A Year Without Fast Fashion

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If someone asked you how many seasons there are in a year, what would you tell them? Probably four, right?

In fashion, there are 52 seasons every year.

Does this sound ridiculous? Because it should. Once upon a time there was a summer fashion season and a winter fashion season and people would update their wardrobes with the changing weather (which MAKES SENSE), but those days are long gone.

Major fast fashion retailers (Forever21, H&M, Topshop, and many others) want you to feel like you’re behind in the trends. They thrive off of our insecurity–need it, actually, to continue to see upward growth in their incredibly wasteful business. This isn’t just a confidence problem; the trend of fast fashion is bad for our personal finances, our environment, the people actually producing our clothes, and our wellbeing.

To touch quickly on each point I just mentioned:

  1. On average, we spend $1700 on clothes every year, but our shopping habits are fundamentally much more damaging than this. We buy a lot of stuff (clothing, knick-knacks, houseware) so we need to buy bigger homes that become storage units we don’t fully utilize (a living room AND a family room? A kitchen table AND a dining room table?). One staggering statistic from a Forbes articles (link below) says that 80 years ago a woman might own nine different outfits but now we typically own around 30. Have we really changed that much, or are we just spending more money?
  2. On average, we throw out 80 pounds of clothing per person, less than .5% of it is recycled, and the developing countries we “donate” them to have no use for all of the cheap, low-quality fabric we dump in their home (other than making rags that quickly get thrown away).
  3. Workers are grossly underpaid and overworked, child labor is rampant, and unsafe working conditions cost people their lives thanks to factory collapses (read this article to get an overview).
  4. Clutter is bad juju.

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LONG STORY SHORT–I am going to go a year without buying a single fast fashion item. This might not sound like a radical challenge to you, beloved readers, but I am a clothing addict. I could live happily inside any Anthropologie store and the sales associates at Urban Outfitters know my name when I walk in. But, with eyes wide open, how can I keep feeding an industry that causes so much pain? I would be a hypocrite, preaching the atrocities of fast fashion with bags full of their merchandise slung over my arm.

The fine print? I can still buy clothes from secondhand stores. Buffalo Exchange is where I thrive–I have no problem spending a little extra time hunting for an armful of unique pieces that will cost me less than $60 altogether. By buying only secondhand for a year, I will be using my dollar to support these smaller stores, give used clothes a second life, and vote my ethics.

Today is March 11th. I’m not saying I’ll always shop secondhand for the rest of my life, but this year will do the environment (and my wallet) some much needed good. And if any of you feel so inclined, I would LOVE for you to take the challenge with me. Maybe I’ll upload some of my thrift store finds on my youtube channel for a little extra inspiration.

As always, I would love for you guys to do your own research and let me know what you think about it. Here are some links to get you started:

 

Sloppy Babes: Isabel

Behind the scenes with Isabel; part-time barista, full-time student, and aspiring journalist who believes in using media to fight injustice.

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What does an average day look like for you? What would your perfect day look like?

An average day looks like me oversleeping until 11 or 12, going to work from 2-9:30, then heading home and watching tv with my dad until he falls asleep. After that, I will eat and stay up way too late.

A perfect day would be me going into my newsroom for the school newspaper early–around nine–and bringing some Starbucks. I’d edit three or four articles, hold a meeting, assign a lot of articles, go to class, overeat at home, and fall asleep promptly at 11. Some days are like that and those are the good days when I feel alive…when I feel like my life is going someplace.

So how do you think others perceive your life?

How busy I am is romanticized, but I feel like I haven’t been myself because I haven’t been doing things for myself. I haven’t finished reading a book in a year. I’ll start a bunch of books and never finish them and it feels so empty, as if by leaving books unfinished I’m losing parts of my life. I just don’t have time to get to endings. When I get home from work or school I’m exhausted and I want to do something really numbing so I don’t have to think because I don’t have the energy to.

The grind never ends.

If you’re always so stressed, how do you unwind when you’re completely alone?

