About Me,  budgeting,  Family Life,  Parenting,  Pro Life

The surprisingly high cost of #treatyoself (and book winners!)

Today is going to be a little scattershot (gosh, I think I just fulfilled a lifelong and previously unconscious desire to use that in a sentence), so I hope you’ll bear with me? It’s Monday, after all.

First up, winners of the giveaway: 3 copies of “Special Children, Blessed Fathers” coming your way, Sarah BRebecca, and Melissa – send your mailing info to juebbing at gmail dot com by the end of this week to claim your prize. (Sarah B, I’ve already got your info!)

For all the other lovely commenters from that post, you can buy the book here or here and there is an e-version available for Kindle (or any device – did you know you can download the Kindle app for free? Super cool.) Good Christmas present, just saying.

So we’re on day 26 of October and, subsequently, day 26 of no spend October. How’s it going? Oh, well, pretty good all in all, but there have been a few hiccups.

First I want to highlight a significant personal victory, which was a completely abstinent trip to Super Target to buy fake spiderweb decor for the front porch with the boy’s very own hard-earned monies. (Which their shameless mother paid them for behaving well for their babysitter/aunt, which is pathetic, I realize, but then again, they went right to bed that night, so shame away.)

So I went into Target with 4 kids, and I walked out of Target 35 minutes later with a single bag containing faux spider web and glowing arachnids. No baby socks. No Starbucks in hand. No diapers. No crap from the Dollar Spot.


Hashtag cured.

Just waiting for Real Simple to come shoot our Fall porchscape. Any day now.


Well, just about. I have slipped up a couple of times, and both of those time$ may have involved a bottle of wine and at least 3 out of my 4 sisters, so…it’s a process. But for the most part, we’ve been killing it this month in the budgeting department, and I’ve cooked and baked more in the past 3.5 weeks than in the whole of our nearly 6 years of marriage combined. Which tells you either that I’m extremely lazy or that our standards for what constitutes “dinner” are very low. Maybe a combination.

Mostly though, there just isn’t a lot to “do” with kids that doesn’t cost money, at least from 3-5 pm every weekday. Or so I thought. So we bake. And I really, really hate baking.

About 5 loaves of pumpkin bread into October, I was starting to sicken of autumn’s favorite gourd and so I dug deep into my entitled suburban brain and came up with such solid ideas as trips to the mall to have my wedding rings cleaned and re-plated (free with our lifetime service plan!), pilgrimages to the Lego store, (we’d never been, and I still don’t think either boy realized you can, you know, buy stuff there. Winning.) mornings at the library, (previously in rotation, but now without a store-bought coffee in hand) nature walks and aspirational leaf-collecting for instagram fodder, and finally, most ghetto of all, leisurely strolls to our neighborhood King Soopers (maybe Kroger in your neck of the woods?) for a “hey kids, free cookie!” from the bakery department and a ride or two on the penny horse which the friendly manager always keeps stocked with pennies.

now watch me whip.

And weirdly, it has been enough.

I want to say it’s been more than enough, actually, because I think we’re all more content than we are in the midst of a bloated, out-of-control spending free-for-all kind of month. I know the grownups certainly feel better about things, at any rate. And I can almost guarantee we’re eating 99% better than when Chicfila features heavily on the lunch menu rotation, which is comforting to my mommy heart, even while my prodigious baking has left evidence to the contrary, at least on my hips.

But the kids are a lot happier, too. And it has gotten a lot easier to say no to them. Mostly because they’re not asking for anything to begin with. We simply respond “we’re only spending money on groceries for meals this month” when they ask for anything, and they haven’t actually asked for much at all, come to think of it. Which is pretty great. We’ve got pretty great (and pretty young and malleable, make note, self!) kids. And it would seem I’ve yet to ruin them with entitlement.

Here’s where it gets crazy though. Yes, we’ve been able to save a lot of money this month. Which turned out to be super helpful because while we thought we were putting a good little chunk aside for the “let’s be grown ups and buy a house” fund, we actually ended up dropping more than a grand on car maintenance. In 2 weeks.

And it was no big deal.

I mean it was a bummer to see the number sinking in the house fund, but it sure felt good to be able to cash flow the car situation and not sweat about the other bills and obligations for the month because I hadn’t been, you know, acting like an entitled fool.

Even cooler than that though, we heard through social media of a homeless mom in our area who had some needs for her 7 week old baby girl. I offered her some diapers and a packnplay, but what they really needed were groceries and another night in the hotel they’re living in until their apartment in transitional housing opens up next week. And she was bold enough to ask for it, and we were in a position to be able to respond not only with prayers, but with actual material help. And I don’t know if we would have been able to do it if we hadn’t been living simply this month.

I’m telling this story because it’s powerful. Not because we did something heroic (We didn’t. We did something responsible.), but because God demonstrated to us a direct correlation between self denial and the ability to help someone in need. Because we had “denied” ourselves those date nights and coffees and working lunches and trips to Target, we had money to be able to answer a real, material need. And we still fixed our van.

So the moral of the story is, I guess, sometimes it is just a latte. But I need to be careful, because all of those “just this one times” can really add up. For better or for worse.



  • Suzi Whitford

    Good job on avoiding the little temptations that can add up SO quickly! It is so easy to buy a $10 thing here, and a $5 thing there, only to spend hundreds of dollars at the end of the month on things you don’t even remember. If we can’t say no to the little things, how will we say no to the bigger temptations? Materialism is an enslaving mentality. Thanks for posting! Keep it up!

  • Colleen

    We’re in month 2 of our spending freeze (aside from some fall wardrobe needs for my littles and one or two slip-ups on my part) because I was tired of living month-to-month when there’s really no good reason for it — which is to say that our income SHOULD outstrip our spending by plenty. It hadn’t been outstripping because we — mostly I — hadn’t gotten into the swing of being a 1.4-salary, two-child family instead of a 2-salary, zero-child family.

    The first month was awful because I felt fairly deprived and due to a bunch of unexpected bills I didn’t see the benefit (and I was less mature than you about realizing that “easily paying the unexpected bills” WAS a benefit). Now, in month two, there’s a noticeable increase in our available funds and I feel really good about it.

    But I have only had ONE pumpkin spice latte this whole PSL season and it’s just best if I don’t think about that. 😉

  • Ari

    I love that you had the money to help the homeless lady, and that she was bold enough to ask for what she really needed. Reminds me of this quote:
    “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
    – St. Basil the Great

    • Liz

      Great quote, Ari. I’m also reminded of the Benedictines’ custom of ‘inventory,’ in which the monks are called upon every Advent to give an honest account of everything they have in keeping which they can call their own, and then make a prayerful consideration of which of those things they can give up, so as to maintain the simplicity of their lifestyle. Over the years, my family and I have tried to do our own ‘inventory’ as an Advent discipline. It seems so fitting, especially at a time of year so taken over by unbridled consumerism. Apart from the spiritual benefits, it’s very freeing to start off a new calendar year with everything pared down, as life tends to be easier that way.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience, Jenny!

      • Ari

        That is awesome, I didn’t know that about Benedictines. For some reason, I always feel like purging during Lent, but perhaps thinking of that during Advent would be more appropriate.

  • Amy

    This is great. Way to go!! We need to find more constructive ways to care for ourselves. The material treatyoself mentality only provides a fleeting and momentary pleasure.

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