Wants vs needs

Posted February 13th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Here we are, half way through No Spend Month and I've spent most of it wondering what part of 'No Spend' Noel doesn't understand. On one hand, he has been great, dutifully bringing me his receipts at the end of each day - but not all of them. I realised this a couple of days after we returned from holiday and I was bemoaning the fact that there was nothing but water to drink in the house. 'That's OK, you can have some of my tonic water if you like, I got some more' came the reply. 'Tonic water?' I said. 'But you never touch the stuff unless it's with... gin', I glared at him while he grinned sheepishly. 'It's No Spend Month and you spent $40 on a bottle of gin already?' 'But I have to have something! I didn't buy any beer or anything', he tried to justify himself. To make matters worse, he put it on his AMEX card, aghhhhh! And of course since then the gin has also magically been joined by red wine and beer, none of which is mine. He did try to give up smoking on the Tuesday as promised, but it turned out 'not to be the right day' so Wednesday became 'the right day'. Unfortunately we caught him redhanded at the service station when the kids and I drove through town. I had to fill my car up with petrol and, whaddya know? He was there doing the same - and trying to surreptitiously put something in his pocket. 'Why are you here are 9.30 in the morning?' I asked him. 'Ah, well... I didn't know what time the gas station closed today so thought I had better fill up early', he bumbled before driving off. Yeah right! 'Did my husband just buy some cigarettes?' I asked Mr Singh when I went to pay. 'Yes he did!' he smiled apologetically. 'I wish I didn't have to sell cigarettes in my shop but if I didn't then people would go elsewhere to buy their bread and milk too. You know what really makes me sick?' he went on. 'It's when people come here to buy cigarettes and they won't even spent 50c on a treat for their children but they happily hand over $10 or more to feed their own habit'. It's so true! I used to do the same - that's because when you're a smoker you consider cigarettes to be essential. I know I did! I used to waste heaps in petrol making mercy dashes to the service station early in the morning or late at night because I was running out of cigarettes. I use a lot less petrol now!

Needless to say, Noel has tried to give up almost every day since but it just hasn't happened. He even spent hours one evening poring over the Why Quit website and thought it was brilliant - but still couldn't get through the next morning without a smoke. I don't mean to sound like such a grumpy old moo - as Fiona pointed out to me, OK, he is having trouble cutting out his vices but there are still a lot of things he is doing really well at for No Spend Month and he is bringing me most of his receipts. The funniest saving so far has been at the hairdresser. In the last blog I mentioned that it had become necessary for him to go and get a haircut. Anyway, he came home that day quite miffed because he hadn't found a hairdresser either open or with an available appointment. 'You're just going to have to do it', he said. 'Me?! I can't do it? Why don't you just wait until tomorrow?' I said. 'Nope - I've had enough, I want it cut now', he insisted. 'Just get those clipper things out and whiz them all over'. 'The clippers? But I use those to groom the dogs!' I protested. However, he was insistent so I duly did as I was asked, even though I was extremely nervous and the light was far from ideal that evening. I couldn't bring myself to use the clippers all over so did my best with the scissors too, while the kids looked on and said encouraging things. When I had finished, he simply put his cap back on and sat down in front of the TV. 'Aren't you even going to look?' I asked. 'Nope, I don't need to, I could see the reflection in the window, it looks fine, thank you', he said. And that was that! Until the next morning dawned and he saw the full extent of my hairdressing skills. 'Hmph - don't think much of the haircut Missus!' he grumbled. 'What?! But I never wanted to do it in the first place!' I protested. To be fair, it wasn't that bad. Just as well he couldn't see the two or three bald patches I had unwittingly shaved into the back of his head. Just as well he always wears a cap too! Fortunately after a few days it had settled down nicely and even he had to admit it wasn't bad at all. I really hope he doesn't ask me to do it again though! It probably sounds as though I've been a bit hard on the poor bloke lately and you'd be right, his unhealthy vices have been annoying the heck out of me but again Fiona had a few pearls of wisdom which really helped me put things into perspective. She said not to beat myself (or Noel!) up if we don't manage to get through an entire day without spending. The point is that we try. Making a conscious effort alone still results in some serious savings. The hardest part of No Spend Month is separating your needs from your wants. Noel thinks buying cigarettes is a need, I see it as a want. We'll have to agree to disagree on that one but I'll try to go a bit easier on him from now on and encourage him instead of berating!

