Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Artfully responsible?

I attended the Madison Chautauqua of the Arts Festival last weekend. I walked miles and saw a lot of wonderful art. The walking was great! It has me ready to get back in the habit. Exercise really does lift one's spirit. It's amazing. I can see why people get addicted to it. Hopefully I can keep the workout sessions at a healthy level. I am well aware that I may replace one form of unhealthy therapy with another. Let's see.....facebook, coffee, but I really don't think I will ever exercise too much.

Back to the temptation - There was a lot to see. A lot to love. Many things I would love to own, but nothing I needed. I found myself trying to rationalize how spending here was more like charity. Helping a starving artist.... IT WAS STILL SPENDING! Spending on things that were definitely NOT NEEDED. I stayed strong and did not buy a single thing. I even resisted a lemon shake-up which I wanted badly.

Instead of my financial support, the artists received my compliments for their work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slipped into old habits

I had the pleasure of a rare lunch with out children. It was great. When I was ready to pick them up after my lunch, they weren't back from theirs. I needed a way to kill some time. I didn't have a book to read (which I should begin keeping with me at all times). So....I went to my old stomping (shopping) grounds. I headed for my favorite thrift shop. I thought, I'll just look around and kill some time.

Well, I started to fill up a cart. I had shirts for Zoe (which she doesn't need), tights for Bryn (which she doesn't need), kid size gardening gloves (don't need), books (can get at the library), and my favorite, two wood puzzles (great classic toy that would last forever, but we don't need).

While I was tooling around in the store rationalizing this, putting that back, etc. It again, was all stuff I don't need. The phone rang. Thankfully it was my mom telling me she was back with the kids. She asked where I was. I thought about making up something else. I decided to tell her the truth. I immediately felt like a failure. I wasn't going to ruin almost 9 months of control on all this stuff. I also want to be an inspiration to my mother. I couldn't let her know I had failed.

I put it all back and headed for the door. I proudly reported to her that I didn't buy anything, but was greatly tempted. It was quite therapeutic really!

I experienced the thrill of the hunt and the high of finding things the girls would love. I spent no money and brought nothing else into my already bulging home! What a happy experience.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Good news brings shopping envy!

It's been a struggle since my husband lost his job. Talk about motivation not to spend....the thought of losing your house and vehicle will make you stop spending in a heartbeat! I really thought I needed to become a vegetarian or go on beans and rice diet or something. We didn't need to make such a drastic change however.

My mother's spending habits is what saved us. I do not condone these habits, but they sure saved us. How? Well, we had several very successful garage sales from the stuff stockpiled in her garage. I wish I would have kept track of how much we took in. It was thousands of dollars. She graciously offered us all the profits we made. In the three months my husband was unemployed, we never missed paying a bill. I began babysitting, but that was only $170 per week. Thanks MOM!

While I am so glad she had this for us to fall back on, I am highly motivated to stop needless buying. I hope to get her garage cleaned out and convince her to stop buying!

My husband decided to take a job working at Lowe's. The pay is considerably less than we are accustomed to. At first I was disappointed. Now I am looking at it from a new perspective. Maybe he doesn't need to make more, because I can spend less and still be happy.

However, today, when I went to pick him up (living with one car now), I saw loads of women going into and out of the plant department. I was envious, but resisted. I wondered secretly if they were trying to fill a void in their lives with their shopping habit. I know now, that I was using shopping to avoid things in my life. It also just plain made me feel good. I am growing and spending less. I hope to stop the "shop therapy" legacy with me. I do not want to set this bad example for my girls.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Well, we are 4 days into not having an income. I am wrestling with how much to cut from our food purchases. We eat a lot of fresh food and organic food. Of course, this is the most expensive food. We do have a freezer full of food that will carry us for a while. I have already outlawed all junk food. That will help a little. I can think of little else that will help. My husband is a meat lover and would go nuts if I cut that out. I think he is in for a rude awakening. Beans and rice, here we come!

