Friday, November 18, 2011

One Week, Dollars Richer

No shopping for a week? What's a brain to do without its dopamine rush?

Last night, after a chiro appointment, I went to White Oaks Mall in South London. Haven't been there for ages— I'm not much of a mall rat. But the place is decorated to the hilt with Christmas, which means abundance of colour, texture, scents, sounds.... and STUFF. Piles and Piles of stuff. Beautiful things, rich textures, heavenly scents, beautifully laid out. Stuff that BEGS to be bought.

Which, of course, is the point. And which, being on a 30 day spending fast, I didn't. I meandered, wandered, walked slowly around the whole darn mall. I went in to shops, looked, touched, admired, scowled at the cheapy crappy stuff. My wallet stayed in my hoodie pouch. I enjoyed my happy wandering.

If you haven't heard, shopping is healthy. 'Tis! Dopamine, the brain's 'make me happy' neurotransmitter, is released when we experience something new, whether it be a walk along a new route or seeing new things in a shop window. And our brains thrive on novelty. If shopping is a pleasurable activity, your brain gets flooded with endorphins.

It could also be argued that shopping:

  1. keeps you active—you have to walk around from store to store. You're not on the couch or playing Scrabble.
  2. keeps your mind alert— you have to make decisions about pricing, about need/want, about how something will fit into what you have, etc. You have to remember if you saw the same thing for less somewhere else (unless your iPhone is doing the price comparison for you)

But before you pick up your bus pass and rush to the mall.... window shopping also achieves the same dopamine surge as actually spending money.

I love window shopping. I love seeing the new colours and designs, seeing what fabrics or materials are being used; I enjoy seeing how the displays are made to be beautiful and appealing. This simple act inspires me, lifts me up, makes me smile.

It's now been just over a week without any spending other than on essentials.

I'd like to say it's been tough, a hard slog and that I'm reeling from spending withdrawal.
I'd like to say that I've drooled and salivated as I passed Starbucks, that my car 'intuitively' just drove into the parking lot and I fought the impulse to cave.

If I could whinge and whine about how hard it's been and oh, poor me, I haven't been able to buy a magazine that was calling my name. If I could grumble about missing my Tall 5 pump lactose-free light water extra hot chai  or my tall half-sweet, lactose-free hazelnut hot chocolate on my 65 km drive home... maybe  this whole project would have more colour and buzz and edginess to it.

But, sadly, there's been just about nothing. No tremors, no shakes, no urges. I have emerged from Week One unscathed.

I did return $14.70 of bottles and cans to the Beer Store. I've also put about $30 into the pot to represent what I might have spent. When I return from London, I automatically pop $5 into the savings box ( an empty Rheo Thompson's chocolate box- representing luxury!) in place of the Starbucks I probably would have bought. I've been making thermoses of tea to take with me wherever I go.

And I continue to think about the money energy... more coming later on this. But first, I'm heading to Stratford on Saturday for a concert. I'm making it an exploring trip. I'll be seeing friends there. And yes, I will be buying stuff... for presents. I'll be closely watching, though, my responses to the dopamine rushes I expect to experience.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A New Take on Hunting Bambi

