With the approach of a New Year, I think it’s inevitable that we all start reflecting on ourselves and what we’d like to change. While I definitely fall into the category of people who are “New Year’s Resolution-Makers,” I actually do try to implement changes throughout the year and not just at the beginning. I’ve learned throughout the years that I can get easily sidetracked and distracted by multiple goals and projects, so if I truly want something to change, I just have to start (or least start planning) now instead of waiting for a particular date.
But I am a fan of New Year goals and resolutions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having that motivational push and if it that’s what you need to help you get into the self-improvement mindset. So in the spirit of 2019, these are the three lifestyle changes I’m continuing to work on after making some of my worst purchases. Sometimes these were made out of insecurity and vanity, and sometimes they were simply because I was irresponsible. Either way, these seemingly innocent purchase mistakes ended up teaching me more than how to better manage my budget.
1. A Custom Blazer I Saw On Instagram
Cost: $100 CAD ($75 USD)
When Instagram became popular a few years ago, I began to follow a lot of fashion and lifestyle bloggers. They all posted these incredibly beautiful photos — you know the ones — posing in a stunning outfit in front of a white-washed background with perfect hair and make-up. At the age of 21, I was super impressionable and in awe of all the beautiful people and things on Instagram.
So in 2015, when I was visiting my family in Vietnam and was in the city of Hoi An, famous for custom tailoring, I decided that I was going to treat myself. I had a custom blazer made in the same style as one of the fashion bloggers I had been following. She had just posted this incredibly chic photo in New York in it and I thought it would be perfect for when I returned to work after my trip. To be clear, it was not an average blazer, it was this cape-style blazer that didn’t have sleeves, but instead had the arms slits cut mid-way down the blazer.
I didn’t even wear it once before I threw it in the donation bin a year later.
I realized then that a lot of the beautiful things fashion/lifestyle bloggers wear are on Instagram are not only impractical, they’re down right uncomfortable. That blazer was not functional; because it didn’t have proper sleeves, I couldn’t move my arms without it slipping into an uncomfortable position. Literally the only thing that blazer was good for was Instagram likes.
I knew I couldn’t afford the designer blazer she was wearing so I had a custom one made instead and while $100 didn’t break my bank account, it was a lot of money for me on a backpacker’s budget.
To me, that blazer was the physical manifestation of all those Instagram photos of influencers that I aspired to be like – carefree, beautiful, and always perfect looking with this effortless backdrop. But that blazer taught me I had to be careful not to let beautiful photos skew my perception of reality in how I see myself and what I can afford to spend.
I’d like to say that I cut off all Instagram influence after this experience, but it wasn’t that simple. Sure, I unfollowed fashion bloggers here and there, but it wasn’t just the clothes, it was the lifestyle. Every year I try to get better and better at critically thinking about who I follow and what kind of online world I want myself surrounded by. I try to unfollow people throughout the year if I don’t think if they positively contribute to my life anymore, but I recently found a loophole into this horrible habit. For the past year, I’ve instead been lurking the profiles of people who live these perfect lives to see what they were up to and what they were wearing. And every time I searched them, it would appear as a suggestion in my search bar. So it would be this vicious cycle of me still viewing these people’s highlight reels except I would check back on their profile instead of following them, which was worse (you can judge me for this one, because it really was creepy).
You probably think I sound obsessive, and honestly, it’s probably bordering there. But as of recently and into 2019 I’m going to get more use out of the hide, mute, and block function on Instagram to stop myself from going down that rabbit hole. I fully understand that these are not bad people; I’m sure they are great people, but in trying to stay authentic to myself, I’ve learned that I have to be surrounded by people online that I would want to hang out with in real life. This means following people who genuinely share their successes and challenges in life, and not just the perfect cool girls who were nice, but I never ended up staying in touch with after high school.
2. The Subscription I Refused to Cancel
Cost: $518.64 CAD ($387.75 USD)
One of the worst and costly mistakes I’ve ever made was being too lazy to cancel subscriptions that I do not use. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this one since gym memberships are notorious for being a prime example of how long one can deny the use of a subscription until actually canceling it. Thankfully, I’ve never lied to myself that much and bought a gym membership. I much prefer to exercise in the outdoors; I pay enough for it by living in Vancouver, BC.
However, there were many times that I talked myself into other costly subscriptions and never fully used them, which is exactly the same thing as a dusty gym membership. For me, my vice is learning. I want to learn everything.
So after discovering the world of calligraphy and typography (on Instagram of course), I got swept away with the idea of learning all things graphic design. Shortly after, I looked into getting an Adobe Photoshop license for my computer, even though I was nowhere near that level that required it. And because I still had a student email account, I learned I got a discount if I subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite instead which would come with all of their programs as opposed to just the one or two I needed and I thought, “what a great deal! What a great chance to learn more.” The problem was I only clicked into those other programs maybe once before deciding it was not for me and never opened them again because I was too overwhelmed. I should have just canceled it after the two months after realizing that I didn’t need it and wasn’t interested in learning all these programs after the initial excitement wore off, but I didn’t. I lied to myself for a bit more than a year before finally letting go of that $30+ charge each month.