I found myself at Wal-Mart, a store I usually don't shop. I had gone to take some recycling to their parking lot bins. I went in because I needed a few things for a dish I promised to make for Zoe's school's teacher appreciation lunch (bad timing). Here I am struggling with all this emotional stress...wondering if we will be able to keep our house and so forth. Now I have to cook for other people. UGH! Anyway...as I was walking around, I thought, I am already the biggest cheapskate on the planet. How can I live any cheaper. The first way would be to change our eating habits. I ran the idea by my husband. He said, "we are not changing the way we eat!" I was happy to hear his commitment to our healthy habits, but couldn't help but worry.

The other thing I am struggling with is the need to medicate myself with "treats." I have been hitting the Easter candy pretty hard. Every time I am out driving, I want an iced coffee. I have this idea it will make me feel better. The first few days I was good and refrained. I came home and made a Chai Tea Latte instead or good old Aldi coffee and french vanilla creamer (no more creamer after this one is empty). Today, I had to go to my husbands former employer and pick up his dry cleaning. After I left, I couldn't resist the temptation to stop at McDonald's for a $2.27 cup of Carmel iced coffee. Why in the hell does food and drink make us feel good when we are stressed or angry etc.? I felt horrible driving around drinking this. I felt like I had to ditch the evidence before I got home. I didn't, but I was thinking I needed to cover up my purchase. I rationalized the purchase by saying to myself, "I used my birthday money! Money my mom and dad told me I had to spend on myself."

I feel like I am going crazy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

All the skills practiced are now a necessity!

No spending just became necessity! We were a one income family, now we are a no income family. My husband came home from work this morning at 8:15. It was unusual, but not alarming. I said a simple "what's up?" That's when I found out he was let go from his job. I was surprised at my calm, peaceful reaction. I was able to offer him some comfort and not completely freak out!

I truly believe we will be okay. We don't have the 6 months salary saved up and ready, like the experts recommend. However, I think we will manage. Luckily, I have been practicing tactics that would be a complete shock to most for almost 4 months now. I have managed to not buy anything in four months. The kids are used to that. They won't resent their dad for that, they will just continue to resent me!

When interviewed for a recession focused TV piece, I said something along the lines that this would prepare us for any unseen trials. Now the trial is here. If you are the praying type, please pray that my husband finds a suitable job soon!


Monday, March 16, 2009

The lost art of bartering

My daughter wanted to start piano lessons. I know this isn't a tangible product that would be entering my home. I still felt the need to eliminate the expense. Actually, if I couldn't get it for free, I couldn't afford it.

I found someone that would allow me to barter for lessons. She teaches piano and I iron her husbands shirts while she is giving the lesson. Equal time spent for both of us. I guess she would rather teach piano than iron shirts. Can't blame her.

I don't iron any clothes at home. The sacrifices I make for my children!

My goodness...it's birthday party season!

Well, with one kids party under my belt, now I am challenged to two more within the next two weeks.

The one we attended on Saturday, went very well. Our recycled gifts were very well received. We gave the birthday girl some gently used dress-up clothes that no longer fit my girls. I also threw in a Learning Resources toy that I had purchased, new in the box from Goodwill, prior to my year without buying.

I may have to get a little more creative with all these parties coming up. I just had an idea...I could give the birthday girls a gift certificate for a special day with my daughter. Take the two of them someplace special and treat them to ice cream or a stop at a fancy bakery. I'm not sure I will try that. Most of the kids probably wouldn't get the concept. Back to the drawing board.

I do have a few more items stock piled in the closet. I don't know if it will last all year however.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Another small dilema

Well, we just received a birthday party invitation. Both of my children are thrilled and definitely want to attend the party. The dilema lies in the expected gift. Now, I know the mother of this child doesn't care if we bring a gift or not. She is following my year without buying anything.

