Pursuing Experiences Instead of Things…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been frugal. I remember being so excited as a teenager when I learned that my allowance was going to go up to $25 per month. It meant that I’d be able to save $240 a year ($20 per month) and still have money leftover to spend on whatever I wanted to. And that “whatever” may have been dinner out with friends or a trip to the movies, but was more likely gas for the 1987 Mercury Lynx that I shared with my sister…

In fact, I can’t really remember wanting to buy any material item when I was younger (except maybe a new pair of sneakers…). The same holds true now. I don’t want for anything other than experiences (travel!) with those I love. Last week I read a brief article (and posted it on Facebook) about a family that went without buying material items for a year! And I was so inspired.

But for me, it raised many questions… Did they change the oil in their car? Did they pay for heat? What about home insurance? There are so many expenses that go along with owning cars or a house not to mention running a family that it’s hard to discern what they did and did not pay for without reading their book (I intend to read it soon!).  Regardless of the ambiguity, I knew I’d like to challenge myself (and hopefully my husband) to do the same thing for a month. Not that I spend much on material items to begin with, but it’s a great time to watch our spending given that we hopefully will be selling our second home in a month or so and are going to have to go to the closing with a check.

I’m currently reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. This superbly popular book on simplification and getting rid of anything that doesn’t have meaning to you is inspiring me to take control of our clutter. I think this challenge will help us avoid bringing more meaningless stuff into our house that we’ll just need to clean up a million times over the next several years.

While I hope that we’ll restrain our spending on material items, my philosophy and spending patterns on experiences will not change. I learned on my very first trip outside of the United States to Egypt at the age of 19 that travel makes me happy and fulfilled. And these experiences have only been enhanced by seeing the world through my kids eyes so, without a doubt, I’ll continue to plan for our travels in addition to events closer to home.

So, what’s the plan? Starting October 1, we’ll start the one month spending challenge. We’ll restrict spending on all material items. After much thought, we have decided on the following exclusions:

  • anything required to maintain two vehicles to enable transport (for example gas, oil change, brake jobs, etc.);
  • any expenses required to maintain a safe and comfortable home (we need our chimney inspected, for example);
  • we’ll limit ourselves to one meal out during the month (when we’re not traveling);
  • groceries; and
  • personal hygiene products.

What do we hope to achieve with this challenge? My number one goal is for our entire family to appreciate our time together. Our kids really do not want for anything, and they do genuinely enjoy our time together but I hope that this challenge re-emphasizes that for them. My guess is that they won’t notice a thing, but I hope it’s a lesson we can continue to implement as the kids get older when they will perhaps take notice and appreciate similar changes.

I also hope to take control of the chaos in our house so that everything has a place. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dime for every time we ran to the store to buy something that I knew we already had but couldn’t locate and needed it right away. And if we aren’t attached to something or don’t use it, we’ll sell or recycle it. Lastly, I hope that my husband embraces this endeavor whole-heartedly and is able to utilize the hundreds of household items bought over the years that are currently scattered around the house (but that I hope to organize!) for his projects and personal needs instead of buying new.

What do you think? Will we be able to do it? Would you consider doing something similar in your household? I’ll be sure to post updates over the course of the month on how we’re doing. I hope we’re 100% successful, but even if we’re not, we’ll learn a lot along the way!

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Our Frugal Life

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