Porn helps. Everyone is absorbed by it in some way; you open the internet or watch a movie and it’s there so why pretend like we’re scandalized by it? Cigarettes help too. Standing outside by myself for six minutes a day every few hours is the highlight of my life. It’s not fun when somebody walks by and I know I deserve that look they’re giving me, but on campus, it’s an easy way to start talking to people. 

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Is that different than when you’re with other people?

I don’t smoke around people. My need to smoke comes on when I’m alone and alone with my thoughts. I laugh way more when I’m with people. I laugh when I’m alone, too, but then I start getting looks from people again.

I can’t remember who but someone once said we have three faces. We have the face that we show in public, the face that we show to our family and the face that we only show to ourselves. You’re never the same you are alone than you are with other people. We like to convince ourselves that we’re different because we always want to be something else.

Where do you think your actions are going to lead?

I will constantly be distancing myself from my family and in twenty years I’ll be regretful for that because times sweetens memories, but right now it’s what I need. I feel the responsibility to take care of them, even though I’m the youngest and trying the best to build something for myself. Memories are like sugary wine–they taste so sweet that you become drunk on remembering but it’s an illusion.

I’ll either have a career in what I want, and I’ll probably be constantly disappointed with where I am so I’ll be always striving to do more and climb higher. Or I’ll be dead. But hopefully, I don’t die.

Do you mean that?

Well, no. I don’t really mean hopefully. That’s part of the mask. The only reason I’m still alive is because of the act I’m putting on for everybody. My backstage behavior wants me to die but my front stage behavior realizes that it’s not healthy.

The reason Sylvia Plath called her book the bell jar is because bell jars put out candles and she felt like she was stifled by her life. She couldn’t breathe under it. A lot of problems Plath had stemmed from her femininity and the pressures of 1950’s society on her as a woman. It was incredibly constricting.

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So you’re not happy?

No. I’m not as great as I want to be, I haven’t been reading, putting in enough work in the newspaper, and I’ve been putting too much time in a fruitless part-time job. The thing I’m putting most of my energy into just for money is a dead end.

If this isn’t the life you want, how do you see yourself getting to it? 

I don’t like the ritual in my life, it feels very monotonous. The past six months have been the longest stretch of my life. I turned 19 a week ago but I feel like that week has lasted four months already, you know what I mean? Usually, I’m surprised by time.

I would love to go to Brooklyn for a summer and work with Vice. Also, go full time to school and do all of my homework because that’s the only thing that’s really preventing me from getting spotless grades. If I had a good GPA I could get a good internship, then that experience could lead to a good job and put my foot in the door. It would be full circle.

The problem with being a journalist who wants to uncover the shitty aspects of the world is that going overseas would be really hard because of how women are treated around the world. Especially in places where they really need people, they’re not as safe for women as they are for men, which limits my options.

In a lot of ways, society is an outlet for me to express myself but it’s mostly a cage because society tells me I can only do these things in certain ways. It’s confining. There are limits and rules for being a girl, for being feminine, for being bisexual, for being biracial and for creating. The best journalists need to go anywhere and uncover any story out there but under these rules I can’t go where I need to be.

I’ve been placed under labels for what I am and there’s pressure to conform to them. But I’m trying to overcome them every day and I hope one day I will. 

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Our Country, Our Campus

 

Editor’s Note: As the inauguration of the USA’s 45th president draws near, I thought it would be prudent to revisit an article I wrote for the University of Illinois on how our campus reacted to election day. 

On November 8th, 2016, our country stood divided as Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. Across our campus, many sat in front of their screens in stunned silence as the results rolled out in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Many took to tears and tequila shots. Still, many others celebrated as their choice candidate took his victory lap. This election has brought up a theme of division more than once, and that long night highlighted the disconnect in our country and in our campus.

