Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 19 - Rats, Stamps are "Things"

I was at the post office last night mailing birthday packages to nieces (without the aid of gift boxes, as we didn't have any), and was about to purchase some stamps for the upcoming Christmas card mailing, and realized STAMPS ARE THINGS and therefore not allowed.

Well, rats. The majority of our Christmas cards will be going out AFTER December 13. Any way you look at it, the weekend of December 14 is going to be very expensive for us.

On a side note, last night we took a cooking class on Basque holiday appetizers with some friends. We had a fabulous time, tried a few Spanish wines, and learned how to make Croquetas, which are deep-fried gravy balls. Now, as my ancestors were, among other things, Irish, I have no room to talk about the food choices of other ethnic groups, but were the Basques really that desperate to contract heart disease? I admit, I live in a country that deep fries Twinkies, but shouldn't food have a trace of nutritional value? Or at least not require angioplasty on the side?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 18 - the "Don't Spend a Dime" Radicals

The universe likes equilibrium, and our buy-nothing-new pact seems to have caused a ripple in the universe--or at least the part surrounding the G. family. Now that one G. household is not spending money, the universe has decided that another G. household must pickup the economic slack, and the H family's poor little Ford Escort was struck dead, forcing them to buy another car as a family of 5 cannot rely entirely on bicycles in Colorado in the winter (I know there are snow tires for bicycles, but at that point, is it worth it???). Before the Escort, it was the hot tub pump. One more large item and they may stop speaking to us.

We have promised to let them know well in advance when we try this for a longer time period, as they may want to purchase a few extended warranties or invest in a team of sled dogs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 17 - Beginning to Crack

Andy had a dream the other night where he drove to Costco, got out of his truck and was walking to the store, thinking of what he needed to get, when he suddenly realized he couldn't buy anything anyway, so he had to leave. Poor man--he isn't even allowed to shop in his dreams.

One thing we have both noticed are the emotions tied to shopping--both the thrill of buying something new, as well as the emotions that tend to cause one to buy something in the first place. The marketing world has long known and used the emotional connection to shopping--women in bikinis selling basically anything to men, ads of men fawning all over women because of their brand of lipstick, etc., --but it has been very surprising to learn that the emotional response isn't really being caused by marketing; marketing is simply exploiting something that already exists.

To get a little "retail fix," we have started alternating grocery shopping, but I'm not sure a head of lettuce packs the same sort of excitement that new clothes, a new tool, or a new DVD would, though maybe if there was a bikini involved......

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 16 - We are SO Proud

Today's reason for not spending money:

It's the Talking Larry Craig Action Figure.

We here in Idaho are SO proud!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 15 - Space Heater Envy

Winter arrived in Boise last week, and in my office today. Even with an oversized sweater and drinking weak coffee, I am freezing. Granted, I am female was not born with the "self-heating" option so I am used to being cold, but when one's nose is numb and one is using their laptop to warm one's fingers, it's cold. Several of my coworkers have purchased space heaters for under their desks--definite fire hazards, but the freezing are a desperate lot. I am walking a fine line between visiting their offices for legitimate business reasons & stalking them for warmth. It's official--December 13 I will be shopping for a space heater. In the meantime, I'm going to start knitting a wool cardigan for the office. At least my fingers will be warm!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 13 - New Challenges

Today we decorated the house for Christmas, and ran into an unforeseen challenge:

We can now add longer extension cords to our list of "things we would have bought by now." I admit, we had been coasting along pretty easily the last few days, and had been toying with the idea of trying a 3-month "buy nothing new" project next year (anything sounding good when it's a year away). If we learn nothing else from this experiment, we will learn better planning skills.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 12 - Black Friday

The Secret Santa problem is almost solved! There are perks to having a bin full of half-finished projects. Look, it's a half-finished snowman!!!
He's cute, he's inexpensive, and he can be done by December 12!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Da y 11 - Thanksgiving

Or as it is known in America, the official kickoff for the holiday shopping season. Traditionally known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is generally the day that retailers move into "profit" for the year. So, I suppose one can hardly blame them for aggressive marketing tactics--If I had only a five weeks to make a profit, I'd be pulling out all the stops as well. Stores will be opening at 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 6:00 AM with special "doorbuster" sales. Some stores are choosing to open at midnight tonight for "Moonlight Madness" sales. Midnight, are they kidding? After the biggest day of turkey consumption of the year? Have they not even heard of tryptophan??? It's almost 8:00 PM here & I'm barely able to stay awake. Perhaps there is a large epidemic of sleepshopping that I am unaware of, or perhaps this is when vegetarians shop. Personally, even without the ban, there is no product that would get me out of bed that early. Offer me lots of free cashmere and I might consider it, but only for certain colors....

