I'm giving up money and sugar in 2012. What are your resolutions?
I love New Year's resolutions. If I keep them, I feel like the most important person in the universe of me. If I break them, I just go back to the original list and edit, making it look as though I hadn't planned on making my bed every day anyway. To me, this is how resolutions work: There's a real list and a sub-list.
(With that kind of work ethic, maybe I should run for president when I turn 35. I mean, I already have the two other things necessary to be a female prez candidate -- "smart girl" glasses and a scrunchie. Maybe that should be a resolution for a few years from now....)
But 2012 is going to be different. Gone are the Cathy Cartoon-ish diet and dating goals of yester-2000. This year, I'm gonna make my resolutions so awesome, I won't want to fail and cover up my miserable performance with a half-assed, fake resolution roster. That's why, instead of my usual laundry list of unachievables, I'm making only two resolutions.
The first? Stop spending money.
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In a culture where spending money is a normal way to ensure empty happiness, I have become accustomed to something I didn't grow up doing -- buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff. But now, I do it every day. Five dollars at Starbucks, fifty bucks at Target, a twenty-five dollar tab dinner tab four nights a week -- that's all part of the usual routine. For someone who made under $15,000 last year, that is a lot of money to be spending. On crap.
I'm sure if I were one of those smart Americans who had pulled up my boots straps correctly, I would have insurance -- and so could make an appointment with a therapist to find the root of my unhappiness (which is most likely helping push me into debt in exchange for the temporary high of buying new workout clothes). But that's not reality, so I'm going with the next best thing to insurance -- will power.
Participating in Anna Newell Jones's Clothing Swap in November, I discovered her other awesomely frugal idea: The Spending Diet. I was intrigued by this not-spending idea and realized that my style of subtle-but-wasteful money blowing was pretty common.
I've tried budgeting in the past, but my power of negotiation has proven much stronger than my will to follow basic monetary rules. As a result, I have some credit-card debt, a lot of personal debt with my generous family and, again because I lack insurance, a large debt tied to dental work. Ah, the beauty of being a freelance writer. With teeth.
Anna's plan is pretty simple: Make a list of the stuff you have to pay each month -- this includes rent, utilities, phone bills and such, but also gas and groceries. Then allot yourself $100 a month for spending on eating out, coffee, porn, glamor-length press-on nails, shopping sprees at Goodwill, everything. Track your spending, and when the hundred bucks is gone, it's gone.
Sorry, sister. These nails aren't in your diet.
What's left over after "needs/bills" are covered will allow for bigger payments on credit cards and loans, and (here's a novel idea) maybe even the creation of a savings account -- which, contrary to popular belief, isn't that account I have with $25.36 in it that requires a minimum of $25 in it to stay open. It is actually a place where money gets to be saved.
Anna also points out that the non-needs spending includes things like haircuts -- so if you're used to dropping $85 on a cut and color every other month, it's time to visit the Aveda school. Or even better, freak out every stylist you know by cutting your own hair. (Trust me: Cut your own hair, tell your hairstylist friends what you did, and watch them drop dead from gasping.)
With a little under $7,000 in accrued debt, I'm planning to go on the Spending Diet from January 1 until December 31 of 2012 -- in hopes of knocking it all out. Interested in taking Anna's challange, too? Make your public decree here and, when in doubt, let the Internet hold you accountable.
My second resolution is to give up sugar for the first ten weeks of the year. I know, that sounds like a diet. And it probably is. But the sweet stuff has to go, and the only way to do that is to go cold turkey.
I've learned that cold turkey is the only way for me to conquer physical addictions -- about five and a half years ago, I quit drinking. A month after that, I also quit smoking. With those two vices gone from my life, I picked up a nasty habit: candy.
I'd started eating candy much earlier than that, obviously, but my interest escalated when my body started craving the sugar of alcohol and the oral fixation of cigarettes. Basically, it really sucked to not be able to get drunk or smoke a pack a day, and candy buttons, Necco Wafers, Sixlets and rock hard chunks of Bazooka Joe bubble gum were my cure-all. (Yes, my confectionary choices prove that I am, in fact, a time traveler here from 1967.)
Since then, I have had sugar with every meal. Sugar on my toast, sugar in my pasta, sugar in whatever form sugar can take. Diets, which I have been participating in like the Olympics of failure since 1994, have usually included plenty of crap with fake sugar. But after that awful movie, Hot Tub Time Machine, made a joke about being addicted to Weight Watchers, I made a suicidal jump from the diet train forever.
What's worse than a sugar addiction? Being addicted to Weight Watchers. Because you have to pay to go to "meetings" and pay for food to be addicted to. It's like a no-win for the addict. Plus, you might slip and embarrassingly call calories "points" in front of a non-Weight Watchers cult member, and then your social life will hit the fan faster than a bowel movement after the great WOW! Chip anal leakage debacle of 1998.
But even after breaking the cycle of diet abuse, I am still left with a snaggly sweet tooth. So in 2012, it goes. My friend Talitha sent me this wonderful guide to kicking sugar -- which means I'll also be forgoing soda, ketchup, pasta, salad dressing and cereal -- in preparation for this separation. Knowing that breaking up with sugar forever isn't an option for me, I'm hoping it at least teaches me how to rein in the desire for a middle-of-the-night cupcake (which inevitably leads to me chugging sprinkles instead, because where in the fuck do you get a cupcake in Denver at 4 a.m.? I mean, a good one?).
The best part is, I don't have to feel my own wrath of no-sugar insanity: My family and roommates do. So maybe my third resolution will be to go to bed whenever I get the urge to cut someone's face off because I haven't had a venti two-pump skinny vanilla latte.
Because bed is the lonely hell reserved for single gals like me whose only joy comes from working out. ACK.
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