So, dear readers, we finally did it.
We cut ourselves off from our credit cards.
This has been REALLY tough, especially in a place where value is measured by purchasing power rather than virtue.
Evanston, where we live, lies on Lake Michigan, right north of the City of Chicago. It is a suburb, but (and I probably say this only because I live here), it's not really that suburby. It's a city in itself, but I imagine it to be really an extension of Chicago, only with more trees and a lot less light pollution. We are right on the El and Metra lines, which shoot straight into the heart of Chicago, so, on a weekday, you can get downtown in less than forty-five minutes. Which is really saying something in traffic here.
The people are chilly, but that's to be expected in the city. After a while, you'll find those gems who remember your name and coo over your babies. Those are the keepers. We have a "local" national grocery store, where the prices are high, but the people are nice and if I don't show up with my daughters in tow, I am asked at least twice where the girls are. We have two Whole Foods (that's a long story), lots of boutiques, and the two houses on our block that went up for sale recently each sold for almost a million dollars.
I don't even want to count that high.
So we decided, after lots of tough battles with our budget, that, aside from making more money, the real exercise we need right now is to stop living beyond our means. Some of you may say, in your smarmiest tones, "Of course! what a silly notion. I never spend more than I make." To which I say, "Bravo for you. What a champion of liberty you are." But for us, and I dare say the majority of Americans, this is a difficult task.
Just look at "Black Friday." I almost felt guilty not spending money when everything was on sale.
But I got over it. And also I digress.
The easiest way we figured we could do this was to stop using our credit cards. We started it as sort of a challenge, really, in self-discipline, and it's become rather fun.
Our largest expenditure of "variable" things (i.e. not a bill) is on food, so we stopped eating out. Hard to do, mind you, in the dining capital of the North Shore. But we did it. That meant getting up earlier and cooking - not prepared food, but from scratch - breakfast and lunch. And actually planning for dinner and starting cooking before 5 PM. We don't have a microwave (that's another long story), so we heat things up with fire. It's more romantic that way, even if it takes longer.
The funnest part of it has been the meal-planning game. It goes like this:
1. Open pantry
2. Take survey of the various types of beans and legumes
3. Figure out what sort of concoction one can brew up with mung beans and a can of corn
4. Find a respectable recipe online (that poor can of corn is still there)
5. Run to the store and pick up $3 worth of extra ingredients
6. Cook dinner
7. Feel pious
Piousness is sometimes better than dessert.
So, once the bills are paid, we divvy up the remainder into those necessary but somehow the first to be cut categories, like laundry and food. It's reminiscent of the arts in public schools, no? But we manage, and it's been fun. And we've been more regular. Probably all those beans.
So take that, materialism! Pow!