Sunday, August 31, 2008

One week down...

Today was tough. It was one of those down days, but I tried to keep it together for the kiddos.

We went to our amazing church and heard a beautiful (as always) sermon from pastor Jack. He spoke about Rawanda and the work he will be doing there over the next 3 weeks. What a tragedy. I can't beleive that we just stood by. It makes me very sad.

We will add them to our prayer book.

After church we usually go out for lunch and spend around $20. Instead we came home for some mac-n-cheese and leftover pizza. No big deal. It actually worked out better since Bennett went down for a nap shortly after lunch. Lauren needed new shoes so Mike took the girls to Target. Don't you love Target? Cute stuff at great prices and you don't have the "Wal-Mart" guilt.

Dinner: Meatloaf, dijon potatoes and green beans.

Old habit: Going shopping on the weekends as an outing. Spending money for entertainment.

New habit: Do things together as a family that doesn't involve spending money. Today we went on a bike ride through our neighborhood.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Zoo Day!

Finding something to do to get out of the house on a Saturday that doesn't involve money is not that tough when it is a beautiful fall day or even a brisk spring day, but in the blood boiling, humidity of Dallas in is pretty tough.

So after a morning of summer cabin fever we loaded up the kids and headed off to the zoo. It was a no cost trip since I have a membership for my photography business.

It was great! We packed snacks and drinks and loaded the wagon so we didn't have to rent one there. But the pressure to buy something around every corner was exhausting. Dippin' Dots, souvenirs, photo booths...they even charged to pet the sting ray. Really?

I just kept telling the girls that we weren't going to spend our money on those things. I felt a little like a loser. But I keep telling myself that it is all in how I present it to them and myself that will create new habits...and hopefully leave some of those old ones behind.

P.S. - This chimpanze threw a rock at some international tourists that were mocking him. Pretty funny. And free!

Dinner: Take and bake pizza and salad ($10)


My children eat sprinkles on just about anything. At first, it was just to help them eat certain things - oatmeal, malt-o-meal, green beans, whatever. And really how much sugar could they really add? (Don't answer that...) So sprinkles are my idea of those little things in life we can do to just make things more fun, more memorable, and a little sweeter.

I will add more each week so check back often!


Sprinkles Archive

High, Low, Ha!

The 2030 List

Friday Night Friends

Keep Your Promises

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gorcery Day!

Victory is mine! I paid cash for groceries today and only spent $104. ($91 at Wal-Mart, $13 at the bread store)

I had never gone to a discount bread store before. It was pretty amazing.

I got all of the following items...

2 packs cinnamon raisin english muffins

3 loaves of whole grain bread

1 loaf white bread

2 bags of little donuts (something I wouldn't normally buy...)

1 box of cherry pies (ditto)

2 packs of hamburger buns

1 pack of hot dog buns

1 pack of hoagie rolls

1 pack vanilla cookies

1 bag of tortillas.

Seriously...that is crazy. My freezer is full of bread and I planned my menu around what I could get at the bread store. We are having bbq sandwiches, soft tacos, hot dogs, and maybe even breakfast for dinner (my six-year-old's favorite).

My goal for this week is to not go back to the grocery store for anything but milk. My kids drink a ton and if we need more we can walk to the 7-11 up the street. Surprisingly, they charge less than the grocery store for milk.
Dinner: Hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, chips and fruit. Friends brought dessert.
Walk, don'drive: 0 miles...the dog hid my left shoe. I promise.

Making Changes

Old habit...

Friday dinner through Sunday lunch we ate out. It was our "treat" for staying in for the week, but we on average spent the same on those five meals than we spent on a week's worth of groceries.

New habit...

Instead of going to a restaurant on Friday night we are inviting friends over for dinner. They bring dessert and provide the dinner. So last night we fed our friends and ourselves for around $21 which was part of the grocery budget. We made some great memories, plus we have lots of leftovers for lunch on Saturday.

More background...

I am equating this entire experiment with losing weight. After the third baby I had 25 pounds to lose. Being rather daunted by this task, I just went back to how I ate before and hoped for the best. But things had changed and my metabolism was not what it used to be. So I joined Weight Watchers and slowly the pounds came of as I accounted for every single thing that went into my mouth. It is still something I am keenly aware of everyday. All of the little decisions add up, which is how we need to view spending money.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fair Trade

Shortly before we became pregnant with our third baby in 2006, I did a few triathlons and even completed an Olympic distance triathlon to raise money for Team in Training.

Being a triathlete was a dream of mine since I was a teenager. It was one of those unspoken goals. Like being a Rockette, or country music singer or sous chef in Paris. I didn't share it with too many people since I couldn't swim the length of the pool and didn't own a bike.

So like I stated before, I tend to be a little competitive. Therefore, I couldn't just borrow a bike. I had to go to buy one...a really great one. Which has been displayed beautifully in our garage since baby three made himself known over two years ago.

A friend of ours started training a few months ago, so I let him borrow it. And then when I had the idea for the experiment I asked him to trade me...his wife's trail bike and baby trailer for my road bike. It was an awesome deal all around.

While our oldest was in school today I took it out for a test "errand" run. It went well...really well! Maybe I can talk the hubby into selling our second car.

Bike, don't drive: 8.1 miles
Walk, don't drive: 1.4 mile

Photo coming soon...

Could you do this?

Adios amigos! (add def)

We should have started this experiment when the lawn was dormant. But it is growing, growing because of all of the rain we have had in the past few weeks. But are lawn men...mi amigos...are no longer coming to visit us each Thursday. We, I really mean Mike, will be mowing the lawn saving us $30 each week.

