This post is about to get honest, real honest. Are you prepared for that? If not, stop reading.
I can’t do it all. I can’t. I want, desperately even, to be the perfect teacher-blogger-wife-homesteader-finacier. Maybe you have a similar wish with different words between the hyphens. But the simple fact is that with a finite number of hours in the day, I can either do all of these things poorly or I can ask for help. Today, I’m asking for help from you dear bloggy readers- Rather than feeling badly about not blogging three times a week like I always intend to, I’m going to cut back to once a week so that I can be successful. I’m recommitting to you to publish every Wednesday.
With that said, here’s a post Mr. G. and I have been working on for a little while:
We went on a Spending Freeze for the month of September. We’ve been reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and then I stumbled across the 31 Day No Spending Challenge*. Mr. Grassroofs loved the challenge element of it all. So we sat down and made our ground rules for what we would would and would not live without for a month.
First we decided to buy all our meat and non-perishable goods for the month. We went to Costco and bought what we thought to be thirty days worth of meat and snacks and olive oil (we finished the months with loads of food to spare). Then we went home and Mr. Grassroofs went crazy with the vacuum sealer. We did set aside some money each week for fresh produce and dairy products, because a Paleo lifestyle and a shelf-stable lifestyle aren’t always compatible. Even though we had money budgeted for grocery items each week, we didn’t want to let ourselves off the hook too much; so we added a clause that said we could only go to the store once per week to buy our agreed upon fresh food items.
Two more exceptions kept us from being completely spending-free. We knew we had a wedding to go to in early September, so we set aside some money for that. However, we budgeted everything on the low side of a travel expense so as not to use that weekend as some sort of “cheat” weekend. Finally, we have renters living in our guest house and we knew that we had an obligation to them. After all, would you want your land lord to say, “Sorry we can’t fix the air until October, we’re doin’ a challenge thing.”
After the ground rules were set, we settled in for a long winter’s night. Just kidding, we settled in for a month of free Netflix and books and resourceful cooking. It was a fantastic experience. Here are some things we learned:
1. We were losing a lot of money to hobby cooking. As I write this one, I can hear very responsible people telling me that there is software that can help you to see where your money is going. To them, I say, you’re right! However, when Mr. Grassroofs would swing by the grocery store to pick up a few items so he could try out a new recipe, the software lumped that into the food category. Thus, those purchases were made to seem like a necessity, but in reality they aren’t.
Silver lining: Mr. Grassroofs had a great time concocting new recipes using the ingredients we had on hand! And he made some pretty delicious stuff too.
2. I can live without coffee. I know, I know. I can hear those responsible people again, saying of course you can live without coffee. Purchased, produced, comes-with-a-cardboard-sleeve coffee was my favorite treat- a great way to take the edge off an early morning faculty meeting or a reward for getting to Friday. Plus it seemed like an inexpensive alternative to date-night. Even when we did Whole 30, I was still able to get the coffee-shop experience by getting iced coffee; so I had made myself believe that going twice during the week and twice on the weekend was reasonable. Giving it up for a month was a refreshing reminder that nobody needs to buy coffee four times a week.
Silver lining: I was on time for work everyday that month, and we are learning how to use the beautiful French Press we got for our wedding.
3. I should drink more water. I already told you about the coffee addiction, so you know I have vices which is good for this upcoming section. Mr. G and I (but mostly I) were drinking away our dollars. On top of coffee, I didn’t realize how much juice I was drinking. I mentioned the small amount allotted for fresh produce each week- well, juice was on the list of “if we can squeeze it in that week” items. Most of the weeks we couldn’t, so we did without. I really had no idea how much juice I was drinking! Additionally, we drank a lot less alcohol. We were never over-drinkers in the first place, but because our portions were rationed, we became very aware that we were drinking less than normal and that maybe we should keep that up after the freeze.
Silver lining: I drank a lot of water and my skin looked great!
4. We have great friends. Depending on who your friends are, when you tell them you are on a spending freeze, they may incorrectly assume you are destitute. Or they may be angry that you can’t “do anything fun” for a month. But not our best friends! They were so utterly supportive. We could not have been received better. One friend helped me get water when we went to coffee shop, so that I could avoid the 25 cent cup charge. All the friends pitched in to orchestrate a surprise party that was humble and AWESOME (there was jousting)! Mr. Grassroofs and I had sort of prepared to be a little isolated for a month, but nothing at all was interrupted by the freeze. Friends came over and shared meals, we walked around downtown, we went to the beach, and did basically all the things we normally do.
Silver lining: We have great friends.
5. Conversations about money are hard, but worthwhile. Money is a very tricky subject, especially for us Millennials who grew up during the “great phase out” of cash and the rise of online payment; plus, lots of us didn’t overhear conversations about money. Depending on where we grew up, we may have had some in-school financial education, but then again, maybe not. All that means that getting on the same page about money, and I mean in a real-nitty-gritty way, requires some discomfort and some vulnerability. But once you are moving in the same direction at the same time toward the same goal, the conversations are easier and the motivation is higher and the path is clearer.
Silver lining: After the discomfort and vulnerability comes closeness and progress on financial goals.
* We loved this blogger’s 30 Days of Living Well and Spending Less; but in full disclosure, we did not strictly follow her guidelines. We read most of the literature, but didn’t do most of the activities, like cleaning out our closets because we just ran out of time in the day. I don’t want to do any disservice to her great work by claiming that we strictly followed her procedure.