I read an article earlier about a woman who is 24, attending college and working part time, who looks forward to the big shopping day all year, and who is planning to spend $1500 tomorrow. Granted, I have spent $1500 in a day before, but have generally ended up with a house or car at the end of it. She either saves all year or has a lot more money than I ever had in college--I would have been lucky to be able to spend $150 in a single day without selling blood plasma.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 10 - Temptation

Today has been difficult. We have sadly had to pass up the following decor options:

And we SO wanted to go with the serial killer motif....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day Nine - The Plan

So the question is, what happens on December 13? A mad spending spree? A trip to the mall? An uninterrupted hour of "quality time" with the Southwest Airlines Visa card?

We've decided we each get $40 that morning, and we can do whatever we choose with our money--no questions asked. As it is a work day for both of us, a mad dash to the mall seems unlikely, even if it weren't against the very core of my being to venture to the mall between Thanksgiving & New Year's Day. Andy is undecided as to what his first purchase will be as I just suggested the one thing on his "wish list" to someone as a potential Christmas gift. Mine will, without question, be the stupid yard of material to finish Andy's Christmas gift. As it isn't really for me, Andy thinks that doesn't really count, but as being unable to finish a project because I was off by a measly 3/8 of a yard (13.5 inches for the non-fractional) is causing a tick above my left eye, I have persuaded him that I will be a nicer person to live with if I can go get the missing material, finish the darned gift, and get on with my life. Um, not that it isn't a labor of love, of course...really. Maybe if I paid more attention to the stupid pattern in the first place it could have been more about the love & less about the labor, really is about the love. Really.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day Eight

Today we received confirmation that we Americans have too much money. It is no longer a question of what we personally do with our money. If this is what we, as a society, do with our money, I don't think we deserve it:

How exactly are you dressing if THIS coordinates with your ensemble???

Personalized items are always big at Christmas, though I think this maybe takes it one step too far:
Can't you just carve your initials into the mashed potatoes???

And for the hard-to-buy-for child on your list, we have:

Bob Mackie Cher Barbie. Wrong on sooo many levels.

How about something for the home to give it that nice, welcoming feeling?

Or, for the woman who has everything except, perhaps, a life....

It's the Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure.

Or maybe you feel that your children are enjoying too many happy stories and fairy tales, and you want to give them a nice dose of realism for Christmas.....

These are supposed to be Christmas gift ideas, though perhaps they are aimed at the Osbournes. I don't know, perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist, but somehow this

just doesn't say "Christmas" to me.......

May the Festive Force be with you?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day Seven - What is a substitute?

I generally do the week's grocery shopping on Saturday, but opted to wait and go today, and I came home with more groceries than I generally do. Now the question is, is that because of the holiday week or am I impulse-buying at the grocery store to compensate for the no-new-purchases rule? For example, was the hot buttered rum mix a festive/seasonal thing, an I-can't-buy-anything-else splurge, or is it somehow related to the fact that I went to the grocery store much later than I usually do and the crowds and lines made me think fondly of any type of alcohol.....certainly a point to be debated. Still, I did not come home with a single item that could be classified as a "thing."

Our experiment might be making us a little odd--today Andy left the oven door open for a while, and I made a point of closing it--not because it was a waste of electricity--but because if the bulb burned out, we couldn't replace it for a month.

Our experiment also made browsing the pre-Thanksgiving Sunday paper--the one with 3 pounds of ads promoting the biggest shopping day of the year--a very surreal exercise over the morning coffee. Do retailers offer things that the public demands, or is the public demand driven by the promotions done by retailers? This is a very deep conundrum to ponder over decaffeinated coffee--we had to break down and brew some fully loaded java. John Maynard Keynes did probably not drink decaf.

