Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Okay, People, I Have Issues

Yeah, I know you are sooooo surprised. Moi? Issues? Never!!

Okay, but here's the thing. I don't think I can shop. It's kinda freakin me out and making me all rashy and nervous.

Par example, today I was on Amazon buying some books because, well I got a pretty sweet gift card for my birthday and I have been sitting on it because of the freegan challenge. I ordered five used books for the plane (two books on my reading list for school and then Big Green Purse, Commonwealth and Guns, Germs, and Steel.) Used books, fine. No rash. All normal, all good. I've been buying used books all year, so nothing new here.

And then I went to order Stuffed and Starved and The Post-American World. These are both books I've been DYING to read (shut up, I'm a geek, okay?) and I've been on the list at my library for centuries. They're also very recently published. Which means that there aren't a lot of used copies. Which means that the new copies are actually CHEAPER than the used ones on Amazon.

So, I have a gift card. (I also have two Barnes and Noble gift cards and a Borders gift card. People apparently know I like books?) Isn't the answer obvious? I REALLY want to read these books. They are cheaper new. I should just buy them new, right? I can buy new stuff!

But, I couldn't do it. I don't know, I don't know why. I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea of buying something new. So I didn't order either book.

And with everything else, it feels the same. Yesterday I started questioning if I should even BUY underwear. I was like, "Why? Am I really dying over here with my current underwear?" And the answer is no.

The thing is I've gotten so familiar with needs versus wants, that I feel like I can no longer justify buying anything.

I want a new Simple backpack, but I have an old backpack. I want to buy a couple new shirts, but I don't need any shirts. I want a pair of jeans, but ... you know the drill.

Some of it, of course, is that I'm leaving. I'm already overwhelmed with packing. I'm going to be in school for a year, and not working and taking out loans for schooling. It seems irresponsible, frankly, to spend much money on new stuff.

But the truth is, even when you take money out of the equation, even when I have a gift certificate, I'm having a hard time with the new stuff.

I know there is very little I need. But ... isn't it okay to buy something now and again because I WANT to even if I don't NEED to? What's the big deal with buying a new book every now and again, especially if it's a book I really want to read that is cheaper new? And isn't it okay to occasionally buy a pretty new dress just because it's pretty and new?

Or isn't it?

23 comments:

JAM said...

That is such a cute backpack! I think you have just been on spending freeze so long you are over-thinking this. Get the backpack, donate your old one, get some new undies, and a pair of jeans. It is raw and icky a lot in England - you will wear jeans more than pretty dresses I'm sure. Then order the two new books - you can either lend them out to friends or sell them if they don't live up to what you were expecting. Things are going to be so much more expensive for you in England you are really better off buying a few things now and then not buying much while you're there (which will be easy for you to do). You're starting a new chapter in your life and you have non-consumed for so long you ought to be able to start off your grad student life with a cute backpack and a new pair of jeans!!!

Heather @ SGF said...

You have to set your own limits, but I'd say it's perfectly fine to buy yourself something you want but don't need. It's good that you are thinking about it and recognize that you don't necessarily "need" it. Maybe that means you buy one thing instead of 10. Definitely don't do it mindlessly, but enjoying a little something new would be a wonderful treat for a year of abstinence. In fact, I suspect you'll treasure anything you buy right now more because of the 1 year break. Just be mindful and then go feel good about it.

Joyce said...

I'm not sure I agree with the others. Maybe what you are finding is that you don't really want these things all that badly. And I wouldn't buy extra books just now, and then have to move them. Wait until you're in London, and if you still want them then, get them. The clothing, on the other hand, will be cheaper here, so buy what you need now. You will always need underwear- it won't go to waste or anything, and jeans won't either.
I think it's a good thing you are hesitant. Spreading out the purchases over time is another way of making sure you really want something.

knutty knitter said...

Maybe it would help to think of those gift tokens as real books. Then the people who gave them to you could also feel good about giving you something useful. If its you spending your own money on things then yeah think twice or three times but I think gifts belong in a different category and as Heather said, you can always lend them out or swap them or sell them secondhand etc.

viv in nz

maryann said...

I haven't been on a spending freeze for the last year, but I also have a hard time buying stuff. If I really want it I will buy it but I find very little that I really 'have' to have or actually want to spend the money on. Everything I do buy I usually wait about 4-6 months and if I still want it or need it then maybe I'll get it, otherwise I skip it. I do agree with Joyce, wait until you get to London to buy the books, I've moved plenty of times and they are heavy and suck to move, if you have to have them before moving can you download an electronic copy instead of a hard copy? much lighter to carry around, especially to London.

