When I was young, my father led us in a family activity that helped me create a healthier relationship with money. It was called: Austerity Month.
Austerity is an act of self denial as an economic measure. For Austerity Month we spent as little money as possible. We bought inexpensive groceries, we didn’t go out to eat, we used the spare change in the couch to go to the movies, and we didn’t purchase anything except the bare necessities.
My husband and I have continued this family tradition. In January we pick two months during the year to be Austerity Months.
In our young lean years we ate home-made refried beans, tuna casserole, and macaroni and cheese. I have to admit that over the years we’ve been a little easier on ourselves. During our Austerity Months now, we still go out to eat once a week, but we go to an inexpensive restaurant.
We get creative about doing things that are free or inexpensive. We go on picnics, walk on the beach, go to the museum on the free days, have friends over for simple food, watch the sunset, or go to the Arboretum. We enjoy what we already have: a nice yard, a comfy sofa, an eclectic collection of CDs, and good company in each other.
Through the Austerity Month process, we’ve learned that when you wait a month for a purchase, you often don’t want it the next month.
Austerity Month helps us spend less money overall for the year. But the most important thing is does is re-calibrate our relationship with money. We get in the habit of spending less all year.
We become more aware of the extravagances that creep into daily life: the lattes, the pre-cut cantaloupe, the extra magazines, sushi takeout, the salad before the entrée, the chic purse, the fancy sunglasses, the ninth lipstick. We learn that we don’t need things to be happy.
We remember what’s really important: good friends, connecting with family, and just being together.
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