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!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. I am grateful for each of you who read and comment and occasionally strike up a real life conversation about some of the weirdness I write about here.

Keep it coming and have a beautiful day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Aboard the USS Requin

USS Requiem

Walking aboard the USS Requin is a little like stepping into another time and place. It’s now a part of the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh but was once a very active submarine and home to eighty men at a time.

Commissioned in 1945, she entered service just days after the war ended and remained in service until the early seventies. Today she’s a floating museum and was manned by a very informative veteran the day I visited last year. He gave us a nice tour and overview of life aboard a submarine. If my memory is correct – he had served on a similar ship but not this specific one.

To say that the quarters are tight is an understatement. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t fare well in the Navy. My goodness, everything is so small! I can’t imagine sharing this space with ten people that I know well – much less 79 shipmates. But that’s exactly what went on here for more than 25 years.

You get a glimpse of life in the kitchen, in the captain’s quarters and in the life of the sailors who kept the ship running for each mission.

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It made me appreciate our nation’s veterans more than ever. Those active duty men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way every single day deserve better than our nation and our people give them.

After leaving the submarine, I felt bad that I didn’t have more questions for our host but, frankly, I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere and the close quarters. I was in awe of anyone who could live under the sea in this tin can for weeks and months at a time. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t imagine volunteering to serve here or in any number of dangerous and uncomfortable places that our nation’s military go everyday. Worse yet, I also can’t remember if I thought to thank him for his service to our country.

If you are a veteran, please know that I am grateful for your service. Thank you.

And if you talk to a veteran today, be sure to say thanks.

Want to touch a piece of military history? Click here to visit the USS Requin.

 

 

Vacation and Reflection

My October vacation was nearly perfect but not for the reasons most people love their vacations. I liked it for the way it was structured.

Hear me out.

A few days were spent away from home, in places I did not know and could explore for the first time.

A couple days were spent exploring in my own region.

There was a day spent with my folks and an evening around a camp fire with extended family.

And there was time spent at home cooking, doing projects and relaxing with Scout.

Nothing cost a lot of money. I had time with others and plenty of solo time as well.

The last day was spent at home doing small chores, reading, watching a movie and reflecting on a nice, long break from work.

Going back to work the next day was ok.

It was important to allow that down time and to prioritize reflection. Too often we we don’t stop and think about what we have just experienced. We simply enjoy the moment and then push forward to the next. Happiness is connected to gratitude and it’s important to be grateful for the good and even the mundane that we have experienced.

Whether it’s a vacation, dinner with your family or an afternoon at the museum, you will be well served to revisit those memories as much as possible.

You will be happier for it.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about a fun discovery I made while exploring my own area. Hope to see you back here soon!

Gratitude

This is the time of year that most of us count our blessings even if we don’t do it often enough the rest of the year. There was a time not so long ago that I would have struggled with this so I guess the first thing I’m grateful for is that I’ve healed enough to make this list.

I’m grateful to have both my parents and that they are still married after 46 years. I’m grateful for my job and for my office mate who is a wonderful roomie. I’m grateful for  good health and for strong shoulders to carry whatever life throws my way. I’m grateful for friends – both old and new – particularly one quirky new friend who makes me laugh and who I share a lot of common ground with.

I’m grateful for the places I’ve been and for all that I hope to see someday – and also that I have the ability to sometimes go out and explore the world.

I’m grateful for my nice home, for good books, inspiring music, sturdy walking shoes, cute hats, for adventure days with my camera and for regular days just spent doing what needs to be done. I’m grateful to live in a rural area that is beautiful and that has ample state parks designed for getting people outdoors. And I’m grateful that my body still takes me everywhere I want to go.

This year I am especially grateful that I had the grit and determination to push past heartache and that today I am healthy, strong and better than I’ve been in years. I’m grateful to be who I am and hopeful that I will continue to grow, improve and learn.

Last but not least, dear reader, I am grateful for you because your support gives me an outlet for telling stories. Happy Thanksgiving to you and thank you for reading.  I would love if you would leave a comment and tell me what you’re grateful for today. And if we haven’t met, be sure to introduce yourself!