Not Buying Whatever They’re Selling

Twelve days into my No Spend Challenge and it feels like everywhere I look someone is trying to sell me something.

Advertising is designed to make us feel insecure, to make us feel like what we have isn’t good enough. You’ll look better in these jeans. You’ll be happier if you drink this beverage. You’ll be wealthier if you invest with us. Your house will be prettier if you buy hundreds of dollars of crap at our store. Better yet, buy a whole new house and fill the entire thing with the widgets we sell!

Even the otherwise inspiring podcasters I enjoy are trying to sell their books and consultations.

Satisfaction is a threat to sales people everywhere.

I’ve all but stopped reading women’s magazines, hardly ever catch a tv commercial, am actively unsubscribing from marketing emails, and blissfully scroll past all the targeted ads meant to sell me what I don’t need.

The world claims that my most important value is as a consumer but I’m choosing to go a different route.

This annual No Spend Challenge is a meaningful reminder that my life is good already. I have a nice home, plenty of healthy food to eat and tons of ways to entertain myself that don’t include shopping or buying things.

And by saving my money now, I’ll have funds for adventures this summer! That is worth way more to me than anything the world is selling right now!

No Spend January Is Here!

January is a No Spend Month for me. It’s a fun little game I’ve played for the last few years where I pay for what is needed but there’s no frivolous spending (unless pre-planned), no impulse buying and no shopping for entertainment. Goodbye, antique malls!

So bills are paid and groceries are purchased but I work on using some things from the freezer and pantry. Yesterday, I stopped at the store for about $10 worth of produce needed to create meals for the week using things I already have. If I stop for gas, my reusable water bottle had better be full because I’m not running inside for a drink. Not even for just a dollar.

There’s a gift to buy this month and a planned dinner and movie with a friend that was postponed from the holidays. That’s all the extracurricular spending that should happen.

This month, I will spend a lot of time at home, using what I own, looking for creative ways to entertain myself for free and simply appreciating the life that I have built and all that I already have. The Depression era mantra “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” comes to mind.

After all the excess and gluttony of the holidays, a spending fast is a welcome relief to the bank account but it’s also a welcome break from commercialism.

We spend a lot of time making money to survive and on spending money on stuff to fill our homes but we don’t always go home and just enjoy the life we have.

It’s is an exercise in gratitude as much as anything else.

I wrote a Winter Survival Guide last fall and it’s here in January that these techniques are truly put to work.

Here’s what’s happening in my world right now:

Books are a priority this year and I’m finding that the more I read, the more I want to read. The problem is that there’s a new one that I’m dying to tear into. I usually have three or four going at once but want to focus on one at a time this year. It can be next.

Cooking is more fun. I always enjoy playing in the kitchen but winter is a great time to experiment with new recipes. This year is especially fun as I’m looking for plant based recipes for my new lifestyle. This week I made a potato corn chowder that was divine and the lunch leftovers were a welcome treat! I also made a pumpkin cookie that was disgusting but we’ll just call that an experiment gone awry and move on.

Organization and purging are another priority. I have a list of areas to hit – from the pantry to the sock drawer to the nightstand and all points in between. It’s shocking how much stuff accumulates over time even when you try to be tidy. The goal is to do one thing from the list every day. The purging extends into intangible areas too. One evening was spent purging emails while watching the Closer on TV. Brenda Lee Johnson caught the bad guys and I unsubscribed and deleted thousands of old marketing emails. The above picture represents a new set of Christmas dishes that need to be put away after some rearranging in the china cabinet.

Movie time! I can’t go to the movies but that doesn’t matter because there’s a stack of movies waiting for my viewing pleasure. One day I’ll make some homemade potato chips and hit the couch for a little movie marathon.

Self care is a priority. Outdoor activity is less common because it’s dark at quitting time but I am trying to prioritize some kind of exercise every day. Rest is also important. My philosophy for most of the year is that you can sleep when you’re dead. During winter, these cold, dark nights call for a warm blanket and an earlier bedtime.

