Growing up, I wanted to be the sort of young woman who could wear fancy coats, fur berets, towering heels, and expensive perfumes and shop her way into overpriced stores every other day. I knew I’d be working, so money wouldn’t be a problem. Of course, I didn’t take into account that earning my own also meant spending my own.
I was almost caught unawares when the independent feminist in me crept up to the surface.
Naturally, things changed once I took (rather, was compelled to take) charge of my life. However, what didn’t change was my unrelenting desire to shop for something new every time I stepped into a store. Whether I’m spending a fun afternoon with my girlfriends (very ‘Sex in the City’ of us), reeling from a tough week at work, celebrating an anniversary, or just looking to treat myself, shopping is my go-to.
But this didn’t appear as a problem until I had to move to a different city; all my shopping money was getting exhausted in rent and bills and groceries and commuting.
I had to look for a solution for the sake of the shoe lover, bag lover, and jewellery lover in me.
Not moping, I’m shopping
At first, I had to figure out why the raging shopaholic in me couldn’t quit.
The answer was simple: shopping lets me take control of my life; it keeps me sane.
Let’s be honest, I’d rather shop for a few hours of gushing happiness than mope around all weekend in my old clothes.
Every morning I get up in an apartment that’s too small for my liking and too far from my favourite part of the city, book a cab to my workplace, haggle with the auto wale bhaiya because my cab driver never found my address, work long tedious hours at what I thought was my dream job, get paid very little, and go home to an empty apartment. I miss my home, my friends, the semblance of balance that came to me so easily when I was younger. So, when the weekend comes, I know only one way to bring myself some respite: to shop my heart out.
It’s like Rebecca Bloomwood says in Confessions of a Shopaholic, “When I shop, the world gets better, the world is better; and then it’s not anymore and I have to do it again.”
The whiff of a new paper bag, the comfort that comes from a new sweater, the excitement of styling my new shoes, the rush that comes from swiping my credit card being fully aware I’m incapable of handling my present bills feels like nothing can break my happy stride again.
It’s all rainbows and butterflies until the weekend passes, the new bag starts to look pale, the new shirt doesn’t suit my face anymore, the new bracelet looks too gaudy for my choice, and the new hand cream gives me an itch. This itch, as I know it, would last till I replace it with a new cream, or new anything.
Am I scratching the wrong itch? How do I stop?
It stops right after my one true frenemy – the feminist in me – asks me to introspect.
I introspect on the need to introspect my way of life, but the strong-headed me gives me the side-eye. So, I introspect.
Do I really need to shop all that much? Am I letting my indulgences run amok? Am I really playing fast and loose with my future savings (my future savings that could have been)?
If years of reading, teenage feminist awakenings and ‘girls support girls’ groups have taught me anything, it is that I can’t depend on anyone for my finances. Not my parents, not my partner, not the credit card company people, and not even the guy who flirts with me in the stairwell. I have to take charge, and I have to take it now (or like in a few days, depending on the weather). It’s like I’m being pulled back from doing something I love; I’m like a ball in a catapult.
So, I’m fully aware that when I’m mature enough to view this from a vantage point, I’ll know my feminism was only pushing (hurling) me to go the distance.
On the lookout for better choices
Where am I to stop? Like I said above, I had to find a solution. After scrolling through anecdotes, Quora AMAs, shoppers’ blogs, and articles, I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t stop shopping, but I could rein it in.
Bringing my B-game
First, I decided to do something I’d never done: create a budget. Once I knew exactly how much money I had to spend on my essentials every month, I removed that money. With what I had left, I took a small amount to establish a contingency fund for medical emergencies, travel emergencies, and future shopping emergencies. After all was done, I was left with very little. That was the amount I could shop with. After deliberation, calculation, and desperation, I decided I could only afford to shop once a month.
The amount that I was saving for my entire month’s shopping budget was barely double the amount I spent every week.
Being petty helps
I also established something called ‘petty goals’ for myself. Sometimes, small wins can fall flat on our humongous expectations. Here is where the petty goals can bring you back on track.
The idea is to establish a goal to attain something material, something concrete in a short span of time.
For me, it’s an aggressively overpriced bag, for my best friend it’s a weekend getaway every three weeks, for my colleague it’s dinner at her favourite restaurant every month, for you it could be anything you choose.
Space out over-spending
In this way, when you watch yourself accomplishing your petty goals, you keep yourself oriented in the direction of your real goals. The key is to ensure that you don’t wander above your spending limit. If you don’t find yourself lacking the motivation to work for your long-term goals, I’d still say petty goals can come in pretty handy. Saving a certain amount every month and transferring it to a bank account, making a large investment or even sending that money to your parents can be your petty goal.
When I was a child, my mother placed Gems on alternate questions in my math textbook. Your petty goals are your Gems.
While we rush to make the most of our lives, attain the best in our careers, spend time with our loved ones, and shower ourselves with self-love, we all need a little something to keep us sane. We are the women of today who can’t run from their problems, who don’t shy away from challenges, who take up their flaws and flaunt them with fancy.
We strive to strike a fine balance every day; walk the taut rope that loosens every now and then and coaxes you to fall.
So the next time you find your rope loosening, grab on to the one thing that reaches out to you, and when the balance is restored, walk free towards the life you want to be living.
You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Kommunity where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.