I have long been a fan of small actions that create multiple benefits. Things that are both frugal and healthy, for example, or that both save money and have less of an environmental burden. I have realized one of our daily habits has not one—not two—not even three benefits—This action has four amazing benefits and I’m going to tell uou about it right now.
We’ve launched our latest no-spend month in the 30 days between back-to-school season and birthday/Christmas season. It’s a well-timed effort, aiming to prep us for the gauntlet of birthdays that starts in October and runs all the way to early April (amidst which Christmas just happens to fall smack in the middle). What’s a frugal gal to do?
This being our third or so no-spend month, the rest of the family is well-trained now to know what to expect. No special treats at the grocery store. No runs to the corner store for chips or pop. No pizza lunches. We wait to get that movie at the library. I still buy groceries, pay for the kids’ lessons, and of course would fund any medical needs that arose, but we strictly limit “extras”.
From past no-spend months we have learned some skills and mindset hacks:
- we enjoy home-popped popcorn–and sometimes even buttered steamed rice–while watching movies instead of chips
- we make lemon-flavoured sweetened iced tea, or home squeezed lemon juice instead of pop
- we have lunch in the park or a walk with friends instead of grabbing a coffee together
- my partner started walking home on his lunch hour instead of buying lunch or snacks downtown
- we are generally all home-bodies, and the no-spend month is no different, but during the month we make an extra effort to do more special (free) things all together like family walks, family basketball, family disc golf, puzzles on the living room floor, and maybe learn a new card game
(Plus I am trying to generate joyful chore routines that teach the kids some skills while enjoying our time together. So far: it’s kindof a chore, maybe not so joyful . . . yet! But it sure is nice to walk into the dining room later in the evening and see a clean table, with the leftovers safely stored in the fridge instead of sitting out getting dodgy.)
The not-so-fun Money talk
When I first introduced this round of no-spending, my partner was bummed. We had a conversation, and it didn’t go so well, though he was still willing to see it through for the month. He said it made him feel really restricted and sad to not be able to just grab a coffee or something at the corner store when he wanted it. And when I thought about it, I could really understand where he was coming from. I mean, he’s not the one with the blog about frugal living. This is MY nerdy thing, not his–for him, it’s just restrictive.
I thought about what he said in our conversation, about how this kind of extreme cutting back made him feel, and slept on it. The next day something I was reading inspired me, and I introduced a second conversation. I really tried to see things from his perspective, and then I asked him what financial goals he could see for us in the next couple of years.
It’s all about goals
Despite all of my blogging about saving money and living frugally, we have had surprisingly few conversations about our financial goals. Maybe he’s been afraid our goals would not line up with each other; maybe I’ve been afraid our they would not line up with reality.
But despite our fears and our silence, I pointed out that so far, we have achieved every single financial goals we have set:
- we bought a house
- we paid off all our student loans
- we have set aside a growing chunk in our kids’ education savings plan
- we got out of consumer debt, and have managed to live consumer debt free (apart from our car & mortgage) for many years
- I was able to stay home with the kids and even homeschool them for six years
- we have weathered several bouts of unemployment
- I am now able to work part-time
Our incomes may seem meagre, but looking back, we have been able to achieve so much!
The best part of the conversation was when he told me he appreciated all of my work on the family finances. It’s not every day you get told you are appreciated! Believe me, it made me feel pretty good about all the work you see me post about, plus all that gets done behind the scenes.
Talking about goals can be a bit scary, but I think we were in a good place in our conversation because we were able to come to three goals for the next short term:
- save money to get our roof fixed (the shingles have seen better days)
- finish paying off our car (a 0% loan with just one more year left)
- save for a trip to New York City!
All of these are reasonable goals, and the vacation goal makes it a bit more fun and motivating for everyone. Who knows–maybe we can divert some of the birthday/Christmas money into that pot and move that goal to the top of the list!
I would love to hear how others talk money with their spouses and family members. Do you have any tips to share for keeping everyone on the same page financially?