All Chips Are In


I was having a tough time, emotionally, with my debt load yesterday. I was at a coffee shop I’m not the biggest fan of (I had a coupon for a dollar coffee to try their new blend) and I needed a space to study for a work course free from the distractions of home and my adorable little puppy (insert shameless brag here) so there I was. However studying was a struggle; I had a shopping relapse earlier in the day and the guilt was setting in.

I knew I shouldn’t have walked in to my favourite resale/thrift store when I saw the 50% off sign. I should’ve kept going. I walked in and I did the whole mind-blank thing; no logic or reasoning could push through as I bee-lined with my items to the cash register. A never worn before Columbia fleece jacket for $15. A J.Crew dress with its $200 price tag on it for $20. Old me would’ve been on Cloud 9 at those “deals,” but nearly $60k in debt me should’ve stayed the $%#$# away.

So fast-forward to me in a coffee shop, drinking a $1 coffee I didn’t care for so I could use their space and Internet, knowing I forwent the coffee place across the street that I actually do like because their brew would set me back a whole 2.25 – meanwhile I seemed to have been okay with spending almost $70 on clothes (addiction never was the best breeding ground for logic). I swore to myself again, that this time was it. This was the last time. After today, it was over. It kind of feels like one of the multiple times I’ve committed to eating healthier and working out. The last binge is always the last, the diet always starts tomorrow. Well, so far I’ve been swimming in this endless sea of tomorrows. I need to do something NOW.

So I did what I always do after I spend any amount, and I recalculate my debts. This purchase was tacked on to my already inflated debt since I last did a Round Up; taxes, course tuition, dentist work that went beyond my benefits – I’ve been sinking further as of late. The lump in my throat set in. The put in my stomach was growing bigger by the second. I can’t fail again this time. I can’t go back on my commitment yet again. The shopping ban needs to stay; there’s no more room for error. All chips are in.

How do you dust yourself off after disappointing yourself again? I know it’s crucial to not judge or berate myself seeing that will get me nowhere, but I’m losing patience with myself. You know how everyone has that friend with the cr@ppy boyfriend or girlfriend, that after getting their heart trampled on for the umpteenth time, swears up and down it’s over, this is the last straw, they’re cutting them loose and moving on? And after they take them back for the umpteenth time, you don’t even care to comment or even roll your eyes at it anymore – you just don’t care to hear it at all. Well I’m getting there – with myself. I’m embarrassed to report it here (but do because I promised I’d always be honest and transparent – or how else would I work through this?) because how long before everyone sees me like the friend with the terrible on-again, off-again relationship, and thinks, “man, this chick’s a flake. She can’t stick to anything.” It’s hard to move forward with gusto when you feel like you lost your credibility…with yourself.

I know I can do this, guys. I know deep in my heart I can. I can get out from this mountain of debt. I know I can get to a point where I can resist the temptation. Just like the healthy eating goals or the exercise goals, you slip up and don’t do what you’re supposed to – until you do. You go on again and off again – until you break the cycle. You think you can’t reach that goal, until you hit it. It just takes one tiny small baby step. Followed by another tiny little baby step. Followed by another, until I look up one day and notice I’m not only there, but I’m even a few paces ahead.

Has anyone else ever struggled to form new patterns, but had a hard time sticking to them? Whether it was attached to financial goals, or health or personal ones?

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  1. YOU CAN DO IT! We all have experiences like this, no matter how long you’ve been struggling to get out of debt. We all make mistakes; we really do. I make stupid purchases all the damn time. It’s about looking back on it and recognizing the pattern and preventing it from happening again. In this case, going to a different coffee shop would have saved more moolah because it wasn’t near the thrift store. For me, I’ll binge on junk food if I have it in the house. It’s expensive and unhealthy, so I removed the temptation completely.

    After I relapse, I like to be kind to myself. I paint my nails at home, take a long bath, listen to relaxing music, and do a guided meditation on YouTube.

