Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Enough Already!

So, as I tooled around on the internet, looking at Web sites about living simply and within your means, I stumbled upon Alex Martin's project, Little Brown Dress. One women made the decision to wear the same dress for one year. It was her own way of combating the culture that tells people what to wear constantly, feeding off their insecurities and driving them to consume, consume, consume!

Well, I loved this idea. While I'm not ready to only wear one dress for the year (though doing so in Texas would be a lot easier,weather-wise, than in Alex Martin's home, Seattle), I am tired of worrying about how I look, what I'm wearing, and if I'm cool enough. I already know the answers: I look fine, I'm wearing clothes that aren't tattered or torn and therefore generally presentable, and I'm never going to be "cool" enough for some.

Upon reflection, most people don't look that "cool," and most people are more worried about something in their own lives to notice that I'm not hip. Or maybe not, but that's what I tell myself.

But here's what I've learned in my 22 years... In Ghana, I had one week's worth of clothing, half of it home-made, that I wore for 4 months. The same A-line skirt pattern with a variety of breezy cotton fabrics, cotton t-shirts, and one pair of cotton pants were rotated in order to make my wardrobe work each week. For a while, I washed them by hand. And I learned that I didn't miss the rest of my clothes. When packing for trips, I tend to select the items that can be worn on several occasions with various pieces. When I went to Egypt for 10 days, I wanted more room for souvenirs, not clothes. So I wore my jacket on the plane, and packed a few tops, some slacks and a few skirts. My only regret would be packing clothes that were more tailored to my body. (I operated under the assumption that I needed to dress VERY modestly in Cairo. Most women were well covered, but their clothes were closer-fitting than mine. But hey, at least I wasn't asked to wear a robe in the mosques, like some tourists were.)

The point still stands, though, that I don't really NEED all the clothes I have. I already cleaned out my closet recently, and am looking forward to pulling out my sweaters from last fall/winter. It will be like shopping from my own closet! And I'm going to try to look at Goodwill first, for all my clothing needs.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Common Cents

After reading this article on MSN, I realized that most of my suspicions about American culture were true: we like keeping up with the Joneses (even if that means debt), we harbor feelings of inadequacy if we aren't rich, and we're constantly comparing ourselves.

I felt compelled to check out my spending habits. Lucky for me, my bank categorizes my expenses (I don't have a credit card, so all my money is there.) I got to take a gander of how much I spent in July and August on things, and an average of the two. Some things I was happy to see, others, not so much.

My retail expenses tallied up higher than I would have liked. My goal is to cut that down by $50 or $75 dollars. Also, my monthly average of charitable giving is $1. A DOLLAR! I'd like to up this number, even to $15 a month. There are a lot of organizations I support, so maybe I'll pick a new one each month and give them a little contribution.

The good news is that I'm saving and investing well above what I thought I was. I hope to up the average by about $50 as well. So less retail now, more fun stuff in the future!

The other good news is that since I've stopped eating out so much, I've dropped my expenses in restaurants from $100 to $20 over the course of one month. This is something I'm happy with. I feel like I've been eating well at home, and the few extra bucks put toward better ingredients has really paid off!

As a person who earns less than $30,000 a year, I used to cringe when I found out I qualified for a lot of low-income housing. I always insist that I live very comfortably. And I do. I still get buy myself a special coffee or new pair of shoes. I eat salmon and drink wine on a weekly basis. I live on a lake. But I've also learned to take pleasure in life's little (and often free) pleasures. For example, Kendall and I took his parent's dog for a walk Saturday evening, and explored the beautiful new public park that just opened. The night was lovely, and the walk was romantic, not to mention healthier than sitting in a movie theater for 2 hours.

So that's my little spending report. Happy Saving!