Surprise, surprise: I attempted some variant of a 30 day challenge and didn’t share about it upfront so as to increase the odds of success via accountability (never), and instead just plunged ahead with it.
And guess what?
It’s working. (Slams knuckles vigorously on wooden desk.)
I decided to join up with Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Spending Zero challenge because 1. we’d like to buy a house in the current decade and 2. do you know how much easier it is to avoid eating processed foods when Chicfila and Starbucks are both definitively off the list for an entire month? A lot, it turns out.
So we’re getting skinny and rich all at once, and it’s so easy!
Just kidding, it’s really, really hard.
And I’m still not skinny because breast-feeding + the hearty supply of Adam’s crunchy peanut butter I’m subsisting off of in the pantry.
It has been an enormous wakeup call to the reality of how much of our lives – of my life as a mom – revolves around spending money on things. Kind of nauseating, as a matter of fact.
No plans for the morning? Okay, let’s walk to Starbucks.
Kids misbehaving and bedtime still miles off? Let’s just pop into Target (yes, I caved, we’re back on the Bullseye as of Luke’s arrival. What can I say?) and see what kind of crap I can load into the cart along with the “necessities” of yet another pack of diapers and some paper plates. I’d wager around $80 worth.
Didn’t plan anything for dinner? We’ll just run to the grocery store for some key missing ingredient and…$40 later.
You get the idea.
Also, my kids, due to my careful grooming over their entire lifespans, have come to expect – nay, to demand – that whenever we enter a store, I buy them something. And I don’t even buy toys when it’s not Christmas time. Oh, except for those trips to Saver’s when I pick up another digger for the backyard dirt pit because “it’s only $1.99,” or those moments of weakness in the dreaded Dollar Spot (Avengers pencil cases! Because educational!), or those ubiquitous kid’s meal toys that seem to breed and multiply in the basement like vermin.
I’ve come face to face with the stark reality over these past two weeks that we are a family firmly entrenched in the same consumer mindset that grips our culture at large. Sure, we were consuming far smaller luxuries than trips to Cabo or weekends at Disney, but the net result was the same: an insatiable appetite for more, and mine, and next.
Also, I’ve come to rely too heavily myself on little treats to “make it through the day” when in fact all I was doing was, for example, Tuesday. Congratulations self, you did Tuesday! Here’s a $4 latte and an impulse buy on your Kindle. Don’t worry, you spent less than $10.
Except it is worrisome when it happens multiple times per week, both from a character-development and spiritual perspective and from a financial perspective. It was no wonder we were busting our food budget every month because “I’ll just mark this down as groceries” was happening over and over again and those little 10 or 12 dollar dalliances really add up.
So far what I’m seeing in our austerity measures for October is, strangely, a whole lot of increase.
Increased gratitude, increased creativity, increased will power (turns out saying no to shopping and eating out translates nicely into saying no to wasting time/ignoring household duties/skipping prayer/mindless snacking), and increased satisfaction.
The last one is crazy.
If you’d told me I’d become a happier, friendlier SAHM if you took away my Chicfila drive through and my morning Pike’s Place roast, I’d have snarled at you. Perhaps ferociously. Because those are my “deserved” treats. Those were my mom tools, my answers to “I’m bored, I’m lonely, I’m tired.”
But they were never enough.
So here’s to the next 2 weeks of no spending, including (gulp) Halloween, and to not falling flat on my face now that I’ve thrown it out into cyberspace.
May what we have been given be more than enough, and may my children come to deeply enjoy the timeless combination of rice and beans and the creativity necessary to create fake spiderweb decorations out of dental floss and shredded trash bags.