With past parties, I would go out with the girls and let them choose something to give to the birthday child. This would lead to the inevitable whining for me to buy them something too. Not that I ever caved to the pressure, but it was still painful! Then of course there is the agonizing decision of how to package the gift. Which pretty bow to pick, which bag....all of this used to take place at the dollar store granted. I could never have paid retail for that crap. So that's a minimum of two store visits.

This is another situation that people often go overboard. I really think the kids would just be happy to be together and play. Of course the cake and ice cream would be a big bonus. I think feeling like the center of attention for a whole day, could be gift enough. If a child could possibly be raised in an environment where he didn't know about birthday gifts, would he still be happy on his birthday without receiving any gifts? I think so. As long as the people in his life make him feel special.

So what am I going to do? I know I will have the kids make cards. That's not frowned upon generally. I have plenty of paintings my kids have done. Hopefully, I can convince them to part with one to use for gift wrap. If not, I'll have them create an original with this intent. We also have a stash of pretty bags and bows that I always save to reuse. I am considering giving some gently used items. I have been saving a "dress up" outfit that no longer fits my girls. I think it will be perfect.

What do you think? Please weigh in on the subject.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gotta Have It NOW!

The gotta have it now mentality rarely leads a person to make good choices. This is true in so many aspects of life, and it’s certainly true in personal finance.

If one takes the time to really think through a purchase, it becomes less pressing, and can often be avoided altogether.

But when something is needed RIGHT NOW, that’s when the budget flies out the window and money gets wasted.

Good questions to ask yourself when making a purchase are:

Is this something I really need to own?

Do I already own something that will do the trick?

Can I borrow this from family/friend/neighbor?

What happens if I don’t buy this?

Is there a downside to putting off this purchase?

By employing your patient side, it’s easier to practice conscious frugality.

Writen by: Katy Wolk-Stanley

So well said, I couldn't resist posting it here. I am not in any frame of mind to write something tonight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New hobby on the free?

Today we picked up some free scrapbooking supplies from a freecycler. We headed straight over to a friend's house to use their supplies too. Of course, I soon realized, that to really do this right, the sellers of scrapbooking supplies want you to think you need a ton of stuff. The things we received in the box left on a Noblesville porch, do not even scratch the surface.

Zoe really enjoyed doing this and wants to keep it up. We will have to get by with what we have or find another generous soul giving away supplies. I will not cave! No mater how much she begs.

I am sure we can do some nice work with old fashioned scissors and such. It's just like every other aspect of our consumer habits. We feel the need to have the biggest TV, the nicest car, the newest golf club, etc. If something is lacking within us, surely buying more stuff will fix it. When a husband's golf score don't measure up to his buddy's score, it certainly can't be attributed to skill....it must be the crappy equipment. Time to upgrade!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yet another temptation

Two, not one, but two, "50% off your entire purchase,"coupons arrived in my mailbox from my favorite thrift store. These coupons from Value World would normally burn a hole in my pocket. In the past, I would have been extremely excited to get into the store and load up a cart full of stuff. Even worse, I would have been asking friends and neighbors for their coupons, so that I could go to each and every location and load up a cart full of stuff. Wow, have I had an awakening or what. I am tempted to have a ceremonial burning of the coupons! Anyone, out there,want them? You have to prove it's for something you need! I don't want to contribute to the shop therapy epidemic.

This is a fabulous retail lure. They know some of us can't resist a good deal. These coupons get us in the door, even when we do not need anything in particular. Then, once there, since everything is half off, we buy all kinds of stuff we do not need and would never even considered buying had we been sitting at home playing a game with the kids or facebooking. (Is that a word yet?)

So beware...be conscious of what you're buying and why. Just think about it. Just because it's a great deal, doesn't mean you need to bring it into your home. I have been so guilty of this in the past. Here's and example of my twisted buying habits...I counted Zoe's shoes last night...20 pairs! Shockingly, this was only the count of the ones in the shoe rack hanging in her closet. Not the countless pairs I could have found in various spots around the house. Nobody, especially a 3rd grader, needs 20 pairs of shoes, just because they can be bought for $3.00 or less per pair. Unfortunately, that is not the only area I over purchase.

