No Fast Food December

Everyone knows how convenient Fast Food is…that’s why it’s Fast Food.  But perhaps it would be less appealing if we were to start refering to it as “Fat Food?”  Just a thought…anyway…a friend of ours has come up with an excellent idea that comes with many benefits.  He has declared December to be “Fast Food Free.”  I thought it was a great idea.  Having three children, getting enough sleep, clean clothes, clean dishes, and three square meals is sometimes a challenge (and how about a shower before 3 pm?).

But the greater challenge is affording those three nutrionally sound meals, for a family of five, seven days a week without breaking the bank.  Along with all those busy days, comes the challenge of not picking up quick food from a window. 

We really don’t eat out all that much to begin with, but I still look forward to a renewed challenge of further cut backs.  My fear?  Not being able to fight the appeal of a hot pizza being delivered to my door after a long day…let’s face it, whether I make it, or Domino’s makes it, we love pizza like a bunch of college kids around here!

Tis The Season Of Perpetual Debt

When I was kid, Christmas was my favorite.  I looked forward to it all year long.  Christmas Eve was spent at Grandma’s house, and you could always count on a few things:

A.)  Grandma’s really long slide shows.  I secretly loved them, but would moan and complain about them to be cool like my sister.  Oh, and watching the eventual nodding-off of my Grandpa in his chair and waiting for his own lion-esque snores to jar him awake in the middle of “The Ohio” leg of the show…

B.)  My Uncle would always have on some ridiculous outfit.  And I don’t mean a Santa suit either.  I’m talking about cream colored jeans, and a lime green turtle-neck.  Together.  Yikes.

C.) Getting an awesome homemade “mix-video” of my favorite insert boy band for the year here, lovingly wrapped in the comic section from my other, cooler Uncle.

But lately, I have really found myself almost dreading the holiday season.  I can’t even make it to Halloween without seeing Christmas decorations at the local drugstore.  And every other commercial is about the next doohicky or big sale to stock up on more stuff.  What’s wrong with this picture?  The time that used to emphasize good food, family, bad sweaters and tacky holiday movies has become the season of perpetual stuff and the debt created by it all. 

The average American family will spend $1300 on Christmas gifts this year.  In case you missed that, that was thirteen HUNDRED dollars. Remember that the average income World wide is only $7,000?  So we (no, I’m sorry, that would be you) are spending nearly twenty percent of what the average world citizen makes in a year.  Double yikes, with a side of shock.

So why do we spend all that?  Why do we HAVE to buy Uncle Bob that electric nose hair clipper for Christmas?   I’m pretty sure that he would have picked one up himself if he were really that concerned about it.  Is it just me?  Am I alone in these wild thoughts? 

Remember, I have three children.  My children deserve everything they want…but what kind of people am I raising by showering them with every last thing they could ever want whether they knew they wanted it or not?  Am I fulfilling their need for stuff?  Or am I fulfilling my personal need to feel like I love them the most by giving them everything?   Are we giving out of love?  Or do we give to prove that we have the money (credit) to give?  Do we really feel like without, they will never know how much they mean to us?  “I really enjoy having you in my life, and I would like to prove it to you with this five gallon drum of popcorn.”

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas for the birth of Jesus, it’s still about remembering what is important in this life: the good people that give us a hand when we need it, entertain us when we are bored, and are just all around good people to have and love all year round.

This year, let’s make it a celebration of appreciation for our loved and loving family and friends, rather than our love of corporations, their stuff, and the banks that loan the money to make it all possible.

Cutt-off the Jones’ and avoid the spend-emic

It’s not like we just don’t spend money at all or are a family of Scrooges over here- because we’re not.  We believe in living debt free (or close to it), not spending money unecessarily, and paying CASH. 

My Grandpa is a man of few words, but he once grumbled something that has always stuck with me: “If you can’t pay for it yourself, right now, you can’t afford it.”