The things we are wanting to buy most:
* epoxy (you could see THAT one coming, couldn't you?)
* the missing 3/8 yard of material, most likely now stretched to 1 yard because that's the way patterns work
* spice jars (we have some spices in baggies that I didn't get transferred yet and bags don't sprinkle well)
* towels - we have returned 2 complete sets of towels to Macy's because the colors bled, and still own the most pathetic collection of towels that any newlyweds ever dried with.

And what will actually happen on December 13? Hard to say on only the seventh day, but one idea is to set a small monetary amount and each purchase one item within the limit. After all, what would be the point if, after all of this, we ended the experiment with a day of unrestrained spending????? Oh yeah, it would be called "Christmas Shopping."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 6

Today's lesson, boys and girls, is about reading directions. Without reading directions, one might buy fabric for a Christmas gift for one's husband, not realizing one is 3/8 of a yard short until AFTER the no-new-purchases ban has begun. Tomorrow's discussion will be on whether or not yards of unsewn fabric qualify as a gift to a non-sewer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day Five - The Inevitable

It comes from being smug, and I admit that I was distinctly smug yesterday. The universe does not like smugness, and accordingly, I found the following in my email box yesterday:

Hello Everyone,

There has been a slight change in plans...

We are going to have our Secret Santa Party on Wed the 12th instead of Friday the 14th.

Let me know if you have any questions.


Did those more familiar with the immutable laws of the universe see this one coming or what?

A reminder, we said November 12 through December 12. So, it's back to the drawing board.

The universe also does not like conspicuous non consumption. Daily we receive a stack of catalogs offering everything from Big Foot statues being passed off as Christmas decorations, English muffins and crumpets, caviar and foie gras (complete with pictures of enlarged fish eggs and fatted duck livers that just make one want to scream "VEGAN!"), "authentic" Harry Potter wands and Sorcerer's stones (presumably less authentic), decor options of every kind, pajamas, personalized wine bottles, cheeses, furniture, rugs, office supplies, gardening tools and equipment, movies, meat, kitchen items and appliances, faux fur everything, sporting equipment--the list is endless--all of them hoping to lure us into buying things we don't need and often didn't know existed. But we look through them, and sometimes have ordered things--things we weren't actively looking for, but would make a good gift or would be fun.

[Side note: Our settee is from the same company that offers the Big Foot statue as well as an entire gargoyle collection, and if we are willing to look through THAT catalog, we will look through almost anything. To be fair, we did actually need another piece of furniture for people to sit on or we needed to start inviting fewer people over at a time, but I think you get my point.]

Take away housing, groceries, some personal items, and transportation and the rest of our economy is based on things no one actually needs--televisions so large that the neighbors can watch movies from across the street, appliances that simplify things we never knew were difficult (was it really so difficult to heat up hot dogs or to shake a martini???), devices that make all our bad habits portable, boots and coats that can't get wet, clothing to humiliate our pets, vehicles that are larger than some HOMES used to be--and the products just keep coming. And leading the way for totally useless ways to spend money.....

And yet, I'm oddly tempted to sign up to receive their catalogs.......

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day Four - I Am Feeling Brilliant

I think I have found a solution for the Secret Santa problem!

For gift one, I have some lace Christmas ornaments I have already made using my embroidery machine. Realistically, there was a price involved in making them, but I don't know exactly what it would be, as I made them a while ago. Machine embroidery thread is expensive, and these use a lot, so to be fair, I'll say I've used $2.00.

For gift two--that one I'm going to have to make--no questions there. That wasn't the solution I was thinking of.

For gift three--I CAN SHOP!!!!!!! The Secret Santa exchange is on Friday, December 14, and the "no spending ban" ends on Thursday, December 13. Whoo hoo! OK, it will not be the most thoughtful, well-planned gift I have ever given, and will, in fact, be purchased at Fred Meyer on the way home from work on the 13th, but I have only one gift to make!!!! YAY! I have NEVER been this excited about going to Fred Meyer in my life!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 3 - A Problem Arises

Today we drew names for Secret Santas at my office, and we are supposed to bring in 3 gifts, one each week November 28-December 14, for our secret recipient.


How do you bring anyone a gift, let alone 3, if you can't spend any money????? What idiot came up with the bright idea to do this during the holidays?!! Oh wait, that would be me.

I really, REALLY wanted to ask for an exemption on this one, but there is a family somewhere doing this for an entire YEAR and I can't last 3 measly days?????? No, we will work around this. I can make gifts--we will find a way!

