In the excitement of posting all the other information on the website, we’ve been a bit remiss about posting updates on our Buy Nothing challenge (BNC), although we have been keeping the BNC page updated with what we’ve spent so far from our $300 annual allowances and what we’ve decided to add to our list of exceptions.
Generally, the challenge has been going really well. I do continue to feel relieved when I realize we aren’t wasting money in small increments on things that aren’t really necessary. This has made me feel much better about the big purchases we’ve made, including a new computer.
New Computer: Our old computer used the XP operating system, which is no longer supported, so I could no longer remote connect to my job. We spent $750 on a new computer and printer, which we had to put on the credit card, but I know it will get paid off soon because we aren’t spending money on anything else. We’ve been using hand me down computers from our friends for the last twenty years, and it’s been a bit of a revelation to buy a new one, which are no longer as expensive as they used to be. Once I get everything set up and working, it will remove much frustration from our lives.
Conference Registration: Our other big splurge was the registration fee for me to attend the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference in June. Like a new computer, event registration fees are something we’ve never had the money for before. A friend invited me to the conference, which will cost us $300 instead of $400 because we can stay at her house instead of lodging at the event. Bear was kind enough to approve this big expenditure. At first he wanted me to use my entire allowance for it, which I wouldn’t do because I knew there would be projects for which I would need to buy supplies. But then he decided we could list it as an exception, because he knows it will be a good time for me to experience the energy that is raised when like minded women come together, something I haven’t been able to do much of over the last decade.
Bear wanted me to concentrate on what is already here, rather than buy new stuff. So that’s what I’m doing this year. On the one hand, this bothers me, because we sheet mulched a large section of the yard last year which I will now not be able to plant anything in, but on the other hand, I am also excited about being able to pay more attention to what is here- because it does need more attention- especially more weeding while the perennials are getting established. There are also many edible and useful plants in the yard which I have not had time to taste or utilize because I’ve been too busy establishing new sections of the garden.
Not Eating Out: The biggest problem I’ve having with the BNC is not being able to eat out. Some nights I really want to go somewhere where someone will serve me great tasting food and clean up after me. Bear is missing this too, and decided that during his birthday week he could ignore the BNC, so we ate out several times. What we learned is that some restaurant food really does suck, even at restaurants we’ve been going to happily for years. I think bad tasting food really stands out much more when you’ve been eating nothing but homemade for months. We did have really great meals at two of the restaurants, though, so can’t conclude that all restaurant food is terrible and unfortunately can’t break ourselves of the desire to eat out.
Improvement in Our Finances: Most importantly, I do feel like our finances have improved. Although our credit card debt is $500 higher than when we started at the beginning of the year, we are about to use our tax return to finally pay off my student loans (after 17 years), giving us $255 more a month, and I got a big raise at work, so I can envision us having everything but the mortgage paid off by the end of the year and having a decent amount of savings in the bank as back up (if I ignore that whole problem of needing a second car). Then maybe we can start paying down the mortgage. My fingers are crossed. I remain hopeful, because due to the BNC, I am much more certain that our extra monthly income will be spent exactly as we intend it to be, rather than on things we don’t even realize are draining our finances.
About the computer: Going more than 15 years without buying a computer is almost pure luck. The first two upgrades for our old computers cost me a 6-pack of beer, then it went up to a case of beer (ah… the old days.) A few years later we upgraded to a computer a friend no longer needed, which lasted many years. Last year I asked a friend for help to upgrade our computer and he let us have a better computer that was gathering dust in his basement. That lasted less than 6 months before problems started with it. Our computer karma was spent and now was the time to spend cash. Being new, our current computer had better last longer than the “upgraded for beer“ones did.
About Theresa's conference registration: Theresa needs time with her friends and going to something with them that is also spiritual and helpful is a big bonus. I have no problems spending money on that.
About the plants: One idea in the BNC is to curb cash spending in areas that we tend to overspend in. Theresa’s weakness is the garden. Lots of money gets spent on new gardens and the old gardens get neglected due to her getting worn out (mid to late season) and me being lazy (whenever I can get away with it season).
Rolling in to milking it: My weakness is buying snack food. I rediscovered how much on my birthday week, which was an exception to the BNC. I could eat out one time (which somehow got changed to whenever I wanted that week) and we came up with a reasonable cash amount I could use to buy stuff with, $25. The day I had off to go to Madison and shop I went to 4 book shops and ate out 3 times. Ironically, the only book I bought was The Skinny Rules by Bob Harper (a dieting book), after which I went to Culvers to get a large chocolate shake. For the rest of March I didn’t pay attention to the BNC when I snacked at work and bought extra gazingas drinks for the road. I think I spent around $20, but I am not sure. I have decided to take a $50 cover cost / penalty on my yearly allowance to make up for it. Sometimes being honest sucks, and I REALLY miss getting take home food when I am tired.
This is supposed to be the year of tending the old gardens and not having big new projects. Yeah right. If it is possible, we are going to expand the catio (a patio for cats) to most of the yard and have an area in it big enough for us to be in a hammock. Why, you ask? Frost is our adopted outdoor cat. We have a neighbor who does not like cats on their property and threatened to trap him. I do not want to take a chance of the neighbor killing Frost if trapping doesn’t work. So now Frost is an indoor cat, but we want more of the yard to be accessible to him since he's used to being free. The trick will be to find free or very cheap materials. Another project will be to build a new grilling station in the yard. Since I have a good grill now, this project will probably wait until next summer.
Buying Nothing: The Buy Nothing challenge is tough. I slipped a little, but now that I have to admit it in print, I am back on track.