Dollar Diet: One month in

Wahoo!  One month of saving our pennies done and dusted.  One month of no unnecessary spending.  No takeaways.  No cafes.  No buying pretty things.  Nil. Zip. Nada.

I am loving the ride so far.  I haven’t felt this creative in a long, long time and boy does it feel goooood.  It gets me wondering how much our pursuit of ‘stuff’ holds us back from the really important things in life:

  • Spending more time at home = puttting down roots.  More time at home is more time to spend on my own hobbies, to rest, to play with my kids in the backyard, to chat to my neighbours, to take care of the gift that is our home.
  • Hosting or going to friends’ houses instead of a cafe = deeper connections due to more sharing of life in all its messy glory (you should see the state of my garden…).  Life doesn’t look so perfect when your guests see your laundry basket piled sky high and globs of weetbix drying on the kitchen floor.  And that’s a good thing.  People are desperate for real connection.
  • Staying out of the shops = being a mindful consumer.  Do I really need this?  Can I borrow it from someone (deeper connections)?  Am I trying to fill some sort of void in my life?  Suppress an unbearable feeling?
  • Not buying more than I need = being a better steward of my resources.  I can already feel the scarcity fear which marketers very skillfully bombard us with fading away.  There is enough.  I have enough.  I certainly have enough ‘stuff’ to create a workaround for almost any situation that might crop up.  Birthdays, parties, soirees with the Queen…
  • Rejecting paid entertainment = making my own fun.  Admittedly I have always been pretty good at this one (I seem to accumulate info on free or cheap things to do where ever I am), but I too fall prey to thinking that expensive stuff is somehow better than what I can create or re-create at home.  Sorry Sting and Paul Simon – I won’t be buying a ticket to your undoubtedly cool concert this year.  I may however learn to play some of your songs on my ukelele so we can sing along atrociously to them at my next family gathering.  My daughter may hate me for not taking her to Chipmunks playground one day, but right now she loves all the free parks and beaches we go to.

Anyhow, back to some Dollar Diet details.  I was fastidious about using up all our fruit and veg.  It really was down the wire come Monday grocery shopping.  We spent a fantastic afternoon with friends at Whanganui’s best playground (review to come).  We made use of the free BBQ’s and I used the last of our veges to make a quiche for a vegetarian friend.  Instead of buying processed cr@p, I made a healthy fudge out of avocados, dates, cocoa and a banana.  We gave away three GINORMOUS bags of plums (deeper connections) to neighbours and our friends at church.  I’ve done lots of baking and hosted a church morning tea, the leftovers of which will be used to feed the hungry hoards at a meeting tomorrow night.  Last year D (or technically, my tots) gave me a voucher for a cruise on Whanganui’s paddle steamer, the Waimarie (prounounced Why-mah-ree-ay).

Knowing the fabulous weather we’ve been having was going to continue I arranged babysitters, and D and I enjoyed an incredibly relaxing date on the Waimarie.  We had two tot-free hours to sit and look at gorgeous scenery and soak up some history.  The cruise was over the lunch break so instead of spending money on board I packed us a picnic.

Next week I have a dentist appointment as I have a sore tooth and I’m pretty sure that’s going to hurt me right in the wallet.

I haven’t calculated our savings for the month yet.  Flights to Australia will negate any savings but we’ve had a blimmin’ good first month.


Date Your Spouse Without Leaving The House: 15 free & cheap date night ideas

One of the things D and I have sacrificed this year during our Spending Fast is our date night budget.  But just because we won’t be going out to restaurants or to the movies doesn’t mean that we are resigned to a year without date nights.  Oh no, that would never do!

Date nights are extremely important to us.  They give us some sacrosanct time in our busy lives where we can enjoy uninterrupted time together, and time to shine a spotlight on our relationship. We haven’t always been diligent about having them once a week (oddly enough, they tend to get derailed for a while after a baby shows up…) but we’ve always taken turns to organise the date.  It’s actually loads of fun trying to think of things to do that the other one would like, and the best spin-off was we’ve often surprised each other with our creativity.

There are heaps of ‘date night idea’ posts out there with some really cool things you could do together.  However, at this time in my life I tend to read ideas like ‘Go away for the weekend’ or ‘Take a cooking class together’ and think to myself ‘these things either cost money (hello, Spending Fast) or are for people without tiny tots at home’.   And while there are plenty of free or frugal dates we could have outside the home thanks to our willing babysitters, we aim to have loads of fun on our date nights without even leaving the house.