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However, while those opposed to Trump might have lost the election, they were far from defeated. Marches, protests, and solidarity events have been happening across campus for the last ten days in protest of our president-elect and the arguably outrageous propositions made during his campaign. The Mexican Student Association organized a “Not My President” rally that took place on November 11th, 2016, where over 300 protesters marched toward Alma to voice their resistance against Trump. Their event had almost 2,000 shares on Facebook and was described to be a show of solidarity against “xenophobia, white supremacy, misogyny, racism, homophobia, violence, transphobia, and overall acts.”

Chants, posters, and passionate speakers populated the main quad and Green street during the nearly three-hour event. The rallying cry heard through the march was, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” Those in attendance described the event as really empowering, thanks to the diversity of attendants and the strong feeling of support extended between each of them. “People keep thinking these protests are just because we are sore losers, but rather they are to show people that during the next four years we stand in solidarity and not accept bigotry, racism, sexism, hatred, etc,” junior Taylor Breiter said, “We were all just glad to be there and marching with people who believe in love over hate.”

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Love trumping hate appeared to be a common message among the protesters. Everyone there had different concerns about Trumps’ future reign, but they were united as one force. Cassandra Masters, also a junior, said, “I attended the protest as a sign of solidarity and to protest the bigoted demagogue who will be our next president. As a woman, I was also fighting for reproductive justice and rights, showing support for sexual assault survivors, and fighting for the idea that intersectional feminism is not some radical, far-left ideology but rather something that will move our society forward and must be recognized.”

Along with the MSA rally, other solidarity events have been hosted in the post-election days. One such event, rumored to be hosted by an Illini dance group, was held on the quad on November 10th, 2016. Students lined up on the quad and sung “Keep loving, keep fighting” while they took turns dancing down the middle and cheering each other on. Breiter said, “Both of these events definitely lifted my spirits and made me realize my feelings were valid, I wasn’t alone, and that I am happy to be on a campus where so many believe in the same things I do.”

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Not everyone is interested in showing solidarity, however, and these events are taking place in contrast to darker rumblings. An unconfirmed tweet from a UIUC student claimed that a Trump supporter pulled a knife on a Muslim girl on a bus. The tweet went viral soon after it was made, but the allegations haven’t been confirmed by the police department (as no official report was filed with them). Whether or not this actually happened is speculation, but many students are legitimately fearful for their safety in the years to come.

This victory is highly controversial and all eyes are on the president-elect as we wait to see what his legacy will be. No matter your feelings on our future president, safety should be everyone’s top priority in these times. If you are ever the victim or witness of violence, please don’t hesitate to report the incident to your local police department.

 

Photos courtesy of: Jeff Bossert/Illinois public media, Taylor Breiter, Twitter

Making Gratitude Lists

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MY GRATITUDE LIST (in no particular order):

  • my cat
  • my aunt and uncle
  • my nana
  • my friends
  • kyle
  • my health
  • my home
  • my job
  • my apartment next year
  • my ability to get an education
  • my mom
  • my dad
  • my hairstylist for knowing my hair better than I do
  • lush skincare products
  • rainy days at home
  • big, comfy sweaters
  • snow days
  • cookies
  • our family dog
  • fuzzy socks
  • my body
  • my mind
  • lessons I’ve learned from people
  • poetry
  • books
  • road trips with my favorite people
  • how I feel at the beach
  • pink champagne
  • christmas lights
  • christmas trees
  • breaks from school
  • the content creators I follow
  • blurry polaroid pictures
  • wine nights
  • chicago pizza
  • waffles
  • my siblings
  • sledding with my family
  • dancing outside
  • affordable healthcare
  • access to clean water
  • always having enough food
  • puppies
  • glitter
  • the color blush pink
  • pretty sunsets
  • the support from my family
  • the magazine that I’m working to create
  • free time
  • new years resolutions
  • fresh starts
  • surprise kisses
  • daydreams
  • my pink suede jacket
  • magazines without ads
  • thrift stores with good quality clothes
  • my favorite coffee shop
  • fireworks
  • trips to the beach at night
  • brownies
  • pugs in sweaters
  • how fresh bread tastes
  • my coconut wax candle
  • feminism
  • the inside of anthropologie stores
  • the way kyle smells
  • slow lazy mornings
  • coffee with soy milk
  • vegan ginger cookies
  • vegan avocado pesto
  • daisies
  • vlogs of people living in foreign countries
  • independent artists
  • rose water
  • watching documentaries with hot chocolate and best friends
  • spring cleaning
  • the endorphin rush after running
  • sore muscles after a good workout
  • when a kitten falls asleep on you
  • deep cleansing face masks
  • glittery nail polish
  • new years eve kisses
  • doing yoga in the morning
  • the love I’m surrounded by

