Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Week

A new week. A new challenge. And a confession.

Dang! It's hard to not shop. Last week I challenged myself and the whole worldwide village to abstain from shopping for one week. It was harder than I thought it would be.

I wanted to save all my shopping for Friday. But on Thursday I was feeling a little bored so I went to Ye Olde Thrifty Shope to browse. Spent about $15 which isn't going to damage my poverty budget. And I did find some things that have been on my eternal "to buy list". I guess what I learned is that if I go into a store, I'll probably spend. If I don't go into a store, I won't.

So, even though I failed the challenge last week, I'm up for a new one.

Have you ever gone into Wal-Mart for eggs, milk and pantyhose, only to realize upon check out that you don't qualify for the Speedy Checkout lane? 20 items or less?

Challenge for Week #2: Create your shopping list then stick to it. That means, if you get to the store and you remember you're out of pantyhose, make do without until next week. And don't forget to put it on next week's list. At the top.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lusting with my List

This weekend I've managed to avoid shopping. I have not, however, managed to avoid thinking about shopping.

In my mind I've been lusting with my list. Thinking about all the things I need to shop for: garlic, cabbage, black pants, and the list goes on. I think about a return I have to make. A different color of face powder I need to pick up. I think about how I need to buy vacuum cleaner bags before they run out. I think about buying lots and lots of Jell-o to make my children happy beyond they're wildest dreams.

Then I remember that I told the whole world wide super massive highway of informational technology that I was NOT going to shop.

So until next Friday, it's all about the list.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Goal for the Month

We're back on board with the poverty project, and the plan for this year is different than last year. Last year we discovered that it's possible to live well and make good food on a budget of $200 for a family of six. We ate food that was ethnic, diverse, delicious, plentiful and healthy. I posted lots of food ideas and chronicled what our family ate for dinner each night.

This year, instead of focusing on food, I'd like to focus on appetites. How do I quiet the voice in my head that whispers "I want...I want...I want..." Of course, with money, if you want something you simply buy it. (And with Amazon's One-Click feature you can buy it dangerously fast.)

How will living in poverty, knowing that there is a limited supply of resources, affect my appetites? Are there ways to curb appetites? Does shopping always stimulate appetite or can I teach myself to suppress those commercial desires? Can I really live in poverty for one month in a world that bleeds advertising into EVERYTHING?

This is a world that screams "You need! You need! You NEED!" But do I really? Can I live without a new fill-in-the-blank or can I just get by without it? Do I need to go to the store today or can I wait until next week? Does most shopping fill a real need or does it simply feed an appetite that can never be satisfied?

Week #1 Challenge: Stay home this week. Can you live with what you have without going shopping? Are there ways to get what you need or be resourceful without buying something? Try it and post your success or failure with this challenge.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Get Your Poor Hats On! It's Poverty Time!!

It's time to start up Poverty Project 2010. Want to join us?

In January 2009 our family of six decided to live for one month on income that was below the poverty line. The idea was that with a sustainable budget, we could not only live under the poverty line, but live comfortably. Our budget included all the things that accompany our current lifestyle, for example, a mortgage, high-speed internet, whole foods, clothing, recreation, savings and car maintenance and repairs. To see the full Poverty Project 2009 budget click here.

Having a sustainable budget was an important factor of our poverty budget. Our sustainable budget accounted for all the large purchases that would be made throughout the year, but needed to be saved up for throughout the months. Anyone who lives on a tight budget knows that one unplanned purchase, if you're not prepared, can blow the budget.

We spread our risk by estimating the cost for things like car repairs and household repairs, and divided that by 12. Each month, money is saved--not spent--in anticipation for that unplanned purchase. Now, all unplanned purchases are actually planned purchases.

Some people love a good crisis. Living on a sustainable budget means that you have no crisis. The car breaks down? You pull from your savings. That's boring.