Andy says if he didn't get an exemption for epoxy, I don't get one for Christmas gifts. On December 13 I will be buying the man a CASE of epoxy for Christmas. Ho ho ho.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 2

We've survived our first day, though last night we had a discussion about whether curry powder counts as food or a "thing" (new "things" being forbidden)--it's a food--and what epoxy counts as--definitely a "thing." Even if this experiment doesn't save us any money, it does seem to be taking our conversations to a whole new level of weirdness.

We have a few more details to sort out. Andy thinks that since we are calling it the "don't buy anything new month" that used things could count. I'm more of a stickler for "non acquisition." We hadn't thought about borrowing, though I did veto Andy's idea of giving someone ELSE the money and having them send him epoxy.

My biggest adjustment so far is not having errands to run at lunchtime. Generally, I refuse to go anywhere near a store on weekends, so I have long been in the habit of picking up anything that we need during the lunch hour on weekdays. Yesterday was positively disconcerting--I may actually sit down and have lunch with someone during all this free time!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day One

With Andy's job being outsourced in July and the acquisition of an attorney to cope with the ongoing hostility/insanity that is Andy's exwife, we have decided that a tighter--or any--budget is in order. There are many ways to live on a budget--set firm rules and limits and stick to them, discuss all financial decisions before making them--but all of them tend to deal with the supply side of economics, if you will. We have decided to work on the demand side instead. For those of you who either didn't study economics or are simply bored by the whole idea, we decided to address our tendency to SPEND money, rather than the amount of money we have to spend.

NPR recently did a story about a family that decided to buy nothing new for an entire year. I believe they are writing a book on the subject, presumably with borrowed pencils and scrap paper. While we are adventurous, a year seemed a bit drastic, but we were certainly up for a month. So, today is DAY ONE.

Rules: food is exempted, as is toothpaste & the whole "personal care" product line. I realize shaving with an old razer blade for an entire month might indeed make a point, but I think that point would be "I am a very foolish person and I now need a blood transfusion."

Time: November 12 to December 12.

Last week we made a list of things we needed to acquire before the ban set in--the rest of the paint for the living room, paper for the printer, and our possessions decided to chip in with a few requests--Friday my curling iron simply exploded into non repairable pieces, and yesterday my 8-9 year old car battery decided it had lived quite long enough, getting in just under the wire. The VCR also seems to have expired recently, but that wasn't caught until this morning, so it missed the deadline and will simply not exist for the next month. Rather a bummer as I was taping a sewing show each week, and can't watch any of the existing sewing videos, but I am not going to cast off a resolution this early because the makers of JVC don't show much pride in their workmanship.

We are strong! We are committed! We will be taking EXTREMELY good care of the furnace this month......

Monday, November 5, 2007

Two Hours = 1 Seam

Yesterday I had a lovely 2-hours stretch of free time, so with that "I'm about to finish a project" thrill (which doesn't exactly rival the thrill of starting a new project, but it's light years ahead of the "I'm slogging through a project with no conceivable end in sight" doldrums), I locked myself in the sewing room with the almost-completed fleece jacket which would be quite handy right about now and which I ridiculously thought I might wear to work today.

2 hours later, I was one seam ahead of where I started out.

Step one: sew the sleeve hem in place, using a knit-friendly, ripping-out-hostile jagged seam, only to notice seconds later than I misread the directions and must rip out BOTH sleeve hems.

Step two: rip holes in fleece with seam ripper. Spend 20 minutes fixing holes with fabric glue & tweezers.

Step three: pin the sleeves correctly, sew hem. Sew cool decorative stitch using embroidery thread as described in the newest sewing book acquisition.

Step four: rip out decorative stitch that looks nothing like the pictures in the newest sewing book acquisition, and looks like embroidery done by a drug addict.

Step five: Still unwilling to do the suggested blanket stitch by hand, experiment with decorative threads in the serger, feeling VERY proud to have remembered to disengage the knives.

Step six: serge the edges

Step seven: rip out the serged edging, as it looks stupid and uneven.

Step eight: Admit that, for the day, the only thing I can successfully work in the sewing room is the CD player. Go get a nice, simple sock to knit.


You know you've reached a whole new level of gardening when you receive a wholesale catalog.....