Habitual Behaviours

Relearning spending patterns, like creating any new behaviour, doesn’t happen overnight.  There are triggers to our spending, especially on things that aren’t necessities. In the downtown of the university town north of us, where I shop, and where we go for films and bookstores, are a few streets of cafes, small interesting shops, a couple of local/organic food stores, two bookshops and an art-house cinema. And the library and an eclectic video rental shop, and the Saturday market. It’s been the cultural and epicurean hub of our lives for the last thirty-five years.  It’s also a spending trigger for me.

On Wednesday this week we were going to see Mr. Holmes at the art-house cinema, along with two friends.  So already there was a ‘treat’, something that didn’t happen every day, waiting for me.  I was making dinner for after the film, and as it’s summer, and warm, I chose to do two salads and cold, sliced chicken breast, along with good bread and olive oil.  I had bought the vegetables for the salads on Tuesday, and I was making the bread, but one of the locally-sourced foodshops downtown does exceptional free-run store-roasted chicken breasts.  So I went to buy them, along with  a few other items needed for later in the week.

I had several other errands to run, and one appointment to keep, and by bad planning it was nearly 1 pm by the time I got to the foodshop, and I hadn’t eaten lunch.  Now, remember, I’ve already said in an earlier post we’d basically blown our entertainment budget for the month by going out for an expensive dinner, plus we were going to a movie the same evening.  But this foodshop also has a little cafe, and makes healthy sandwiches and very good coffee.  So along with my chicken breasts, I bought lunch.  It was a good lunch:  a roasted veggie sandwich with cheese on a store-made wholegrain bun with a cup of coffee.  No guilt about junk food.  But it was $10 I shouldn’t have spent.  Not this month.

It’s not going to send us into debt, of course.  I’m not agonizing over it, but I am analyzing why I did it.  And mostly, it’s the associations of that location.  Yes, I was hungry, but I could (and should) have had a cup of coffee and biscotti – which would have been $3 or so – and eaten when I got home.  It was my last stop.  But this part of downtown is where I went to treat myself when I was working – Saturday morning coffee-and-bagels after the farmers’ market;  pizza and wine after a movie; books browsed and bought.  A good chunk of my novel was written in these coffee shops.  A place of refuge and relaxation from work, and through all my medical treatments last fall and winter.  The sane centre of my world.

So what am I going to do about it?  Three things.  First off, recognize and expect the trigger.  Secondly, plan to not be there at lunchtime on an empty stomach.  And thirdly – keep going!  I don’t need to deny myself the special relationship I have with this neighbourhood, but I do need to go there mindfully.

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