“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
As of last Friday, the first month of my challenge to split my discretionary income between myself and giving to others officially closed. I’m afraid I spoke too soon when I thought I could hold the line on my very austere budget. Because here I sit, after adding up the last 10 transactions I made in August, $117 over budget. What happened? I was doing well, but in the last part of the month a haircut and a birthday dinner (not mine) out with friends, neither of which was really optional, took me beyond my self-imposed limit.
So, I thought the hard part of this experiment would be putting aside my shopping habits, but that was the relatively easier part! The bigger challenge is giving up what I call “social spending” (dinners, happy hours, etc.) and convenience, things like a car wash, or the occasional manicure, (which I did get this month, but have to cut out next month), and yes, still a few lattes because I cannot always make my coffee at home and some days you just need a good coffee. Well…you don’t “need” it, but darned if it doesn’t feel like you do!
Even though I am disappointed that I couldn’t reach my goal this first month, I am not giving up. And at least there is a silver-lining because if I end up over, that just results in a larger donation for the community. Which leads me to the fun part: choosing the non-profit beneficiaries of my 50/50 split! There are so many important and much-needed programs in the Twin Cities to choose from, and this month I decided on Second Harvest Heartland. We’ve been supporters of this organization for several years, and I’ve read so much about the increasing usage of food banks and what a critical role they play in our community. This video, while from a few years back, is interesting, and it is hard to imagine, but the hunger problem has only grown since this was filmed.
We’re huge food-lovers, and admittedly, one of our biggest indulgences and luxuries is definitely food. So somehow it seemed appropriate that we help those who struggle to provide this basic need for their families to balance out our own good fortunes. Researching a little more on Second Harvest’s website I learned (somewhat sheepishly) that for the cost of the 13-course dinner my dear husband and I enjoyed in Chicago, I could supply over 1,850 meals! And so, that is exactly what I did with my donation this month. It was so easy, just a few bits of info entered, the click of a mouse, and I made an impact instantly. If I’m being honest, I probably felt better after doing that than I did after our meal.
The piece I’m still trying to figure out is how to use some of this as a “teachable moment” for our girls. We do volunteer as a family when we can, but unfortunately, Second Harvest doesn’t allow children under 8 years (which both of ours are!) to volunteer, so I can’t make a direct link there. I want them to know how our money can help others and to experience that more directly. Still working on making that link in their minds… will update with any ideas I can come up with!
In the meantime, I will continue striving to hit my budget in month two. It’s off to a bit of a rocky start since on September 1 we went to a concert and enjoyed many treats at the Minnesota State Fair…$77 already on the books. Yikes!