PHEW! If you made it this far, I challenge you to do what I did and fill up an entire piece of paper with what you are grateful for. It’s harder than it looks, but is a good “happy list” you can look at on blah days.

 

How I Changed My Relationship with Food

 

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Food is such an emotional issue for me that it’s scary to put this into writing for the first time, especially since I rarely talk about it. But lately I’ve been doing a ton of research on food and our bodies and it feels like my journey to this point has been breathing down my neck. Every time I see a video or read an article by someone about their body image or their food journey, it makes me feel a little bit better about what I consider to be one of the messiest parts of my life. So if I can make even one person feel like that, vulnerability is worth it.

As a kid, I hated vegetables and would refuse to eat them no matter what my bewildered parents tried. I grew up on PopTarts, sugary cereal, pasta, pizza, cheeseburgers, chips, and fast food until I turned ten. Right around the start of middle school (and puberty, shout out to mother nature), my poor eating habits began to catch up with me. The pounds started to pile on, my face went crazy with breakouts, and my generally cheerful disposition tanked.

The more I tried to control what I ate, the more out of control I felt. My parents banned me from eating pasta more than once a week and only let me have dessert three times a week. I know now that they were only concerned for my health and had nothing but good intentions, but these new restrictions led me to start sneaking food in secret. I hid ziploc bags full of chocolate chips in my sock drawer. I made packs of instant pudding in my room and waited until everyone was asleep to bring down the bowl and whisk to clean. At one low point, I had a box of jumbo candy bars I was supposed to sell to fundraise for choir, and I ate the entire box. I had to go to my dad, crying and ashamed because I didn’t have the $64 to pay for what I’d eaten over the course of only a few days. Real fun times.

This binging period lasted about four years.

Then, sophomore year of high school, I joined the field hockey team (mainly because it didn’t have tryouts and I was woefully short on extracurriculars). The training sessions we did were intense, usually lasted 3-4 hours, and were done in the hot August sun. When I came home, I’d be too tired and sore to worry about eating. My weight dropped rapidly over the next couple years and with this weight loss came a whole new slew of eating issues. I was obsessed with being thin.

I started tracking everything I ate in food diaries or calorie trackers. To this day, I refuse to count calories because of my behavior in high school. I would become determined to “beat” my calorie count by eating less and less each day. The lower that number was, the more I felt like I was winning. My app would send me alerts like “hi you are not getting sufficient calories in your diet” and I would SMILE, of all things. It was twisted. All I cared about was that I kept losing weight.

Recently, I went back and looked at those logs from my junior year of high school and it is scary to see where my mind was. I let myself eat half a cup of cereal or an apple for breakfast, a protein bar for lunch, and some small amount of what was for dinner. That’s it. Sometimes, I would have even less. I started blacking out when I would stand up too fast and became light-headed during field hockey practice. When I almost passed out during sprinting drills, my coach suggested that I had an iron imbalance. I started taking iron supplement pills for a while after that, but iron wasn’t my problem.

