I rarely spend money without first planning for it. Having been on such a tight budget for so long means that I usually have to pry my wallet open. I don’t go shopping unless I need something in particular, and I hate when unexpected expenses pop up.
Even grocery shopping entails about 30 minutes of clipping coupons and writing a list of items by department. Saving $20 at the grocery store could be the difference between being able to pay the utility bill on time or facing over-draft charges. Every purchase for our home is usually calculated, literally and figuratively, into our finances, because we don’t have much wiggle room in our budget for error.
A bunch of home-bodies
What this boils down to is that, as a family, we aren’t very spontaneous. Both because of our tight budget and my husband’s erratic work schedule, we don’t just pick up and travel on a whim. We’re very much home-bodies who would rather rent a red-box movie than go to the theater. Most of our day off activities are free or really inexpensive and planned in advance. Now that I have kids, I have a tendency to equate spontaneity with wasted money and poor financial choices.
Ditching the deliberate and dull
As newlyweds we did a fair bit of spontaneous travel and made impulsive purchases. While not always the most responsible, spontaneous use of our money was fun. Spontaneity keeps life interesting and fresh. Being willing to jump up at a moment’s notice and take off helps rub the sheen back into a dull life. Until last night, we hadn’t done anything spontaneous in a painfully long time.
Last night we had finished the post-dinner routine, and the kids were watching a cartoon. Since I had a free minute, and inspired by an article by Carrie of Careful Cents to create a productive work space, I got on Craigslist to see if I could find an inexpensive desk or entry table that I could buy to use as my own work space. We have a desk in our office, but my husband’s desktop computer takes up the whole surface, and it’s in the den where the kids tend to spend quite a bit of their time. I have a hard time getting work done in that room while the kids are awake.
After only about 10 minutes of different search terms, I found a beautiful, solid wood desk, with the exact dimensions I needed, listed for only $25. At 7:30 last night I called the sellers to see if the desk was still available. It was, but they were selling it out of Richmond, and they were moving so they needed it gone immediately. She sent me the address, and I told her that we would be there by 9:30.
So, instead of quiet, lazy bedtime routine, we quickly got our kids in their jammies, brushed their teeth, and piled everyone in the van for a three hour round trip to Richmond and back. Since it was his bedtime anyway, our son fell asleep before we even reached the highway. Our daughter chatted our ears off from the back seat the whole way to Richmond. Getting in the car that late, with no prior notice, was like a shot of adrenaline for her. She was so excited to watch the sunset come down over the trees and watch the deer grazing the edge of the tree line. We danced to music, talked, and enjoyed this spontaneous adventure as a family.
Our daughter fell asleep after we had gotten the desk, so my husband and I had a solid hour and a half ride home uninterrupted by kids, phones, computers, or the television. For $25 for the desk and $20 in gas, round-trip, I have a beautiful, solid wood desk and a fun memory of that time we allowed ourselves to be spontaneous again.
Being spontaneous can save you money
Sometimes you can still be frugal while also being a bit spontaneous. Not only did life unexpectedly give me the opportunity to save some money, but going for a late night trip to pick up a desk off of Craigslist was like a breath of fresh air for the whole family. The experience put a pep in my step, I don’t have quite as bad of a case of the “Mondays” today, and I have a beautiful desk to organize as my own work space.