A big lesson about having enough

Hear ye readers:  “I, Jen Mitchell, do hereby ask that I be voluntary committed if I ever find myself, at 4:30 in the morning, bitch-slapping another person over the last remaining 42” flat screen a Black Friday Doorbuster’s Sale.” 

Seriously.  Since when has shopping become a sport?  Between the foot race from the entrance to the electronics department, to the boxing match to claim choice items, our fellow consumers have become competitors.  (Only slightly more alarming is the emergence of competitive eating as an valid sport, complete with ESPN airtime.)

The whole thing makes me feel dirty….

… Which is why I felt conflicted over my Black Friday plans. A friend and I arranged to enjoy a morning yoga class and brunch at Red Twig, then we would hit the shops in Downtown Edmonds….. to spend!  I had big guilt over caving the marketing machine, but like an addict, shopping satisfied something deep.  We eased our conscience by vowing to shop locally, but I must admit, it was a little disturbing how much I was looking forward to it. I even planned on retiring early on Thursday as to have enough vigor to shop.  (Really.)

But I was about to be taught a big lesson about what abundance should mean:   Having enough, which ironically was the theme of Gratitude Yoga on Thanksgiving morning.

Still basking in the euphoria of said Gratitude class, I ran across the street to grab a cup of tea before sitting down to do the week’s paperwork.  In the two minutes I was gone, BAM!:  my wallet –containing cash, my ATM & credit cards- was stolen from the studio. And, since every bank’s fraud department was closed for the holiday weekend, I was left with no way to purchase anything.

Does God have a sense of humor, or what?

So I spent the weekend not shopping.  Instead, I got creative:  It was surprisingly easy to fashion a homemade wreath out of a few cedar branches I clipped off my backyard tree.  (A $15 savings from the Trader Joe’s wreath I buy every year.)  Instead of grabbing the usual grocery store ($12) bouquet,  I made another wreath as a hostess gift for a dinner party I attended on Saturday night.  My daughter and I scrapped our matinee plans (At least $30!)  and invited a school friend over for crafts ($0 – newspapers from the recycle bin & an old jar of Mod Podge).

Meals were a bigger challenge:  I’m no chef, and generally make daily runs to the grocery, so our fridge is perpetually empty.  I definitely felt a sense of pride whipping up a decent (ok, passable) soup from a dusty can of white beans and wilted vegetables from the fridge – which would normally end up in the compost.

I’ll admit, by the end of the weekend I had a smug sense of satisfaction on my resourcefulness.  But let’s face it:  Fashioning an art project or a meal out of scraps isn’t quite so novel if, like many folks, “making due” is an everyday reality instead of a weekend experiment with a solution as near as the next business day.

Experiencing a no-spend weekend made me realize how much I relied on spending to combat boredom, to make my life “easier” (hello, PCC deli counter), and to soothe depression and anxiety. I clearly needed to re-evaluate my relationship to money.

So I got to thinking:  What if I challenged myself to live this way for 30 days, during the biggest spending month of the year?

And the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was the right path to take.  As of a week ago, from November 24-December 24, I am in the midst of a “No-Spend December*.”

I realize this is not going to be easy.  Even as I write, I’m grieving the absence of my post-workout ritual — a black tea latte from my local coffee shop.

I will be making regular posts about my experiences on this blog – The challenges, successes (and of course, meltdowns), of this project.  The next post?  The ground rules & the first week.

*   In full disclosure, I had already purchased my daughter Christmas gifts on a November trip to New York City. The decision to do this would be much more difficult if I had to forgo a child’s holiday gifts.