We’re on week 3 of Ruth Soukup’s 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge, and it’s crafting week. Just like cleaning week, here’s a week of daily tasks that make me feel utterly lost. Despite Ruth’s assurances that if I do my best, I’ll be proud of the results, I just can’t bring myself to get inspired to create something beautiful. If I can’t go with beautiful, I’ll go with practical crafting. What’s the one thing I always need at my house?
My Mom was an amazingly artistic person. She drew, painted, sewed, knit, quilted, and did pottery. While she had many jobs, her career included working in the art department of an advertising agency and teaching art to junior high kids. I have many beautiful objects she created in my home, and they help keep her spirit alive for me.
Alas, I am an indifferent artist at best. My brother is the child who inherited her artistic talent. I do one craft: knitting. I enjoy it, I’m not bad at it, and it connects me with Mom. I’ll never wow you with my knitting speed or design skills, but given enough time I can manage to put together serviceable hats, scarves, socks and purses.
Knowing we were in a no-spend month for October, I committed myself to making Little Bit’s Halloween costume this year. She wants to be Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6, and I figured that could add a horned hat and a purse to some of the numerous purple outfits my daughter owns to round out the superhero costume. I admit, I bought the yarn in September specifically for this project, so it’s not really stretching my repurposing skills. It’s also not cheap. I think I could have bought a costume for a lot less money, but she’ll be able to use the hat and purse for a lot longer.
So far, I’ve got the hat knitted, and I’ve started the bag. Knitting can be time-consuming, and I have no idea whether I can get Bit’s costume together in the two weeks I have left before Halloween. I’m reasonably sure I won’t have the bag finished by next Saturday for our church’s Halloween party. I thought about making a backup Honey Lemon purse as part of my repurposing challenge, but I have a purse that will work just fine if I tape a “control panel” on it. Bam, problem solved! It almost meets the Day 15 challenge of refashioning your wardrobe.
I glanced through the list of inspirational projects for Day 16. It left me feeling more bereft than inspired. You know what craft supplies I have at my house? Printer paper, crayons, and markers. Some brown paper bags. Scissors. Lots and lots of yarn. And plenty of food. I figured it was time to be practical about what we could use around my house.
Time to Make Play Dough.
There are four great things about making play dough.
- It’s really more cooking than crafting. I may not feel like I have the time or talent for Pinterest-worthy crafting, but cooking I can do. I mean, the recipe uses a microwave. I can handle that.
- I always have the ingredients on hand, and they are super cheap: flour, salt, vegetable oil and a little cream of tartar.
- It’s quick. 15 Minutes and you’re done.
- If you have kids, they can always use more play dough to replace the stuff that’s dried out or mixed into some revolting color like puke purple or gan-green.
So I grabbed Little Bit, and we started mixing up some Play Dough. About 15 minutes later, she had about 2 containers worth of bright green play dough. Thanks to a little vanilla extract, it even smelled better than the store-bought stuff. We’ll throw it in a zip-lock baggie and it’ll last for months (or until she leaves it out overnight.)
Not Everyone is Distracted by the Same Things
I love the idea of the Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge, but the way it is set up skews heavily toward the domestic arts. I understand that for a lot of us, the challenge can start feeling a little claustrophobic. We’re used to getting out and doing stuff that costs money, and we tend to use those little excursions to cure boredom. We forget how to entertain ourselves without spending money, so Ruth is sharing ideas to combat the boredom that can lead to spending. For 31 days, we get activities that will keep us focused on other things so we don’t indulge in shopping therapy.
The problem is that not everyone feels distracted by the same things. Some people are going to be in craft heaven and some people are going to say “Well, I guess I can just make Play Dough.” Some people are going to look at Day 17’s learn something new challenge and spend the day in the library, and others will watch a 3 minute YouTube video. (I’m was studying for midterm for a tax prep class this weekend, so I think that qualifies) Not everything works for everyone, and you may need some additional distractions. Here’s 4 quick and easy suggestions:
- Take a walk. Get that body moving in the great outdoors. It’s free, it’s healthy and it gets you out of the house. Going for a walk, whether it’s at the park or in my neighborhood, helps satisfy my need to get out without spending money. Whether you take a picnic and make a day of it, or stroll around the block, it’s a great way of changing your focus and relaxing.
- Play an offline game. Okay, don’t go out and buy a game. But most people have something around the house: chess, Chutes and Ladders, or a deck of cards. Playing games is social, and can be a good way to relax. For a lot of people, it’s a definite change from the ordinary.
- Have a bonfire: You need the weather to cooperate to do this safely: not too wet, not too dry, and not too windy.We enjoy cozying up to a good bonfire, though, especially on cool, crisp evenings. Pick up your fallen tree branches, and spend the evening sitting around something other than the TV. It’s relaxing and healthy.
- Clean up your inbox: If you’re like me, you are bombarded with unwanted emails dozens of times a day, all wanting you to buy something. It’s great that Gmail segregates those into the promotions folder, but I still have to sort through junk to find the promotions that actually interest me. So spend a little time unsubscribing from those emails you never look at. It will make life easier.
Other Aspects of the Challenge: Still Saving Money but Having Spending Fantasies
We are still managing to keep the non-food, non-bill , non-renovation spending to a tank of gas and the $1.07 spent on Little Bit’s plastic snake on October 1. Said plastic snake has not made an appearance lately, but I’m keeping a wary eye out. Halloween is coming, and I’m sure there’s a trick involving the snake coming my way.
The house renovation is moving along. Jon got a dishwasher hooked up in our kitchen for the first time EVER, and I now have a functioning kitchen sink! I am ridiculously happy and grateful to have a dishwasher for the first time in 5 years. It should make it easier to clean our kitchen and bathroom (where we were washing dishes while the kitchen was out of commission).
Groceries continue to be our biggest challenge. We spent $5 on additional milk, and we seem to run out of our standard fare in about 6 days rather than 7. We managed to eke out the full week, but I was missing my coffee cream this morning. We’re headed for the grocery store later today. Thank goodness for my in-laws. They usually have us over twice a week, so we’ve gotten our junk food and takeout pizza fixes over there without spending any money. I feel a little guilty, but before we were spending more money even though we were spending about the same amount of time with them.
On the cooking front, we’re still doing interesting things, and I broke out the bread machine now that we have a working kitchen sink. I made bread with honey butter for a teacher appreciation luncheon at my daughter’s school, and have been hunting down pizza crust recipes for tonight’s dinner. We’ve been trying to switch away from ANY white bread, even pizza crust. Making our own pizza dough should help us manage that. In the meantime, I have some lovely brown bread baking.
I have fewer reflections this week, with less new stuff to think about. Being more than half way through the month, I’m finding myself fantasizing about November 1 purchases, which tells me I still have a lot to learn over the next two weeks. I think that sort of defeats the purpose, right? I’m supposed to be learning new spending habits, not just putting off old ones. I may not manage a life filled with crafty goodness, but I think I can still have a frugal one. I just need to make sure I’m working the challenges in the best way for my family, even if it means the Jividens are more interested in playing than Pinterest.
How are you doing with the challenges? Do you use alternative activities for the days the emails seem less applicable to your own situation? What’s your favorite way of distracting yourself when you find yourself wanting to spend money?