Stuff

This is why we no-buy

Anxiety

The first weekend of my no-buy month is successfully behind me, and I have to tell you … I was a nervous wreck.

Okay, maybe not actually a wreck. But I couldn’t believe how much the first days of the no-buy had my anxiety keyed up. I woke up on Saturday morning, day one, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wasn’t going to be able to buy anything for a whole month.

Understand that this wasn’t about a specific purchase. It was more like I was anxious at the very idea that I couldn’t buy anything for the next month. There was just this thought that I was cut off from …

From what? Honestly, I don’t even know what. From the fun of getting new shinys? From the little dopamine high of dropping $10 on a new this-or-that? From obtaining some item that I don’t know yet that I want, but that at some point this month I’m going to want it but can’t have it?!

All that sounds silly when I say it out loud. Any maybe it wasn’t any of those. Instead of shopping FOMO, maybe it was just the natural anxiety of committing to a change, to a new behavior, to a deviation from my normal routine. Regardless, it was unexpectedly more intense than I would ever have predicted it would be.

To be honest, if I weren’t writing this blog, I may have considered putting it off a month or two. But even the idea of readers whom I’ve already committed to, even if no one is actually reading, is one of my motivating forces. Accountability works, people.

It did not help me this weekend AT ALL, by the way, that all of my shopping habits are baked into my social media profiles and Internet history. The stores I like, the brands I buy, the consumer categories I drop money in, they all chase me across the Internet like hungry hounds. I’ve taken some technical steps to mitigate that, but the truth is that there’s no way to completely erase your online profile anymore. Not without inconveniencing yourself so much that online use itself becomes annoying. So I’ll just grit my teeth and ignore them.

[Seriously, though, advertising is the WORST. And I say that fully aware that last night was the biggest advertising night of the year. In fact, that we even have a “biggest advertising night of the year” is telling.]

What I’ve had to tell myself is the anxiety I felt — and honestly am still feeling — is exactly the reason why I need to do this. Buying things has become more than just some utilitarian act in modern society; it’s been built up as an integral part of how we live our lives and express our self-identity. I don’t want to define myself by all the dumb things I buy, and I don’t want to rely on the constant flow of new-but-useless purchases to make me happy. And so I no-buy. Even if it turns out to be quixotic tilting against the forces of market capitalism, at least I will have made the effort, and in doing so come out of it better than I’ve come in.

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