I was spending thousands of dollars on stuff and hiding them behind cabinets to forget about them. I didn’t know when or why or how I acquired them, but I wanted to forget them. Getting rid of it brought feelings of guilt and shame, remembering how much I spent. The only way I could stop that feeling, was to stop it at the source.
I went on caregiver leave in April. It had to be unpaid with the exception of some employment insurance payments from the government. It was barely enough to cover basic living expenses in Toronto.
I started tracking my spending, including what I wanted to buy (but didn’t). The awareness helped me rewire my brain into ending the subconscious habit of spending. I saved an average of $1000–$1500 a month of stuff I didn’t need, that I would’ve impulsively purchased.
Every month I planned what I was going to spend. If there was something I wanted to buy that wasn’t on the list, I’d write it down with the date and wait 30 days. If I still wanted it by 30 days, I’d buy it. If I needed it right away, I would find a way to borrow it or something else that could do just a good job as the actual thing.
The internet, especially with sites like Amazon, make it so easy for you to buy anything online. Instagram also displays things very well with vibrant, edited photos and well-shot videos. You are being sold to without even being conscious about it.
Eventually, I found myself averse to buying things online. Most purchases made online had to be things I already had that I was replacing, meaning I knew the quality already and it was stuff I knew I was going to use (like dental floss).
And because I shifted my shopping to in-person, and I hate dealing with people (and crowds in general), I was shopping less often. Win/win for my wallet and introversion.
I spent more time with my family, instead of browsing the web or going shopping. I was listening to stories, writing down memories, and reading and researching. My time was filled with living, not consuming.
How we fill our time and how we use our energy is so important. We have a responsibility to ourselves in how we use these finite resources — more precious than money.
I now take a lot of care in parting with my money because I know how hard I work for it. I know better than to trade that hard work for stuff I probably will regret buying. I know better to use my free time (that I don’t spend on working) on people and experiences that matter.
That is the gift I received from caring for my mom in her final months. And I’m so proud of that.