Living Deliberately Project – Week 52 – FINAL WEEK
The rest of the money has been spent and with that we have reached the end of our year long journey. 52 weeks of thinking about the experiences we create, of being conscious of where we spend our money, of being deliberate in our living. We want to thank all of you for coming along this adventure with us. We have decided to turn this final post over to a pseudo-Q&A-format that should hopefully highlight what did and didn’t work, what we learned, and what we will carry with us into the future.
We literally asked each other these questions and typed the responses, so it will sound very stream of consciousness or conversational.
Why did you do this?
Katie: We had already decided to live simply or minimally; we had already gotten rid of stuff over a number of moves, and I felt we needed something to push us even farther towards not accumulating things. So, we decided to set a limit each month for necessities and experiences only, and set out to see if we could do it.
Jon: I had really become aware that spending could happen so impulsively, you wouldn’t even realize that you had spent money, especially online. So, stopping and reflecting on what we were doing meant that we really needed to take stock of what we were doing. This isn’t to say that we overspent, it’s just that I felt we needed to self reflect, which is something that has become all too uncommon.
What was the easiest part?
K: The easiest part was that we had already been in the habit of doing this, so I never felt like I was sacrificing or losing anything. It is also easy because I have a spouse that is likeminded. Birthdays and holidays were easy because we knew that we would get each other “a” gift and then…done. The limits made it easy for those times of year when you know you are going to spend.
J: It cut out impulse buying because I knew I couldn’t spend money. It became a state of being. Like, waking up and stretching or taking a deep breath, it became a part of myself. So if I was at the store, or I was online and something popped into my mind that I wanted to look at, I could look at it and think about what it would be like to have it, but it was more having a day dream, there was no impulse behind that to purchase it.
What was the hardest part?
K: The hardest part for me was clothing. I spent most of my teenage and college years not feeling like I had found a “style,” mostly because I did not have a great sense of self. Since becoming a vegan and a runner my weight has stayed consistent and I feel like i have found my sense of identity and style. Jon likes to call it “Classic Trin.” [Katie’s given name is Katrin, and two of her many nicknames are Trinny and Trin.] So not being able to buy fantastic items that were “Classic Trin” was hard. I’m lucky that I work in a school where I can have a pretty casual professional wardrobe, and because we stated at the onset that I needed to buy some work clothes I could try and fit in some “Classic Trin” there.
J: I thought there were a few things. Let’s be honest, I love coats, and there’s always coats and more coats, and perhaps I am just as guilty of being an unconscience consumer, as everyone else in this country, so there were many times where I felt the urge to scour websites or look around in stores, knowing I couldn’t buy anything—I don’t really like having that impulse. Even though I feel like I have diminished that impulse there are times when I would be in, say, EMS, and it would hit me like a ton of bricks. Second thing… I sometimes felt limited by the types of experiences Katie and I could have; not that they always had to involve money, but if we wanted to travel to someplace or go out for dinner we would have no money left for the month, and I feel that sometimes creating those experience is more important than what they cost.
Would you change anything?
K: Yes. I would put alcoholic beverages in our monthly grocery allotment instead of separating it out. I feel like a bottle of wine here and there basically stopped us from doing things we had set the $80 a month to do (e.g., going to the movies). I guess next time I would have just set a limit like, “We can only buy one alcoholic purchase a week” and make the $80 purely for activities that we would do together.
J: I agree with Katie on including the alcohol in the grocery budget. I would also allow for the occasional random purchase, even if that means allotting money for the year (e.g., $300 for the year for a new coat or pair of running shoes). If I want to spend that in one purchase I can, and then I’m done for the year. I feel it is ok to buy something every once in awhile.
Did you save anything?
K: Well, this is hard to calculate. Heres what did happen: first of all, we moved half way through the LDP and our rent increased by about $200 (not to mention shelling our 1st months rent and a security deposit). If we had stayed in the other apartment I guarantee we would have seen bigger increases in our savings. On the other hand, although we didn’t see crazy bumps in savings, whenever we had a large purchase (e.g., $200-$300 on car issues or a $250 vet bill) none of that was ever scary nor did we feel like we were being pinched because of it. I think the potential to have saved was there, but we had unforeseen purchases and rent. It saved my sanity when I had to pay large bills.
J: Like Katie said, this one is tough, because I felt that we could handle emergency purchases with more ease than we had in the past, in spite of the move and higher monthly bills. So even though our bank accounts didn’t necessarily balloon from saving more money, we always had cash on hand for unanticipated needs.
What do you feel you learned from this whole experience?
K: I already knew we didn’t need stuff because we basically had already gotten rid of a lot of our things. Prior to this we were already living by three rules: (1) our stuff had to be a necessity (e.g., food); (2) it had to be something we used at least twice a year (e.g., board games); (3) if it didn’t fit (1) and (2) it had to bring us beauty and joy (e.g., our records and our artwork). This, however, taught me that above and beyond already living like that we really just don’t need to buy anything. The only items I was tempted to buy were some articles of clothing for myself. The clothing was really all I wanted “extra”. So If I make some allotment for that, I can really live like this, always. Not just as a challenge but as every day life. Ultimately, happiness is in our experiences not our things, and that has been more deeply cemented in my mind.
J: I think that anyone can live deliberately and be conscious of where they put their time and spend their money. They just have to start small and try to affect the things that they can. Once you have learned how to do that, you can start to expand your scope to encompass all aspects of your life. For me, this year has involved a lot of self reflection and discovery, and part of that discovery involved a palpable understanding that who I am is not tied to the things in my life. In learning about who I am I create experiences, and it is such experiences I wanted to cultivate and share with those around me.