Life, like it or not, really is like a diet.
You're very good about what you eat and you excercise and yada yada, but sometimes you fall off and start making bad choices. Or life gets a little complicated for a while and there are plenty of other things for you to think about besides the diet. There are too many other pressing concerns.
But when everything settles back down, you have to face the mess you made. And, like a new pair of saddlebags or flabby arms, it usually ain't pretty.
Moving put off my finance diet (not to mention my physical and spiritual diets) and I succumbed to some pernicious appetites.
For one thing, I was eating out nearly every day, two or three meals a day. That's bad for the pocketbook and worse on my body. I haven't been to the gym or done anything that looks like a workout in over a month -- and I can feel the difference. I look good, but feel just "eh."
I also went back on the credit card because I did not have enough cash to carry me through being unemployed for month, paying movers, setting up new utilities, househunting and everything else I had to pay for with no new income.
Going back on the credit card is really bad. It's like giving in to a bad habit -- maybe like smoking, or biting your nails or picking your nose. You hate it. It disgusts you, but it does feel pretty good, even if you feel guilty afterwards. I whipped out the card for the necessities -- moving supplies, food, bills. But in packing my things I noticed that I could really use some new clothes. Rather than save money to do it, I just handed over the plastic.
And I felt really good in my new digs. Too good. I bought some more -- two pairs of sandals. A cropped suit. A blue silk tank top. Two summer sweaters. Some T-shirts and tanks to replace old, faded out, broken up ones. A new pair of jeans.
I learned that after nearly a year of anorexic discretionary spending and stopping myself from impulse buys, shopping again with reckless abandon unleashed a wave of euphoria. I felt powerful. Satisfied. Free.
I felt like, this is how life should be. If I want it and it's not unreasonable, I should be able to just get it.
In a psycho moment, I thought "I need a new computer" and was all set to buy a new Apple (don't go in those stores... they're hypnotic), when I snapped back to reality. There's always a point when you can either come back from the edge -- a pair of jeans vs. a $2,000 computer -- or plunge head first into the abyss of debt. A few years ago, I would have dove in. I know better now.
Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not materialistic. I believe strongly in delayed gratification. I don't enjoy shopping itself (I joke that I shop like a man. I know what I need. I go to the store that will have it. If they have it, it works and it fits, I take it and go home. End of shopping), but I didn't realize how I hate picking up nice things I could use right away only to put them down because I can't spare a few bucks.
The good thing in all that is that I have begun to learn and truly understand how much of our lives are totally uneccessary. I understand that I can get by on far less than what I used to think I needed. It feels better to pare down the nice, but ultimately useless things. After packing and unpacking, I tossed some things I won't replace though the temptation is strong. And I haven't given in to the desire to buy all sorts of new things for my apartment because I have more space now. I lived with what I had for two years, I can live with it for a while longer.
I've even come to a point where I don't need or want people to buy me gifts on my birthday or other invented holidays (except Christmas. That's my one exception), especially if I know they're strapped for cash themselves. If they want to get me something that badly, give me the cash.
Like a diet, it's an ongoing process. I'm tight on cash, but notice I am still spending a little too liberally -- mostly on food and gas. I just got cable, though I sat in here for a week without it and, frankly, didn't miss it (except for the Internet).