Frillery and Summer Plans

I never did extend my No-Frills 5 to 7, weekend included. Too hard to give up our weekend spending treats. Too hard to even want to.

But we’ll have plenty of time for weekends full of wholesome, creative, money-less activities this summer. Because, have I mentioned? We’re going home! We’ll be in our little coastal (read: cold and rainy) Alaskan town from mid-May through August.

I’ll be working part time, cooking at a local lodge. My Man will be working part time doing the same paper-wrenching he did before law school came along. We’ll split the parenting, which is always how I prefer it.

We do have a house back home, that we’ve been renting out, but we won’t be staying there. We’ll be living in an old broken down school bus! In the same hippie squat where we first lived together in My Man’s homemade tipi. Some folks might consider this going backwards, but we’re excited about it. It’s a great place to be, especially in the summer. It’s only a mile from town, and right off the road, so not bush living by any stretch. We can still go to the library whenever we want. And with a little community of good folks, and woods, marsh and a pond, it’s an awesome place for kids.

Although I haven’t been homesick really at all this winter, now that summer at home is approaching, I’m getting a yearning for mountains, wilderness, moss, dumpster diving, and especially friends who know me well. I’ve really made quite a few good friends here since my poor, lonesome me post. But there’s nothing like people who’ve known you for years… And especially having a community of friends. Pot-luck dinners, music jams, bonfires, “a pack of hippies” as we jokingly call ourselves to go berry picking, plant gathering, and adventuring. I’m sure I’m romanticizing, a lot of my good friends don’t even actually live there anymore, but nevertheless, I’m excited.

Every now and then My Man will get a restless look on his face and say, “Let’s do something fun tonight.” It’s interesting to compare what “something fun” ends up being in these two disparate locales. At home in Alaska, the only “fun” (which really means out of the regular routine) thing I can ever think to do is go for a hike. I had really imagined that here in New Orleans there would be so many exciting things to do at any given time. But in fact, with a toddler and a baby, “something fun” almost invariably means going out to dinner. There’s a few other things we do here, but they pretty much all involve money and consumption. We do walk or ride bikes in the park a lot, or go wandering around in the French Quarter, but even those often lead up to a purchase and frankly feel somewhat unsatisfying without one.

It’s the culture I guess. Here the culture is spending money. And don’t get me wrong, I am definitely enjoying it! I feel like a kid at the candy store with all the incredible food to be had here. (We just ate dinner at a Thai restaurant the other night that was divine. Scallops in a spicy basil sauce. Oh god, so good. But– there was a $52 bill at the end.) Still and yet, I do occasionally have a feeling of weariness about it all. And a sort of gladness that our time here is limited. I know myself, and my weaknesses, and although it’s fine for three years, it would be hard to balance in the long term.

So a little dose of home is in order. Where there are no scallops in spicy basil sauce, no chocolate croissants, no berry brioche, no 100 year old Italian gelato shops to tempt my weak self. Just good friends, fantastic pot-lucks, craggy mountains and wild rivers. Here we come!

Inaugural No-Frills Wrap Up

Thanks for all those great comments, it’s good to feel like you’ve got company when the going gets crazy. Oh how our ‘close the door, mama’s screaming’ society does us a disservice! If only we really knew how mundanely normal our angst was!

Alrighty. Back to our regularly scheduled program. Or something like it.

You may remember my No-Frills Five wimpy ass challenge ended Friday. And how was it, you might inquire? Well, interesting… Being so wimpy, it was pretty darn easy. Only really noticed it a few times. But the times I did were illuminating. There were three separate times I would otherwise have considered walking to our adorable local bakery for treats. Each time, there was something going haywire and I was thinking to “fix” it by buying treats. Hmmm. One of those times there was supposed to be a parade a few blocks over (we live in New Orleans, remember? Parades are very big here), I got the kiddos all dressed up and ready to go (and you know what that entails) and we walked over and hung around for 15 minutes before we finally found out it had been cancelled because of weather. Here is where I totally would have taken my sweet little girl, all dressed in her cherry red rain slicker and paper crown and ready for a parade, out for a cupcake. That option not available, I finally coerced her into going home and we made our own damn parade in the living room with all her stuffed animals and dolls and toy instruments.

So, although it wasn’t a very difficult challenge, I’d say it was worthwhile. And I suspect that, like carrying a 5 gallon bucket of water some distance, it might get heavier the farther I go. In other words, the regularity of it (once/month) might make it even more worthwhile over time. 5 days out of 30 is one sixth of my days, and that could add up to being significant.

Here is where I started to move on to the related topic of computer rules, but I’ve decided to save it for another post, because, hark, I hear my beloved Toddler waking up!

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.

Root of All Evil, November

Yes, I have continued with the receipt saving from last month. The grocery total is pretty similar, but the “Stuff” category is a whopper, and then, of course, our little Beach Vacation really burned up some cash, almost 100 buckaroos per day. Yikes! Although, when you count last months bike splurge, the out-of-pocket totals are shockingly similar, only $24 off.

Please refer to last month’s inaugural Budgeting post for an explanation of the Hubby Factor, ie: why the below totals do not reflect our true family totals.

November Out of Pocket

  • groceries– $382
  • eating out + food treats– $177
  • gas (not counting road trip)– $30
  • entertainment– $19
  • road trip– $366
  • stuff– $385

Total Out of Pocket– $1,359

**stuff includes

  • $50 toilet sprayer for washing diapers
  • $55 cloth diapers for toddler
  • $28 canning jars
  • $110 thrift store cold weather clothes + household
  • $31 stereo so I can have music while I wash dishes!
  • $25 camera batteries
  • the remaining $86 is just misc small stuff– tools, diapers (we use disposables at night) and household stuff

Bills

  • rent $1175
  • phones $110
  • internet $48
  • water/trash $44
  • recycling $15
  • gas/electric $92

Total bills– $1,484