There have been many layers to this no spend challenge. Simply choosing not to spend money on luxuries is an obvious first layer. The second layer has been about rebuilding our relationships with each other, now that we no longer have the distraction of spending. The third layer, has been about redefining our expenses.
Three months into our no-spend year, I'm starting to reconsider some expenses.
A pumpkin flower after the rain
We all need electricity and water - that's a given. We pretty much need a telephone too - in case of emergencies. But the internet has been a luxury we've pandered to for quite a while. When I first started our blog, we were on "dial-up", the very inferior cousin to high speed broadband. It wasn't long until I realised with all my photos, that I could probably do with broadband.
Everyone was talking about broadband at the time - how much easier and faster it was to use. I still held off from getting the more expensive broadband connection however, until our daughter started school. I wanted to be contactable during the day (in case there were emergencies) and we were in a "black-spot" for mobile coverage in the house - so I had another, more important reason to get broadband then.
So we did, and for over two years, it's been great. I can jump on the computer without having to interfer with our phone connection.
Fast forward to now however, where I'm doing home education at home - and where I shouldn't be on the internet for most part of the day anyway. With March being a big bills month for us, I had to look at our internet issue again. I mean, how much do I value speed on the internet, to paying off our debts?
We have the money for broadband, but do we really have to spend $30 extra for internet speed per month? I've compared dial-up to broadband, and we could stand to save $300 per year, if we used the inferior cousin. I know it's slower. I know it can make you want to pull your hair out sometimes. I know it's inconvenient when you receive incoming calls that can't get through.
I know all these things, but the $300 savings is staring me in the face, without a genuine reason to keep the broadband anymore. It's time for a sacrifice. It's time to make a concrete decison about what's more important in life - internet speed or paying off our mortgage?
No-one can make this decision but us. It's our unique circumstances that brought the issue of broadband into question again. I've actually been trying to stay away from technology in favour of spending time with our family anyway. It really seemed like a hollow pursuit (technology) when you can't spend money on DVD rentals, or buying new gadgets for the garden and kitchen.
Don't get me wrong - technology is a wonderful time saver in many pursuits. But with our no spend year, the focus has changed from what has always gotten us by, to what do we really need to get by.
Dave and I have decided we're going to ditch the broadband, in favour of cheaper dial-up. We'll have to get smarter at when and how we use the internet. Early mornings is where we'll start, so the phone line will be open to receive calls during the day. I'll schedule my internet time, like I would cleaning or homeschooling - making it a part of my day, not all of my day.
I've noticed with broadband, I'll have it on all day to receive any emails. Espeically when it comes to publishing your lovely comments to my blog. I don't like to keep people waiting if I can help it. But in a very subtle way, the focus of internet usage has seeped into my life as if it was running it. While I like the speed and convenience of broadband, it has opened my conscience to suggestion, that maybe I need to justify the cost - maybe I need to use it all the time. Maybe it's more important than the rest of my life?
I can still have a blog, I can still use the internet - but it has to be shaped to our family's needs.
On the plus side, I'll be taking moderation off your comments so you no longer have to wait for me to publish them. I'll check all comments during my scheduled internet time, and delete those purely promoting spam. I've wanted to protect you lot from spammers, but I guess it's part of the internet world. I'll deal with them as I come to them, rather than putting your valuable thoughts on hold to deal with them.
We're all mature adults who navigate the world wide web daily...we know what a spam comment looks like. Please avoid them if they pop up from time to time. :)
A pumpkin harvest - a store of energy - human labour and food
On the whole, our no-spend year challenge is doing well. We're focussing on the lessons rather than purely the money. It's great to have savings, but I find it's our old natures, which seriously threaten any gains. It requies a new nature, or the savings don't stick and the debt inevitably blows out somewhere else.
It's quite a juggling act, trying to figure out what should be spent one week to the next. This has threatened to do my head in many times. I've wanted to be discouraged - I mean, what's it all for, if I can't manage to save money this month? The new nature comes in when I realise it's not just about saving money. It's about realising what's better about me as a human being. What did I evaluate? What did I carry? What did I drop? When did I take time to be an organic human being with other important organics - human, plant or animal?
Money and technology are lovely additions to life, but for our family today, they have been an unconscious distraction from bigger responsibilities too. Growing our minds, for example. Growing our compassion and generosity bank too. Focussing just on money, can make me short tempered and unreasonable - it's ugly, LOL.
But you know what, as a person, I can grow. Just like my daughter and garden too. Money is not a reflection of my growth, no matter what I choose to spend on or not - from this month or the next.
So I'm actually wondering at this point, what I'm sacrificing? Internet speed? Technology? Options? As long as I don't sacrifice my ability to grow, or others, then what have I lost of value?
Your greatest investment in life is life...keep investing, no matter what. :)