A few weeks ago, the calendar turned over to April 1st and I breathed a slight sigh of relief that our two month spending fast was over. (For more on our fast, previous posts are here, here, here, here, here and here….all those “heres” = OVERLOAD!). I learned a lot from the process and find myself still mulling over lessons gleaned a few weeks later.
- Reframing—–The spending fast allowed us to see (most of the time!) the many things that we COULD we do/buy/experience vs. bemoaning all the things that are off limits. After these two months, I realized the gift of our huge double lot backyard. The weather in California allowed us to spend lots of time outside, playing in dirt and staging picnics. We took lots of walks and visited MANY parks. Reframing can be key to many of the challenges we encounter.
- Getting a Real Picture—Our fast forced me to “fess up”. I couldn’t allow myself to live in “nebulous” land, having a cloudy understanding of where we stood financially. Numbers, receipts & totals were not only seen, but analyzed.
- Being OK with Boundaries and “No”—–At first, I needed to throw out all catalogs and have an “all” or “nothing” mentality. Now, I can see and feel the gift of buying a little something extra or the treat it felt like to have ice cream on a recent camping trip or pizza on the beach. I am learning to say “yes” to spending in smaller, more special ways. I can even look at a catalog—some days—and not be overcome with everything I WANT/NEED/MUST HAVE.
- Imagine what is possible in the future—-Part of the process for me was realizing what we could do/can do in the future if we reign in our spending in the present. Having some clear cut goals for saving was (and will continue to be) motivating.
- Impact on our Children—-The kids survived this whole process. By setting some clear boundaries, the whining and begging for stuff began to wane. They knew it just wasn’t going to happen. Frankly our kids’ “needs” were often a mirror for our own unnecessary wants/desires. It was easy to laugh at their plaintive cries for In-and-Out french fries and yet forget about my own cravings for a Peet’s Latte.
- Lower my Standards—-This lesson might seem a little lame, but really….it was a hard learning and one that has only barely been integrated. I realized through the fast, that I need to be realistic and clear on where we stand. As much as LEGOLAND was calling our name for a spring break adventure, I had to “lower my standards” and expectations. I had to have a hard look at the finances and realize that a spontaneous trip to San Diego wasn’t in the cards. We squeezed in a one night, two day stay in Santa Cruz instead and it was fantastic. Lots of growling and complaining along the way as we packed, prepared meals and then chased a busy 2 1/2 year old through the campground (invisible fences for kids?!?!). But those 36 hours were worth it and let me tell you, the splurges on food during this trip felt much more special.
We need to stay fairly tied to this same spending fast for now. As a one-income family in the Silicon Valley, finances are always tight—-case in point, today’s NPR article on the KQED blog on rent….read here). Money, finances and spending decisions will be ongoing conversations, opportunities for communication through negotiation. Something has shifted, though. Maybe we learned something? To appreciate the everyday opportunities in front of us, to be creative & to realize that oftentimes less really IS more.