After years of trying not to overspend month after month, I finally came to the realization that helped me stop spending so much money on things I didn’t need.
I accepted that my not being able to afford things is largely in part to these things being too expensive (often exploitatively overpriced) and not because I don’t have enough money.
Maybe this feels painfully obvious but I’m someone who needs to come to painfully obvious conclusions on my own before it can sink in.
I am nowhere near rich nor have I ever been but I’ve always had enough money to manage rent, groceries and most of my bills. Some months were harder than others and I’ve depended on the assistance from loved ones many times but I’ve managed and that’s something I am grateful for.
In general I’ve always tried to have an emergency fund as my health is prone to failing and I’m trying to save for braces. I have always set savings goals but time and again I would find myself dipping into those savings for things that didn’t remotely qualify as emergencies: outings, event tickets, books, clothes, shoes etc.
It didn’t help that I spent more time than most as a student so most of my friends and peers had more time working full time to build up their own savings and lifestyles that I felt that I needed to be able to keep up with.
I always thought that not being able to afford these things was somehow a personal failure. One that could only be made up by stretching beyond my budget. Then the subsequent post-payday brokeness would hit and it would be my fault again for being bad at budgeting. That’s a lie as I’m actually a decent budgeter and the message than everyone can and should budget is valuable. What I needed to examine beyond my budget was my response to marketing.
At this point in late-stage capitalism, we all know how predatory and prevalent advertising is and can spot the signs. Even with that knowledge and practiced awareness of the shittiness of capitalism I still constantly carried around the idea that I could buy my best self if only I had just a tiny bit more money.
This was a long-winded way to say that I came to a similar realization with the way I’ve been using the internet and social media in particular. For a while I chalked up my dissatisfaction with being online to a personal failure. With Instagram for example, even though I’ve seen the way it’s become a tool for advertisers that only rewards people willing to try and appease the algorithm, I still felt that my lack of desire to use it was personal failing. Maybe if a started a fresh account or made separate accounts for each hobby or used hashtags a bit better or tried a new way of posting or interacted with more accounts or had more to say etc etc. Maybe after bending and twisting myself I’d finally feel like I had enough to share and be interesting on these platforms because everyone else is managing it somehow and I genuinely hate to be left out.
I realize now that I have enough to say but the nature of current social media and algorithms are to constantly demand more more more and that’s not on me. It’s fine if others can keep up but I’m making a more conscious effort to step back.
This is not my first attempt at slower internet use and over the past year I’ve made a Wordpress account for book blogging and switched to Tumblr for more social/casual posting but even then it still feels like there’s too much noise and I end up caring more about numbers than I’d like to. There’s still the chance of something going viral on Tumblr (never a good thing) and it’s bogged down with bots and restrictions that caused previous exoduses in the past. It doesn’t help that the staff at Tumblr seem keen to take advantage of the recent migrations from Twitter and Reddit to make the site more like the former which is not what anyone is asking for.
In preparation for 2024 I am challenging both a no/low buy as well as slower more meaningful internet consumption in the hopes that I will learn to recognize what is enough and avoid the pitfalls of thinking that I need to constantly do/be/buy more.