I am trying to stop the insanity! Join me....think about your buying habits!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thrift Store Find!

No, I didn't fall off the wagon already. I went into a thrift store for a friend that was having trouble finding brown pants for her son to wear in a school play. Her time was running out. She needed to find dark brown pants for his "tree" costume. Since I enjoy the thrill of finding just the right thing, I thought I would pop into one of my old stores. What I found, was that I can go into a thrift store and buy nothing! I looked for the pants and wasn't successful. I did walk around the store, but only for about 1 minute. I felt good walking out with nothing. This is the complete opposite of the reaction I had in the past. If I left a thrift store with nothing, prior to my year without buying anything, I would have felt despair. I am growing and realizing I don't need all the stuff to be happy. Also, in the past I would have traveled all around the city looking for the illusive brown pants. Today, I chose not to waist my time. That's real growth for me!

Instead, today, I took a long walk (about 40 minutes) with my dad. It had been so long since I had an uninterrupted, serious conversation with him. It was so refreshing and renewing. It felt good to be outside getting some exercise and reconnecting with my dad. We are around each other a minimum of once a week. However, I didn't realize before today, how little we really talk. The kids always seem to have a way of preventing deep connections.

On that note, I am going to make a conscious effort to really connect with some other mothers this year. I also want to spend more time with relatives. There are so many great people in my life that I would like to get to know. I think, it will provide much more fulfillment than the next, new, THING.

Following my walking high, I was able to come home and start de-cluttering the kitchen pantry. It had been a source of embarrassment to me. I used to hope I didn't have to open it when friends or even the children's friends were at our home. I found some things that made others happy today. I gave a coffee can to Michelle. She makes drums out of them for her music students. I found 5 or 6 Pringles cans to give to Gwen at church, who is collecting them for a VBS craft project. Julie received some old safety bumper pads. Mrs. Roberts, (Bryn's Kindergarten teacher next year) got some goodies to put in her store. There are a few more items I am going to part with as well. I also found a considerable amount of trash. It felt good to let some stuff go!

So today, instead of walking out of my thrift store with a material object, I found a great deal more: self-satisfaction, energy, renewal and a different kind of high! I think this one will last a lot longer and propel me forward instead of dragging me down!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

NEW books?

I just spent an hour at the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library website. I requested titles listed in the Scholastic pamphlet from Bryn's school. I let her circle the titles that looked interesting (kind of like shoppping). I told her I would get them from the library.

We have to many books as it is. I rarely if ever, bought new books. If I needed a book fix, I would go to one of my favorite thrift stores where they were sold 5 for $1.00. Wow, can you believe it. I would walk out with bags of books for the price of one at the NEW price. It was a very satisfying high! Now we will get bags full of books from the library. The perks are,we will be able to take them back when we are done and they will be free. Of course, that assumes I get them back on time.

All of our current book shelf space is full. The kids rarely go to them. They like the new stuff from the library. I would imagine, I could clear out a stack of books as high as the house and still keep my favorites. I don't know that I will, but I want to! It would make me feel good to let them go to another place where they would be enjoyed more. Then again, I should save them in case I ever open a reading centered program for the disadvantaged kids in town. Conventional wisdom says, "clear them out now, then buy more," if I ever get a program together.

What to do? Save or pass on...save or pass on. Anyone want to weigh in on the subject? Fly Lady would say pass it on now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I found a group called Compact. They started in the San Fransisco. It's members wanted to fight our nation's out of control dedication to consumerism. They vowed to not purchase anything new for a year. There was no limit on what they could purchase used, get free or barter to obtain.