Allie said...

I don't put limits on what I can buy or anything, but I have a hard time with it too. I can buy food no problem, and I can buy stuff for my husband, but yesterday, I debated in the store for like 30 minutes about whether or not it was okay to spend 3.99 on a new makeup brush because I've had the old one since high school (I'm 31) and the handle is broken (but still sort of usable if you hold it a certain way. I think it's almost as pathological as compulsive spending. But I have purchased (after much hemming and hawing) two really cute summer dresses this year (my first new clothes in a really long time). I feel so cute and pretty when I wear them and it does wonders for my mood. I'm inclined to think it's okay. Mindful purchasing should be the motto maybe?

Green Bean said...

Oh man, that IS A cute backpack.

I've felt that way about buying stuff and I never did any official non-consumer stuff. You probably don't really want OR need any of that stuff. Okay, maybe the underwear though here's a little secret. Mine is super old, missing a lot of the elastic and yet I still wear it. That's mostly out of laziness but it still works, right?

Buy what you think you need. I don't care if it is more expensive in London. If you don't really really want or need it NOW, personally I'd wait and get it when you do. The price probably won't be that different. You might find some killer used clothing stores over there. The books will have been out longer by the time you get settled over there. Then you won't have to haul all that crap over there.

See if Beth will lend you her copy of The Big Green Purse to read before you leave. It is a really good book, btw.

Oh well. You don't need my advice. You know what to do. Just do what feels right.

Kelly said...

I think that you should buy the backpack and donate your old one to goodwill so someone who can not afford a new backpack, like you can, can also have a backpack...I don't think that you should feel bad about wanting some new things. You work hard and deserve to spend some on yourself. It will make you happy to tote your shinny new backpack around london and that does matter, you should make yourself happy sometimes too. I know that being enviromentally friendly is rewarding, but some days you have to think of yourself. You're are off to a new city and a new country you should have abg that will not fall apart while you are gone and make you feel ready for your new life. You're buying an enviromentally friendly product and helping someone else get a backpack at the same time.
Oh. And go buy new underwear. You don't realize how uncomfortbale/lumpy/unattractive your old stuff is until you get the new ones. Trust me, I just bought some on my tax free weekend, and I really apprecaite the new ones!

Bobbi said...

Just because you now allow yourself to buy things, doesn't mean you have to buy things.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Books are cheaper in the UK than in North America, but they're just about the only things that are! If you think you will NEED new jeans etc. in the next year, then buy them now to save yourself some money later. Also, you won't find any cotton items that are grown and manufactured in the UK, but you might in the US!

kimberly said...

well, this is definitely going to be a transition... i think you'll find what you're willing to buy new and what you aren't. for myself, i can justify buying new books because (as an aspiring writer) i like to support writers. i don't particularly like hardcover, so i'll usually wait til it's paperback... but in terms of other things, like household items, i prefer to get things used. it's just interesting because you were probably anticipating the end of this challenge. and now that it's come you haven't changed much, you know? so the limitations are gone, but you've probably adjusted to them so much that you don't really want to go back to everything new. and maybe wanting to buy things new before may have also been a case of wanting what you can't have? i think everyone feels that way to a certain extent... don't be too hard on yourself - it'll take a while...

arduous said...

Jam, you are right, jeans are more important than a cute dress. Maybe I'll hit up the thrift stores this weekend and see what I can find jeans-wise, and if I don't find anything good, I'll look at the eco-jeans. Still not sure about the backpack but it is SO CUTE. Damn you Simple for making super cute stuff!!!!!!!

Heather, you are right that the most important thing is to be mindful. Thanks!

Joyce, very wise as usual. I think you're right. There is no way the underwear or the jeans will go to waste, but being hesitant is probably a good sign.

Knutty Knitter, good point too. Sheesh, you are all making good points, and it's not making my indecision any better!! :)

Maryann, I agree waiting to purchase is generally a good idea. Thanks!

Allie, I think you're right. Mindful purchasing should probably be our motto!

GB, mostly re: the books I wanted to read them before my course begins because I thought it might help me out. Also, because I am anticipating three long flights and one long train trip and I read fast. Also because I have gift certs that I won't be able to use in the UK. I dunno. I'm still figuring it out! I actually ordered "Big Green Purse" used off of Amazon.

Kelly, good point. And yeah, I'm sure new underwear will be a revelation. Thanks!

Bobbi, very true.

