A strong start to the Year of Less

BlogHer Original Post

I didn’t start 2007 with any great personal finance or career goals. I wasn’t feeling all that ambitious and my “dream big” quotient had been hit with a much-needed $5,000 raise. And that was it. My career aspirations were rather stagnant and eventually it would be my complacency that would lead to my (inevitable in hindsight) self-destruction and misery.

My financial situation had me growing weary as well but as far as I was concerned, not much could be done to alleviate the situation. I made what I made and I would have to make do. So there was no great plan to spend less on unnecessary items or to erase my debt. My goal was to continue to stay with my head just above the surface while my legs did an egg-beater like maneuver below the water, trying to keep afloat. That was it. Which is why I'm finding KassyK's start to the year to be refreshing; the girl has made financial goals for the year and sees herself debt free sooner rather than later:

Six years later, I am still paying the price for living beyond my means (literally my debt stems from an inability to pay rent with my salary after college and the pride that kept me from asking for real help when I needed it). After years of me struggling and my family helping in ways so generous and considerate, I am finally at a place where I can see my future (not broke!!) on the horizon.

Eventually my overall situation would make an unexpected and still unbelievable turn for the better and lo I am now the proud owner of a savings account and 401K while living on roughly half of my salary very comfortably. I gave up nothing to get here. I wasn't cautious I just realized that I really didn't need a disgusting amount of disposable income to keep me happy and with all that extra money lying around, I'd end up with a closet full of wine instead of a much needed suit.

As Susan Wagner has already pointed out, 2008 seems to be the Year of Not Shopping or as I like to call it The Year of Less. Not necessarily out of a personal finance need but because these women are looking at what they already have and instead of saying More Please they are able to take a step back and classify their needs from their wants and in turn several BlogHers are teaching their children that having more isn't always better.

Chris has gotten a lot of positive support for her project, but she has also had readers who are concerned about her children, because they will be deprived during this year of mindful shopping. She has also had readers who say, "Oh I could NEVER do THAT!" which, while less disturbing than accusing Chris -- or Rachel -- of abusing their children is still saddening to me. The shopping that all of these women are talking about -- extras, add-ons, things we either already have or don't need in the first place -- should be easy to walk away from.

So why isn't it? Because we live in a culture where shopping is sold as a means of self expression, where you earn new things simply for showing up, and where having it all -- even if you don't have room for it all -- is a measure of success. But in your closet and your home and your life, less really IS more. And so it's time to stop shopping.

Over the past several years we Americans have been consumed by consumerism. We've been continuously told that we should spend, spend, spend in order to help boost the economy. All the while there have been no great changes to the economy while Americans incur more debt and consumer spending and use of disposable income is at an all time high. Simply put we're a country of spenders and for one to take matters into their own hands and announce that they are done with buying, it is seen as some sort of faux pas. An explanation is needed for the masses in order for them to understand why a family doesn't need 19 Christmas plates just because they're on sale. Rachel of The Simple Family has borne the brunt of criticisms and questions since she first decided to start going 'green' and even more so now that she's decided to give up wasteful consumerism:

When did it get to the point that not buying something you don’t need is irresponsible? When did reducing the number of dishes in your cabinet, thus reducing the amount that piles up by the sink, become “crazy?”

We live in The United States of Visa (well, except for you Australians– perhaps another credit card), where we must pledge allegiance to our shopping habits. Shopping is our right! We NEED to shop! We need whatever random crap that is on the clearance rack at Target…or do we?

I honestly don't know or think I could do it. Even if I know that there is wasteful spending abound and even if I know that this is another way to take control of my personal finances, by taking a good look at what I have and getting rid of the crap before bringing more in. Despite all of this 'knowledge' I can still see myself being tempted by the first giant red SALE sign outside of Banana Republic or a quick 'window shopping' excursion. But the more I think about it, the more I am a little embarrassed by my seven v-neck sweaters and the fact that I have more to choose from than is really even necessary. I'm looking forward to seeing how the upcoming months and year goes for these ladies and perhaps I'll be willing to jump on the bandwagon sometime soon.

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