Thursday, September 18, 2014

$175 a week challenge

could you live on $175 each week?

some of you faithful readers are screaming NO STINKIN WAY! perhaps some of you might be thinking i WISH i had $175 to spend each week!

i mostly fall into the former category with a pinch of ok, rachel, you can do this throw in for good measure.

jeremy and i have been striving to spend only $175 per week on things like groceries, gas, and extras. the extraneous items might be birthday gifts for friends, haircuts, school field trip fees, parking fees...or anything i just neeeeed to purchase at my beloved target. our firm monthly expenses (mortgage, insurance, etc) are on automatic bill pay so the $175 cash i withdraw each sunday afternoon is what i spend on the things we need to live our daily lives.

and most weeks i've spent it all by sunday evening.

i have not been able to completely fill my gas tank since the beginning of this challenge. i put in $30-$40 and hope it gets me to the end of the week. so far it has. grocery shopping has been a carefully planned event, list in hand, menu for the week thoughtful prepared in advance with an emphasis on meatless meals. there has only been one purchase from target - a birthday gift for graham's friend which i wound up swiping the american express card to pay for. i went over budget that week and took out less the following week to cover the difference. my car has not blessed one drive-thru, and we have not been out for frozen yogurt in a long while.

jeremy did take the boys for donuts last saturday morning but that was a planned (inexpensive) treat. i did meet my girlfriends for dinner last night but asked them in advance if we could choose an inexpensive restaurant. (hello park burger!) they happily obliged and we had a lovely time. jeremy did go to a concert and was able to ride the light rail train and even buy a couple beers, all under budget.

so we haven't been completely deprived. 

existing on $175 has not been all that terrible. challenging, YES! but impossible, certainly not. the stress it has caused comes from the intentional thought that is required to stretch these dollars as far as they can go. the other stress occurs in the form of worry. new worries about things i never before gave any attention to. i really need a new bra! how am i going to pay for that?!

these stresses aren't all bad. in fact, they've taught me something.

the reason jeremy and i are purposefully living well below our means is so we can free up funds each month in hopes of paying off my student loan by january. it is good to be disciplined in this way. it's beneficial to force ourselves to step away from needless, thoughtless spending and focus our attention toward determining what is necessary versus unnecessary.

i've discovered a weekly $2 chocolove dark chocolate candy bar really is necessary!

i've discovered my twice weekly, much loved pilates class is, sadly, unnecessary. at $15 per class that's a considerable savings that can go toward other expenses.

the other thing i've been pondering is the amount of stress other families - the families who aren't living below their means by choice, who don't have an american express back-up plan, who struggle to make it to the next paycheck - must feel.

because what's a game to me is their everyday existence. my "challenge" is their real life.

that's tough to think about. but it's also a reminder of how incredibly fortunate i am and that i'm called to be responsible with such blessing.

today is thursday. the groceries in the fridge and the fresh fruit on the platter are dwindling. this is the day each week when i start to long for a quick target run, for the feeling of just being able to go and buy something for no reason. this is the day i usually go to the library and find a good book to get lost in, a distraction from the itchiness in my head. this is the day i get thankful for the temporary nature of this challenge and whisper a prayer for those who find themselves in more permanent circumstances.

so what about you? could you live on an all-cash budget of one hundred, seventy-five dollars each week?

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