Penny-pinching and personal planning
By Sophie Isbister, Staff Writer
Remember October? I do, because October was the epitome of decadence. I had three Thanksgiving dinners. Turkey, times two, and ham. It feels like just last week that I ate bowl after bowl of fun-sized Mars bars (it’s okay if they’re fun-sized!) that were supposed to be for trick-or-treaters. I attended harvest-themed dinner parties, Oktoberfest beer bashes, and hockey lockout ice cream pity parties. And now it’s November, the darkest, rainiest month here on the wet coast, and I’m thinking it’s time for a little austerity. The October hangover has set in, leaving my bank account a little smaller and my waistline a little larger.
When I hear the word “austerity,” I think of it in economic terms like “austerity measures:” I think of governments tightening their belts, depression-era grannies rationing eggs and butter, and those poor folks in Greece forced to pay luxury taxes on their pools. I don’t usually think of ways the word can apply to my personal budget and lifestyle. But this sad and cold November, I’m thinking of ways to streamline my life like only the government knows how to. By cutting costs and slashing services!
November is the best month for it. The only thing November really has going on is Remembrance Day, which seems to fit the theme of sober-saving and life reflection. The 11th month is also home to Buy Nothing Day, the long-running international campaign to crush consumer culture, and a perfect event to highlight during my month-long project. Austerity, defined as an extreme plainness and simplicity of style or appearance, is now the name of my home economy game.
When cutting personal costs and expenses, the easiest place to trim fat is in the food and drink category. The amount of money myself and the average college student usually spends on beverages is absurd. The old me wouldn’t think twice about dropping $3.50 on a Vitaminwater, but not anymore! No more coffees out, no more coconut water, smoothies, or even a two-dollar tea from Waves. No more Thai takeout on the way home from a long night at the library. And certainly no more impromptu Wednesday beer-and-nacho parties at Boston Pizza.
I pledge to be as severe and stern as a Dickensian orphanage director. I used to make excuses to go shopping: I needed a new tank top, or I needed a shower organizer. But when I think about my needs, are cheaply manufactured clothing and household goods really essential? Every time I feel like browsing Metrotown in a consumer’s frenzy, my ancient hunter-gatherer instincts propelling me to the far reaches of the mall in search of the exact right floppy hat or black flats, I’ll stop myself and ask: am I being austere? Do I really need this item now, or can it wait until December?
During November’s 30 days I’ll think of ways I can spend my time without spending my money, and I’ll share those ways here with you, dear reader. Please read along as I chronicle my latest personal experiment: Austerity Month.