Cath, yeah I have a feeling that going to school every day, the couple pairs of jeans I own that are all more than a couple years old aren't going to cut it...The jeans are probably something I really need to buy.

Kimberly, I know what you mean. I've felt kind of guilty buying all my books used because that means none of these writers are seeing a cent from me. Maybe that's how I justify buying a couple new books....

Fix said...

This isn't going to help your indecision any, but this is where the experiment really gets interesting...Words like "deserve" and "pathological" get thrown around, pointing out how deep these things run in our culture and in our psyche. I agree with Allie, that it can become a trap either way. So we create this term "mindfulness" to try to find some moderation.

For myself, I went a little crazy with the clothes at the beginning of the year. I love them, and I kind of hate shopping...so when I found some things I wanted, I bought them. Maybe I'm a worse person for it? Or maybe I'm just better dressed?

Good luck!
Megan

arduous said...

You're right Megan. This IS where the experiment gets interesting. We'll see what happens....

Student Doctor Green said...

I say go on an apocalyptic spending spree before you leave the U.S. jk! but seriously you mentioned money I would say if you want ANYTHING frivolous buy it BEFORE you leave otherwise it's going to cost you at least 2-3x as much as soon as you cross the pond. You're about to leave the country for heck sake get a new backpack and some undies. Look at it as supplies for the adventure.

Another thought... you could always set yourself a monthly frivolous budget that way you get to spend some for fun but then there's a cap. Plus it would be one thing if you wanted to by swedish nose hair conditioner or something totally useless, but underwear and backpacks (esp for students) are practical and useful.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Swedish nose hair conditioner... HI-larious!

Young.Snowbird said...

Now is the time of year of back to school sales. Lots of new clothes are on sale! Think of those jeans as something you will need in the future. Heck, if you have someone in London who could store a few items for you, buy the jeans, send them ahead and ask them to store them. Then, in three or four months when you find you really do need some jeans, go to where they're stored, and get them. It will be like they ARE used, since they were at someone else's place before you get to wear them. Don't do this with the undies, though. Get those new before the trip over. And you know the old saying "always wear clean (insert NEW here) underwear, just in case you're in an accident." OR more positively - you might have an unbelievable encounter with some new love interest who just might happen to see you in your undies. New encounters deserve a fresh start all around, don't you think? It's hard changing a habit that you've honed over an entire year. You could always try shopping the higher end consignment shops. You may find a "used" pair or two with the price tag still on them.

Melissa said...

I'm kind of with Kimberly here...I don't buy a lot of new books, but I also don't have a hard time when I do it, because I think of it as supporting an art, just like I would buying a painting (on a smaller scale), and as long as I pass it on later, I don't feel bad. That said, I think I've only bought myself two new books this year, but I like leaving the option open for the times I can't find a used copy and don't want to wait a couple years to read something.

Julia said...

I have that SAME problem. I have gift certificates that I've been sitting on forever. I've tried to go shopping to spend them, but clothes shopping is so frustrating. and i put too much pressure on myself to buy clothes i really need (ie for work) instead of any fun old thing i want. because i figure if i'm going to spend money and buy something new, i should really need it. blah. as a result i go shopping as little as possible.

Fatima said...

I'd say go for the backpack :) While we're always trying to waste less, you don't want get to the point where yu just snap and "fall off the wagon."

I went through a simmilar phase in college, and I just don't think I could have sustained MYSELF by not buying ANYTHING. I guess sometimes there's a fine line between being responsible and living a life you want...but tiny splurges like this one (esp. if you recognize you're splurging) should be considered a treat-- and I think you deserve a treat every now and then :)

ruchi aka arduous said...

Young snowbird, true, there are plenty of good sales going on! Well, I'll figure it out.

Melissa, I hear you. I think I might buy a couple books new.

Julia, glad to know I'm not the only one with this problem!

Fatima, yeah, I'm really REALLY dying to get the backpack. I don't know. I'm going to sit on it a little longer. :)

emily said...

arduous,

first, i looked at the backpack and immediately thought, "I have one that looks a bit like that and I don't even use it!" so, I'm wondering, if I can find it, do you want it? I will look when I get home to see if its still hanging around.

second, all those books have also been on a list or two of mine at some point, so if you get to it, i'd love to hear your review, even if its short or just using the thumb scale. thanks! and good luck with the move!

ruchi aka arduous said...

Emily, you are SO sweet! Thanks so much but I don't want to gank your backpack. I think I'm probably just going to do without a new backpack, and use a bag I already own and see how it goes.