#5TF: Spending & Saving

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 5 – July 22 – July 28, 2017

Over the weekend we found ourselves making several minor purchases that added up to a significant little chunk of change. For minimalists who hate shopping anyway, coming home with several bags and one giant box, was enough to create a panic, even though every item was purchased with intent (well, except for the travel spork, and I just wanted that).

We’ve walked/hiked 328.4 miles so far this year (not counting general walking about the house, yard, stores, etc.) and our shoes were clearly beginning to show the effects of that travel. The inside of my left shoe was so bad that it was starting to wear holes in my socks…my wool summer socks! And those things are supposed to be nearly indestructible. So first up on our list of purchases was new walking/hiking shoes.

The next purchase was new camping gear – specifically a small tent and tent light. We sold our large 8-person tent on OfferUp a few months back and have been debating on getting another ever since. With a rafting trip planned for next month, we thought it might be a good time to look for something compact and easy to set up. Believe it or not, we bought a kid’s tent. It was actually 12 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the smallest 2 person adult tent and a full $20 cheaper.

And finally, a larger freezer. Our biggest downsizing regret ever was selling our chest freezer when we left Florida. We’ve missed it terribly. The little one we bought on Craigslist last summer has been great but it is too small for any real attempt at storing food for winter. For now, we have two freezers, though I think the little one may be re-homed soon. My mom seems particularly interested in adopting it.

Big enough for food, yet small enough to fit in the Peanut…it’s our new freezer.

Spending money for stuff (even necessary stuff) is often very difficult for us. We usually talk ourselves out of most things or debate about them for so long that we forget why we thought we needed them in the first place. But there are times when you have to spend money to save money later on. This was one of those times…and I think all in all, we did alright.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was (definitely not shopping!). Instead, the highlight of my week was Wednesday…the whole day was about as close to perfect as it could possibly get. We had breakfast in the park, picked blackberries, took a walk at Bicentennial Mall State Park, picnicked outside the Nashville Farmer’s Market, and went to our first Nashville Sounds baseball game (on free hat night!). We even managed to make running errands fun that day…and we picked up a great CSA basket full of peaches, cantaloupe, and corn. I don’t think I could have asked for a better day.

Enjoying the “cheap seats” at the Nashville Sounds game…in our new shoes.

I am grateful for whatever it was that sparked my mom’s sudden interest in her own health this week. She didn’t say why or how she plans to do it, but she has finally decided to quit smoking. Though I have never smoked, I know how hard it is to quit and I know not every day is going to be a good one but I’m here to help in whatever way I can. Just making the decision seemed to lift a great weight off of her and she was much more active this week. She played outside with the little one on Tuesday and even helped us in the yard yesterday.

I need to let go of my obsession with minimizing our shoe collection. As much as we’d love to wear flip-flops or go barefoot every day, that’s not always appropriate (or allowed), so shoes are a must have item. The average woman in America owns 27 pair of shoes, the average man, just 12. We each have 7 pair (including our new ones, flip-flops, water shoes, bowling shoes and winter boots) and I still think that’s too many. As I put the new shoes in the closet on Sunday, I stood there staring at the rest of them, questioning their necessity until I nearly had a headache. That’s not minimalism. It’s just silly. There are no arbitrary limits to what one can own as a minimalist. The point of minimalism is that everything you own has a purpose. Every single shoe in our closet does so I give myself permission to leave them alone…for now.

We made progress on saving money…despite our little shopping spree. We managed to stay in budget on groceries and household goods, spending less than $150 total for the month, and we added $425 to our savings and investment accounts. Our CSA basket and garden are really helping on that front. Speaking of which, we put away 4 quarts of blackberries, another 1/2 dozen ears of corn, and 2 gallons of snack peppers. Angie also canned 2 more jars of pickled jalapenos and I made 2 more quarts of spaghetti sauce (though we ate most of it already). And we continued our technology time-out, leaving the phones behind for several enjoyable hours of hiking and picnicking this week.

