It's been a while since I've been completely broke. Not a really long while - I was completely broke after law school - but a while.
For the last few years, and especially the last year, my time has been worth more than my money. I could better afford to buy a lunch then to take the time to make one, because making one meant staying up a few minutes later, and I needed sleep more than anything.
I got used to being able to snap up that cereal in bulk when it was on sale, or that skirt when it finally hit the clearance rack. Shopping for clothes has been a stress reliever over the last year, and even though I only shop in the back of the store, I've still gotten used to buying things when I see them and I like them.
I can't do that now. It is a hard and fast line that I cannot cross: things cannot be purchased.
It's freeing, actually. I didn't realize how I had come to depend on shopping to make me feel just a little less stressed out.
I still go into stores, especially downtown, because I need somewhere out of the wet and cold to wait for appointments or the bus, and I can't afford to buy coffee to pay my rent at a table in the bucks of Star.
When I go into stores now, I told a friend yesterday, they feel like museums. Children's museums, maybe, because you can touch all the pretty things and admire them, and then you put them back where you found them, and you leave. Before I met up with her, I was in the jewelry department at a discount store, trying to pass a few minutes out of the rain. I looked at all the shiny things sparkling on their little hooks. I let the stones run through my hands. I straightened the links of the chains. And then I walked away.
Looking was weirdly almost as satisfying as any purchase. I still had the sensory satisfaction of seeing and touching all the pretty new things, and let's face it: the one thing you bring home never looks quite as lovely on its own as it did among all the other shiny new things. Plus I left with the satisfaction of knowing that I resisted a temptation. I left happy.