deep thoughts

UFM 31: The Question at the End of the Challenge

I spent nothing today. Which was probably good because I filled the fridge with delicious food and drink yesterday, no thought to what I already had in the cupboards and no thought to the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables. With the help of friends, I made a delicious dinner last night and enjoyed everything thoroughly. Yes, I spent plenty on food and drinks, but I also successfully had fun with friends in the comfort of our own apartment, a thing which should not seem so remarkable, but is! And we had more fun than it would have been possible to have in a restaurant (my experience of working in restaurants is that the staff doesn’t like it when you fall over with laughter or shout bizarre phrases, both of which happened.

Saturday was my man’s and my anniversary. We went snorkeling and ate a fancy dinner. We agreed that it had been a good year. A weird year, a challenging year, a fun year.

But overall for the month, I spent $400 more than I earned. Am I surprised? Not really. To be honest, I feel pretty good that it wasn’t more given all the reasons/excuses/life events that happened. There were a number of not-quite-goodbye-yet dinners and drinks. There were a few moving expenses and travel expenses to cover.

There were also successes. I changed my own oil for the first time. I got rid of a lot of stuff (not so much related to the frugal challenge, but I think there’s a connection to explore here). I rode my bike more than I have in months. I learned a bit about coding and a bit about podcasting. I ate things in our cupboards I would have never thought we could finish.

That said, it feels a bit as though I took on this challenge as a way to avoid thinking about what else was happening in my life: leaving my job, getting ready for a big move, a big trip, a lot of uncertainty and some big expenses. Focusing on avoiding cocktails and clocking miles was a way not to think about the big things coming. I can feel it happening still, thinking about what I can do in August as a “challenge,” an excuse not to think about what’s happening right in front of me.

I suppose the real challenge would be to do… nothing. To just let myself move. To clean and pack and travel and be wherever I am (San Diego, Santa Fe, Rochester, Barcelona) without trying to avoid the present.

This seems like a non sequitur but it’ll come back around: While we were snorkeling yesterday, I kept popping up to look for where our guide and the rest of the group was. We were always behind, and our guide was often gesturing to us to catch up. It made me anxious for probably half the tour: trying to stay with everyone else, getting used to the strange feeling of flippers, breathing underwater and getting salt water up my nose (I am a bad snorkeler by the way).

Finally, I just asked myself, “why am I so worried about being up there when I’m right here?” We’d already paid for the tour, we were in a safe place, there was no reason I needed to be up ahead instead of where I was. So I just stopped. I let myself float, deadman style, with my face in the water, looking at the patterns in the sand. I saw a lobster.

That’s the question I’m asking myself tonight. Why do I need to be somewhere else besides where I am right now? I don’t need another challenge to distract myself from the loss and the uncertainty of what’s coming, anymore than I need a fancy meal or a new dress. Have I been filling my time with goals and challenges and aspirations as a way to avoid being present?

(The answer is probably yes, but it’s worth exploring further in another post.)

UFM 10 & 11 Grocery Shopping & Friendship

Coming in the middle of the week, Mrs. Frugalwoods’ reminder to shop from a list, buy in bulk, buy raw ingredients, etc. is not immediately relevant. The earliest I will be able to tackle her challenge–to go through your grocery routine and look for ways to economize–is Friday.

That said, I did have a pretty big frugal food win today:beautiful basil someone left a huge bunch of fresh basil on the free table at work! I brushed a bit of spiderweb off one of the leaves, and snagged it for myself! This, plus the tomatoes that I failed to add to my 3 grain salad, as well as a quick loaf of french bread that’s baking as I type, will be the basis of tonight’s dinner. I had been planning to make the lentil pumpkin curry, but I’ll save that for another couple of days!

So my frugal grocery suggestion is look for groceries in unexpected places!

Today’s email from Mrs. F was about friendships and frugality. This is an area where I struggle. Many of my friends like to go out to eat. I like to go out to eat! And it seems particularly tempting to go out to eat with said friends when I am about to move all the way across the country.

That said, I don’t want to throw all my friends under the bus here. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with one to learn some computer coding and hang out. Frugal and skill building at the same time! I’ll probably bring over the rest of the pesto and loaf of bread from tonight to snack on. My friends are often content to sit around, or go for a walk, or drink wine and gossip. All activities that are fairly frugal, especially when the drinking happens in our own homes.

So I suppose my challenge with my tempting friends is to suggest inexpensive alternatives–a hike, a picnic, etc. It seems like it should be easier than it feels! But, I also thought I needed a new dress for the wedding this past weekend, and look how nicely that turned out.

And nearly all of my friends like to come over and eat my bread. So, there’s that. dinner 711

A quote from one of my favorite books (Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding FYI) goes, “No one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves, just like you.” I think it could be expanded to say, “No one is thinking about your money. They’re thinking about their money, just like you.” And actually, it could also be added (and probably has been somewhere), “No one is thinking about your money except you.” Not your friends. Not really your family. Just you.

A little scary and a little empowering, isn’t it?