I have been living a very frugal life for years. I was already getting most of the items I purchased, used. That was part of my problem. I would find great deals! High quality, name brand items for pennies on the dollar were filling up my house. I didn't "need" any of the items. I enjoyed the hunt as much as the purchase itself. I rarely got through a day without stopping at a thrift store to get that adrenalin rush that came with finding something great for a very cheap price. I took a lot of pride in being able to dress my family in great clothing, that nobody would ever suspect came from Goodwill. The thrill of the hunt greatly increased the pleasure and value of any given item. It was exciting to shop!

I began to realize that I was trying fill a void that could never truly be filled with stuff. The more stuff I had, the harder it was to keep it cleaned up and organized. So many experts say, you can't organize clutter! The more cluttered your life becomes, the harder it is to be happy. A cartoon in the New Yorker depicted a woman standing at a department store counter. She asked the sales clerk, "What would you suggest to fill the dark, empty spaces in my soul." This puts so clearly, what so many of us do not understand about ourselves.

Retailers and manufacturers know this all to well. They bank on our need to fill the void. However, more stuff will never make the difference in your life. Instead, I am trying to develop more friendships, spend more time with family and volunteer. I am also trying to begin some healthy habits to replace my shopping/hunting habit. I vow to make more time for exercise, healthy eating, journaling, and learning.

Join me! Put down your purse and take a walk!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Today was somewhat of a struggle. It was a friend's birthday today. Happy birthday Jaya! I desperately wanted to buy her something. Even though, I know she completely digs my year without buying anything. It's just so foreign to not buy a person you really care about a present. It's one more buying tradition that the retail world has conditioned us to feel necessary.

Well, I'm not falling for it!

Happy Birthday Jaya! You are a great friend and I treasure you. Thanks for all your support and advice. Although, we have only known each other for a short time, I hope we can stay close until the kids are old and having kids of their own!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Friends have been asking, "what about the kids?" Holidays and birthdays are normally cause for buying special little trinkets. Well, I don't want anymore special little trinkets to step on in my home. I will be treating them to special meals and special outings on these dates. Believe me, they will be pleasantly surprised, instead of feeling cheated by my experiment.

For Valentines Day, I will make Tim a big, fancy meal. I am thinking a nice juicy steak and crab legs. We may even open the bottle of champagne that's been taking up space in the fridge since New Year's Eve. I will enlist his dad for babysitting. Tim doesn't really need anything. So instead of a tangible gift, I will make a card and a coupon book for him.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Well, I am 38 days into my year, and have not felt really tempted once. The most temptation I felt was while shopping with my 8 year old daughter for groceries at a superstore. She saw a robe that she wanted. Nobody in the family even wears robes. I reminded her of my goal. She began to nag and beg. Normally, I might have given in and said "sure." I stayed strong in this circumstance. She is really upset at me for embarking on a year without buying anything.

Her views on money and acquiring stuff is one of the reasons for my experiment. Even though our house is bulging with stuff, she always wants more. I feel I need to take care of this greed before it gets embedded in her psyche as acceptable.

Another reason for not buying it, is that I come from a long line of people with a strong hoarding instinct. I mentioned that I would buy razors if we needed them this year. I have not bought a razor in at least 5 years. My husband uses one every day and I a little less frequently. Just so you are not thinking I had to have a storage unit for the razors, we do use each "disposable" razor for a long time. Years ago, there was a coupon in the paper that was essentially paying me to buy a certain brand of razor. So I got all the free razors I could. We have only recently had to buy more razors. Although it has been nice not to buy razors for 5 years, I would like my children to see less of this behavior. I hope the hoarding habits stop with me.

I also feel overwhelmed by all of the stuff in our home. I felt, not acquiring anything new would give me time to purge. The kids are always complaining about having to pick up so many toys. I am going to try to convince them to part with things to simplify life! That is going to be one tough battle. I hope to feel more comfortable in my own home and have fewer clean-up battles when it's all said and done.