The plus side is that I did a lot from it, but not surprisingly, I really only learned Photoshop and Lightroom which were the only two I was interested in. More than that, I learned that I did not need the software to really practice my hobby (if I wanted to turn it into a side hustle sure, but I was nowhere near that level yet).
I think constantly having the desire to learn more and further my self-improvement is a wonderful quality and I do really like that about myself. But I’ve also learned I need to put limits on it, both in time and in money. I can’t just jump into things thinking I have the time and desire to learn it. More importantly, I shouldn’t just sign up for costly subscriptions and software to think that I needed them to pursue a hobby. We do live in the age of YouTube and tutorials and if I really wanted to learn something, I should use make use of free resources to consider if I truly enjoy the hobby, before jumping in credit card first.
I could have waited a bit longer to see if I really needed those programs, but I got tempted by the package offer and caved into the idea that I would be “saving money” with this bundle. In the end, I spent over $500 on this very expensive lesson.
Nowadays, I have a budget and account for creative projects. Whenever I make money through my side hustles, I put it towards paying for new creative things I want to learn. I have a budget for everything else, why not creative hobbies? Having a set budget for it really makes me critically think about whether I have the time, energy, and interest to really pursue a particular creative project because I have to work extra hard for side hustle money as opposed to my regular salary.
So far, it’s going great, and made me really think about what I enjoy enough to spend money learning more about. For 2019, I’m going to continue using the budget mostly for my blog because more and more I’ve found my passion for it, and be super honest with myself if I have the budget for more projects. The best part of this system is that it has created a definite limit on my spending and makes me super cautious of subscriptions. Before, the charge would just come off of my credit card, and it would be buried underneath a mountain of other transactions. Now, there’s a set amount in a specific side hustle account in my PayPal account and everything for creative projects gets paid out from there. If I don’t add to it, I simply run out of money and can’t buy it.
3. The Wrong Paint
Cost: $42.97 CAD/$32.13 USD (for the wrong one), $34.97 CAD/$26.14 USD (for the correct one)
Yes, I paid more for the wrong paint.
This one is just a reflection of how poorly I plan and research sometimes. After buying my apartment, I naturally wanted to put a fresh coat of paint on it. Not only for the obvious reason that it would look nicer, but because the previous owners also chose this horrendous brown-y yellow paint for a small bedroom. Like, why?
In my excitement, I did absolutely zero research on what type of paint I actually needed and based 100% of my decision solely on the color of paint.
Life lesson: There are different types of paint.
I ended up buying two colors of paint; a grey one for my living room and a white one for my bedroom. However, after painting my entire bedroom with friends, I learned that I had accidentally bought “exterior” paint, which is sturdy and sticks the second you apply it. While painting, I could see that it looked really streaky, but I told myself that it would look better when it dried. When my mom came over and jokingly remarked “wow, this looks really bad”, I responded defensively. But when the paint was fully dried, I realized (of course) that my mom was right and it did look really, really bad. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had made a mistake and it not only cost me financially, but it cost me time. If anyone has ever painted an entire room before, you’ll know it’s not quick. I had to re-paint the whole place myself and it took many evenings after work to complete it.
Prior to this, if something was broken or needed repair in the home, my parents or landlord would fix it. This was the first decision regarding a home where I was the one completely responsible for the damage and for the repair. And the responsibility was hard to deny when I was literally standing in the middle of a horribly painted bedroom.
As I’ve continued to decorate and organize more of my apartment, I’ve gotten better and better at planning and researching my needs beyond just the aesthetics of it. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting there. More specifically, I’ve started especially really paying attention to the exact measurements of things instead of just eyeballing it. And probably to no surprise, it’s been working. What a concept.
In the end, these were all purchases I’ve made that were probably not my best choice. I actually choke a little when I think about all the money I spent on the fancy tools and software for hobbies I became enamored with (I did not include all of them or else this article would have turned into an essay), but spending this money badly taught me a lot. These bad purchases showed me, in a tangible dollar amount, the not so nice parts of me. It showed me how much I truly do care about my looks (despite what I think), the cost of my ambitions, and the consequences I have to pay when I rush into home purchases. Sure, I could have learned these lessons another way, but these bad purchases really pushed that mirror on me to reflect upon.
These are changes and lessons I’m currently incorporating, and working to improve upon in 2019. I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to curating the noise of social media or planning for my home but every month I get better and better. I’m using the New Year as a way to ride onto the “new year, new me” wave, but I hope you’ll think about something you’ve been meaning to change too. Even if you don’t start on January 1st, that doesn’t make it any less important or mean it will be any less successful.
Kimberly is the writer behind www.millenniallifeadmin.com. MLA is a blog that helps break down the everyday adulthood tasks of growing up; one unavoidable responsibility at a time. You can also find her scrolling through memes and sassy posts on Instagram @millenniallifeadmin.
Image via Unsplash