    1. Your vote of confidence goes a long way, Mrs.PP! And thank you for confirming I’m not alone in making unwise spending decisions sometimes. It really is about prevention, isn’t it? I can relate to not keeping junk food in the house – I know that I’ve already proven that if it’s in the house, 10/10 times I will most definitely binge, so best to stay clear. I really do need to take that approach with my spending triggers. Which reminds me to also ensure I stop going on to my favourite store sites “just to browse” or ban even stepping foot in a mall!

      You know, that little sentence made me think – I’m never kind to myself after I relapse, usually the opposite (and that hasn’t worked well in preventing future relapses!) It makes so much more sense to be kind and indulge in some free self-care and get in a better, more balanced mindspace. Thank you for that – that really opened my mind to a different, and likely more healing approach. I’m going to keep that in mind from now on.

  2. I agree with Mrs. Picky Pincher that having a kind routine for yourself after any difficult day (especially these budget set-backs that really do take a lot out of your energy) is a great idea. I also really relate to the junk food thing! And I think that continuing to blog about successes and failures will help you be accountable–and it helps us too!

    I would suggest, but maybe you’ve tried this without success, if you’ve given into temptation and spotted some great deals at a thrift store (at least it wasn’t an expensive store!) practice the self-control of just putting everything down and going for that dollar cup of coffee or a walk around the block. I’ve never had a problem with shopping, per se, but I was enthusiastically decorating my new house and realized costs were adding up. So I saw all the $40-60 decorative pieces that I was dying to buy, thought to myself “If I still want these things after I’ve gone for groceries I’ll totally come back for them” and by the time I had driven across town and done my grocery shopping the desire to drive back and spend that money was gone. Just like that. Even though I was so excited to have those things while I was in the store. And guess what? Today I have no idea what those things were. But I do remember thinking that was so easy, I must keep doing that. I’ve had much better self-control since. But like I say, everyone is different and you just have to chip away at this in the ways that work for you. The main thing is to not spend your life beating yourself up. Celebrate your progress (frugally!) that it was a thrift store binge instead of a big online blowout.

    When you ask if anyone has had trouble forming new patterns, I can definitely relate to the struggle to just move on from behavior that makes you unhappy. But if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you’ve been getting. When I had my first child I was just so overwhelmed. Nursing didn’t go well. I was so sleep-deprived–basically, a new mom like all others! But I realized eventually the thing that most dragged me down was the inability to just keep the mess and clutter at bay. I could never get caught up. Just as I was starting to get a good routine and beginning to feel on top of my life, we had a second baby 🙂 And of course that is wonderful. But there I went back into a pit of dirty diapers, unwashed clothes and dishes, etc. As my kids got a bit bigger I had to really, really train myself to give that final push at the end of the day to clear up some clutter a) so I could enjoy my quiet evening time and b) so that I didn’t wake up to an overwhelming mess. I call it doing the work for my future self. As tired as I may be, doing that ten or twenty minutes of quick tidying took me from borderline depressed and overwhelmed to happier and better able to face every day. Waking up to a tidy kitchen meant I could spend a bit of time on hobbies, I had the energy to stay on top of the mess during the day, and I quickly saw progress in my demeanor, my outlook and even my appearance.

    So, how I relate this to the shopping thing is trying to look past how you are feeling in this moment. For me, tired, for you, elated to have found a good deal. If you can, try to focus on how you will feel about it tomorrow–ashamed that you gave in, or elated and over the moon that you resisted? Try to invest in those future emotions. I know it’s hard and I’ve had setbacks. But I’ve learned how quickly I can get back on track and also that small successes really snowball into the type of new patterns and behaviors that you are looking for.

    I read something so inspirational yesterday. I hope you don’t mind I thought I’d share a quote here:

    The author has imagined life in the graveyard, populated by grotesquely self-obsessed specters who linger longingly and in great distress because they do not know that they are dead. And when they realize it, they are buoyantly free to leave all suffering behind.

    I can imagine life in a garden, populated by self-obsessed specters who linger longingly and in great distress because they do not know that they are alive. And when they realize it, they are buoyantly free to show goodness and mercy forever.

