17 Mar 2015
Let me tell you about something I am super excited about. Excited enough to end a sentence with a preposition! It’s probably the biggest project I have planned for the whole year. It’s called the Use What You Have Club.
It was developed, of course, in conversation with Hillary. We were talking sometime in January about wanting to be a little more conscious of our shopping habits, particularly in the craft supply arena. Eric and I had just had a budget meeting, and while we’re very fortunate indeed to have everything we need, there’s not usually much left at the end of the month. I’ve always kind of loved budgeting–I so appreciate the sacrifice when I can tangibly see the reward. It’s empowering to feel like I am choosing not to buy things in one area so that I can put that little bit of money toward something else. I’ve been doing it since my childhood days. Just ask my mom, who remembers me asking for a receipt for 74 cents’ worth of candy at Mr. Bulky.
This year there are three big things we want to put our savings toward: 1) savings for Micah, 2) travel, and 3) childcare and front-end investments for the career I am working on building. (The childcare dovetails with it, since I need some time to work). Since that meeting in January, I’ve been in savings mode. I get books from the library. (I mean, I always have, but I’ve been extra serious about it of late.) I don’t buy coffee while I’m out. (However! Peet’s makes this very easy on me. Every time I buy beans there, about every two weeks, they give me a card for a free coffee or tea. I have about 20 of them, so…free coffee dates for Mommy! What I am telling you here is that is you live nearby and want to be my friend…there is free coffee in it for you. This little bit of free luxury is so very nice.) The exception is that Micah, of course, gets whatever he needs. If it’s clothes, though, I try to find them secondhand first, my humble homage to any parent who was able to keep baby clothes clean enough for resale. (However! It’s getting hot here, and I just ordered him a swim float and a swim diaper. Based on his great love for bath time, I think swimming is going to be a huge hit!)
There is always a delicate balance, though, between the virtuous satisfaction of saving money and a burdensome feeling of privation. In order to alleviate the latter, the Use What You Have Club lets me have tons and tons of fun with the stuff I already have. And boy howdy, do I have a lot. Most of it was given to me or bought dirt cheap at places like the Depot or even thrift stores, but some of it was bought for specific projects (with coupons! I cannot resist the siren song of saving money!). Since I’ve finally gotten my little studio organized, I’ve been working on a huge Google spreadsheet of all my arts and crafts supplies. Hillary and I are doing it jointly, to add to the crafting fun, so we have a column for the supply, where it is, and what we plan to make with it. It’s divided into pages by category: knitting, sewing, paper crafts, etc. It’s a majestic thing to feel so organized. And it also helps tremendously when I don’t have much time on my hands. I open the spreadsheet, do a quick scroll through, and find something that sounds like fun to work on. I love it.
This little project has another end goal too. For a long time Hillary and I have talked about opening an Etsy shop. It will be called “Dilettante Status,” in reference to my joke with her that I am basically a dilettante at everything, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it! I don’t know when this shop will actually be created because we are two moms with three kids, and our sweet ones always take precedence. But we have a big dream for it. Even though we are trying to save money and be intentional about our spending, we are so very aware of how much we have. We wanted to find a way to give to others through our shop, and specifically to empower other women. We are planning to use our (very hypothetical at this point!) proceeds to make Kiva loans to women supporting themselves and their families around the world. If you’re not familiar with Kiva, it’s a micro-loan non-profit. You can make a $25 investment in someone’s business (agriculture, sales, the whole gamut), which will then be repaid to your account at a specific time. Each loan has multiple contributors, and each of them are repaid; once the money is back in your account, it can be loaned again. My parents put $50 in an account for me in 2009, and I have lent it out 13 times since then. I love that my tiny little bit of money has been able to help so many people. And I love the organization, which Charity Navigator gives 4 out of 4 stars (nobody paid me to say all this–I just really like them!)
So that’s our project and our plan! I am so happy that we found a way to save money and use it more purposefully for our families, to enjoy using the things we have, and, hopefully, to share with others from the great abundance of what we have. Three cheers for the Use What You have Club!
*An addendum! I realize that I forgot to add two other little accommodations to this savings plan. One is called Reasonable Investments. I am keeping a list of things I could buy that would allow me to use seven other things that I already have, instead of buying one thing that requires me to buy seven other things in order to use it. This is partly because my assortment of craft stuff is a bit haphazard, so I’ll be saving my Michael’s coupons for those things. Also, there is a special coffer of Christmas money, generously supplied by my wonderful parents (all four of them), so that is available for the occasional meal out, thrift store splurge, or something I really want or need. Those two things keep me from feeling too squeezed in by the savings plan. Balance! It’s a beautiful thing.