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Of course, this type of eating is unsustainable. Senior year, I quit field hockey (because despite the amazing exercise I hated it with a deep, burning passion). And with more time on my hands, I began noticing how hungry I was. I still tried to eat as little as possible, but occasionally I would lose control in a big way; one week, I would eat my “normal” diet and the next week I would eat 105 Samoas in six days. It was a yo-yo of eating too little and eating too much and my weight fluctuated the same way. In freshman year of college, I was so scared of gaining the “freshman 15” that I leaned toward too little again and started getting hypoglycemic episodes that would leave me laying in bed for two hours eating crackers until I felt okay to walk. I was nauseous for months.  It wasn’t pretty, but at least I hadn’t gained those terrifying extra pounds, right?

SO wrong. Over the past eight months or so my mindset toward food has shifted radically. I’m nowhere near perfect and still struggle with that yo-yo pattern sometimes, but I no longer see food as something I have to conquer. The thing is, I LOVE food. I love taking the bus up to my family and trying amazing, hidden restaurants in Chicago. I love cooking and baking and the way food tastes. My desire not to eat wasn’t so much about hating food as it was about hating myself, which is something I’m currently working very hard to change. Now, when I exercise it’s not because I hate the cellulite in my thighs (at least, most days it’s not for that reason), but because I love my body and I want to see it become healthy and strong. Now, when I eat I try to listen to my body and make intuitive choices that are generally more healthy than unhealthy (and I’m always trying to sneak vegetables into my meals).

I also began educating myself on the food industry, what being healthy actually means for our bodies, and ways to be healthy without being obsessive about it. As far as documentaries go, I really recommend “Fed Up” because it completely changed the way I read food labels, especially when it comes to limiting my processed sugar intake. I won’t try any fad diets because I believe black-and-white restrictions can’t be sustained forever, but I did go pescatarian for a month this year and I discovered I don’t actually hate vegetables. In fact, zucchini, sweet potatoes, radishes, and artichoke hearts are delicious! I’m cooking with healthy ingredients and finding ways to make them taste even better. I’m exercising four to five times a week, even if it’s just running a mile around the block. But, if I want pizza one night then I’m going to eat pizza, without any guilt. Life is short! Pizza is good!

Food is not the enemy. Being skinny won’t solve all your problems or make you instantly confident–that comes from loving yourself, no matter what size you are, and knowing that you are a bad bitch that can do anything. There are so many more important things in this world than your weight on a scale, like being kind and generous and a good person. I’ve been on both ends of the unhealthy eating spectrum and I’m still working on finding that happy middle ground, but I’m so much closer to it. Finding balance is not impossible, I promise.

This is a really neat video about detoxing from sugar for five days, in case you aren’t feeling a full documentary right now. And if any of you have any resources on food and nutrition education (any interesting articles, documentaries, whatever) please leave them in the comments! Always looking to learn more:

 

Sending off 2016…

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It hasn’t been a pretty year.

It has been a year of trying (and failing) to achieve balance.

It has been full of laughter and tears in equal parts. I joined (and dropped out of) a sorority, and met a girl I now consider to be one of my best friends. I got my first D in a college class, cried on the phone about it, then emailed my advisor about grade replacement options the next morning. I was rejected from my dream internship. I’ve fallen on my face. I’ve been lonely. I’ve made mistakes.

But I’ve also learned. I’ve had fun. I went on a road trip with my best friends and attended my first music festival. I adopted a kitten who is now the light of my life. I signed the lease on my first apartment. I decided once and for all that frat parties are the absolute worst and to stop wasting energy pretending they’re fun.

It’s easy to write off 2016 as a bad year that you want to dump in the trash and pretend never happened (like all those pictures of you in braces with frizzy blue hair and acne). It was certainly one of the most challenging years for me. However, nothing is ever completely good or completely bad. If 2016 was filled with darkness for you, don’t forget to reflect on the scattered moments of light. Don’t write off the entire year without weighing it collectively and intentionally.

Gala Darling wrote an article that has a bunch of insightful questions to help you take stock of where you’re at and how to move forward from there:
1. What were your top five moments of the year?

