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.]]>
First, I’ve been overjoyed at the response to the blog. Today I received an email from the good folks at RedirectGuide saying that their staff was inspired by SansLux and they’ve decided to join in by doing the challenge at their office as well. This week their entire staff is giving up sugar and all sweeteners save for fruit juice. They’ll be writing up a guest blog about their experience which I will post next week. Fun!
I also received a sweet card in the mail from my mortgage broker who read about the challenge on Facebook and wanted to drop me a note of encouragement, and a sweet series of text messages from friends. My roommate has also decided to join in on some of the challenges. He’s sort of involuntarily had to (re: giving up cable) and has taken it supportively in stride.
It’s exciting to me that this challenge is encouraging others to think about things differently and to join in. I hope others will follow suit and let me know as well. I’ll be happy to provide a link to anyone else who decides to blog about similar challenges. Just let me know!
As for me and my horse, last week proved interesting in a number of ways.
First — I actually had a great deal of fun, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. The truth of the matter is, fortuitously, I am not broke right now. And while I’ve spent far more of my life broke than not, it’s still genuinely impossible to recreate the actual stress of being strapped for cash when you know that it’s temporary. I am choosing not to spend right now, and because of that, it’s easier not to. I know if I need something, I just have to wait a bit and then I can get it. The fun of that stops when you remove the choice from the equation. So I can’t authentically experience the genuine level of stress that not having the option to have what I need would create. But I can make it hurt a little more than it did.
So I’ve decided that, instead of taking on a new challenge this week, I am going to extend my no-spend period for another week. I stocked up on basic provisions and I will pay household bills – but no frills. Nothing extra.
What I have learned so far is that I have a great many spending impulses that, on an average day, I don’t generally fight. I find that it’s not all that difficult to fight them if I stop and think about it, and that doing so is often more rewarding.
Last week, instead of going out to eat, I cooked for friends. Instead of going to movies, I had a craft night that was fun and creative. Instead of spending money in clubs, I had a game night and got my ass trounced at Scrabble. Instead of going shopping, I went to a clothing exchange with friends where we all traded clothes we didn’t wear anymore and everyone came away with something new without spending a dime. I spent quality time with friends and family and I didn’t spend a single penny. It was fulfilling and joyful and connective and I actually liked it a great deal more than usual. Again, the removal of the choice to do anything else for an extended period of time would make that less fun. But it’s a good reminder to me not to be lazy and throw money at entertainment instead of making my own as a general rule.
This week will pose some interesting challenges. It already has, to some degree, and I’ve already committed to breaking my no-spend rule as an exception where it’s impacting someone else negatively.
As someone who works two full-time jobs and has myriad marketing duties on top to help grow her fledgling start-up, I don’t have a lot of time to spend on the mundane details of my life, like deep-cleaning my house. I have a friend who is forging her own path as a house cleaner and we’ve had a standing date for her to do a deep-clean on my house once a month. Her original date fell last week and I asked her to push it off another week. That was fine, but when I asked again this week, it became clear that it would be a hardship on her financially.
I’ve struggled for a long time with classism issues around having someone else clean my house and it’s taken me ages to be comfortable with it. The only way I really find myself able to not be ashamed of this is by understanding that paying her for this help is allowing her to live her life the way she wants to, outside the corporate structure and working her own schedule. To me, that’s important to support, and it helps me do the same. But it is definitely a luxury for me. However, having the work is not as expendable for her. It’s an interesting position to be in — realizing how interdependent we all are, and how one of us in a community not having money can cause a ripple effect in the lives of those around us. I am going to keep our date this week so my project doesn’t hurt her, but thinking about what would happen if I genuinely couldn’t support her that way is rough.
As well, this week there are birthday parties and client meetings and conferences, all of which would normally find me spending money. I will have to be creative in my gift-giving, and am not entirely sure how I’m going to manage transportation to the conference. I would either have to pay to park my car, or take public transit, which is not free either. It’s a conundrum. Granted, since this is a work gig, I can fudge it a bit because I will be reimbursed — but it’s a gray area that I have to think about a little.
So – this week’s theme is: Making it Hurt. We can survive anything for a week. So I’m pushing myself a little harder on this one.]]>