Last Tuesday, I wrote about our friends visiting San Francisco for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We were slightly anxious because of course, they wanted us to venture out with them, which of course, would require us to spend money, which of course, we wanted to avoid. But we didn’t want to be lame curmudgeon friends, nor did we want to make our friends feel responsible for footing our bills. Unbelievably, considering we live in one of the biggest tourist destination spots, we hadn’t thought about out of town guests when we wrote our spending guidelines. In an effort to not lower our savings for November, we went about the business of rounding up our loose change that we never consider in our monthly savings. Once counted up, we had $36. Then there was $15 leftover from my birthday spending pass money that I tossed into the pile. With a total of $51, we declared this to be our off-spending guideline funds - i.e. restaurants, bars, etc. Could we pull off hanging out with our friends for a couple of nights with only $51? Yikes, that’s pretty low for San Francisco.
As it turns out, our persistent spending anxiety was unfounded. Every night, we ended up spending very little money but having a ridiculously good time with this large group of old college friends. That’s what I love about these folks. There’s not one air of high status about them, and ironically, they live in LA, which seems like would wire them for a materialistic lifestyle. So what did we do for fun? We simply hung out at various apartments where they were staying, walked about the lively nearby Mission neighborhood and then planted ourselves at a good dive bar each night—cheap beer, good music, excellent friends. We spent a whopping total of $55 on things that are on our current No-Spend list. And it felt good.
What I took with me this weekend is the realization that I don’t need to fret over the money so much. Hubby and I are currently doing great with saving money having laid the groundwork with a super disciplined lifestyle these past 5 months. I’ve been wrapped up in this spending lockdown, this blog and tracking my savings, and sometimes I just need to lose myself a little. It doesn’t mean I have to nose-dive off the spending cliff. It’s good to count my change, but I need to also count my friends.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am all about thanking you for reading along with this blog. Surprisingly to me, it has played a key role in our debt free journey. It keeps me focused and goal oriented. Although that was my intention when beginning this site, I never realized how inspiring the whole process of blogging would be.
(Art source: Yeehaw on etsy)
Here we are going along just fine with our spending guidelines when another curveball is thrown. Some out of town friends notified us yesterday that they are heading up to San Francisco for the long upcoming holiday weekend, and they would like to do some sight-seeing, dining and nightlife. What to do, what to do? Should we stick to our spending rules and not partake in any of the fun? Obviously, we could go out on the town and not purchase anything, but wouldn’t that be kind of lame? I also don’t want our friends to feel like they have to pay our tab just so we’ll go out with them. Honestly, I can’t believe we’re dealing with this until now. Since moving to the bay area over 4 years ago, we’ve had a steady stream of out of town visitors. But since starting our spending lockdown in July, we haven’t had any!
We’re creatively brainstorming right now on how to resolve this and not go too far off course. I mean, ummm, we just returned from a trip to Ireland. It’s not like we’re drastically watching our pennies this month. But speaking of pennies…I wonder how many pennies we have in our change jar. Hmmm…could that be our weekend play money?
To be continued…
In our botched financial past, returning from an international trip would have resulted in our finances being upside down for a month or two or three. Yet, due to the fact that we started allocating money for this trip in the previous months leading up to it, we are not feeling a pinch this month. Not even a tiny one. Working up our remaining November budget last week, we were actually shocked to see how well we’re doing in the savings department. Is this whole saving money thing finally becoming second nature? It’s starting to feel like it. But let me take a moment to remind you how we’re doing this…
- NO eating out - not even take-out coffee, food, or bakery goods. This also includes no drinks at bars. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is a once per month visit to our neighborhood taqueria. Situated directly across the street from our apartment, we are friendly with the owner and both of us can eat there for $12. Supporting a local neighborhood business is also in line with our value system. The second exception is travel. It’s nearly impossible to travel and not eat out, but we do try to eat on the cheap.
- No entertainment unless it’s free. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area makes this quite easy. There is literally so much to do here that is free, scenic and fun!
- Limited travel. Budget travel is the only travel in our future until our debt is gone! Fortunately, we’re both well traveled internationally and domestically so we don’t feel we are missing out. And I just keep reminding myself that traveling will feel so much better when we can actually afford it!
- No clothes, shoes or accessories shopping. This just sucks. For me at least. My husband is finding it hard too though - he loves his sneakers. But as a result of swearing off clothing purchases, I’ve been receiving some very stylish hand-me-downs from friends. If you don’t want it, give it to me! I also had a successful clothing exchange trip to Crossroads! Still haven’t spent all my store credit…saving that trip for a particularly dismal winter day.
- Basic needs only. No extra fluff in our cabinets. We use our shampoo until its last trickle. Only at that point, we will buy more - and only one more. I used to spend so much time at Walgreens, scouring the shelves for the best hair, makeup and facial care products, leaving with more than a few items that would rack up a $30-$40 total purchase. And I would do this several times a month! I rarely spend over $10 now, and my visits have decreased to about once per month.
I also would like to mention some other special cases to our guidelines. First is that each of us get a $25 birthday pass. Mine was this past weekend, but being a newfound money hoarder, I only spent $10 of it—saving that extra $15 for a rainy day. Another special case is gift certificates. Some wonderful people have been bestowing us with gift certificates - restaurants, stores, and movies. We gladly accept and use these, but we feel a little spoiled.
These are just a few of the rules we’ve established to save money. And it’s working. A little self discipline goes a long way. To read our more in depth spending guidelines, visit here.
A short time ago, I was listening to an On Being podcast interview with professor Arthur Zajonc entitled Holding Life Consciously. There was a particular section that resonated with me when the interviewer, Krista Tipett, brought up that life can be burdensome and rich at the same time. Zajonc responded, “Yeah. You know, some people refuse the burdensome part.” Why do we inherently want a life of rich experience but no burden? First of all, an unburdened life is completely unattainable unless maybe you’re just clueless. Secondly, to seek this type of perfection merely leads us to remain eternally unsatisfied.
Facing our burdens creates clarity, Zajonc explains, as you “begin to carry concerns that you maybe neglected before.” The result is that we’ll feel greater responsibility, but our life will be richer. Instead of living life in a blissfully ignorant state, my husband and I are finally facing our burdens. In the process of reducing debt, we’ve also come up against other burdens such as career path direction, behavioral patterns behind spending money, and communication in our marriage. Learning to speak openly and honestly about money has been the biggest burden to face. Our marital past is riddled with communication breakdown and denial. All of this has led us to tough realities about our chosen career paths in each of our creative fields. But these revelations don’t have us feeling utterly hopeless or helpless. In fact, there is a sense of self empowerment that is creeping up on us like never before.
We’re home from our whirlwind trip to Northern Ireland! Feeling a little worse for wear after a fun but sleepless week of wedding celebrations. It was a true vacation for the mind as well. We forgot about all our worries in regard to work and money, which caused us to go a little bit over our spending budget. Not a ridiculous amount over but enough to disappoint. For myself, spending foreign currency is similar to using Monopoly money, and I easily lose track of what I’m actually spending in dollars.
So now the challenge is to get back on track with our spending lockdown. We haven’t even created our November budget yet, and it’s nearly mid month! It would be so easy to slack on our guidelines after no spending rules in Ireland. Too easy. Not to mention that upon reentering the states, I’ve noticed the seasonal shift to Christmas merchandising in all the stores. There’s an intangible feeling of “Spend, Spend, Spend!” We’re entering our most challenging season of no spending. Time to pull our heads out of the clouds.