Soft Start

I’ve failed a lot in my personal goals throughout my life. I bite off more than I can chew, I dive in without enough planning, or I just don’t have enough information about what I’m getting myself into – all of which can lead to failure or false starts. In many cases, I’ve given up, shrugging off the sense of embarrassment by claiming that I wasn’t that “into it” whatever project or goal. Other times, I’ve left the goal aside for a length of time until I could devote more attention to it, without actually changing my approach the second time around. What usually leads to this repeated outcome is trying to make too big of a change and expecting perfection on the first go. I wasn’t reflecting (enough or period) on what wasn’t working – and would throw myself into the next thing to distract from the lack of immediate success.

I was aware of the idea of practice tests, tutorial levels in video games, and receiving training prior to beginning a new job, but my brain saw each of those as context-specific rather than something that can be applied beyond the singular situation. I also had the expectation of perfectly mastering whatever I was attempting to do in minimal time – which was partially fostered by the culture of my high-calibre schools and partially from the feedback I got from non-parent adults in my life about how brilliant I was at whatever I set out to do. I feel this is something other gifted-kid types can relate to (based on the volume of memes and tweets), and it’s an incredibly difficult mindset to break free from.

Now that we’re all sad and feeling a touch dreary, I want to point out that I’ve found something that does work (at least for me), so there’s hope. Other than planning and reflection, I’ve found that setting myself a mini-scale goal – fewer things to be changed and a shorter time scale – is not only more manageable, but it also allows me to explore different approaches if something doesn’t work before fully committing to it.

We’ll use my first attempt at doing a No Buy Year. In 2021, I was fresh off of looking at my spending from the year before, aghast that I’d been so frivolous with my money. I resolved to curb my spending and there were to be no purchases made other than food. Except, I needed a thick yoga mat for my knees, after a decade of ballet effectively turning my knees to dust. Well, and a new pair of running shoes since I’m taking my fitness more seriously. Let’s not forget the semester-long course I took, since my alma mater was offering it online. Oh, but wait – Le Chateau is having a closing sale, and I could really do with two more ball gowns, five suits, and a handful of work tops. This was all before March 2021, and after I’d gone from too restrictive to “this is justifiable, I guess,” more and more purchases were made until around July. I spent the next six months observing what triggered my spending, what I was spending the money on (… other than just the turtleneck shirts), and listening to podcasts and videos about what worked for others on their No/Low Buy. 50 hours or so later of content, I felt like I had a better idea of what could work, namely, having a set of rules (rather than full restriction), budgets for the allowed different categories, and figuring out what purpose this goal was serving.

For the latter half of October to December, I slowed my spending and shopping, left items on a wish-list for the holidays, and spent less time in stores. I had a few holiday gifts to purchase, but I wasn’t doing my usual “one for you, one for me” approach to shopping, which helped immensely. This also coincided with opening my first credit card, and the last thing I wanted to do was go all out and rack up a huge debt that I wouldn’t be able to pay off (or, as my dad put it “how many months of your entire paycheque would it take to pay off your total credit limit?”).

Trying this goal out twice in the same year – once without much structure, during a high-stress period, then later with research under my belt and a clearer idea of my “how” and “why” – highlighted the difference (for me) between a false start and a soft start. For the former, I went off the rails when the wiggle room for necessity burst open to include anything I could justify to myself, and then I quietly gave up. For the latter, I could already feel the sense of relief of not having to guess at what was left in my bank account on any given day, since I wasn’t spending money on just whatever, nor was I making unplanned purchases.

If you’re doing a Low/No Buy this year and this is your first ever go at it, I commend you. Regardless of real-life setbacks, things being over-budget from inflation, surprises/emergencies, if you’re still at it, that’s splendid. If you’ve taken a pause because now is not the right time for you, I think that’s an incredible choice for recognizing and respecting your needs over fulfilling a goal that you can return to whenever. Whether you’re on day 1, 55, or 365, your choice to try something out and stick with it (or pause) is equally valid.

Lastly, for anyone thinking of tying something new – No Buy or otherwise – I want to encourage you to start small. Even Costco lets you sample snacks before committing to a knee-high box of chicken tenders, so give it a go, one tender at a time (Editor’s note: I should have eaten before writing this).

January Review

With the first month of my No Buy year finishing up, I thought it would be good for me to have a look at how things have been going this month. One month down, 11 to go!

No Buy:

I made it! I made it through the whole month without buying anything from my no-buy categories. I had a birthday gift to send (gifts are part of my allowed categories), and I took care of booking a flight to visit family (travel is allowed, and I didn’t want to not get a discount while it was available), but other than that, there were no other purchases outside of necessities. I feel good about making it through the month without really wanting to buy anything, and part of that has to do with doing inventories for each category, as well as my tracker for clothing and accessories. I think things will keep going like this for now, as I didn’t have anything on my wish list, and there isn’t anything that I’ve felt like I might “need” otherwise. There were a few new releases that I looked at online, but I walked away from the site knowing I didn’t need it, so nothing was purchased.

Books:

I forgot that I had a library book left to finish from December. I also tutor some students and I had to (re)read some classic titles to help them with upcoming essays. You can see where this is going, in that I likely didn’t finish reading both books that I set out to read – and you’d be correct. I was able to finish jut over half of the linguistics book, but the father of impressionism will have to wait a little while longer. I think having flexibility for this sort of thing is necessary, otherwise I’ll just be reading for the sake of completing a TBR, rather than enjoying the works as they should be.

