Update: January spending freeze (in which I shift all my emotional energy from furniture to frozen yogurt)

January is halfway over, so I thought I’d update you on my January spending freeze. The good news is that so far I’ve kept my resolution.

It has not been without temptation.

First, we took down our Christmas decorations last weekend. As soon as they came down, glaring bald spots appeared in the living room, dining room and kitchen.

“We really need another chair,” I whispered to a plastic box as I placed ornaments in it.

But I have not bought a chair. I owe this mostly to the fact that I’ve stayed out of stores.

With a few exceptions.

First, Target, where they’ve cleverly separated the grocery and baby stuff with the fearsome Isle of Cute Yet Affordable Tunics and the treacherous Marked-Down Throw Pillow River of No Return. I realized how susceptible I am to taking just a quick look as I pass through that department, which turns into taking just a few things into the dressing room, which amounts to just an extra $30 at checkout.

Three times a week.

I remember that when I was pregnant, all the non-maternity clothes looked extra fabulous. And when I’m not pregnant, the maternity clothes seem to be so much better than when I needed them.

Similarly, now that I can’t buy any clothes, everything I pass seems to be the most amazing skirt/sweater/sports bra/knee sock/nightgown ever created.


Throwback Thursday, indeed. Almost all pictures of me pregnant are selfies taken in the Target dressing room. As you can see, my pregnant belly was no joke. Shortly after I took this picture, a lady in the checkout lane asked me if I was expecting twins.

But I’m surviving just fine on what I have. Surprise, surprise.

I had my second challenge yesterday. I went to Home Goods. I know, this is tantamount to a recovering alcoholic spending an afternoon in a bar. But I had a purpose and a plan. I needed to buy a present for a birthday party Noah is attending this weekend. I didn’t feel guilty, because gifts are not on my spending freeze list. Also, I had checked the gift reserve under my bed, and we didn’t have any good options.

What I did have was a too-small, unwrapped rug pad I bought months ago and a mop that I got on clearance but never figured out how to work. (In my defense, Pat couldn’t figure it out either.) Both were from HomeGoods.

On Wednesday afternoons, Noah’s carpool can’t drive him home, so my mother-in-law comes to the house during Rory’s nap while I fetch Noah from school. Noah and I have turned it into a weekly date of sorts: last week, we sampled a flight of Munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts (Noah needed to approve them as the treat brought to class for his birthday). This week, I loaded Noah, the rug pad and the busted mop into the car and went to the mall.


As soon as we walked in to HomeGoods, I remembered why I had to stay out. So many adorable chairs beckoning me with their modern lines and low, low prices. I’ll confess that I caressed the orange leather arm of one as I walked by. But I stayed focussed.

Noah was excited about gift-hunting. We quickly found a puzzle with cars on it and were set. But I almost slipped in my resolution here. After selecting the puzzle for Noah’s friend, I noticed another one. I unconsciously picked it up, figuring that I would give it to Noah at some later date; after all, it was only $5.99. It was only after carrying it around for a minute that I realized what I was doing. Back on the shelf it went, and on the wagon I stayed.

We approached the counter for what Pat calls my “Ponzi.” Let me stress that what he’s referring to is perfectly legal: I buy things, I return things. Sometimes, I have to return things without a receipt, and in those cases, I get store credit. Then I buy other things with that store credit.

The problem is that in my head, there’s always this balance of available money floating out there based on things I’ve returned, when in reality, I’ve gone over that balance long ago. Make sense? So if anyone is a victim of my Ponzi scheme, it’s me.

The rug pad was returned with relative ease, and I was given store credit for the amount I paid. The mop, on the other hand, had a current selling price of only $2. (I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one having problems with that mop.) I didn’t want to take the hunk of junk back home, so I took the two dollars. We bought the puzzle and a slinky. And I still have $7 left in store credit.

Seven dollars. Ooooh, the possibilities…starting February 1.

After making it out of HomeGoods, Noah wanted to go somewhere else. I told him we could get frozen yogurt. And here we come to a problematic side effect of this spending freeze: since food is the one thing I’ve allowed myself to continue buying, I’ve been turning to it for some of the things shopping used to provide me. I mean, I’ve been spending an AWFUL lot of time at Harris Teeter.

On the positive side, I’ve cooked every night for the last two weeks. On the not so positive side, I might have five pounds to lose when the month is up. Also, I don’t want to fall into a trap of using food in the same way I often use shopping – for comfort, as a reward, etc.

Nevertheless, TCBY was calling my name.

First, Noah needed to use the bathroom. He somehow managed to pee all over the floor of the TCBY bathroom and his pants. I guess he was excited about the yogurt. It did not stop us from each enjoying a scoop of chocolate. And if you’ve seen a five-year-old eat an ice cream cone, you know the true meaning of enjoy. 


Long story short: I think I’m going to make it through January. I’ve even considered extending the resolution past the end of January, at least maybe in one area, like clothes. Though I have another big resolution in mind for February, and if I decide to take that leap, it’s going to require all the emotional energy I’ve got.

Fellow spending freezers, how’s your month going?