Sober in Seattle

Confessions of a Shopaholic: Navigating the ‘No Spend Challenge’ for 2024 – A Personal Journey Towards Financial Sobriety

Dear Diary,

It’s January 17th, and I find myself compelled to make a confession. I wish I could say I’m on day 17 of the “No Spend” challenge for 2024, but that would be stretching the truth. It’s taken me a few days to process my experience, and now I feel ready to share.

On Monday afternoon, I had a delightful catch-up with my dear friend Dori, who was visiting from New Mexico. After our casual catch-up at Joey’s over happy hour sushi cones and diet cokes, I decided to stop by the hotel where my friends, co-workers, and fellow Sober Curators, Alex and Tamar, were settling in for our annual WORKP2P Kick-Off retreat the following day. I wanted to welcome them to Seattle, especially Alex, who was experiencing the West Coast, also known as the Best Coast, for the first time. I planned to check if they needed anything and then head home.

However, my journey home had a detour planned – an oh-so-brief visit to HomeGoods for necessities. Like Nordstrom, HomeGoods is my Achilles heel. I had been obsessively thinking about this stop all day. The plan? To pick up a few candles and a pack of hangers. Candles fall under the “consumable” category in my no-spend challenge “rules”, and they’re part of my self-care routine, so I figured they were fair game. And hangers? Well, you can never have too many of those.

As I bid Alex and Tamar goodbye, I vaguely suggested that I was heading straight home. In retrospect, that was a white lie and an indicator I was quickly slipping into old behavior. My route home involved driving past HomeGoods. Let me be clear, there were other routes I could have taken.

Once inside HomeGoods, my shopping instincts kicked in. As I had predicted, the clearance section was a treasure trove of fall and holiday candles being cleared out so the fresh scents of spring could line the shelves. Four candles and a pack of coral velvet hangers later, I was ready to head to the checkout counter. But then, an innocent thought occurred to me – a few more laps around the store wouldn’t hurt. After all, I hadn’t clocked in enough steps for the day. I’ve been known to joke that shopping is my cardio.

Thankfully, nothing caught my eye during my leisurely stroll as I paced each aisle like a lioness on the prowl. I breathed a sigh of relief as I rounded the corner towards the checkout counter, only to be met with a maze of impulse items. This section is intentional on the part of HomeGoods as an impulse buying trap and there’s no way around it, only through. That’s where I stumbled upon the “Prove Them Wrong” desk paperweight.

Now, the rules of the challenge are clear – no buying things I don’t need or already own. But the allure of that $7 paperweight was too strong. I couldn’t say for certain how many paperweights I owned; let’s just ballpark it at three or four. And while I didn’t have any papers that needed weighting down, the message of the paperweight resonated with me.

It was a moment of weakness, Diary. A moment where the thrill of an unplanned purchase threatened to derail my 2024 “No Spend” commitment. There I was, standing in HomeGoods, wrestling with my inner shopaholic over a $7 paperweight. In my mind, its message of “Prove Them Wrong” would serve as a beacon of inspiration, a constant reminder of my quest to go an entire year without making unplanned and unnecessary purchases. To add fuel to the fire, it was in my home office color palette. Before I knew it, the paperweight and a bag of Jelly Bellies had mysteriously found their way into my basket, just as a lump formed in my throat.

Driving home, I dialed Tamar’s number, confessing that my journey home had taken a detour through HomeGoods. I was quick to justify the candles and hangers as approved purchases. Then, lie number two slipped out, “I didn’t buy anything else. Aren’t you SO proud of me?” If only she knew.

The following day marked the first day of our 2024 Kick-Off retreat. I boasted about my HomeGoods escapade, bending the truth to anyone within earshot. I knew this pattern all too well. Before sobriety, lying was the norm, not the exception. I tried to justify my actions, telling myself that at least I hadn’t stolen the paperweight. Progress, not perfection, right? It was only $7, after all, and it would serve as motivation for the long, no-spend journey ahead.

Later that night, I unexpectedly confessed during a phone call with my friend Matthew. You see, he was sharing a vulnerable moment with me, and all of a sudden, the urge to match back his energetic vulnerability took over and the confession fell quickly out of my mouth before I could stop it. Not only had I let myself down, but I had also lied to my friend Tamar for literally no reason.

Matthew gently reminded me why I was doing this challenge, to begin with —to save money for a dream trip to London for my mom and curb an addiction that was no longer serving me. I had completely forgotten about this goal when I was dropping the paperweight into my basket. He pointed out that this challenge wasn’t about avoiding just the big, unplanned purchases but the small ones. The “it’s only $7,” or “$5”, or “$10”. It all adds up. Death by a thousand papercuts, or in this case, purchases.

Feeling deflated, we discussed returning the paperweight. I quickly retorted that I had already discarded the receipt and removed the price tag. It wasn’t even worth the gas money to return it, I pouted. We agreed that no matter what the outcome was with the paper weight, I owed Tamar an apology, which I promised to make the following day.

Part of me wanted to dismiss this as a minor “slip” and continue counting my days of no spending as if nothing had happened. But then I remembered how I felt when someone claiming total abstinence from alcohol has a “slip,” drinks for one night, and then returns to being a teetotaler without resetting their day count. I had always strongly opposed such reasoning, seeing it as self-deception. And yet, here I was, doing essentially the same thing.

I’ve worked so hard over the years to not only become debt free, but also a homeowner, with a goal to continue adding to my real estate portfolio. And while these are huge improvements, there’s still more work to be done on my impulse hoarding purchases. I’m still committed to the no-spend challenge #justfor2024, and I’m still committed to taking my mom to London. In a previous post, I boasted about not spending over $197 plus tax on impulse buys at Nordstrom. (You can read about that HERE.) If I’m going to track money I wanted to spend and didn’t, then I must also deduct the $7 I did spend.

My dear friend Rita, may she RIP, used to hand out white business cards she’d had made with the following quote, “My biggest failure in life – is trading what I want the most – for what I want at that moment. Change the thought before it becomes an act.” -Rita B.

My name is Alysse Bryson, and I am a shopaholic. As of January 17, I have two days clean of spending and I’ve saved $190 plus tax. My no spend “clean” date is no longer January 1st and is now January 14th. Making this public is both horrifying and therapeutic. When I decided to do this public diary, I also committed myself to being honest and vulnerable, no matter what. I guess this is the no matter what part.

Upon further reflection, it turns out it’s not about proving them wrong. It’s about being honest with myself and my friends and addressing a wasteful addiction that I’ve been justifying for years. Thank you, Tamar and Matthew, for your friendship, wisdom, and grace. Every sidekick needs a sidekick, and this week, I was fortunate enough to have two. Remember, it’s not about the big purchases. It’s also the small ones that add up. Here’s to proving myself right, one day at a time.

Sources: (In case you need them)

  1. SAMHSA’s National Helpline
  2. Verywellmind on Shopping Addiction
  3. Priorygroup on Compulsive Shopping
  4. Goodrx on Shopping Addiction
  5. PsychGuides on Shopping Addiction
  6. Wikipedia on Shopping addiction
  7. Blackbearrehab on Compulsive Buying Disorder
  8. Everyday Health on Shopping Addiction
  9. Healthline on Shopping Addiction
  10. Addiction Center on Signs Of Shopping Addiction

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