Number one has to be meeting Albus (my cat) for the first time and taking him home. I was absolutely terrified by the responsibility he brought to my life but he has completely changed me for the better. Second is going to my first musical festival; it was in my favorite city, with my favorite people, and I got to see so many of my favorite artists. Moment number three is the weeklong beach vacation I took with my family and Isabel (a girl who has been my friend for twelve years). Number four is totally cheating but it has to be all of the wonderful picnics and hiking trips boyfriend took me on over the summer at the lake (these were always days full of sunshine and love). And finally, moment five was on one of the first snow days at my school; my friend Emma and I walked around writing jokes in the snow and drawing pictures on frosted windows. After, we came back to my room a shivering mess to make hot chocolate and watch an ocean documentary, and I ended up falling asleep on her.

2. What are you really glad is over?

THIS SEMESTER. My classes were all technically challenging prerequisites that I wasn’t interested in or passionate about. There was a lot of math, coding, and accounting that I really struggled to do well in. Even if next semester is just as hard, there are at least two classes that I’m interested in so I’m looking forward to not being as creatively drained by my schoolwork.

3. How are you different today than you were 365 days ago?

My hair is a lot shorter. I shouldered a high amount of stress and came out alive. I’m a pet owner. I’m older. I started working at a coffee shop. I learned that when other people lash out because of their own issues it isn’t my fault. I’m (slightly) more patient. I wear my glasses almost every day now. I’ve acquired even more big, comfy sweaters.

4. Is there anything you achieved that you forgot to celebrate?

I try to celebrate every happy moment I possibly can. The only thing I can think of is that I put on my big girl pants, went alone to apartment showings, liaised with realtors, shopped around, and found a nice place to live that I can afford all on my own (even if I do have to get a second job). Independence is scary and sometimes my anxiety makes me avoid things until it’s too late, but I’m proud that I pushed myself further into this nutty, adult world.

5. What have you changed your perspective on this year?

The idea of success is really arbitrary and you have to define it for yourself. 
6. Who are the people that really came through for you this year?

I have a core group of 4-5 friends that are my absolute rock; I can tell them anything, ask them for anything, and do anything with them. They are my family and have never let me down and I work my butt off to hopefully be half as amazing to them as they are to me. My aunt and uncle and nana are always unquestionably supportive of me and are some of my favorite people in the universe to spend time with. And my boyfriend is an incredibly loving, sweet soul who puts in massive efforts in our LDR, is my best friend in the world, and teaches me how to be a better person and partner.

7. What is something you tolerated for a long time, but now will not?

I firmly believe in setting standards for what behavior you will and will not accept. I used to be friends with toxic people that constantly talked bad about me and everyone else behind their backs. I used to be in relationships where I didn’t make my needs a priority so I let myself be treated like my existence was optional. These are BAD THINGS and I make it a point not to accept them from people who want to be in my life.

You want to be my friend? Then you can’t tell my secrets and make fun of me to other people.

You want to date me? Then you can’t ignore my feelings and hide things from me.

You want to keep me in your life? Then you can’t make me feel like shit.

Basically, I like to operate on complete honesty, trust, and mutual respect with the people in my life and I am SO blessed right now to be surrounded by people that honor these boundaries and even set their own. Life is too short to spend it with shitty people.

8.What old beliefs did you let go of?

Marriage being a successful, lifelong endeavor. This sounds so depressing and a little hypocritical (since I wouldn’t mind getting married somewhere far down the road) but I don’t really think “until death to we part” is possible. Sorry–it’s definitely possible, but I don’t think it’s possible HAPPILY. I know plenty of divorced couples, but even overlooking them I know plenty of long-term married couples who completely hate each other. Of course, rough patches happen and not everything in a marriage can be sunshine and unicorn farts, but I feel like I’m surrounded by married people that are deeply unhappy with their partners and are just waiting for that final straw. 

OBVIOUSLY this is not me saying that every marriage is doomed or unhappy. That would be ridiculous. But the idea of happily ever after has been rattling around in my mind a lot recently and, out of all the married couples I know, there’s maybe one that’s still truly happy. So the idea that if I ever got married I could potentially, forty years down the road, wake up and hate the person I’m sleeping beside is deeply unsettling.