Being happy with the Now is a common theme and resisting the urge to adventure plan involves daily internal negotiations. It’s much harder than it should be. However, the theme of this stage of the year is being satisfied with the abundance of everyday life. Adventure planning can wait a bit. I have started a list of day trip ideas based on suggestions from friends but that’s more about being forgetful than about planning. Being present in this moment rather than dream of the next adventure is a real challenge.

For me, a No Spend Month is an opportunity to get myself together for another year, to set new goals and intentions, to stop buying stuff I don’t need, to nourish my mind and body, and to practice gratitude for what I have.

It gets easier every year and, this will sound sound nuts, but I’ve been looking forward to January for weeks.

Want to do your own no spend challenge? You can set your own rules and make it what you want it to be! You might be surprised at how much money and time you save!

Toronto Skyline

Toronto skyline.JPG

Isn’t the Toronto skyline beautiful? This is the view from a ferry ride at sunset a couple of years ago. If you’re visiting a city that offers a ferry – even if it’s really a commuter ferry – take a ride! It’s usually just a few bucks each way but offers you a different view of the city and offers you a fun diversion.

This particular ferry took us to Toronto Island Park which was practically deserted that October evening as darkness had all but fallen when we arrived. But we walked around  a bit before hopping on the next boat back and enjoying the city lit up for the night.

This was a trip of many amazing memories and experiences but this inexpensive little boat ride is hands down one of the best things we did.

Salvaging a shopping mistake

I made a terrible error in my grocery shopping this week, buying 32 ounces of plain yogurt instead of the vanilla I believed I was reaching for. Imagine my surprise, taking a big bite of that nasty stuff at lunch yesterday.

Being my frugal and creative self, there is no way I’m letting this stuff go to waste so I’m looking for ways to incorporate the yogurt into my cooking. I have a terrible sweet tooth so I started out by searching for easy dessert ideas and here’s one I tried last night.

Jello Yogurt

Mix one cup of hot water with your sugar free Jello of choice. Mine was strawberry. When the jello powder is completely dissolved, slowly mix in one cup of yogurt. Whisk really well and refrigerate for two to three hours. It is a kind of strawberry mousse and very tasty. Next time I plan to add some fruit too.

So. One cup of plain vanilla yogurt gone. Three cups to go!

Isn’t it gratifying to salvage a mistake? Especially when it tastes so good?

Simple ways to save: Laundry room edition

Have you noticed lately what it costs to buy just one jug of laundry detergent? Why is keeping your clothes clean so expensive?

About a year ago I realized that my laundry detergent was costing a lot of money every year and that it wasn’t doing anything special. I mean, that $16 container of Tide doesn’t come with Rosie from the Jetsons to actually fold and put away your clothes for you.

A friend recommended that I try making my own laundry detergent and even gave me a recipe. With about a $7 investment I was able to make enough batches of detergent to last my single self for close to a year. My clothes look, feel and smell cleaner. The waste is just two small boxes and a soap wrapper and I store my detergent in an airtight container that looks attractive sitting on the shelf.  I couldn’t be happier!

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
1 c. grated Fels Naptha soap
½ c. washing soda
½ c. borax
For light load, use 1 tablespoon. For heavy or soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.

Here are a couple of other recipes that I have found useful:

Laundry Pre-treatment:
½ c. ammonia
½ c. white vinegar
¼ c. baking soda
2 tbsp. liquid soap or laundry detergent
2 quarts water
Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot.

Laundry Pre-treatment 2:
1 tsp. liquid laundry detergent
2 tbsp. ammonia
1 pt. warm water

Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot, let sit for 20 minutes.

Fabric Softener:
Add ½ – 1 c. vinegar to your softener dispenser

Bleach Alternative  for Laundry
¼ c. hydrogen peroxide

I know in this busy world it may not sound practical to make your own laundry supplies. But look at the recipes. All the supplies should be available at your local grocery or big box store. The most labor intensive part is grating the soap for detergent and that just takes a few minutes. The reward is well worth the grating time.

What do you think? Have you ever made laundry detergent? Do you like it?