My girls were putting beads on string this morning. They made necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and a mess. They cleaned up the mess, putting what was left of the little plastic globes and hearts in the small plastic container. Just that last action had me making a mental “need” list.
I need more beads, perhaps glass this time?
I need another container, glass also?
Is there a jewelry-making class I can sign them up for?
My synapses were firing round after round of inquiries. If I go to the store for beads, is there anything else I need? How are we on milk? Wasn’t I going to get more rice? We could use more apple juice since it seems silly to go in for only two or three items (Target Syndrome).
Slow down there, Stewart. Where’s the fire? My cupboards are not bare. My children are not out of entertainment. Milk and apple juice are not necessities. You may say, “milk is good for you” and there would be groups who would agree and disagree with you but the fact remains that cow’s milk for humans is not a necessity. So why do I have my panties in a bunch about getting out there and buying non-necessities?
Let’s go to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for help. From the bottom up, for my “physiological needs,” do I have food and water? Am I getting sleep? Check and check. Now for “safety,” do I have a roof over my head? I do. Is not buying rice, milk, and little plastic beads a threat to my state of love and belonging, my esteem, or my level of self-actualization?
I may have paused over “self-actualization,” weighed down by my desire to be the perfect mother before remembering that there are no “actual” perfect mothers and thus I my”self” cannot be one.
The Prior Lifestyle that Prompted a Change in My Priorities
Guffaw if you want at my title but I was struggling with ideas. It wasn’t always like this (not the bad puns, those are constant). There were whole years where, after having kids and when we were both starting out in our careers, that I would pray that I didn’t go over on my bank account…again. Or that my card wouldn’t be declined…again. I failed in those attempts month after month after month. Our two credit cards were maxed out and so were our stress levels. There were a few nights where I wondered how long it would be until we missed a mortgage or utilities payment. Our sense of safety felt threatened. Our esteem was most definitely under attack.
Things changed when we challenged ourselves to sit through the painful, painful practice of looking at our income and our outgoing expenses. We weren’t making enough. We were spending too much in too many stupid little ways, and it was unsustainable. We both switched jobs, we cut out dumb purchases like going out to movies, eating fast food, and buying new clothes for our kids. I listened to A LOT of Dave Ramsey. That’s not to say that we don’t go out and buy anything now but it’s probably down to 5-10 percent of what we used to spend.
What Change Looks Like
I have dirty little secret. I am obsessed with my budgeting app. I look at it and see where I can cut corners to save 10, 20, 200 dollars more a month. The level of control I have gives me a thrill every single morning. Then I allow myself to daydream about what it would be like to have a paid-for house or to have money to go on an exotic vacation. Both those things are in the works now.
I still shop but it’s a rare occurrence outside of a trip to the grocery store every other week. I am also not a dedicated coupon lady, I just shop at Aldi’s and if I run into a coupon, I don’t stick up my nose at it. I shop for clothes at thrift stores for myself and the girls. This is both for the cost and for a more sustainable lifestyle. We only shop to replace what has already been worn through. One in, one out.
There is no desire in me to get into debt again. I cannot out-earn my previous spending habits. Our house may be old, our clothes may be worn, our food may be simple but we are fed, we are clothed, and we have a roof over our heads and money in our pockets.
Put Down the List, You Already Have What You Need
So take a look at the shopping list you were putting together today. If you ripped it up now, would your house explode? Do you have enough to get you through the week? Can you make do with what you have and how much money will that save you?