Anyway, apart from the aforementioned 'needs', things are looking bright. I was delighted to check the bank balance the other day and see that barely a dent had been made in it. And Noel really is trying. He's just gone away on his annual five-day fishing competition with his mates and packed half the house with him to save money on food. He took two zucchini loaves with him and even cooked himself a whole corned silverside in the crock pot so he would have plenty for sandwiches and dinners. We've both been experimenting with cooking some of our fruit and vegetable harvest too. Noel made a batch of plum jam - something I have never been brave enough to do as I always find jam recipes so lacking in instructions. Just like the recipe Noel found for the plum jam. It set 'cook to setting point' - well what was that? We had no idea and it didn't tell us anywhere so he transferred it into jars in the hope that it would set properly in time. It didn't - but it tastes wonderful! So now we have half a dozen jars of what can only be described as some sort of plum dessert sauce. At least he had better luck with his jam than I did with my tomato puree. The recipe said two kilos of tomatoes would make one litre of tomato puree. I don't know what I did but I ended up with little more than an egg-cup full. Although once again it tasted very nice and it was most rewarding spreading our home made pizzas with our very own tomato puree. Noel's first potato crop has been a real success, we shouldn't have to buy any for ages! Lunchboxes are also very cheap at the moment, full of delicious treats like plum cake and zucchini loaf and fresh apples, plums, peaches and passionfruit for the boys. I also used our bargain food dehydrator with great success to dry tomatoes and zucchini. Several people have asked me about making their own butter and cheese lately, to combat the horrendous dairy prices. I haven't had a go yet but the price of cheese is so scary we've resorted to buying cheese slices instead of the 'real thing'. Will try and find a book on the subject in the library, it could be fun!

Our freezer is also full to bursting with super cheap meat. One of Noel's clients raised a pig for us free of charge, which was very nice of him. All we had to pay for were the butcher's fees, which they charged us 'mates rates' for once they found out Noel was a stock agent, so we got an entire pig dressed, packed and frozen for $85! We have also had another huge influx of beef courtesy of our old neighbours who moved to a new property to find they also shared it with a huge and very cantankerous wild bull. Again, we only paid butcher's fees and ended up going thirds with them and another family. It might have been No Spend Month but $170 for a third of a whole beef animal was too good to miss out on. I can't imagine how much the same quantity of meat would have cost to buy from the supermarket! We are feeling very fortunate to have our few happy animals on our land at the moment. With the Waikato officially in the grip of its first ever official drought, our part of the country is suffering terribly. Many dairy farmers we know are no longer able to milk their cows, meaning they will miss out on as much as six months' income and it is costing them a fortune to feed their animals, with a single bale of hay fetching as much as $200 each at the moment. These are usually picked up easily for as little as $5! This year was supposed to be a golden one for dairy farmers, with the milk payout at a premium but instead it will be the ruin of many.

I was also able to tell Noel very proudly this week that I have paid off my car, seven months earlier than planned and saved us $1000 in interest. I am now $680 a month better off, yah! I paid off an extra $70 a week and didn't even notice the amount coming out so have decided to transfer this amount over to paying off the carpet sooner too. It's an interest-free agreement we signed up for a year ago and there is still 12 months left on it but I hate owing anyone anything these days. Noel's boat will be finally paid off at the end of this year too (after five long years, groan) so I can't wait. It will be great to finally be able to concentrate on the mortgage without all the other little stuff getting in the way. Apart from the house, by Christmas we will be officially debt-free!

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