Changes I’ve Noticed

So there’s been positive changes that I’ve been documenting so far – haven’t bought any clothing this year! haven’t spent money without being aware of my budget! haven’t bought from any of my other no-buy categories! – but I need to be realistic about “areas of improvement” that I’m noticing as I’ve gone past the 6-month mark of not buying any clothing (if we count from the soft start in November).

For one, I’m still on my phone more than I would like to be. In 2022, that’s a bit of a nebulous statement since we use our phones for so much, but I mean it in the sense that I’m not being intentional about my phone use. Watching youtube videos to clear out my “watch later” playlist, reading an e-book, or listening to a podcast while out for a walk or doing chores don’t fit into unintentional use – I’m setting out to do something and my phone happens to be a tool to complete part of the task. Where I end up losing track of time is generally through social media, particularly Instagram’s explore page – made worse by having both my personal and my Lady with Less account to scroll through. I want to highlight that I’m not saying I feel like I’m wasting time taking in content from fellow no-buy, mending, and outfit repeat accounts – you’re actually all so inspiring, just saying – but specifically the explore page is where I can lose more than an hour of my day (minimum). I know there are ways of having your screen-time limited within the app, but if I’m already in the middle of reading or watching something, I usually just hit “ignore” and go back to whatever content was on-screen.

Which leads in nicely to my next point: getting enough/better sleep. I already have a weird sleep schedule for working second shift and being on call during the night, and I’ve strongly identified with being a night owl for most of my life (I was maybe 8 the first time I stayed up until midnight outside of New Year’s Eve to satiate my curiosity of what happens when the alarm clock goes from 11:59 pm to 12 am on a normal day). Some nights, I’m falling asleep by the time midnight rolls around, but there are others where 2 am comes and goes and then I’m fighting against the melodious squawking of the early birds greeting a new day. If I’m able to follow my routine to a T, particularly that I fit in some time to read before bed, rather than scrolling, my sleep is significantly better. Pardon the tangent, but I want to point out a win: this time last year, my endless scrolling wouldn’t have been nearly as aimless and at the whim of the algorithm, but I was instead surprised by the sudden light of the rising sun after losing 2-3 hours to going through every page of the stores I spent the most money on. So, while there’s growth in that I’m no longer midnight shopping, stores would run out of content eventually, while the explore page does not.

Finally, sugar. My skin gets worse, my body hurts more, and I don’t feel great (overall) when I backslide into snack-y comfort food for meals on end as opposed to something more balanced. I didn’t study nutrition in university, but I know my body well enough at this point to recognise what my patterns are – and what reactions correlate to my actions. I generally don’t buy anything sugary of my own (I am a Montrealer, so I will always have at least some maple syrup at home), but my workplace has a generous snack supply that we can take from as we please. If I’m not getting enough sleep over a few days and things are quiet at work, I’ll grab something to munch on, since the kitchen is right by my desk. It’s almost like no one part of my life exists in a vacuum and everything is connected (pardon the sarcasm).

For me, it’s reached a point where saying, “I need to be more intentional about XYZ” has almost lost its meaning since I’m going through things too quickly (real talk, I haven’t used my planner in three weeks and have instead relied on daily post-its around my monitor screen). I need to give myself that time and work through what’s working and what isn’t, and make small adjustments rather than sweeping statements about massive change. I also realise that the focus of this blog is about the no buy, but I feel as though the no buy touches so many areas of my life that there’s grounds to bring up other areas that I want to work on as well.

To close with another win, in all of my endless scrolling, I’ve still been seeing ads for the clothing stores I like. I don’t have them blocked for the sake of knowing I can see them without losing the plot, and the unexpected benefit has been that I’ve seen spring/summer items over the last two months, and I feel nothing. It all is just the same florals and pastels that I have something similar to in my closet, and the cuts of the sleeves and skirt lengths on the dresses are the same, too. So, if nothing else, this check in coinciding with switching in my spring/summer clothing has highlighted how little I need more clothing.

How I Set Goals

I’m going to talk about goal setting in a more general way – less about the goals I’ve set, and more about how I choose to set them. I’ve mentioned previously that I have a skewed perception of how much there is of something, whether that’s a physical/concrete resource, or something more abstract like time. There’s also the fact that as much as I like to believe I can control everything (a topic for therapy, if nothing else), I most certainly can’t, and there are so many things that can come up from the beginning of the day to the end. This isn’t supposed to be defeatist in tone, but more so a recognition of the fact that I don’t exist in a vacuum and there are many things that take up my time and energy. I’m a sentimental and emotional person, so when I set my heart on a goal, the goal is likely to be lofty, life-changing, or something that becomes all consuming in some way or another until I lose motivation, dopamine, or time to keep it up.