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The funniest thing that happened this week happened at the Sounds game. Angie has such a small head that the free baseball cap didn’t fit her, even on the smallest setting. She looked kind of forlorn sitting there in our grass seats with that giant cap on her head, so she set it aside. Though I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen, I promised to fix the hat when we got home. (I would literally have sewn a brand new hat if I’d had to, just to keep her from making that sad “my head is too small” face.) As it turned out though, in the 3rd inning, a random guy stopped by our blanket with a wad of money in his hand and said these magic words, “I’ll give you $10 for your hat.” Sold! I guess it pays to have a small head after all.

 

Party Like a Minimalist

I just read an alarming statistic – Americans spent upwards of $15 billion on food, beverages, decorations, and apparel for this year’s Super Bowl, an event that lasted about 4 hours and in most people’s minds, an event that has now been forgotten (especially for Falcons fans). $15 billion comes out to roughly $135 per person – and by “per person” we’re talking about the 111 million folks who watched the game.

The outrageous spending for the Super Bowl is not a unique occurrence. Every big event (or holiday) in American culture is characterized by excessive spending. I bet if you Google “how to save money on ____” and insert any random event (birthday, Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, etc.), you’ll get 9 articles advocating some level of spending for every 1 article that talks about saving money by using what you already have at home. Why? Because we’re conditioned to equate celebrations with spending.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the grocery store on Saturday. We were amazed  – overwhelmed, really – by the huge amount of Super Bowl nosh in people’s carts – chips, dips, wings, all sorts of beverages, and party trays by the dozens. We even watched one lady blindly grab a stack of $17.98 veggie trays (not even a glance at them or the price) and pile them atop her tier of beer. So many thoughts crossed our minds – how much of this stuff will actually be eaten? How many calories are in all those processed foods? How many people will call in sick on Monday because they ate or drank too much? (The answer to that last question is about 1.5 million.)

As a minimalist, seeing such examples of extreme over-consumption makes me a little angry at the person (for not being more aware) and at our culture in general for perpetuating the lie that happiness comes from the store. At a time when 80% of Americans are in debt, we should be doing more to encourage living within one’s means. Yet, of all the articles I read today about Super Bowl spending, not a one of them spoke to the fact that the vast majority of viewers weren’t in a position to afford all the awesome new things being hawked in those $5 million dollar ads (much less the $15 billion that they had already spent in the name of watching those ads).

bigsandwich
Our Game Day Sandwich

Now make no mistake, we love football and were just as excited as everyone else to sit down to the Big Game yesterday. Heck, we even had my mom over for dinner and served chips and salsa for an appetizer! Our entree was a play on words – we made soup for the Super Bowl, along with a really big sandwich. Our cost for items outside of our normal grocery list – just $1.49 (for a loaf of Ciabatta bread that was on the clearance table).

My point in all of this is not to convert everyone to minimalism or chastise folks who spent more than a buck and a half for their game day celebration. My point is to raise awareness. As a society, we need to stop falling prey to the idea that big events require big dollars and realize that simplicity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We can apply a “less is more” mentality to every aspect of our lives – including times of celebration. Partying like a rock star for every occasion is expensive, time consuming, and mostly unfulfilling. Remove the hype and hoopla, the crazy need to outdo the Jones, and you also remove all the stress.

My advice – be a trendsetter and party like a minimalist instead. Spend time not money on putting your party together. Be creative and resourceful, using what you already have at home. Invite only the people you enjoy being around. Serve only what can reasonably be consumed in the time frame. Create an environment where it’s easy for you and your guests to avoid all excesses – overeating, overspending, and over-indulging in drink. And most of all – be the life of your party.  Be present, enjoy the moment, and those around you will do the same.


Weekly Progress to Goals Report (week ending 2/4)

    • No Spend Days = 3
      YTD = 20/200
    • Meatless Days = 3
      YTD = 16.5/144
    • Miles Walked/Hiked = 8/0
      YTD = 65.8/1,000 and 3.6/100
    • Decluttered Items = 38
      YTD = 188/2017
    • Side Hustle Income = $67.57
      YTD = $155.28/$1,825