a dollar’s worth of guilt

On Tuesday night, I bought Ceremonials by Florence + and the Machine. It was on sale for $0.99 on Amazon.  Yes, I got twelve new (and great) songs for $1.07 after tax.  I should be insanely happy about this.  I am insanely happy about this and have been enjoying my new music.  But I also feel guilty.

It’s ridiculous to feel guilty over spending $1.07 on a new CD.  I keep telling myself this, but the other side of my brain keeps reminding me that July is a “no spending month” for me. Buying the new CD, even though it was an incredible deal, put the tiniest dent in my goal to not spend money on the extras this month.  At the time of the purchase, I was only three days into my no spending challenge and already I was giving into temptation.  I felt that I had no willpower or control whatsoever.  This, on top of the guilt, made me wonder how I was going to manage the rest of the temptations to consume and spend that await me in the coming days.

Designating July as a no spending month is more of a necessity than a choice.  I work on a nine-month contract, and so it’s up to me to save during those nine months to make sure that all of my fixed expenses are covered for the three months that I’m not getting paid (and yes, this is the reality for a lot of teachers living the glamorous, ‘lazy’ life of an academic, but that’s a whole other blog post).  I have the basics covered—rent, utilities, groceries—and also what some of us like to think are basic necessities, such as my cell phone, Internet service, and my Netflix subscription.  But things like new books, new music, iTunes downloads, clothes, etc. are all “luxuries” during the next couple of months.  This awareness of the need to spend mindfully during July and August provoked my sense of guilt and lack of control over this new CD purchase.

So here I am, trying to make sense of this experience by writing about it.  I know what you’re thinking: don’t sweat the small stuff.  I haven’t ever read that book but the spirit of that statement certainly holds true here.  It’s a dollar.  It’s not even one whole percentage of the many dollars I will spend this month. Not sweating the small stuff is definitely an appropriate piece of advice.  More importantly, though, writing about this experience has reminded me that there are going to be obstacles and blips in the road to any destination, whether that destination is a physical location or something intangible like the achievement of a goal.  Giving into the temptation of new music for only $1.07 was a blip in the road, but it’s okay, and I’m okay, and no catastrophe has or will ensue from that choice.  Further still, life is meant to be enjoyed, and one of the things I enjoy most in life is music.  Ceremonials is a great CD, and listening to it makes me happy.  That emotion is the one that I want to hold onto, and the guilt is the one that I’m going to let go of.  Right now.  There.  It’s gone.

My all-or-nothing mentality needs to undergo some adjustments.  100% of my no spending goal may not be achieved during July, but maybe 100% isn’t even what I should be aiming for.  What I mean is, it’s the process of making daily choices to consume less and spend less that is what is most important because it’s that process that will help me change my spending behavior in sustainable ways.  I also need to value the progress that I do make and not dwell on all the failures.  I’ve written this elsewhere but I still believe it to be true—it’s about the journey, not the destination.  I need to remember that and value each step of the journey.

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