Monday, April 9, 2012

My Insightful Easter Weekend

This past Easter weekend was relaxing, beneficial and exciting. My wife and I spent time at her family’s place in Michigan so we got away for the weekend out to the country for a little R&R and catching up with the family. There was also some great insight learned along the way. Good Friday was a holiday for my wife, I on the other hand worked a half day. Knowing that we would be out of town for the weekend, my wife took the lead to run a few errands while I was in the office.

In our day to day I generally take it upon myself to make our purchases. When we venture out for groceries, use the entertainment budget, etc. I carry the cash and make the purchases. In general if we have a lot of errands to run or we use up some entertainment envelope, by Sunday night I experience spending fatigue. Yes the money has already been budgeted and is sitting in our envelopes ready to be used for the month, but even without going over and staying within our set parameters, if I do a lot of spending over a weekend (to clarify, for me a lot of spending in one weekend = groceries, some clothes at salvation army, dinner out and a afternoon treat like fro-yo on a Sunday afternoon) by Sunday night I want to take a two week purge of not spending another green-back.

So if you had asked me how I felt the morning of Friday, April 6th, about my wife heading out to spend our money on her own on our errands, I would have thought, “I’m sure she’ll enjoy it, women are supposed to love this kind of stuff right?” I would soon discover how wrong I would be.

Over the course of the weekend my wife physically spent dollars out of our budget envelopes on the following: Groceries, protein shakes, lunch at Subway before getting onto a train to Michigan, tickets to get on the train to go to Michigan, (once in Michigan) fee for jewelry repair on her wedding ring and new tennis shoes.

Up to this point let me remind you that these purchases transpired between Friday morning and early Saturday afternoon. In almost a culmination of energy being spent, my wife just about comes to a standstill in the middle of Wal-Mart with me trailing behind her, as she price compared Easter chocolates. The aura around her, the look in her eyes and our ensuing conversation assured my underlying immediate thought: she’s tired of spending money.

We’ve been enemies of debt for over three years now. We pay cash for everything and plan just about all of our purchases (including splurges). Now I’ve read all of the studies examining the neurological impacts of spending money, and the comparisons between using a credit card, a debit card and cash. Before this weekend I thought, “We’ve been doing this for three years now, surely our neurology has shifted as a couple in that spending cash is not as neurologically painful as it was when we lived on credit.” Again, how wrong I was.

When we got back to the car my wife threw herself into the driver’s seat, looking and feeling as if she had just ran a marathon. She was exhausted from the physical act of spending money, and did not want to spend another dime that we didn’t need to spend. I know, I know, all of you married guys out there are asking, “Dude, how did you do that and can you write a manual?”

The short answer is this: in living on a zero based budget, prioritizing our wants/needs/dreams/goals, and sharing with each other through an open dialogue our shared values as individual people and as a couple, we are on the same page when it comes to how we want to spend our money. The result is that we have become cost conscious. We do everything we can to stretch every single spending category every single month, while at the same time we want more “bang for our buck.”

But we are also informed and empowered consumers. We stopped eating pink slime about two years ago for the same reasons everyone else is now. We buy clothes are re-sale shops to avoid paying 3,000% at cost mark-ups shopping on the Magnificent Mile. We cut the cable and don’t watch television to ensure we make time to stay connected in our marriage. And we also make purchases that are in line with our anti-consumerism values.

For Easter this hit specifically with chocolate, and where I think the rubber hit the road with my wife. All women love chocolate, of this I am convinced. So when my wife was debating on which kinds to stock up on, she hit a wall. Global Exchange can give you more info, but most of the big boys in the chocolate industry like Hershey’s, World’s Finest and Nestle (indirectly thru their vendors or directly thru their own subsidiaries) use child slave labor in their cocoa production. I know my wife’s heart just about broke looking around Wal-Mart, seeing American school aged children running around carrying their own weight in chocolate, unknowing (or uncaring?) that the products they love were made by their peers in 3rd world countries under inhumane working conditions.

Our way to combat this: Hit Nestle’s, World’s Finest and Hershey’s bottom line. We don’t spend a single dollar of our hard earned money on any of their products and instead go out of our way to buy certified fair trade chocolate. My wife’s cocoa of choice is Divine Chocolate!!Yes we will go out of our way to spend a little bit more on a product we enjoy, with a company whose values are in line with ours. So hopefully over the course of our lifetime, and maybe thru sharing this with a few friends we make along the way J we can bankrupt chocolate companies that use INDIRECTLY OR DIRECTLY child slave labor. Yes together we can bankrupt them, because companies that are uncaring enough that use child slave labor, are also stupid enough to use debt in their business operations J

Happy chocolate hunting everyone!

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