There are some things that money can’t buy and today, day three of my efforts to record all the cash that I spend, fell firmly into that category. I spent absolutely no money, but have had an amazing day with family, friends and community. Most of it was spent with a group of eight others, overhauling a memorial rose garden that had become a bit overgrown. We worked; we drank tea; we laughed; we got prickled by thorns; we devised plans for future ventures; we sweated; we ate cake; we talked about all sorts; we cooed over a baby; we felt thoroughly proud of our efforts. But one thing that we didn’t do was spend any money. It’s amazing to think that such an enjoyable and satisfying day can be found for free. I glad I noticed.
Day two, total cash spent = £4.70. Bought lunch on campus. Had a lovely salad, some fruit and some juice. I can’t honestly say, though, that my choice was based on purely taste factors. When looking at the options, price weighed more heavily on my mind than usual. Despite envisioning this as a purely observational exercise, it seems that I cannot help but be more self-conscious about what I spend when I know I’m going to write it down. This effect is noticeable already, and I’m only 48 hours in.
Hmm, it’s only day one but I think I may have found my achilles heel. Not the usual thing of socialising – I’ve just got back from a free night out at my Surrey local, where I mark the quiz in return for drinks. My weakness, it seems already, is charity shops. My total spend for day one of my mini-mission is £6.50, all of which was exchanged in charity shops. On an improptu trip, I bought: a ukuele, £3.50 (have fancied having one for ages, particularly after getting one for a friend’s birthday. This purchase makes me very happy, especially as it has Hawaiian style illustrations on it), a glass £1 (an irresistible addition to my vintage bar collection), a travel alarm clock at £2 (brand new, and I wanted one for my recent holiday but couldn’t seem to get one at a reasonable price. This fitted the bill). I think that today’s spending sets the tone for the remaining 29 or so days. Although I doubt any other purchase of the month will make me as happy as my ukuele.
I’ve been paid today. Having been without a regular income for so long, I still cannot get used to this concept; it seems amazing that as soon as it gets to the end of a month, some more money goes into my account! I guess it’s no bad thing to be shocked by this – hopefully it means that I’ll never take money for granted. However, I do wonder what I actually spend my money on. Not the bills and the regular payments, but the cash in my purse. I withdraw it at the end of one month and then need some more the next time payday rolls around. Where does it all disappear to?
Obviously I’m vaguely aware of what I spend cash on. A couple of drinks when out with friends, the odd lunch when I’m working on campus, the local fleamarket. But it’s all rather hazy. Having thought about this several times recently, I then came across the ‘Track your spending’ idea on ‘Be More With Less’, a sort of self-help blog. The writer suggests ‘mini-missions’ for readers to follow, and one was to right down everything you spend money on for a month (http://www.bemorewithless.com/2011/track-your-spending-mini-mission/). So I’m going to give it a go, and report on my progress here. As I don’t want to get too personal, I’ll just record what the cash in my purse goes on – the area that I’m most intrigued by anyway. And I think intrigued is the word. It’s not an exercise in self-restraint or trying to do things differently. Rather, it’s trying to solve the basic mystery of where do all those pennies go?
So far today… £0.00. It may have changed by bedtime.
Why do we procastinate? Of all the human foibles, this one particularly fascinates me, probably because we don’t just procastinate about things that we don’t actually want to do – we also seem to procastinate when it comes to things that are quite pleasant or that we enjoy. It’s the strangest thing. I tend to pride myself on not being a procastinator, but I’m coming to realise this is simply a massive case of self-delusion. Mine seems to be a rather deceptive, complex form of avoidance. I don’t procastinate by idly wasting time to avoid the task in question. Rather I find other things to do, things that are often productive or useful in themselves, so I can pretend that I’m not procastinating – the rationale being how can it be procastination when I also need to do the thing that I’m doing instead anyway? It’s like a game of swapsies – I trade the task I feel I should be doing for something else on my to do list that I judge to be preferable, even though I inevitably find that the thing I’m avoiding is never as bad as I imagine. Today I finally addressed a particulary excessive example of procastination, although I didn’t recognise it as such until this afternoon. Last autumn, I received a book to review. Ever since, I have been avoiding actually doing it. This is despite the fact I volunteered for it, wanted to read it and have found it a useful and enjoyable book to read. I just kept putting off writing down what I thought, finding other supposedly more important work tasks to do instead. Having decided today was the day I’d finally get on with it, I then found myself coming up with all sorts of little distractions – an email to answer, getting a drink. When I eventually found myself going to the loo again “just in case needing a wee would distract me once I start”, I knew enough was enough. I made myself start writing. I wrote, and wrote some more. I edited it. I felt pleased with it. I checked it again. I sent it off. Job done, an enjoyable and creative job at that. I don’t know why I didn’t do it six months ago.
Just looking out of my window at a beautiful still summer’s evening, reminding me of another beautiful, still summer’s evening two weeks ago on holiday. Here are some photos taken at that time, showing the lake at the retreat centre where I was staying in Sweden.