Three months ago, I decided not to buy clothes for six months. This year, Dave and I are really focusing on my
our debt. And while, I don’t think the $50 a month I have budgeted for clothing was really going to add much to our efforts, that wasn’t the point. The point was that my clothing budget had become a kind of catch-all for spending–books, more books, race registration fees, chicken nuggets–and honestly, I’d look in my closet and my life and think, what do I have here that’s worth that money? The answer: Not much.
The point really wasn’t clothes. The point was consumption. I’m married to perhaps one of the most frugal people alive (except for that lady who makes her own toilet paper, she’s just crazy. There is a Rubicon we will not cross and that starts with our poo). Dave doesn’t spend frivolously…or at all. Seriously. Born during the great depression of 1983, Dave believes you can live off chicken breasts, frozen veggies and thinks splurging on Suave all-in-one body wash/shampoo/conditioner is a luxury item. I met a girl who was telling me her husband was so frugal that he bought his own chickens, harvested the eggs and then slaughtered them. When I told Dave he just shook his head, “Where’d he get the start up costs? Did he recoup his losses? How much did he spend in feed?” After crunching some numbers, including the price of grocery store chicken, Dave decided even crazy chicken-slaughtering frugality was too expensive.
And it’s one of the things I love about him. He is frugal, but he isn’t cheap. He is one of the best tippers I know and his presents for Ellis and me always surprise me with their thoughtfulness. Also, because of his frugality, we haven’t had to do into debt for our vehicles or our furniture and he helps me manage Lyz Ink (yes, that’s the name of my business that I use when I file taxes) so that I am able to do whatever the crap it is I actually do.
So, here I am, three months into not buying clothes (or any extras) and it’s starting to wear on me (ha! puns). And the fact that it is wearing on me, is wearing on me. Am I really such a consumer that I need to frivolously spend? Why is this so hard not to buy a neon bag because zomg the internet tells me neon is hot this summer and I think I need it. I haven’t updated before because any update would go something like, “I went to Target, wistfully browsed the clearance rack, thought about how to hide the purchase of a kimono dress under groceries, decided against it. Went home and sulked.”
Repeat multiple times each month.
And yet, this weekend, I decided to get rid of more clothes and discovered that despite my terrible attitude, I am learning some things.
No matter what I have, I have enough: Before I began this journey, I went through my clothes and sent two bags to Goodwill. And I was all, “Bah! How will I survive?” But after three months, I realized, I still have too much. I have things I am not wearing, not using and not needing. Yesterday, I went through my clothes and prepared another bag and my closet is still full. So, much so, that this exercise in not spending has forced me to find items that I forgot about. This colorful skirt from Old Navy and a fluffy black Gap skirt that I wore on Easter. And yeah sure, newsflash: Middle-income, white mom, living in middle American says she has too much. Breaking news. I’m no big spender by any means. I expected to be scrimping and struggling. Instead, I’m awash in good things.
Grow the eff up: I’ve also learned that I need to stop buying clothes like a teenager. I’m a grown woman, not some pre-pubescent girl who’s going to grow out of that shirt in a year, so why am I buying cheap crap that’s just going to get holes in it after three washes? And why do I think that I really want to rock trends. I don’t. I’m not trendy. Yeah sure, every once in a while, I’ll rock a pair of jeggings or a sweater vest, but I need to start focusing on buying solid basics. Basics that will last. Not trendy items that get me mistaken for a teen mom.
It doesn’t matter where it’s from, it’s how it’s made: I want to clarify my use of “cheap crap”, some of my best clothes, I’m discovering are the pricier items, but they are also Target items. I have a black knit dress that has lasted me two years. I wear it all the time in so many different iterations–with cowboy boots, a bright scarf, belted. A Gap maxi dress I bought from Goodwill three years ago is still going strong. It’s not where you bought it that matters, it’s how it’s made.
You don’t need a brand name, you just need good construction. Jackets need to be lined. Shirts need to be flexible, breathable and long enough. Pants need a waist that won’t lose it’s shape (marked by that weird stretching that shows the zipper, you know what I mean). Spending $50 on one good solid item that will last for years and through seasons can be a better bargain that your whole sackful of crap that you got for $25.
This whole project gives me a bit of anxiety. I feel it’s all very “navel gazey” and reeks of middle-class privileged. It does. It is. But I also think, that so much of the time I want more. I want more work. I want more furniture. My house needs better organization. I need to read another book. And so much of writing is this is what you need to buy, what you need to do, what you need to say! How often do I (does anyone) ever take stock of life and say, “This is good”?
This is good.
*UPDATE* Another loan bites the dust.