The last week of the No-Spend challenge was not much more eventful than the first. However, I did find myself having to make a few compromises.
First – Transportation. On Wednesday, I had a commitment to go to a conference. This conference was nowhere near walking-distance from my home, so my choices were to drive (and pay for parking) or take the bus (and pay for the bus ticket.) Alternately, I could have hitchhiked or begged for a ride from a friend. But being it was during work hours and I enjoy not being sexually assaulted, neither option seemed feasible.
An insightful friend asked me last week if SansLux challenges always had to be about NOT doing something — or if sometimes they could be about doing something I don’t normally do. So I decided to put that into practice as a way to offset the money for parking on Wednesday and I walked to work on Tuesday instead of driving. Granted, I didn’t walk as far as I drove on Wednesday, but considering the risky nature of the walk to work (down a path lovingly deemed by my female co-workers as the “rape trail” due to a couple awkward run-ins with naked masturbating men — the end of said trail sometimes being blocked by large trains that one must literally climb up and over to get through) I figured it evened out on some cosmic level. My walk was uneventful, but it did find me wondering what I’m going to do on “No Car” week, as that’s not an experience I care to repeat with any regularity.
Next – Community Support. As someone of some means — by no means affluent, but at least comfortable — I am used to being able to reach out in financial support of my community. One of my dear friends runs a queer open mic at our local feminist bookstore on the second Friday of each month. The event is sliding scale and all proceeds go to benefit the bookstore, which has been suffering under the weight of the current financial crisis. Walking in to the event and having to tell the door person that I didn’t have anything to give was rough. It was rough because
a) I *do* have money to give, but I’m not giving it because of this project – and
b) it’s really, really hard to have to say that. It hit my old class stuff right square in the kisser.
I was nervous about walking in that door all the way there, and it took me a bit to shake it off once I was through it.
On Saturday, a friend was in from out of town and there was a group brunch. Because I didn’t want to miss spending time with this friend, and I was also her ride to the brunch, I struggled with myself all morning about whether or not I was going to give in and have breakfast, or if I was going to stick to it and not spend. I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable by hovering there at the end of the table as the only one not eating, but I didn’t want to break the challenge either. Ultimately, I decided to stay true to SansLux. I drank so much water at breakfast that I had to pee 4 times in 2 hours. A friend offered to buy me breakfast and I was so hasty to talk her down from it that I was actually rude, albeit well-intentioned. I caught myself and apologized for not saying thank you for the offer, but it pointed out to me how awkward that can be.
By the end of the meal, I was starving (I’d eaten something small before I’d gone, thinking I’d get to go home for lunch after, but it took 2 hours before we were actually served and there was no time.) and another friend took pity on me and handed me their plate of leftover pancake. As I watched all the food on other patron’s tables get sent back to the kitchen as waste, I realized how often I, too, am wasteful — and how what I leave on my plate would be enough to fill up another person – and I vowed to never leave my leftovers at a restaurant again if I could help it.
Saturday afternoon, I buckled. My friend gave an amazing reading at the same feminist bookstore I mentioned before, and I couldn’t help myself from supporting her art. I bought one of her chapbooks. Here was someone who, in her own way, was living the SansLux challenge every day — struggling from dollar to dollar to live and breathe her art, sacrificing so much to do it. It moved me tremendously and it felt like the right thing to do to support her, so I ended the challenge a few hours early.
I celebrated my two weeks of no-spending by going through the change on my coffee table in the living room and scrounging out enough money to support another local performance group that evening. Four soggy dollar bills and 4 quarters. I felt good about spending them, too.
So — in summation, not spending money has taught me:
— that cooking for and with friends is a lot more fun and interactive than going out to eat.
— that cooking for myself is actually a joy and not a hardship.
— that you can have a hell of a lot of fun without spending a single penny.
— that it’s terrifying to think about life without a cushion – where any little financial misfortune that might befall you is a huge stressor.
— that throwing money at your life without thinking is akin to a delegation of self-care that is both unhealthy and unrewarding.
— that friends and community are paramount to happiness, with or without money.
— that not realizing the value of money and what it offers you leads to being wasteful in huge ways.
My decision about what to do in the aftermath of No-Spend Week(s) is this:
I plan to continue to live as if I do not have the means to afford many of life’s extras. I will make exceptions here and there in support of community events and occasional entertainment, but I am going to be frugal. I will put the money I would normally squander in savings in order to invest it more wisely in the future. In my future. And I suspect “wisely” may mean different things to me at the end of SansLux than it did before I started.