How do you all feel about a good old challenge? For a long time, I avoided them. I mean, there are so many challenges out there. Juicing Challenges. Exercise Challenges. Real Pants Challenge (wait, I can’t wear yoga pants or leggings for a whole week!?). There plethora never ends and forever I avoided them because it all seemed a bit silly to me. What value could these little challenges have? With three kids, books to write, and an unending list of other excuses (we all have them), I didn’t have the time or the energy to focus on any challenges, let alone get dinner on the table.
But then out of a deep desperation to get my health back in order, I decided to dedicate myself to one challenge for twenty one days and the experience totally changed my view of challenges. It turns out the goal and focus of a challenge help reign me in and organize my messy mind and sometimes even my closets! It’s like I hit thirty one and suddenly I can’t get enough of these mini challenges.
My favorite are five day clean eating challenges (I run free Facebook groups for this, and no I’m not trying to sell anything. I just like having accountability with my eating y’all!). I run about two a month and love taking the time to focus on detoxing my body and making sure healthy food hits my table. It makes my soul feel good in a way soul food does not.
I’ve also done a few “No Spending Challenges.” Now, I sort of chuckle about this because a no spending challenge makes it sound like I often spend on random things and I need to “challenge” myself to cut back because it’s a fun and cute way to curb your spending. Here’s the truth, that’s not exactly the case. Mostly, I trick myself into using these “challenges” to stay within our strict budget. I use my grandmother’s way of budgeting (which I’ll teach you in an upcoming post) to monitor our cash flow through the month and quite honestly there are weeks were we need to only be purchasing gas and food (which has nothing to do with my grandma’s awesome approach to budgeting, more to do with income). If I slip outside of those parameters, I can mess up our cash flow for the entire month.
I do these mini challenges often with and without knowing it, but I’ve never done a spending challenge post Thanksgiving and into December. The temptation to use the Cyber Monday discounts to update our 1960’s home with new light fixtures or even cute picture frames for our walls is calling to me. Here’s the thing though, even though stepping into our home is like living in a time capsule of sorts, we do not NEED these items. Sure, our microwave is ancient but it works!
Budgets stress me out. A lot. I will work the numbers over and over again to get us in the green, but then I step into a store and find a way to justify that dollar spot purchase or a McDonald’s run on a chaotic errands day with a car full of hungry and cranky kids (okay, and a cranky mama too!).
I work hard to make a budget, so why is it so easy for me to sway from it? I’ve thought long and hard about this subject and realize it boils down to two issues I wrestle with in my heart. The first issue is convenience, especially when it comes to food. I’m in a season where cooking a meal peacefully over a stove with a glass of wine seems as luxurious as purchasing a Tiffany charm bracelet.
I’m a mother with small children. Even if I had time to whip up a delicious meal, the chances they will eat it rings in at about 40%. And guys, I’m not a fast cook. Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals probably take me 50 minutes to pull off (Cutting onions makes me cry so I have to run out of the room for breaks). When there’s only an hour between school pick up and dance class, throwing down a snack of crackers and cheese and then running through Subway after dance to feed the crew before we dive into the bedtime routine just makes sense. It’s convenient. But I have to ask myself, is the convenience worth it? And why is it so important to me? Sometimes I worry that I move through time too quickly in search of convenience, missing more enriching opportunities. Sure, the kids may go to bed an hour late, but I bet I’d feel better about filling their bellies with home cooked food over fast food, and I bet they’ll have more memories to tuck into their love buckets of Mom setting warm food out in front of them on a plate rather than pulling it from a bag. (We’ve done the Subway post dance run twice, and every time I kick myself for it!)
The other issue that runs really deep within me is want. Oh…want. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? There’s something satisfying about finding a deal for something on my mental want list. To be honest, isn’t it absurd that I even have a want list? To be blessed to live in a society where I even fathom to have a list of wants is amazing. Yet still, a few times a week I’ll float my curser over this amazing deal on eBay for a blanket scarf I’ve been wanting or scroll through home improvement blogs or Instagram to research light fixtures for the house. I never hit buy, but the constant hunt for deals and the “visiting” makes for a dangerous combination.
You see, the items somehow become a symbol.
A symbol that we’re making it. That we’ve got our act together. Almost a promise that suddenly I can and will be able to have time to pull off a satisfying meal, taking a moment to smell the sizzling garlic while my kids play joyfully in the background, because if I can one-click that light item then there must be room in the budget which means I won’t have to work as much, which means I can finally start work on my next book, which means… (You see how this snowballs).
And that symbol right there is the problem. It’s a silly scarf, pillow, toy, etc. I don’t need it and the more I think about need versus want, I’m realizing I’m finding more satisfaction in not buying items rather than when I do buy them.
So right now I’m buckling down and trying to grow deeper in that satisfaction. I don’t want to find satisfaction in stuff and I don’t want to be anxious about our bank account.
Would anyone like to join a spending challenge group with me as I tackle the first 7 days of December? Purchasing just needs, not wants. Now, it’s understandable that it is gift giving season, so I’m not saying no to gifts if it fits in your budget, but I want an opportunity to honor the budget. Honor the math, ya know? I want to end this year financially fit and step into 2017 in control.
Who’s with me? Comment below or message me on FB or Instagram and I’ll add you to my Facebook group! Let’s do this!!!