9. What was one thing you found really challenging, but can now see supported your growth?

This semester in college, I’ve plummeted academically and haven’t advanced in my career. Yay. Seriously, though, I think it’s safe to say that my self-esteem is no longer so closely tied to my academic success. My entire life I could define myself as the “good, straight-A student” but this semester I watched that identity crumble around me and–surprise–I’m still here. Good grades are important, but they’re not everything. Being a good person and being successful extend way beyond what my transcript shows.

10. If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself this time last year?

I would tell myself to stop trying to skate by on natural smarts and invest way more time in grappling with my school material. I would say that I’m going to have incredibly busy, stressed filled days ahead and that I have to find betters way of coping. I would remind myself of all the love and support I’m surrounded by, and I would remind myself that it’s okay to lean on the people who love you when life gets too hard to swallow. And, above all, I’d tell myself to work every day against becoming an apathetic passenger in my own life. The promise of living on autopilot is highly alluring, and I give into it more than I should, but staying proactive is the only way to live a fulfilling life.

Happy New Years to you all, I hope you carve out some time for your own reflection before the year is over. Change is uncomfortable but if you’re serious about it, you can’t avoid the process. 

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Getting Your $hit Together

My money habits are atrocious. In high school, I was a diligent saver, taking half of every paycheck and tucking it away into a savings account that I never touched. Fast forward two years into college and, on the precipice of turning 20, I spend my money faster than my wallet can keep up with. This year, I’ve barely gone a day without at least buying a coffee and, while my closet is bursting with fabulous new clothes, the number in my savings account dwindles daily (despite working 20+ hours a week slinging coffee).

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December seemed like the perfect time to put the brakes on my wild shopping habits. For this whole month, I’ve decided not to spend any money except on 1. Christmas gifts for friends/family, 2. an almond milk latte on Wednesdays (when they’re only $2), and 3. absolute essentials (which, for a girl still living in the dorms/on a meal plan, should be very minimal). Taking the money I would have spent frivolously on myself and devoting it to getting amazing treats for my loved ones has already been so rewarding. I live for finding that perfect gift for someone (and have a habit of going overboard with presents) so this month I don’t have to feel quite as guilty about blowing my gift budget.

Most of my mindless spending goes to food. I would much rather be cooking for myself than stuck on my school’s dining plan, so I tend to eat out at least once a day instead of settling for the quasi-edible school food. My taste buds are happy, but it’s taking a serious chunk out of my paycheck each month. It’s really hard to fight bad food options, but I only have to hang around campus for two more weeks until I’m home for the holidays. My appetite can take the hit.

I’m also curious to see what (if any) deeper issues are triggering me to swipe my credit card. I’ve already noticed that I do most of my online shopping when I’m stressed out or feeling unproductive; it’s almost as if my brain tricks me into thinking that acquiring a new thing is the same as getting something productive done. Newsflash: it’s not. I’m also guilty of major “social spending”, as nearly every plan I suggest to friends involves some kind of money being exchanged. This month, I’m going to focus on free social plans, like hopping on a train downtown to visit museums or taking snowy drives around my neighborhood to see everyone’s decorations.

I know this was somewhat of a rambly post, but money has really been on my mind lately as I save for my apartment next year and take care of my kitten. There are infinitely more important things in life than good food and cute dresses, and I have to remember that just because I’m capable of spending money doesn’t mean I need to. I also realize that being able to do a “no spend December” is a privileged position to be in, as I have only a few bills I’m required to pay monthly and no major financial obligations right now. Hopefully, the lesson will carry forward into the future, when I do have to juggle more bills.

If any of you feel like your credit card is currently leaving a smoking hole in your wallet, I invite you to join me in $0 frivolous spending this month! Obviously, adapt the challenge to fit your lifestyle, but I think it’s a great way to reset your perspective on money.