  1. Make a list of your top 3 (or 5 or 10…) favourite songs and play them to your spouse.  Try to articulate why that song means so much to you.  Is it the lyrics?  Is it the memories of a good/bad time in your life?  D and I did this a couple of years ago and this still remains hands down my best-ever date night.  We learnt a lot about each other, got introduced to some wonderful new music and it didn’t cost us a bean.
  2. In a similar vein, watch each other’s favourite childhood movie.  You might get an insight into your spouse once you’ve seen Tron or Clueless.
  3. Have a themed night.  Choose a country/genre/tv show or whatever takes your fancy and work that theme into your night e.g. French – cook some delicious French recipes, serve your spouse using a ridiculous French accent and watch a wonderful French flick like the hysterically funny ‘Bienvenue chez le Ch’tis‘ (Welcome to the Sticks).  Ooh la la!
  4. Have a picnic on your living room floor.  Because food just tastes better when you are sitting on the floor.  Or something like that.
  5. Play board games.  I struggle with this one a little myself because on the one hand, I love board games.  But on the other hand, D is WAY better at games than me (he’s very logical, I am not) so I usually suck at the games he likes (although I can still beat anyone at Cluedo…).  It can be a bit demoralising to lose at Citadels 50 times in a row, although my one victory is a sweet, sweet memory.  Some games are no good with two people, but we love Citadels and Pandemic.
  6. Watch a TV series together.  This is our go-to date night for times when we are knackered.  Which is a lot.  We’ve been through Prison Break, Midsomer Murders, 24, Downton Abbey, Homeland and are in the middle of Foyle’s War.  (In case you can’t tell I LOVE murder mysteries, WWII-related stuff, and plenty of action.)
  7. Make a special dish together.  If you’ve got little ones at home, let’s face it, it’ll probably be dessert as you’ll be starving if you have to wait for your dinner until the tots are in bed.  You don’t have to spend heaps of money to create something yummy.  My husband makes plain old self-saucing pudding every now and then (we use a sugar-free alternative) and I like it so much I even made up a special pudding song.  True story.  Anyway, get cooking together and reap the reward.
  8. Go through a book together and discuss.  Get a book out of the library for free (or peanuts).  It doesn’t really matter what sort of book, but I would recommend choosing a topic that appeals to you both (D might salivate over ‘Adventures of an IT Nerd’, but I will be snoozing in 5 seconds).  Books with a bit of philosophy in them are great like ‘How to Be Free‘ or something on a controversial topic like ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin‘.
  9. Even better, go through a book about marriage/relationships together.  Relationship are hard work, even for the most compatible couples.  Invest in yours, and dig deep into your trouble spots together.  It’s not for the faint-hearted, but as a couple you MUST GET USED TO TALKING ABOUT THE HARD STUFF TOGETHER.  I highly recommend Harville Hendrix’s ‘Getting the Love You Want‘ and Timothy Keller’s ‘The Meaning of Marriage‘.
  10. Write love letters to each other.  Okay, so this one is dripping with cheese, but go with it.  Cast your mind back to when you first met and started dating.  What attracted you to your partner?  What do you still love about them?  What are you grateful for about them?  Write it down and then read them out loud to each other.
  11. Play the ‘What If…’ game.  This one is fun, fun, fun and will give you a lot of insight into that guy/gal of yours.  Try and think of some really curly dilemmas (there are lots of great resources online like this), you know, stuff  like ‘If you had to press a button which meant one person would die, but hundreds of lives would be saved, would you do it’?
  12. Record each other telling your life stories.  This is gold.  Like heirloom gold.  Ask questions like, ‘What are some family traditions you remember’?  ‘What was school like for you‘?  ‘Walk me around your house, describe what it looked like‘?
  13. If one or both of you are musical have a jam session/singalong.  My husband likes to make up terrible songs about me that don’t rhyme.  I love it.
  14. Dig out your old pre-partner photos of your life and go through them together.  Ask questions.
  15. And last but not least, D says: assemble flat-pack furniture together.  Not only do two pairs of hands get things done faster, NOTHING strengthens a relationship more like trying to figure out why the heck your bookcase is wonky and you’ve got three screws leftover.  IKEA: the place that screams are made of…