Old Habits Die Hard

This is harder than I thought it would be.

After a week of challenging myself to siphon off 100% of my non-essential spending, I must admit I am finding the challenge difficult. Both to keep track of, and cope with.

So far since Monday I have incurred the following costs:

  • £2.80 for lunch on Tuesday
  • £2.99 for lunch on Wednesday
  • £3 from 3 10-minute showers
  • £3 for some beers I bought last night
  • 60p for a chocolate bar on Monday evening
  • £3.50 for a magazine this morning
  • £0.90 for a bottle of drink this morning

That’s a total of £16.79 in 4 days, averaging at £4.20 a day. That’s a bit of a shock to the system! I definitely need to cut back on that.

The biggest hitter (unsurprisingly) is food. I’m always buying food. I should learn to be better prepared. It doesn’t take long to make lunch, or remember to pack a snack. The £3.50 magazine was an interesting one – I woke up this morning on the wrong side of bed, so I bought it to cheer myself up. I wonder if there are cheaper and/or better ways to do that (but that’s a whole new blog).

The other thing that surprises me is that a part of me resents the idea of giving the money away.
There are two reasons I can see for that:

  1. I don’t want to give it away. It’s my money, I earned it and I need it to sustain the lifestyle that I currently have. I live at my means, and I like it.
  2. I don’t know the people I am giving it to. I have no experience of them, their lives, their plight or their needs. So my heart is not pulled as much as I would like it to be.

I suppose the first of those two is a point of character building. I need to de-construct my selfish approach that focuses on over-consumption (beyond the means of the planet and a fair economy). That’s going to take time and experience to work through. But I will press on with that.

The second is a bit more difficult. I could travel out to Africa to help – but I would just be another westerner coming in for a couple of weeks, and then disappearing again. I wonder how much of a help I would actually be. Then again, if it enables me to care for them in such a way that my heart hurts when I, my culture or society do anything that hurts them – maybe it would be worth it. What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Old Habits Die Hard

  1. Personally i favor the direct approach of understanding the needs of the people you are going to be giving to, as you rightly say you cant understand the issues if you haven’t experienced it. I see your point about being yet another westerner just lending a hand and then going back home. A suggestion is to put a consented effort into actually living out there, for say 3/6 months. Look at a long term mission to an area like Haiti. Either that or gain a direct connection with a child or group out there perhaps World Vision can help with that.

    As for day to day cash that gets used for sundries, why not set up a bank card (for example an O2 Money card, or ) that just has a days worth of cash that you know you will need. Do not take any other cash with out with you, just the money you have allotted to yourself that day. At the end of the day, transfer the money that you would have spent to a Kiva project, that way you will be able to see that change happen. Yes I know its a Loan, but its one of the only ways to directly see a benefit in the way you are describing needed to.

  2. I find that unless I go out with other people I don’t really tend to spend much during the week. Also I am currently writing my thesis at home so I basically just go to ASDA once a week and then out for a drink once or twice a week. So if I cut back my non-essential spending I would either never see my friends or be drinking water… Neither of which, I admit, is a very palatable option!

    I think you are right (in the next blog post, not this one) that this exercise is making you more grateful for the things you do already have, as well as making you aware of how much you spend unnecessarily.

    My personal preference would be to save some of that money for a rainy day – or maybe you could save some of it towards a future volunteer trip, such as those Adam suggests? (Seeing as often the volunteer does need to contribute towards their own travel costs…)

    • I should also add that I’m not advocating cutting spending on non-essentials completely! Just cutting down, which in my case isn’t so much on the beers out or the cinema trips – I’m happy to let those be – but it’s more about the things that add no real value to our lives.

  3. Sure, you’re right – it comes down to the lifestyle you currently live. For me, I commute to and from work every day and in that process alone I am tempted by the bus, the papers, a coffee, a bacon sandwich and then on the way home as well. The thing about having a job, I have found, is that it is always easy to live at your means.

    It’s easy to spend the money you have. It’s a lot harder to try and give any of it away. My personal preference would certainly be to save the money for a rainy day, but the fact is that even if I have no savings my life here in the UK is so much better than that of many others, and so I consider this to be a relatively small sacrifice in comparison.

    I will do another volunteering trip at some point, I absolutely loved helping out in Romania. But I think the sheer gulf in lifestyle between the ‘west’ and the ‘rest’ is too large for me to continue living the way I do.

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