Friday, May 13, 2011

Earth moneys.

The other week, my boss asked me to write a post for the spilling hope blog. Don't know what that is? Well you should. Here, click. The general gist of the matter is simplification - living with less so other people can live with more (and we got little blue arm bands to remind us not to forget). Anywho - this was a fun thing for me to reflect on because thinking constructively about money is not my forte. But I did...I did. So I give you: Aunt Jemima and The arm band challenge.

Finances. The word that immediately causes my eyes to glaze over, my ears to magically muffle all sound and my mind to travel straight to the lofty heights of Not Here. It is one of those subjects that moms love to bring up in concerned tones, leaves one feeling rather like a cantaloupe has settled in the pit of ones stomach for an unforeseen amount of time, and is often the enthusiastic initiator of guilt trips over rampant latte habits and growing cardigan collections. In short, it’s a word I avoid – along with all its itchy implications. You know, savings, budgeting, being a good steward, all that sort of thing.

But now I’m wearing this little blue armband that says “Spilling Hope” on it. What this means is that the term “finance” must now be revived in my vocabulary –in a way that turns the monster good. Kind of like a metaphoric Great Aunt Jemima that you thought was wicked when you were five because of her glass eye and cane but then, it turns out, she funded your college education, bakes great cookies and is really nice.

And so I decided to look at my finances and see them for what they are. Turns out they’re a blessing. Turns out, they really did fund my college education and are really nice. Turns out, budgeting might mean I have more to give.
So in the name of the little blue armband, budgeting is what I did.
Challenge to self: See where it goes. Rein it in. Give. (Feel free to adopt.)

Step 1: The unveiling.
I love to cook. I love to throw parties, go out to coffee with people and get bagels at the bagel place. Frequently, going out for Pad Thai sounds better than reheating pasta. So I decided to add it all up – coffee dates, groceries, dinners out. In just over two weeks I threw down a grand total of $188.95, averaging at $82.67 a week. Woof. I’m a college kid, mind you. I’m feeding me, myself and friends now and again. Not the U.S. military.

Step 2: Wooooah there, Bessy!
In my mind, I never really go grocery shopping. I pick up things here and there, being frugal. Coffee is only about 3 bucks right? Hey, it’s half off today! I’d be saving by buying lunch here instead, I’m pretty sure. Not really. The numbers by themselves are not ruinous, but added up…well, you saw. I needed a plan.
I planned a week’s menu. I looked at what we had in the house, and got creative (creative is a loose term – not even I can call corn bread and chili innovative). Cheap, healthy meals that minimized superfluous shopping was the goal.
Again, feel free to adopt. And season according to taste.
Give yourself a coffee allowance. I’m making the bold decision to save going out for special occasions. I’m taking the arduous, 2 block hike home for lunch (no one said this was going to be easy, people). You get the gist. Cut out what needs cutting out.

Step 3: Give.
$82.67 last week. $44.82 this week. $37.79 for Uganda and Rwanda.

Be Great Aunt Jemima.