I'm not a hunter. I'm 97.386% vegetarian. I don't think I knew any hunters before I moved to the Gravel Road from the city and I'm one of those who think that animals, with the exception of possums, are cute. There are currently 6 cats calling our place home, and one is currently sleeping on my lap, but that's another story. 
In short, I was not a big fan of the concept of hunting and I subscribed to the liberal, 'humane' view that hunting is yucky. And hunters are mean people who kill Bambi.
Hunting is part of the fabric of life on the Gravel Road. November and December may mean Christmas and concerts and shopping to people in the city. But out here...people hunt. And go to concerts and parties and shop!
I've had to come to terms with it. I've thought about it a lot over the years, because it's right at my front door. Literally. Hunters come to ask permission to hunt on our farms. We give it. It took some time, but I have come to the point where I (nearly) celebrate it. In spite of my prejudices.
Here's why:
"Thanks" from the hunters. 
  • the hunters ask permission
  • they follow the rules- wearing orange, hunting where we tell them (away from houses and me walking), have their licenses and tags, etc.
  • they truly appreciate the opportunity- if it weren't for the farmers, they wouldn't be able to hunt (ie, there's no 'free, open, unowned land' around)
  • they keep an eye on our woods and will let us know if there's anything amiss
  • they don't leave a trace- they take out what they take in
  • they say thank you (for us... wine, chocolate, and all the ketchup or canned beans you can throw a stick at)
  • they use the entire animal
  • the hunt helps keep the deer population in check, since there are no longer any other natural predators in the area. We're happy to give some of our harvest to Bambi (and Rocky the Raccoon and Sammi the Squirrel) to live on, but they do a lot of damage, so some kind of balance is needed.
The guys (and it's all men who hunt here, though there are women and there has been one girl hunting with her dad) have the meat butchered and put it in their freezers.They eat what they kill.
It's organic, local, heritage, hormone and antibiotic-free, non-GMO. There's a direct connection between the food and the consumer. There's little energy used in transport (usually 2-4 guys in the truck, and they carry it home) and within the proverbial 100-miles.
I'd say, in fact, that it makes a more authentic, local  meal than going to the grocery store. 
This week, it's black powder. The guns look like automatic rifles, but they have to re-load after every shot. It's not easy. When it's not black powder, it's cross-bow. It's not like being at a shooting gallery. These guys have to work at it.

Let the hunt begin. Let my wine cellar grow! There will be chocolate for dessert.

I Made Money on My Walk Today

Yes, I did. I made $.70 on today's walk.

My Collection Today.
Every day's walk along the Gravel Road nets me several beer cans, and sometimes, bottles. It's odd. I walk the same couple of kilometers nearly every day, and, there's ALWAYS at least one beer can. Even on Monday mornings.

I pick the cans up on my way, smash them flat and toss them over to the other side, and collect them on the way back. Sometimes, in the summer, I have to shake out dead snails. In the winter, there's often some ice inside. Right now, they're just plain wet and dirty.

Who ARE these guys, these beer can tossers? Is it the same bunch of guys every night?  Or are there several groups? Is there a group that drinks, say, all the Coors light and another that favours Busch or Bud Light? Are they local or are they using the gravel roads as a short cut between distant points where they won't be caught by the O.P.P.?

I'm an equal opportunity beer can picker upper. To me, they're money. Not much per can—a dime a piece—, but it adds up. And cleans up the Gravel Road. I take them back to The Beer Store for refunds. It's the only reason I've been in a Beer Store, ever. I don't drink the stuff, but I'm happy to bring back the empties. (It's even better now that they take care of wine, cooler and liquor bottles!)

Free Money. More or less. Usually I take my money and run— straight to the Starbucks next door.

But this month, I'm going to put all my dimes and nickels and loonies into a separate container. It'll be part of my Intelligent Advanced Savings Plan. Let's see how much it DOES add up to!

Monday, November 7, 2011

30-Day No Spending Money Experiment

Today is Day 1 of not spending any money, other than food and the absolute absolute essentials- like gas if needed- for a month.

Yes, November, 30 days of Shop Now for Great Gifts and You NEED this NOW and shop shelves filled with colour and texture and novelty! Not the best time? Perhaps. I could've done it, say, in February, but the pressure to buy and the impulse to pick things up are constant. Now is as good a time as any. Maybe even a great time.

What this means.
No Starbucks, no magazines or books, no clothes (and I don't need any underwear), no snacks, no nothing.

Today, it will be easy. I start teaching at 10:30 and go til 9 pm. Tomorrow will be easy, too, because I'm here all day, teaching and cleaning. Things start getting challenging by the end of the week, when I go to the city... for whatever it is I go to the city for.

I'm doing this to get more conscious of my dealings with this energy force we call money.
I'm doing it to watch more carefully just where the money goes.
I'm doing it to save money.
I'm doing it to keep the clutter down.
I'm doing it to make sure I think before I buy.

I'm wondering a few things...

  • will I also pay attention to other things as well, like food?
  • what about having tea with friends?
  • what about Christmas presents? Can I rationalize that it's not for me? Will that open up a whole Pandora's box of what else?
  • will this feed the picky persnickety part of me and make me unbearable?
We'll see. I'm staying tuned.