February, the non-consumer month

February, the non-consumer month

So I’m declaring February a personal non-consumer month. It isn’t so much that I’m 100% anti-consumerism. It doesn’t have anything to do with the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. And it isn’t entirely because of a restrictive budget (although that is part of it). And, really, it has nothing at all to do with February.

This is a new month, and it seems a good time to start an experiment. With a tight budget and plans to purchase a home, spending creates more problems than it fixes. We aren’t big spenders, we’re not compulsive. We’re actually rather frugal, and myself even moreso than Husband. HOWEVER…

We, like most Americans, are in a habit of buying. We want/like/need/would use something and we have the means? It’s a done deal.

Instead, this month, I want to challenge myself to do without. Without spending. Without buying. Without needing that one more thing.

Because really, what more do I need?

This doesn’t mean we won’t be purchasing food or medicine or toothpaste (which we’re out of at the moment), but it will extend to some of my regular purchases, like make-up (I don’t wear much to begin with, but since I’m out as of this morning, I won’t be buying any this month), yarn, candy bars, books, etc.

I just want to reset my habits. I want to carefully consider purchases, mull over them, and only make a selected few. But that’s not my mindset right now. So I’m going to start over, wipe the slate clean, and retrain my thinking.

So, February = no consumerism.

This might be hard, we’ll see…

Emily Post and asking for help

Emily Post and asking for help

Let me just put it plainly. I don’t feel comfortable asking for help.

I mean, sure, if it’s something like, hey Husband can you reach that thing on the top shelf, or lift this heavy piece of furniture, then what does it matter? After all, if he wasn’t around, I’d figure out a way to do it myself. I’m an independent kind of girl.

So asking for help when I really need it? Not my favorite thing.

I think part of it is the social graces that my parents modeled for us and set as our standard starting when we were just tiny things. Graces that demand you never put someone on the spot. You never put requirements on friendships. You never talk about money (at least not specifics) publicly. You never make someone feel awkward. Very Emily Post.

So I hate asking for help. I feel like I’m asking someone else to carry my burden, my responsibility.

Ironically? I love it when others ask for my help. Especially in a real way. I have a friend, A., who lives hours and hours away, but she calls/emails/texts when she needs advice, or a listening ear, or comfort. I LOVE being there for her. It’s part of what keeps our friendship strong and real and intimate.

But me asking for help? Rarely. Granted, A. is probably the most likely to witness my own breakdowns. But it’s rare.

Right now we’re planning a graduation party for me and a dear friend. Husband, of course, wants to do it “right” (on top of being a chef, he is an event coordinator after all). My definition of a party and his are so totally opposite. My ideas are usually 2 or 3 close friends and a cozy living room chat. His are BIG and bold. But I can tell he wants to bless me and celebrate my achievement and do it in style. So I’m going with the flow. I’m not even going to get into the fact that we invited people that I don’t even know to come to this shindig.

We’re having around 50 people out to our house after graduation, and I wanted to include one of my best friends who is coming into town for the weekend to graduate as well. Why not give her friends and family a place to celebrate too? And let’s have her invite as many people as she can think of too. Because this is going to be an all out party.

But today, I had to carefully examine our current cash flow. And while Husband and I go back and forth between who is the realist and who is the optimist (with a few moments of pessimist sprinkled in), I’m the one who does our budget. So right now, as I look at the numbers, I’m the realist. I’m the one texting Husband and saying, hey, cash flow is low. Like too low. Like, we need to eat through our pantry before we set foot in a grocery store low.

But we have a party coming.

So Husband asks me to email my friend and fellow graduate, who had offered to contribute some cash for the party. I open up a new email and see this blank screen staring at me and all those lessons in social graces come back to haunt me.

How do I ask someone for money?? How do I do that without putting her on the spot, making it awkward, and placing requirements on our friendship?

But it’s gotta be done.

So I just write it. Honest. Real. Transparent.

I just tell her that we’re strapped for cash after car repairs, refilling our oil tank (which fuels our heat), and paying taxes. I tell her I’d like to take her up on her offer to help out, and if possible, could she mail a check.

Then, my heart anxious about this total Emily-Post-faux-pas, I hit send.

And you know what? Within minutes her gracious response comes, full of “absolutely”s and exclamation points.

Because she’s just that awesome.

And she’s teaching me a different social grace–humility.