So a few weeks ago a fellow blogger (I’m looking at you, Chicken Librarian!) posted about doing a no-spend August as a way of reining I’m spending. She also mentioned the book “The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living” by Anna Newell Jones.
I ordered the book from Amazon and started following Ms. Newell Jones on Instagram, as sort of a half-assed way of possibly considering the concept of analyzing my spending and doing something about it. (Notice how non-committal I was.) The thought of a no-spend August was sort of rattling around in the back of my brain, and everytime I would catch a glimpse of my credit card balances, I would think “that’s probably not a bad idea.”
The other night, I picked up my copy of Debt-free Living and started perusing it. It was . . . sort of inspiring.
And it definitely spoke my language (I am not a saver at heart – my dad is a financial planner and would die of disappointment to learn that, but he probably also wouldn’t be shocked. I have a 401k and all that, but only because it automatically comes out of my paycheck and I don’t have to think about it).
I’m not really a shopper, either, but I definitely find ways of spending money. I guess at the heart of it, I’m just sort of impulsive. I’ve never lived my life in a particularly strategic way, and my spending is just another reflection of that. I have a good job and make a good paycheck, but I still find new and inventive ways of burning through it. (Having kids helps – they always seem to need something. Same with the homestead we are getting up and running – we need a new tool/implement every other day it seems . . .).
The concept at the heart of this book (at least, what I’ve read so far) is to identify what are actually Needs, and to focus on Needs-Only Spending, rather than Wants Spending. (Turns out, a lot of the things I’ve been spending money on are Wants, even though it felt like a Need when I was tossing it in my Amazon shopping cart.)
Since my son and I have a trip planned this month (to travel out East and visit friends and family), having a 100% no-spend month would be challenging / impossible. So I decided that a good compromise would be to have a Needs-Only Spending month during the month of August. This way I can dip my toes into the waters before I fully commit (Newell Jones recommends a whole year of Needs-Only Spending to really see results).
Fortunately, most of our upcoming trip (flights, AirBnB, etc) is already paid for, so this might actually be sort of fun to challenge myself to spend only for our Needs as we are traveling. No souvenirs!
So, since yesterday was the first day of August, and hence the first day of my Needs-Only spending month, I had my first money-saving project. The kids have been bugging me for Play-Doh the past few days. I don’t know why. They never actually seem to play with it, when I do buy it. They mostly just grind it into the carpet or drop it on the floor for it to become covered in dog hair (GAG).
Nonetheless, they have expressed interest in some Play-Doh. Now, IN NO UNIVERSE does Play-Doh qualify as a “Need,” for spending purposes, so I decided to try making some instead.
My mom always made homemade playdough when we were growing up, and I always feel a little guilty when I buy the store-bought stuff, like I am being so incredibly lazy. Play-Doh is pretty cheap, fortunately (I usually pay like $1 for a small plastic tub of it), but I also know it’s easy / even cheaper to just make it. Also, I feel guilty about all that unnecessary plastic consumption.
So. I found some instructions on DIY Natural (DIY Natural – Homemade Playdough) and gathered the required ingredients. Flour, salt, warm water, food coloring.
Oh, and also almond extract. The recipe didn’t call for it, but I always remember homemade playdough smelling kinda weird, so I thought the almond might help offset that. (In the end, I think it made no lick of difference, so I’m not particularly recommending this technique).
I mixed up the flour, salt and water (+almond):
And shaped it into 3 separate balls. The instructions said to add the food coloring to the water, but I wanted to make 3 different colors out of this one batch, so I decided to split it up and add the food coloring after.
I made a little dent in each playdough ball and squirted some food coloring in.
I’m going to stop right here.
I do not recommend this approach. I thought it would be kind of fun, to squish the color into the dough. I overestimated the level of fun. And underestimated the level of mess. The color kept squeezing out, sort of like Freshen-up gum from the 80’s – remember that? So gross. Don’t try my technique. Just add the food coloring to the water like a normal person. And if you want another color, just make another batch. Don’t try to take shortcuts like me – unless you WANT your hands stained with 3 different colors of food coloring. Hey, live and learn, right? Anyway, moving on.
After adding “3-5 drops” of food coloring, per the instructions, my playdough balls were the wussiest, most boring-colored balls on the planet.
The DIY Natural chick must use some kind of super-powerful food coloring to get her colors so vibrant. I kept adding more and more drops, and this was as good as I could get:
The kids didn’t seem to notice how dull the colors were, and had an absolute blast making slugs and dinosaurs and zombie heads out of the dough.
So, the moral of this story is: I’m glad I tried it.
But next time, I’m going to let my kids make their own damn playdough. I have a feeling they would actually enjoy making this stuff (it really is so simple, I think even a 3 and 4 year old could handle it).
Wish me luck on my Needs Only Spending month! I’ll let you know if I learn anything. 🙂