What this resulted in – frequently, but not always – was a pendulum swing in the opposite direction of “if I can’t keep this up, I’m just not going to do it at all,” which isn’t the most helpful approach either. It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but the easiest changes to make are ones that aren’t going to build up to exhaustion, or deplete other resources like willpower or focus (not trying to sound like a hustle and grind type, I do legitimately mean that I backslide or get distracted more easily). I remember reading in a study skills guide for college students that if you studied a bunch but got a meh grade, you shouldn’t try to do a complete overhaul of how you approach studying, but should instead change one thing at a time to isolate which one thing is (or isn’t) working. I used this while studying, though it took me longer than it should to realise I could apply this to settings beyond academia – and even then, I’ve only really started using it in the last year or so.

I’m also the type of person who likes to do “prewards” (pre-rewards) as in I have the thing that was supposed to be my reward for completing a task BEFORE even starting, since having the thing first will motivate me to get the work done. While this might sound completely backwards (I mean, it is), it has worked sometimes, but it’s super context-specific and not always repeatable. Which means that it also wasn’t a sustainable approach to “treating myself” since I knew full well that if I was the one to give myself the reward, I’d just go get it/order it online immediately and then it’s done and taken care of, and the happy chemicals maybe carry me through the task until I get bored of it. Basically, unless there was someone else involved in the equation, I would get done what got done and usually put myself and my needs last (not sure if you’ve seen this trend on tiktok, but dishes are the Rocco to my Elmo, and generally the last chore to get done – and even then I’ve eaten a piece of chicken off the lid of a cookie tin with a plastic butter knife).

I finally figured out that what works best for me is to make my goals (and the steps of these goals) much smaller – which took a lot of tinkering to figure out. I point this out not to rag on myself, but for the sake of transparency that I didn’t suddenly understand how my motivation works overnight once I decided to take a closer look. In case this hasn’t already been explicitly stated, I’m a fun mix of perfectionist, procrastinator, stubborn, and super competitive all rolled into one – which meant that if I wasn’t almost guaranteed a success, I wouldn’t bother doing it, or I would wait until the panic set in and rush to complete it (which didn’t change until late in my degree, since I could still churn out a psych term paper in around 10 hours with minimal editing, and still get 80-85%, so I had no reason to change if the grades were still good enough). I’ve discovered that the flip of that works for me even better – setting a goal that is so simple it would be difficult to fail. In the debt-free community, this would be akin to shifting from an avalanche to snowball perspective, but I don’t necessarily want to build up like the snowball effect. I like having such a wide berth of wiggle room that I can choose to be go-go-go for a few weeks, and then take a break and ignore the goal entirely since I’m not only a bit ahead, I’m ridiculously ahead.

For the sake of making this less abstract, I’ll use the virtual race/walk that I signed up for that is 1332.5 km/828 mi. This is the distance of Highway 1 around Iceland, and that’s the challenge I signed up for about nine months ago. If I wanted to complete this in a year, I would have to complete 3.65 km/2.27 mi per day. The maximum number of days the challenges are allowed to be set as the completion time is 564 days, or just over a year and a half. The challenge accepts any activity to be converted into a distance according to their conversion chart, so even if I don’t have time for an actual walk that day, the housework that I do and the dance party I have in between tasks still gets counted as a recordable distance. You bet I set the deadline as the furthest out day, which only required 2.4 km/1.5 mi a day (which I get from walking around at work if I happen to remember to carry my phone with me, according to my pedometer). I’m not an overly fitness-oriented person, so having an app tell me every day that I’m amazing for being 360 km/220 mi ahead of my set pace is great for my ego and for motivating me to keep going. At this rate, I’m going to finish before the 1-year mark (74% of the distance done, versus 47% if I only did the daily minimum), but had I told myself I only had a year to complete it, I would have likely given up a while ago and asked for my money back. I’m also doing well by my body for doing the physical activity on a daily-ish routine, but even then, my motivation is like, 67% seeing how wide the percentage gap can be between my completion rate versus the pace, 30% seeing how strong I can get from using free weights, and 3% I like putting stickers on my calendar. Either way, it works for me, and that’s what matters.

What I hope you’re able to take away from this is that your approach to goal setting can be influenced by techniques and information that has been tested and successful for others, but it doesn’t need to be exactly what others are doing if your brain/motivation/situation isn’t the same. Heck, I don’t even expect that my method will work for everyone – but my point is, don’t be too unkind to yourself as you’re figuring things out, allow for flexibility as you navigate what works, and celebrate your progress and wins as loudly as you feel they should be (that’s 100% an invitation to tell me about your progress in my DMs on instagram).

Anyhoo, toodaloo on me being super chatty this week – more structured content will be back next week. Thanks for reading!