No Frills Five: A Soft-Core Challenge

When I first started reading about people challenging themselves with “No-Spending” weeks, I thought it absurd. A week? Give me a break. Who cares? You go stock up on your groceries, and then are so proud when you keep your wallet at home for a week? Big, fat deal.

But, I have often fallen prey to a very all or nothing mindset. And as I get older I realize how unproductive and self defeating it can be. Why do I expect people to go crazy and give up everything as they know it before I’ll be impressed? Don’t I profess to believe in the value of small change, of everyone doing whatever they can muster? So, I’ve reconsidered.

I have really gotten into the blog Consumption Rebellion. Eilleen’s a mama of two in Australia, somewhat of a “born-again” anti-consumer. She’s just got a really genuine, earnest personality that shines right through her blog. I always like people who are earnestly doing their best, trying to be their best. Anyway, she wrote a great post called Do No-Spending Weeks Really Save Money? And it inspired me to quit with the I’m-too-hard-core-to-do-something-small mentality, get my shit together, and do whatever I can muster.

So, in order to explain what I’ve decided I can muster, I first have to give you a little background on my own consumer background.

First off, not spending for a week is, in the context of my life, no big deal whatsoever. Most Alaskans would scoff at the idea of a week being anything to write home about. When you live rurally, you function that way as a rule. I’m sure I’ve gone much longer than a week without buying anything before.

Even growing up in Anchorage, my mom was an infamous bulk-buyer. Our kitchen usually had all the staples, and that was more or less what we lived off of. Also, my folks were poor. Not poor by my standards, and nowhere near poor by world standards, but poor by American standards. When I filled out forms at school with my family income, I always ticked the lowest income bracket, “$15,000 or less.” Making do was nothing special, it was the way we lived. All those creative thinking skills that many people are discovering during their No-Spending Weeks, I was raised with as integral to life. All my clothes came from the thrift store. When something broke, we fixed it. We almost never ate out, treats were truly a treat, as in rare.

Soon after striking out on my own, I went even further in the spartan direction. My girlfriend and I lived in a treehouse of our own making, in the woods outside of a small town for four years. The first summer we ate beans, rice, oatmeal with raisins (no sugar), and homemade bread, cooked on a skillet over the campfire. That’s it. Literally. I mean, after two months when we bought a jar of peanut butter it was a huge exciting treat. Although it was not a good summer for my digestive organs (wow was my shit weird) it was fun in it’s own way to be so hard-core, and yes, I did learn a lot about needs, wants and doing without.

Over those four years, we softened a little, but not much. Heartbreak is what really struck up my self indulgence. And my next lover (later husband) had done quite a bit of softening himself since his young and hard-core days. Together we made quite an indulgent pair (by my standards, again, still not even on the chart of American indulgence). But, living in a teensy-tiny town in Alaska, surrounded by wilderness, with no road out to any bigger town, you can only spend so much.

To be perfectly honest, we are both quite enjoying our Big City experience, all the delicious food and cool stuff to see. This is not a permanent situation, we’ll be returning to our little hamlet of natural spending limitations in three years, so I have every intention of living it up while we’re here. This is where the all-or-nothing mentality comes in.

I had been thinking, well, here we are, screw it. But, I am realizing this is a wasteful way of thinking. I just have to admit the facts, and move on.

I. am. not. hard. core.

Wow. I said it. Good for me. Now I can move forward with my life.

So, let me introduce you to my very own, extremely soft-core, but still potentially slightly meaningful Spending Challenge.

And kids, it ain’t even a week.

Calamity Jane’s No Frills Five

For the last Monday through Friday of every month I will take five days off from spending money.

And now the caveats to that already very small challenge:

  • I allow myself to stock up on regular groceries on the weekend before. Furthermore, since I have two small kiddos and often don’t get to do things when and how I want, if I don’t make it to the store on Sunday, I allow myself to go to the store Monday, or whenever I can get there, so long as I only purchase what was on my list  as of Sunday night, no exceptions.
  • Except. By some unforeseen circumstance, although I will make every attempt not to, if we run out of coffee, half & half or milk, I allow myself to purchase said items.
  • Hubby is not in on this. I never like the idea of twisting someone else’s arm. I do what I do because I choose to. He’s his own self. I do however promise not to pull any dirty tricks like asking him to stop at the store to get whatever.

I’ve provided you with all my personal excuses and explanations not to gain your approval, but to perhaps inspire other folks who are interested but intimidated by big name challenges. Admit to who and where you are, and work from there. Make your own rules. Only you know your boundaries, and how to stretch them.

Do whatever you can muster, and call it great.

6 thoughts on “No Frills Five: A Soft-Core Challenge

  1. This is a good idea. The point of these no-spending days is more just to take a step, to make a point, even if only to yourself. And once you show yourself how easy it really is, it is easier to make it more of a lifestyle change.

  2. Good thinking. I believe you can shop anytime that is convenient as long as you keep to the list – avoid impulse items and you’ll save a bunch as well as make your statement. Be sure the list is honest. Do you really NEED gummi bears? As an Alaska bush dweller, I will pick up necessary items on infrequent trips to town.

  3. This is such a good idea -I keep being put off doing the whole no spending week, and I keep thinking I should make it work for me!

    I think I am just finding excuses to be honest – should think of why !


    1. maybe you, like me, have to first admit you’re not as hard-core as you’d hoped ;) we should start a not-as-hard-core-annonymous support group.

  4. I also go long periods of time where I don’t shop, but it’s because my partner works away, and just the thought of a stupidmarket with my 2 kids is enough to turn me grey! My challenges are fortnightly, as that’s how long we’re daddy-less for, but like many I have exceptions! My fruit & veg gets delivered weekly, and isn’t included as a no-spend, cos no matter how hard-core I wanna feel, I can’t do it at the loss of good vitamin filled snacks like come in our delivery!

    I do want to join a ‘no new things for a year’ challenge though, like consumption rebellion did (isn’t she great? been following her a while!), because even though I think a lot about recycling, I know I can do so much more!

  5. First off, I love your treehouse story! Fantastic! Second, I get what you mean about a no-spending week seeming small to rural people. I live in a rural area and tend to keep massive stocks on hand. But here’s the thing: even if I *could* go months I don’t. If I run out of something I want, I usually run to the store. And buy a little bit of this and that while I’m at it. This month, though, I’m doing a no shopping thing I’m calling Frugal February. I really hope it will help me go through my stocks, cycle through stuff I might otherwise let go bad, and kind of take an informal inventory of where my homestead weaknesses are. Thanks for a great post! Love your blog! I’m going to add it to my blogroll.

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