In my old life I had a GIANT salary. I didn't realise how giant it was until it stopped. I took it for granted and thought everyone earnt roughly the same and shopped like I did (i.e. like an addict).
My spending habits were unhealthy. I wasn't happy and buying stuff became a way to make myself feel better. I quickly became used to a certain level of spending. I bought scented candles on my lunch break (Oliver Bonas was right next to the office). I splurged on skincare in Boots in Waterloo. A day wasn't complete without a purchase. If I had an unpleasant encounter at work, or felt stressed then I'd go onto Asos. Or Whistles. There was a time when I owned the entire Whistles collection most seasons. I went into the massive Top Shop in Oxford Circus once a week. I started to recognise the staff and developed a very particular browsing routine (and tried to ignore the girls who were thirteen and buying the same top as me).
I'm not boasting here but just want to illustrate my extreme spendy-ness.
I was never into designer stuff (thankfully) so was mainly a high-street junkie. I had a particular weakness for anything with pattern. This meant a wardrobe full of loud, colourful items but nothing to co-ordinate them with. In my fantasy I worked for Red magazine (this had always been a bit of a dream of mine- not rooted in an understanding of magazines - more the naive belief that fashion magazines are very glam and never boring).
Buying stuff feels good. There's the moment when you whisk it towards the till and you feel light and carefree. You project yourself into this fantasy future where you're wearing the dress/face cream, and you're a happier, more popular version of you. You're one of those people that strangers smile at, that attractive men wink at, that get doors held open for, that are at the cut and thrust of the universe.
You definitely aren't a market researcher working in the dog biscuit category buying yet another dress.
Then this dream fades, as dreams do, and you stare into the bag and feel hollow. I was often consumed with guilt - realising I had yet another floral, top to add to my collection. I'd rip the tags off and scrunch the bags straight into the recycling. I'd try and forget about it. Wearing something new for the first time was always nice but then I was still the market researcher working in the dog biscuit category. Nobody held the door open and the only guy that winked at me worked was in his seventies and had a greasy, yellow/grey comb-over.
Face stuff was different in that I've always loved lotions and potions. However I did a lot of work in the beauty category, and realised that there are probably only 2 products that I've used that have made ANY NOTICEABLE difference (one of these is Charlotte Tilbury's Wonderglow and the other is Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair by the way).
I'd argue you can survive on a skincare budget and nobody will notice.
Life changed when I went freelance. In the beginnings I behaved pretty much as I always had. Then I started to panic about the lack of money coming in. I had to change my behaviours very quickly. This was tough. I'd had ten years spending money like a motherfucker. I was out of practice with the notion of a budget.
The reality was I'd spent quite a few years with no wonga when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I'd worked as a cleaner and earnt twenty quid a three-hour session. I'd worked in furniture retail and got £4.50 an hour. I was simply out of practice with saying NO to my big, fat, greedy, consuming self.
There are a few things I've noticed now that I've stopped (had to stop) spending.
I feel less guilty - this was something I always carried around. Yes I worked hard but there was part of me that felt it was self-indulgent to be buying myself so much stuff because 'i deserved it'. Why did I? What had I actually done? Nowadays there is too much encouragement to satisfy our desires through consumption. The reality is that yes I'm an okay person but nobody needs to be so greedy as to have five versions of the same stupid top.
I use the stuff I have already- I'd got into this state where I would buy things before I actually ran out. So I was a compulsive face cream hoarder - always on the look out for the latest gimmick or ingredient. I've actually managed to live off my old hoard for a year. I've started reading up on budget ranges like Superdrug (which Sali Hughes raves about). I get a buzz from landing something cheap rather than the nausea I felt exiting Space NK ( I once spent 80 quid on a face oil. Can you believe it?).
I feel calmer - okay I'm not going to get all Namaste but the truth is all the BUY BUY BUY was covering up my feelings. Just as I used painkillers to numb my constant headaches (which miraculously cleared up when I left work), buying stuff covered up the fact that I had the constant sense that a) I was unhappy b) I didn't know what to do next.
I won't say that I'm happier without money ( it makes me feel like I'm on a plane that has hit turbulence when I think about it too hard) but I will say that I feel more in touch with my emotions. Now when I'm feeling crap, I'll open the Asos tab, fill my basket and then shut it again. I'll see what Erica Davies recommends this week, search it out and not bother. I get the pre-purchase high without the guilt. Last night I almost bought custom-made shampoo recommended by Sali Hughes (30 quid a month subscription which is insane unless you are fairly wealthy), and I went through the steps online, selected what I wanted, customised it, then left again (though I do keep thinking about that shampoo and the fact that it might be so good that it'll make attractive men wink at me again instead of creeps).
I miss the holidays. I miss the experiences. I get pangs when I see other women wearing the stuff I would buy without a second thought. I have to remind myself that another Zara top isn't going to make me change my future.
So how to stop spending like a MF?
Stop. Shut the tab. Make yourself a cup of tea. Distract yourself. Write. Meditate.
Remind yourself that this isn't the answer. Then think...what would change your life for the better?