This has been a loooong week. And it is only Thursday.

More background...
Can you tell that we are big fans of hiring things out? In fact our three favorite words are "hire it done." Which is how it should be given the fact that we are both small business owners. We do not have much time and the time we have we want to spend with each other and our children. But...and this is a big but...all of this "hiring it done" is to the financial detriment of our family, which is the definition of needless. I can no longer justify not saving for my children's college fund, but spending close to $500 a month in maid and lawn services.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peer pressure

A few weeks ago I talked to a friend of mine about doing the half-marathon in December. I was so excited and started training. Then two weeks later I was bumped by a car. Me as a pedestrian, not my car was bumped, but rather my person was bumped. Kind of a sign that I should probably focus on my newly adopted "less is more" life philosophy.

Anyway, today during soccer practice he asked if I was still doing the race. I told him no and proudly explained the need less experiment. He looked at me like I was crazy. Such a bummer. But really...I know how I am...if I did the race I would need to spend money on the entrance fee, and I would need better running shoes, and a couple new jog bras, and probably an ipod since I would be running so much. And definitely some winter running clothes since I only ever really run in warmer weather. So before I know it I will be out hundreds of dollars. Let's just be conservative and estimate it at $400 in savings.

This same sweet friend also invited us to a concert and a ski trip. The ski trip is going to be our one splurge for the year. It is an annual daddy/daughter trip and we really strive to teach or children the importance of experiences rather than material objects. Last year was the first time they went and Lauren still lights up when she talks about it. Which is a lot more than I can say for the Lite Brite that she received for Christmas last year. It is still in the box.

As for the concert we are going to be out of town visiting family.

Dinner: BBQ chicken legs (instead of breasts) leftover pasta, and green beans

Walk, don't drive: 1.44 mile

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maria, Maria!

I had to tell Maria that we could no longer use her services. I only cried three times. Maria is our sweet, sweet housekeeper who came once a week for $80 a visit. She was amazing! I would come home and the house would be sparkling clean, laundry done and put away and beds freshly made. It was better than therapy. I made sure I found another family for her to go to, before we started the experiment. But man...that is going to be the biggest sacrifice.

Today was the first MOPS meeting of the year. What an amazing group of women! This is my fourth year involved in this group and they feed my soul and rejuvenate me. (This will be my only break from the two younger kids since we decided to pull them out of private preschool saving us $550 a month in tuition, $200 a semester in supply fees and $30 a week in gas driving back and forth.) After my MOPS meeting I usually went through a drive through for lunch for me and the kids. I have always been a dollar menu kind of girl so that only saved me about $7.

Dinner: Green beans and a package of Knorr stroganoff with some of the ground beef from last nights dinner. (Don't worry I took out the beef before adding the taco seasoning.) We ate al fresco and focused on talking about our day instead of the food. It was great! We even let the kids run in the sprinklers when they were done.

Walk, don't drive: 1.4 mile

a bit of history...
My husband and I have been together sixteen years (married for nine) and have done everything pretty much on our own. Right out of college we lived in a city where we earned less than what we needed to survive. So we charged the essentials like food, gas and clothes for our jobs. We were both quickly promoted and within a year bought a house. So instead of staying in the apartment and paying off our debts we bought a little house in a great neighborhood. And that has seemed to be our pattern for nine years. We have spent about 105% of what we make. Not a whole lot more, but just enough that over the years it has added up.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 1

Today was the first day of school for my first grader. She was so excited to be back in school with her friends and on a routine. Usually I would have gone to Starbucks to celebrate and grab a grande, skinny, hazelnut latte for around $5, but instead I had coffee at a friend's house.

As for the pressure of back-to-school shopping...
Last year we spent around $300 at Gymboree on back-to-school outfits and probably about another $200 at Children's Place and of course paid on credit. So this year I resolved to only spend money on what she needed...and the truth is she didn't need much. Her clothes from last spring still fit and were in good shape so we just bought a few items at Marshall' shoes, 2 new shirts and a pair of shorts for around $50 which we paid for in cash. And she looked and felt great!

But I have to tell you I really, really had to fight the urge to follow the August tradition of a back-to-school shopping extravaganza. But in doing so we saved $450.

I did have a moment of weakness and bought her a really cute backpack and matching lunch box and had them both monogrammed for a grand total of $60. Which is a lot for a bag for a six-year-old...but it was in June...before we started the experiment...and I paid cash.

Dinner: Crunchy tacos, beans and corn. I forgot the cheddar cheese ($4) and normally I would have called Mike to pick some up on his way home, but we did without. Note: Tacos with mozarella aren't so tasty.

The Experiment

Over the past few years I have become keenly aware of all of the excess in our lives. I call it social noise. The preceived need to have what your neighbors have and to do what your neighbors do and to vacation where your neighbors vacation. You get the point.

Sometimes I get wrapped up in it. I know this because I am a natural born competitor. I want to be the best at whatever the perceived competition is at the time. But I am done. I am done living my life as a competition. I am done spending money I don't have just to keep up appearances. I just want to live a simple life and be okay with the fact that others may see me as weird or bizarre or the worst yet...poor and socially inept.

So here it goes...the "NeedLess experiment." I am calling it that so that I can realize that we do in fact need less than we know. We have become so fixated with stuff that it is clogging our spirits from being who we were meant to be.

Follow me on this journey in the "quest of less."