Finish Each Day

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

No Spend Month Update

When you decide to do a No Spend Challenge, the first thing you’ll notice is that everyone is trying to sell you something.

There’s traditional advertising like tv, mail, Facebook and email. Then there’s the person you haven’t seen since high school trying to guilt you into buying bags and soap and plastic containers from multi billion dollar companies.

It’s kind of discouraging the first time you realize your value to the world is as a consumer and nothing more.

When I check email each day, I try to unsubscribe to as much as I can but there are some marketing emails that I find useful when I am spending and don’t want to part with in the future. I just delete these without reading them so I’m not tempted today but can still get the coupons later.

The next thing you’ll notice is how much marketing is designed to make you unhappy with your life. Women’s magazines are enemy number one. They are filled with stories that are glorified advertising telling you about the cream that will lift your eyes, the jacket that will make you look taller and thinner, and the new furniture line that will make your home feel like a spa.

How’s your relationship? Shouldn’t you lose weight? Here’s a complicated recipe to make you feel completely inadequate in the kitchen. Better yet, let’s talk about expensive meal subscription boxes to cater to your gluten free, vegan, paleo or fruititarian lifestyle!

For most, the goal of a no spend month is to save money. That’s a great reason to start. In fact, that’s why I started doing this a few years ago. However, I quickly realized that there is a greater purpose to the exercise.

As the days turn into weeks, I find myself growing more satisfied with what I have and even a little skeptical of most purchases.

THIS is why I do the no spend challenge now. The saved money is nice but the deep sense of satisfaction is the true reward. With satisfaction comes gratitude and a sense of peace that there’s not much you can buy that will make you happier than you are right now.

After all, will that expensive cream really make you look younger?

It’s ok to want things. I like my home to be cozy, neat and comfortable. I want it to look pretty. There are things that I would like to have but few things that will elevate my feelings of happiness beyond where I am now.

When I have a large chunk of time at home, I tend to put down my phone more and gravitate toward projects – cleaning out a drawer or closet can’t be done while reading news. You’re less apt to kill time on Facebook when you’re engaged with something that keeps your hands and mind busy.

I tend to cook more and to use up those odds and ends that somehow accumulate in the freezer and pantry. The creation above is basically my favorite meal of all time – a baked potato topped with scrambled eggs and leftover vegetables that are lightly sautéed. Hey! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It’s tasty and it uses up odds and ends.

But I digress. The point is that these changes in habits make an enormous difference and help you to appreciate that it is not just about the money.

In case you are wondering, it’s day thirteen and I have paid bills but have bought nothing else. I do need a new phone case but that is a necessity to protect my very expensive iPhone from – well, from me because I am clumsy. That needs to happen soon as this one is no longer water proof.

Are you doing a no spend month? Give me an update!

Think Outside The Tent

Scout likes to gather his favorite toys in one place and play with them all at one time. Here he has his Shark tunnel (best $6 ever spent), a Hot Wheels car shaped like a dinosaur, and his tent which was a gift from my coworker’s cat.

You’ve heard of thinking outside the box? He likes to think outside the tent!

He often takes mousies into his tent and stretches out as pictured here.

It’s shocking how fast he can jump out from this position and nab your leg. It’s actually a little scary how good his reflexes are. More than anything, it’s delightful to see how happy he is playing with these things.

We all could learn something from Scout. He doesn’t need fancy new toys to be happy. His old stuff, a patch of sunlight, and the occasional wad of paper liberated from the office trash can are enough to fill his day with joy.

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!