Please join us this year as we begin the Poverty Project 2010. You'll need to do four things:

1. Find out the poverty line for your family size and divide by 12 to find out your monthly budget. Go to Federal Poverty Guidelines
2. Create a budget based on your current expenses. My husband and I sat down and really struggled with creating a sustainable budget that we could live with. We shuffled money around on paper until we felt like it was going to serve our family well. Then we stuck to it. It wasn't just a piece of paper, it was a financial map that we referred to often throughout the weeks.
3. Keep in touch. We'd love to read your comments, so please post as we take another journey through voluntary poverty. American style.
4. Look for opportunities to be generous and grateful. As you take this month-long poverty pledge, focus on how much you have rather than on what you don't have. You'll find so many things that you are grateful for. I know that poverty in America is nothing compared to poverty in other countries. Please let your hearts be open as you find ways to truly assist the poor and needy. To donate now click here:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Living Well Above the Poverty Line

We've had a great time living below the poverty line this month. If you joined me in this challenge, I'm sure you learned some unexpected things as well.

Here's what we learned:

1. Be prepared. It's not good to live at the very edge of your income whether you're rich or porr. You've got to have wiggle room to pay for those unexpected things. Even if you're making plenty of money, save some and keep it for a rainy day. If you're living below the poverty line, every dollar really does make a difference. Save what you can for emergencies.

2. Once the dollar is spent it can't be retrieved. While living under the poverty line I had to think about every little purchase. If I spent the money without thinking, the money was gone.

3. Solve the income crisis. Even after just one month of living under the poverty line, I was thinking of ways to save and earn more money. As Dave Ramsey says, "You have an income crisis." We could certainly feed our kids, buy clothes, and pay the mortgage--but we weren't getting anywhere financially. We would need to either gain more education or get a better job (or an additional job.)

4. Poverty in great for the environment. Our big green trash can was able to go three weeks on the garbage we produced. It was amazing--we spent less, consumed less and (wadyaknow?) we had less garbage. We also didn't go shopping for recreation, so we used less gas.

5. Get creative. I made homemade yogurt, bread, , snacks and presents. We saved a lot by making stuff that we normally would have purchased. We signed the kids up for group piano lessons at the library. We checked out movies and books. We ate out tons less. We got creative with our free time and played games that we bought at the thrift store for a couple dollars. I think I lost a little weight!

6. We have more that we thought. We budgeted money for clothes, fun, food, gas, car repairs, and other stuff. We were still able to live under the poverty line and money left over. Even the trip to ER yesterday will come out of our Health Savings Account, so we're not going to be burdened with massive hospital bills. We have money left over to maybe save or maybe spend next month. Americans are blessed to have truly abundant lives

So, now we make the transition from living well below the poverty line to living well above the poverty line.

What did you learn during your time living for one month under the poverty line?

Dinner: Friday, January 30

Saline IV
Acetaminophen & Ibuprofen
Total Cost: $100 copay

We spent the afternoon and evening in the hospital with Josh. He had severe abdominal pain starting around 2pm. After toughing out the pain (eight out of ten on the pain scale) he finally asked for a side dish of morphine. The dose was so small and the pain was so great that it had no effect. The pain went away on it's own an hour later at 6:30pm during the ultrasound.

While I was at the hospital with Josh, my dad went back home to pick up dinner that my mom had prepared for the kids. It was great. It's weird to eat in ER. It's kind of like eating in a public restroom. (I haven't tried that. I just have a good imagination.)

Then we went home. Today is the actual day of our anniversary. It was a wonderful day with an unexpected ending. We are so happy to be married...

Happy Anniversary!

Dinner: Thursday, January 29

Dining Out: Cedars of Lebanon
Total Cost: $26

We're celebrating our 10th anniversary this weekend, so we went out to eat. It was delicious, wonderful and may have given us food poisoning.

I had falafel, Josh had beef chawumba, and we both had lentil soup and salad.