada (namely MontrΓ©al, sometimes Toronto). Sure, I’d ask friends to tag along when our schedules lined up, but I’ve never had an issue with doing my own thing if I was excited enough about whatever the experience was. I also miss travel and getting to visit somewhere new or even playing tourist in my own city. Museums for me are like 3-Michelin Star restaurants for foodies – I’m willing to go somewhere with the museum as the focus and fill out the rest of my day/stay around it.

There’s a limit to what a person can do in their lifetime, and I’d rather have stories of experiences that leave me fulfilled, than items that fill up my home.

Once it’s safer to do so, travel and experiences are my selected luxuries. I’m willing to forgo following trends and buying new clothing if that means I can see a Degas in person, get a lodge seat for the ballet, or watch a hockey game in person (go Habs go!). The amount of money I’ve spent on tea in the last 5 years could have covered a trip to Reykjavik, Edinburgh, or Toulouse. The craft supplies bought in 2019 are the equivalent to the premium table seats at the charity ball I attend. I’ve also fully given up buying granola bars since they eat up too much of the grocery budget and don’t last me long enough in my two-month grocery rotation, which I mention for the sake of pointing out the smaller decisions I make, too – as not everything is gala-level for luxury to me. There’s a limit to what a person can do in their lifetime, and I’d rather have stories of experiences that leave me fulfilled, than items that fill up my home.

Personal finance is by definition personal, and my selected luxuries will not be the same as yours – even if on paper, we seem to be at the same stage of life and have other overlapping qualities. Our selected luxuries may not overlap at all if you have a family to take care of, and what you count as your luxury is time to yourself or the ability to pay off your mortgage sooner (does that even count? I don’t know, I still rent). What I would encourage you to think about is where you’re unwilling to compromise on standard of quality, freedom/ease of access, and what is non-negotiable versus things that cause you undue stress or you feel external pressure to keep up with (whether FOMO or something internalised/self-imposed). Basically, how you spend your time, effort, and money should add to your quality of life rather than cause you more stress. It will take time to figure it out, but I’d wager it’s worth it in the long run to see what matters most to you – and you can always adjust and shift as necessary – as what you’re doing is going to serve you. For example, I use a silk pillow case to protect my curly hair from frizzing – it serves me but might not do anything for you, and that’s okay.

A final point I’d like to make is that I feel having a specific or category of selected luxuries allows you to be a bit less restrictive while working toward a specific financial goal. Whether that’s a sinking fund/line in your budget for the category for one major event or smaller experiences throughout the year, you have planned for it and can get hyped about it coming up (which is half the fun for me) – or you’ll be less likely to overdo it and go all out when the event or item comes up, which in turn could throw off your budget/lead to unplanned debt. In essence, being intentional about what brings you happiness and intentionally planning for it is what I’m trying to do, and I invite you to do so, too πŸ™‚