We scrimp and save and eat the off-brands all year so that we can have a nice car, my husband can watch sports on his ridiculously large TV (I don’t really need to watch Sesame Street in HD, but okay…) and we would never even consider taking a vacation on credit.

I have included a link to an interview on ABC’s “Money Matters” with Jeff Yeager (most well known as The Ultimate Cheapskate).  He discusses the “evils” of impulse buying and how to avoid falling prey to them.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/video/avoiding-impulse-buying-12068134

So next time you’re in the store, and you pick something up that you had no idea you so desperately needed before seeing it, think about whether you really need it, and how much all of your impulse buys add up in a week/month/year.  Where could you go on vacation with the money spent on impulse buys?  How many semesters of college could you help put your kids through? 

The average income World Wide is $7,000.  with only about 19% of the world’s population even living in a country with a per capita income that high (“Boston Globe”).

Just keep that in mind the next time you’re eyeballing the next techno-whoozit you had no idea you needed.  Put it down and back away slowly…Take a breather, and leave it at the store- especially if you can’t pay for it outright. 

Average Earnings Worldwide.” The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe, 07 Oct 2006. Web. 7 Nov 2010.      <http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/10/07/average_earnings_worldwide

We made it over the hump

I was worried that not spending would make this week a long one: trying to figure out what to do with the kids and how to keep my wallet shut.  It has been suprisingly easy.  My biggest worry was that I would have to break out some cash to fill up the rental tank with a little gas because my car would be out of the shop on Monday.  Well, it’s Wednesday, and shockingly, my car isn’t ready yet. 

Today, strapped for ideas for dinner and working from what was left in the cabinets, I came up with a well accepted and quickly devoured Tortilla Soup.  I used a recipe I had once torn out of a magazine from my Dentist’s office in Eugene last year (she said I could!) but added my own twist to it.  The kid’s ate it up, yes, even the pickiest little blonde one asked for seconds.   I am just glad I still had some homemade vegetable stock left in the freezer because water is for soaking dishes, not soup.

Some of our best loved dishes around here have come from nothing.  Eating in and using the food I have already paid for with my husband’s hard earned money is always more cost effective, and a healthier option than eating out.

So, we have managed to make it over hump-day and I have just as many pennies and lint in my wallet as I did when I woke up Monday morning.

Happy Fiscal Free Week!

I Take Mine Saved, Not Spent Please

As most that know me already know, I am a big proponent of not having to fork over a sack of money to enjoy myself and I don’t think anyone else should have to either.  When we were kids, my parents always found ways to take us out and have a good time all the while spending little or nothing at all.  We went to the park, the beach or free events around town.  I would have no idea how much I love Greek food had they not taken me to a free Greek Festival! 

This Monday begins my second annual “Fiscally Free Week.”  It comes in the second half of our free vacation downtown, so I will have to get a little more creative this year.  Not to mention we have a third child that we didn’t have last year- but he doesn’t cost much and just likes to tag along for the ride anyway. 

This week’s focus will be on what we did each day WITHOUT spending money, and hopefully we will make it to Sunday before running out of gas or starving to death.

So in that spirit, I’ll take my money saved, not spent please.  Thank you.

A Vacation In My Own City

We were graciously offered a free chance to stay at a swanky downtown New Orleans condo smack in the middle of the French Quarter.  My mom’s friends have it for two weeks out of the year, but only stayed for the first week and were nice enough to offer it up to me and my circus for the remaining time.  We are definitely going down there for tonight, and possibly Sunday night.

Yes, I have a Kindergartener, but what kind of a parent would I be if I didn’t endorse the ocassional hooky and teach him something from the big book of life instead? 

I will definitely be bringing some of our own food because A) there is a kitchen, and I’ve already spent money on food and B) as yummy as food is in New Orleans I would have to take three children in to eat somewhere which sounds both costly and sketchy sanity-wise. 

The downside?  Parking is $20 ($20?!?) and I cringe at the thought of handing over Mr. Jackson to a complete stranger to house the car. 

Cross your fingers for free, or substantially cheaper street parking!