Productivity:

I know this already about myself, but I forgot just how much more productive I am when I have my “perfect” amount of a full schedule. Granted, I’m getting a chance to express myself creatively while sticking to my goals, but I haven’t been at this level of “go” in a while. Knowing what had to get done – and things that could be pushed to later – allowed me to take on smaller bits of larger tasks throughout the month, rather than what I’d usually do, of setting out to do something big but not finishing it once I get tired. The clothing tracker is not 100% done, and I’m okay with that – I wrote in the majority of the categories I usually wear, and that matters more to me than a filled notebook where I can’t find where things are because I rushed the process.

Procrastination:

This was an interesting mix – I had some tasks that I’d hesitate to get started on, but others where I limited what I expected myself to complete, which made it easier to start. I also went back to using the 5/10/15 minute start rule (scaled up according to the task), where if after 5, 10, or 15 minutes of attempting to do the task, I still am not in the right headspace to tackle it, I stop and come back to it later. I find this most helpful when it’s for chores I like the least, as I tend to have a skewed perspective of how long something will take to complete (which I’ll talk about more in a future post).

What I will keep doing/what helped:

The biggest help? All the support I’ve had this month. IRL, my parents have been keen to check in and see how I’m doing, as well as lend an ear if I need to work through things – and my friends have been so willing to offer advice and feedback as I’ve been figuring things out. Online, my little community of other no/low-buyers sharing where they’re coming from, what their “why” is, sharing vulnerable moments – and offering support or another point of view has been so powerful to be surrounded by. Community is important to me in general, and being able to find other people in similar yet unique situations has helped keep the self-critiques to a minimum – and its hard to say I’m coming from a place of no judgement toward others and but then let the meanie voice run rampant for myself. So, thank you for the comments about how much something has hit home from my writing, to the dm check-ins, and anyone who has reached out in other ways – it has made a world of difference 🙂

What I will do differently in the future:

This month felt a bit like getting into university: a commitment to a long-term goal that has a fixed but flexible path to follow, with a lot of optional stuff on the side that I don’t have to do, but I sure tried to. While there’s no “wrong” way to approach a no/low-buy challenge, I do have a tendency to try to do more than there are hours in a day or I have energy for. Part of it has to do with the skewed time perspective, another deals with how competitive I am (in the sense that if I say I’ll do 10 more entries in the clothing tracker before bed, I would push and make it to 15 just to say that I could), and another part is pure curiosity for trying out different things. I think for February, I’ll focus on my planned content, as well as leave myself wiggle room for new ideas as they come up.

Later this week, I’ll go into detail about what exactly my February focus will be – as well as dropping some new printables for you on Saturday. Thanks for reading!

Bye-Bye Bin & Wish List – January

I thought it would be best to explain the format of what’s going out and potentially coming into my home while doing my No Buy year.

The Bye-Bye Bin

I’ve been using this basket for about a year now to put things into that I think I won’t need or use, and see whether or not I fish them out again. I keep the bin out of view but easily accessible, so I’m not tempted to dive in just whenever and maybe keep more than what I intended. More often than not, when I’ve used the bin (or if there’s overflow, other spaces to tuck things away), what was put in does find its way to a new home. Sometimes that’s family and friends, other times it’s a quarterly clothing/product/stuff swap, or it’s donated. I don’t bother with reselling my stuff as I can’t be bothered to deal with the post office (as I’ve mentioned before), and I don’t want to have to learn about the unspoken rules of online selling platforms.

This might be a bit anti-climatic, but there’s nothing in the bin for the month of January. However, I did a massive declutter in December, so I do have that to show you:

With resetting everything – flipping my hangers, taking inventory, and still completing the tracking sheets – I feel as though I’m looking at my belongings with fresh eyes. Also, I got the declutter itch out of my system in December, and everything that did come home with me from the holidays were things that I had asked for or were consumable (whether chocolate or hand cream, it won’t be here forever), so they had a “home” assigned to them.

The Wish List

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but there isn’t anything currently on my wish list. The few items that I’m working toward emptying still have stock for me to get through, there aren’t any clothes or accessories that I need, and I have an abundance of craft supplies and books to entertain me. There also aren’t any experiences or activities that I would need to buy tickets to that are on the list (since I would want to think about which event/experience/activity I would want to prioritize).

That being said, I will still outline the format I’ll follow for when the wish list starts – since I want to be intentional about what goes on it, how long it stays, and when it gets bought or booted. The entry requirements for something being added to the wish list are going to start pretty low, which is “this caught my attention enough that I went to the website and it got added to a shopping cart.” From there, I would screenshot the item so I can see the product and price, and then type the store, item, and price into an google sheets page. I would then check in after two weeks, and see if I can remember what the item is without looking at the photo, and if I can’t, the entry and the photo can be deleted. If I can remember it, I’ll check again in another two weeks/after a month of it being on the list, and see if I have needed it in that time. If I haven’t been able to make do with what I already have, I’ll see if it’s something I can borrow, thrift, or add to a gift list.

This format is going to work for me since I’m coming from a place of abundance, both in volume of items and in mindset. For the sake of honesty, throughout January, I have clicked on ads on instagram from a place of curiosity to see how much something costs or who designed it, but it’s never gone beyond that point – more often than not, I wasn’t even looking to see if it was available in my size. I’ve already unsubscribed from any remaining emailing lists I was on for stores, I’ve blocked or muted accounts on instagram that are most tempting, and I haven’t even had the time this month to go to a website to see what they have (just to browse, as I used to do). I also don’t feel overwhelmed by the stuff that I have to the point that I’ve forgotten or lost things from having so much. I’m in the Goldilocks region of having stuff – not too much and not going without, again in volume and in mindset.

Later this week, I’ll be back with a post about psychology and shopping – the first instalment of many about how thoughts, feelings, and behaviours relate to shopping. Thanks for reading!