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).

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

March Progress to Goals

How does that old saying go? March comes in like a lion…

And indeed it did! March roared in with extra expenses. Or so it seemed, until I started to put things into perspective. March was the first time this year where our only income came from my full time job. We had no bonuses from freelance work or tax refunds. We did sell a few things on eBay. Our “decluttering for cash” effort grossed $187.65 but that income will be booked into April, once all items are shipped and fees settled.

So by all accounts, this was our first chance to actually try living on 50% of our regular income. It was an interesting attempt to say the least.

March Expenses

First, our successes:

  • We had approximately $860 in added expenses this month, which we were able to pay in full without using credit or touching our savings.
  • One of those added expenses was a gift for my mom. We had her driveway leveled and poured with new gravel. This was something that she had planned to pay for herself but amid it all, her septic pump went out. That repair cost more than $1,300. On a fixed income, she couldn’t afford both so we helped with the driveway.
  • Despite the extra expenses, we still managed to direct 13.5% of our income to savings and carried over 4.5% for this month.

Next, our problem areas. I won’t call them failures but these are areas that are definitely in need of improvement.

  • We strayed from our cash-based spending system and as a result used our debit card 26 times. Poor planning and frequent small trips to the store helped keep our groceries, household, and misc. spending up over $600 again this month.
  • I forgot to cancel our newspaper subscription after the 3-month introductory rate expired so our bill for March tripled.

If I look simply at the numbers, I could be disappointed. We definitely did not meet our goal to put 50% of our income into savings. But the chart only tells part of the story. This month we saved or carried over 18%, gifted 13%, and paid 4% out of pocket for unexpected car repairs. We also spent 5% on entertainment, which included a membership to the local indoor pool (swimming is something we sorely miss since leaving FL). Add all this together with the 7% that we had in miscellaneous spending (garden supplies, new tennis shoes, and Groupons) and you have a total of 47% of our March income that went to something other than living expenses.

When I look at March that way, I feel pretty blessed.

That being said though, April is a blank slate and I want to do a better job of curbing the discretionary spending and put more aside for savings and travel – which is this month’s focus area.