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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In remembrance

Today, as I was driving into work, after I had prayed my daily rosary, I reflected on that terrible day a dozen years ago.  I couldn't help but think how far our nation had gotten away from that date.  For many weeks and months following 9/11, the United States stood in solidarity to grieve for, and honor, those who were rushed to Heaven's gates that day.
I felt an urgency to do something, anything, to remember the compassion and love our nation strived for in the wake of that tragedy.  So this morning I stopped at the Kwik Shop to get my morning pop and breakfast burrito.  Fortuitously, the man behind was also someone I recognized as a regular, so I told the clerk that I wanted to pay for his stuff as well.  The clerk welcomed the offer and asked the man what he had.  That man was a bit confused and I stated again that I wanted to pay for his food.  He asked me why I would want to do such a thing and I said that well, today was Patriot Day and I just felt like I needed to do something for my fellow man to remember that day.  He thanked me profusely as I stood with tears in my eyes.  I was so nervous about doing that, about committing a random act of kindness and I was so focused on remembering that day, that I was actually tearing up over it.  The clerk was a bit taken aback and just told me how cool that was to do.  I said that I had often thought about doing things like that, but sometimes it is hard to put into practice, because you are nervous or embarrassed.  

The reason for this story is simple.  Never forget the compassion and love that come during tragedy because that is what strengthens humanity.  The simple acts of courtesy and kindness that we display to individuals on a daily basis become the bridge that we build to help us connect with people that are strangers, that we find hard to love, that we sometimes gossip about or condescend to, and I don't want to forget that feeling that comes with humility.  Humility in serving your fellow man is absolutely one of the best feelings in the world.  I hope to slowly get better at it every day.  I encourage all of you today to commit to one act of kindness.  It doesn't have to be huge, it doesn't have to be monetary, but I don't want anyone to forget the best intentions that come with remembering love for our fellow man.  Never forget.  We CAN change the world.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

No-Spend August! Part One

Okay, this is what you've been waiting for (all one of you that is)...no spend August.  How? Why? What?  

The premise is simple:  Go the entire month without spending any money, with the exception of your regular bills and mortgage/rent.  


When people asked me at work, they inquired about groceries, gas, etc.  "You're spending money on milk and bread and stuff, right?"  "Nope."  *gasp*  "Did you just buy a whole month's worth of food in the month before?"  "Nope."  *gasp*  "Well, how DID you do it?"  Well, it was definitely a trial and we did not make it all the way through August.  More on that later.

First of all, I want to tell you where this delectable little brainchild came from. Extreme Cheapskates is a show on TLC and one night my husband and I happened upon it.  That episode had a couple named Jeff and Denise Yeager.  He periodically does a "fiscal fast" where they spend the bare minimum and instead tried to use what they had on hand to live.  In a great interview with them, at LearnVest he says that he usually does it for a week at a time, but on the show they fasted an entire month.  On the show he was shown using the remainder of a jelly jar, splashing a little vinegar in it, and creating a vinaigrette for a salad he was serving.  The show and the idea of a "fiscal fast" really resonated with me and stuck in the back of my head.


Then, we had a month where we spent like we were millionaires on crap we found useful, but wasn't altogether necessary.  That's when I really decided to put the plan in action.  

My husband and I have gone through the Debt Snowball with Dave Ramsey and eliminated credit cards and all of our debt (except our mortgage) within the last several years, but I really wanted to put away some extra in our savings.

My goal was to save $1000 in one month.  We netted about $1500, which is clearly more than I was expecting.  Awesomeness!

Our plan in action

First the caveats:

1)  We buy our meat from a locker in bulk and therefore, had a reserve in our deep freeze.

2) We are part of a CSA.  What's that?  So glad you asked...Local Harvest and CSAs.  Therefore, no need to buy fresh produce.  We do try to eat as cleanly as possible and this helps us continue to work toward being off of processed food.  

3)  We have children, but they are my husband's and he doesn't have residential custody of them.  Therefore, he pays child support and this means we don't physically buy the school supplies and clothing ourselves.  (Child support and the dead beat parents is a whole 'nother rant waiting to be written.)

Now, we did stock up a wee bit before August hit, mainly on toilet paper and toiletries, but we also planned about 8-10 bigger meals for the month that we specifically shopped for before August as well.  The rest of our meals came from our pantry, freezer, and CSA.

Finally, I want to tell you that my husband is a wonderful man and totally bought in.  As I was explaining this to him, he asked questions, a lot of them.  I started the conversation in June and we worked through contingency plans.  My husband smokes and he was worried about being able to buy them.  I told him, back in June, to start stocking up on cigarettes and I would start trying to stock up on beer.  I'm sorry, but the thought of going 4 weeks without a Busch Light made me die a little inside.  ;)  However, my husband made the unilateral decision to give up smoking in the month of August.  In order to help with that, he requested that we give up drinking beer for the entire month as well.

There are many more details that go into a no-spend month.  This is just a brief overview.  In my next blog post I will go into some of the finer points of living without buying anything for an entire month.  The one thing I have loved about doing a no-spend month, among many things, is that we had to depend on more creativity to get through.  I learned to love baking fresh bread, making up pan sauces with what I had on hand, and also found that I really love not having to go to the grocery store for an entire month!  We did 3 solid weeks of dedication.  Unfortunately, my brother-in-law passed away on August 22nd and that interrupted our spending.  However, I still haven't gone to the grocery store.