Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Abstinence or Moderation?

Finished Circle of Geese top. Now onto the quilting!

“Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Samuel Johnson

Gretchen Rubin over at The Happiness Project is an abstainer. Like Dr. Johnson, quoted above, it's easier for her to give up something entirely than to indulge on occasion. If the choice is frozen yogurt twice a week or not at all, she chooses not at all.

In general, I'm good with moderation, but from time to time I choose abstinence as a way of recalibrating. After my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma last summer, I found myself drinking a glass of wine (or two) on a daily basis, usually while cooking dinner. It wasn't the drinking that bothered me so much as how much I was looking forward to it.

So I decided to stop for a month, to break the habit. In February, I will return to my moderate drinking habits, which means a glass or two over the weekend.

Same with sugar. Much to my amazement, I can go days without sugar. It used to be that I could go a few hours. Then, a few years ago, I gave it up for a long stretch, and the habit was broken. From time to time I abstain for a week or two, to prove to myself that I can.

But you know what's hard for me? Chips of any kind. I can keep cookies in the house, pretzels, crackers, chocolate, ice cream, and as long as they're out of sight, I can ignore them. But if there's a bag of Doritos lurking in a corner somewhere, I will find it and I will eat it. Therefore, chips appear only very rarely in my pantry.

When it comes to being frugal, I'm finding that with a lot of things it's better to abstain: magazines, used books purchased via Amazon.com (too easy to click those buttons in a moment of abandon), trips to Target in general.

The hardest thing is being frugal at the grocery store. I can pass up cookies and bread (easy to make at home, and cheaper), but there's no point in cutting back on breakfast cereal or milk, and fruit and vegetables will always be on my list. Eggs, check. Meat, check. Sometimes I know I can get paper towels or peanut butter cheaper somewhere else, but once I start calculating the price of gas and the value of my time ... it pretty much evens out.

This is not to say that I don't try. We have vegetarian dinners, I stock up on meat when it's on sale, I don't buy much junk. But so far I'm over my frugality budget by about $15 a week. Not horrible, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I can do much better.

What do you abstain from to improve your health, your psyche or your bank balance? What have you given up and are happier for it?


Gumbo Lily said...

Like you, Hubby and I abstained from sugar and junk food for several months. It was a good thing. Now we have it very rarely.

This month I have abstained from spending except for groceries and some vitamins. I'm amazed at how much $ there still is in the bank account at the end of this month. I'd like to continue this experiment of abstaining from spending. How much more "stuff" do we really need anyway?

Good post. GREAT quilt. I love the colors on the light background and the topsy-turvy look of the geese.

Angela said...

I am abstaining from buying vintage Pyrex in Charity Shops. A trivial thing, but it is helping me be more positive about decluttering.

Love the quilt- a veritable masterpiece of triangulation!! I'm in awe of your skill there - It is a sewing technique I have yet to properly get to grips with.

blessings xx

Heather said...

I totally abstain from nuts, chocolate (those two are allergies), and more recently meat (except for seafood). It isn't that hard for me. In the past, I have totally abstained from caffeine and all pre-packaged/chock full of preservative foods and that wasn't very hard for me either. I'm an all or nothing girl, I guess.

As far as budgeting goes, I shop the sales, plan meals, etc. and I used to come in under budget all the time, but more recently I've noticed my food/household budget bills getting higher and higher. I think things just cost a bit more now. I try to not stress over it, because we can afford it. I'm sure I could slash my spending more if I needed to, but I'm not into total deprivation if it is not needed.

Tracy said...

Firstly, you quilt top is beautiful, although I have come to expect nothing less because each one you show us is stunning.

I am currently abstaining from grains and sugar in an effort to 'recalibrate', as you say. For me this has to be an all or nothing for now because I need to improve my health. I have no problem with moderation with these things but it seems even moderation is no help to me so abstinence it is!

Yes, chips. As long as the bag isn't open I can cope...after the bag is open it's on for young and old. And in a house filled with 'young' this 'old' wins! Better to only have them when other people are around.

wayside wanderer said...

Your quilt is beautiful. I am looking at the pattern and can't figure it out. I like that about it, too.

Abstain? Housework seems to be the main thing at the moment. :P

Danielle said...

Love the movement in the pattern! Going to be another stunner.

I've been thinking on this aspect of our society ... seems in our current culture practicing moderation, in our lives and in our politics, is a big challenge. Of course, I understand sometimes we must abstain and we most have moral posts. But why the huge chasm? What forces are at work that make it so hard to be moderate now?

debbie bailey said...

"A veritable masterpiece of triangulation". Angela, I love that!

I definitely have a hard time denying myself candy and sugar in general. Holidays are the worst. Right now it's Valentine hearts. I love those things. Easter it'll be marshmallow chicken and bunnies and malted milk eggs. Makes me droll just to say their names. I have a problem.