    Isn’t that just so lovely and moving? Remember that your struggle right now is part of the bigger picture of your life. Fill your weak moments with activities that take you to a higher place. Feed your future self the things she will need to be the best version of herself. You can only create tht future person a bit at a time, right now. The quote is from Karen Maezen Miller’s blog, Cheerio Road. A lovely spot to visit.

    1. Jill, thank you so much for sharing all those points, especially your personal experience. Even though I haven’t had the experience of having children, whenever you write (you truly have such a beautiful way of writing!), I feel I can transplant myself emotionally into the situations you describe – a hallmark of a wonderful writer 🙂 I think being a mom is the most important – yet toughest – job in the world, and I can barely keep above water most days on my own, let alone raising a little life – and then two little lives! (Please know that I think you’re Superwoman!!) That approach you took to invest work into your ‘future self’ to transform a current situation and propel it to something that will reap continuous positive rewards was brilliant and so wise – and is wonderful, wonderful advice. Thank you. I’ve written “Invest in your future self. Invest in your future emotions” in my planner to remember these wise words of yours. You’ve given me an excellent compass to use when I’m finding myself leaning towards a detrimental direction.

      I think waiting out the urges can work wonders for most people; for me, personally, working against an addiction makes this tough. I can have a spending craving gnaw at me, unwaveringly, for days upon days. I’m ashamed to say I’ve got up in the middle of the night to finalize on online purchase because I couldn’t sleep because of desire for an item, and have lied about where I needed to be just so I can sneak out to a store to buy something I just couldn’t shake (isn’t that terrible? So hard to admit this). However I think remembering your words, investing in my future self, in my future emotions, will go a long way. If there’s something I am incredibly familiar with, it’s that terrible, post-shopping shame and guilt. Avoiding that is impetus enough to stay on track. It’s comforting hearing that those little habits snowball into lasting patterns. I know I just need to consistently put in the work for those baby steps in the beginning.

      Thank you for sharing that quote from Karen Maezen Miller’s blog. What a beautiful way to provoke some truly important thoughts. I appreciate you sharing that! I love the sharing of anything positive and uplifiting, as that contributes to a healthy, happy future (and present!) self. 

      Thank you for being you, Jill <3

  3. Maybe set aside $15-20 each month for thrifting? This could help the shopping “fix” and still give you permission to spend a little. Maybe cold turkey is just too hard for you and planning a little more for long-range success might be the ticket.

    It’s a little hard for me to relate because I loathe shopping! I will put it off as long as possible until I force myself to order new underwear online. Ha!

    1. I envy you, Isabella!! Disliking shopping is a blessing – and a great quality to have! I think some “fun money” would be a healthier approach to ensuring I can actually stick to budget; it’s no coincidence that a lot of the great advice I’ve gotten from those who have it together financially is to make sure I leave some wiggle room with a fun budget so that I don’t have these relapses. Thank you for that input!

    2. Hi again, FD. I’m so sorry to hear how difficult resisting shopping is for you. It occurred to me that a weekly “how I saved money this week” series might also help you stay accountable. I did it when I had more time and found that I really didn’t want to report on my blog that I bought a $16 superstore t-shirt ?So I didn’t buy it 🙂 it was also an encouraging process bc I could see how much I did resist temptation. Something I wasn’t as conscious of until I kept a daily list to report on my blog. Anyways, just a thought! All my best, Jill

      1. And a great thought, Jill! Accountability goes a long way with me. For example, I feel like I’ve read a million articles and studies on nutrition, meal planning, etc. but I didn’t apply any of that knowledge until I started working with a nutritionist through my work health benefits, and now that I check in with her daily, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I said no to a bad food choice because of the thought of having to tell her I made a poor choice! So thank you for the idea – I absolutely need to integrate a system of accountability going forward on the blog!

  4. Instead of beating yourself up over coffee, why didn’t you return the clothes once you realised it had been a mistake?

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