I believe strongly in the magic of words. I believe the words we use to describe our lives and ourselves influences our reality, and that working on our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs should be worked on with the same care that we we work on our degrees, our bodies, and our budgets. Before this sounds hokey, I should note that I didn’t always feel this way; it was during my first year of Psychology as a freshman in university that we studied self-fulfilling “prophecies” as a psychological concept. I won’t get into the finer points of the ideas presented but I’ll share that what resonated with me the most was the mantra of “act as if.” If one would like to see something happen in their life, a powerful way to harness your own mental energy and incredible brain power to achieve certain goals is to act as if you already are in the position you want to be in. I wish I ran with that advice from the get-go and applied it the dozen or so years since I’ve been a freshman, but there’s no better time than the present to start on something. I want to explore what this means for my newly-frugal self.
Besides the primary goal of being unshackled from debt, one of my primary reasons for embarking upon my shopping ban and eschewing my spendy lifestyle is to free myself from the hold consumerism has on my thoughts, my judgments, my actions and my time. Besides the feeling of being owned by stuff, it goes much further – my thoughts have been owned by the consumer messages marketers have been drilling into our psyches and our societies and I want to put in end to it and have my thoughts back. I want my time to be mine, to be used building the life I want, and not being frittered away thinking about what to buy next: how to remodel my kitchen into something more trendy (i.e. buy more stuff for it), what pieces I can put in my wardrobe to update it for the season (i.e. buy more stuff for it) and what new products can give me that very trending, very glamourous glowy skin that’ll somehow make me more acceptable than plain ol’ me (i.e by more stuff for it). I’m tired of thinking what to buy next – it’s a non-stop hamster wheel of consumerism and I’m not going to do it anymore.
This being said, I have not ‘arrived’ at that place yet where I don’t get sucked in to the images of a beautiful dress or a thinner, lighter, not-ancient laptop (since 8 years is like 80 years old in laptop years). I need to ‘act is if’ I’ve already beaten the mind control of consumerism and made the shift to owning my thoughts as an individual and not a shopper. So now that I’m telling myself I am free from the thoughts of what to buy next, what do the Frugal Desperado’s thoughts look like? What kinds of things will she focus on, now that thoughts are used to add true meaning and significance to her life? I’ve come up with the following as a starter list:
- Minimalist living: getting rid of the extras. Having a core group of items that contribute to my life daily, and that I appreciate in return.
- Communicating with others in a way that focuses on giving: with the rise of social media, I find ‘communication’ is often conducted by being on the receiving end of someone’s highly curated portrayal of their life, or tagging a friend in a funny post or tweet. I’m no longer spending my time online browsing things to shop or in a mall – I have the time to pick up the phone and ask questions, make someone feel like they are being listened to. Instead of tagging someone in a post they might enjoy, how about calling them up and asking if they want to come over for some coffee or go on a walk with me and forge a real connection.
- Frugality: Want less. Savour and enjoy more. Being creative with resources and entertainment to get to the heart of what I’m really trying to achieve – enjoyment of life! Obliterating the investment of dollars into things and moments that are fleeting and redirecting them to the game changers, the life changers. Cut out the dinners out you won’t even remember by the end of the week to put towards the trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
- Character Development: I read about an hour a day, but do I really study what I’m reading? Am I staying focused enough to really absorb what I’m reading and finding ways to consciously apply it to my life? I have the time for that now. To read and then to think, to ponder, to write, to apply.
- Volunteering: I haven’t done this in a long time. Now that I’m not spending time thinking of things to buy myself or other ways to add material pleasures to my life, what can I do to contribute back to others? Who needs my help? What times and days can I devote to making helping others a part of my regular routine, a part of the fabric of my life?
- Practice Gratitude: I’ve gotten on gratitude streaks where I’ve written daily in a journal for 3 weeks and then stopped, or went to bed every night thinking of all the things I’m grateful for and then that eventually peters off. I truly believe gratitude can completely change how you view your life and the story you tell yourself about what your life is and who you are. I think the only true cure for filling that empty hole we feel needs to be filled with stuff and expensive, fancy experiences is gratitude. I need to find ways to make it a part of my daily practice, where thinking of things I love and am thankful is something I mindfully work on each day. I need to decide how I’ll integrate this – whether it’s meditation, daily journalling or any time I find myself in a state of want, pulling out a piece of paper and writing down everything I’m grateful for until the page is full. No, it’s not too much – I’ve spend way more time picking out the perfect stilettos or hunting for the best nude lipstick. Practicing gratitude is so much more worthy of my time.
I might not be fully there yet, but I know that if I ‘act as if’ these are the things that fill my thoughts and musings and hour-long commutes home, I will get there. I no longer spend time browsing sites to online shop, because someone who acts as if that is truly no longer a part of them doesn’t do that – they spend time thinking of ways to contribute back to their community, ways to live with less that means so much more.
The liberating philosophy behind ‘act as if’ is that it acknowledges and respects that you way not be who and where you want to be yet, but you can still live and feel like you are until you get there. That acting land feeling like it might even be the very means to you getting there.
I am no longer spending my time shopping. I’m spending my time creating my self-fulfilling prophecies, and living like I’ve already got them made.