Small change


Image: Su Leslie 2018

The Big T and I are not extravagant people, but it is still alarming how quickly money disappears. I don’t just mean on the big things (like insurance premiums — gasp), but all the small stuff that plastic cards and years of living in relative financial comfort have rendered invisible.

So, while T is away on business for ten days, I’ve put away my bank and credit cards, banned all internet shopping and am going cash-only. I’ve picked $100 as my budget for the period, since it’s a nice easy number to deal with.

Let me emphasize: this is NOT an attempt to “experience” poverty or real hardship. All the big bills will still be paid by direct debit, I have access to money for emergencies, and I’m starting from a position of comfort and abundance. I have gas in my car, food in the pantry, a well-equipped kitchen and an (insulated) roof over my head.

I’m hoping that by only having cash, I will be more aware of how much things costs, more mindful of my actual needs, less wasteful, and perhaps more innovative in finding alternatives to throwing money at a problem.

The first couple of days proved to be easy. I had a list of projects that needed my attention and I just didn’t go out. There were plenty of ingredients for meals in the fridge and pantry and I’ve eaten well.


Using up the odds and ends in a salad. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Today is rubbish collection day and we were out of rubbish bags. We don’t actually produce much waste for the Council collection, but what’s there stank a bit, so I went shopping.


Rubbish bags, milk, broccoli, garlic and potato/kumara to try different starters for rewena paraoa — Maori bread. Image: Su Leslie 2018

The garlic was essential; we’d run out. The broccoli and milk probably constitute luxuries — the former will make a nice change from home-grown silverbeet and kale, while the latter enables my daily flat-white fix (unless I run out of cash AND coffee beans before T gets home). The potato and kumara are proof that I’m not immune to impulse buying though — I’ve wanted to try making rewena paraoa for a while, but I don’t HAVE to do it this week.

On one hand, this project/experiment/challenge is a bit disingenuous — I have a safety net that’s not available to people who are genuinely trying to survive on very low incomes.

But on the other hand, if I can make do with less — less money, less stuff, less waste — then that is a good thing.

Small change for big changes perhaps.

Posted to Lens-Artists | changing


35 thoughts on “Small change

  1. Internet shopping makes it far too easy to spend money! Though I like to think that I am fairly careful about what I buy there may have been a few impulse purchases for the garden this year (and I have a couple of even more expensive purchases in mind for the revamped conservatory…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Especially here in NZ where a lot of stuff is quite expensive, internet shopping from overseas stores can be much cheaper, and it’s so easy to buy more because of that. It’s like having a doughnut after you’ve been to the gym — a totally spurious reward. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting, I have always used cash, we both donate X amount each week into the housekeeping kitty. (That I have in my hot little hand!!!) I have an app that I can keep track of where it goes. I don’t track it every week, but it is quite a good exercise now and then to see what I am spending on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to do a similar exercise years ago whenever I felt like my spending was much too frivolous. It’s humbling to be confined to a strict budget and I like you I discovered the first few days were relatively easy but it got progressively harder in subsequent days.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve tried this. Perhaps it’s time to challenge myself again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Small change for big impact indeed !
    Enjoyed hearing about your project and it models mindfulness and openness (to share and give ideas to others)
    I just took a photo of a lady who only had one small baggie of trash for a year! Whoa – but it inspired me to use real coffee mugs and spoons when I have drinks or soup with students – a little
    More work but I need to model for them!
    Hope your project is unfolding well –
    Oh and a while back I had to pay three tolls each way on a commute – one day I forgot the chip gadget that hangs in the window and I had to pay cash for the tolls!
    It was a good thing to happen because I realized how much I was spending on tolls! Actually handing over the cash was sobering –
    Right after that I took three non toll route when traffic was light and then was down to only two days

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m impressed by anyone who can reduce their trash so much.

      We recycle, compost, and try pretty hard to avoid single-use stuff, but we still generate rubbish. Our collection system changed recently and is now based mainly on large plastic bins with pre-pay stickers. It would take us between 9-12 weeks to fill a bin, and since our trash occasionally includes food scraps that can’t be composted, it would smell really bad before we could fill it enough to put out. I really should ask one of my neighbours if I can pay them a few bucks to put our rubbish with theirs; it’s probably the most cost-effective solution, but I keep leaving it too late.
      I think we all need an equivalent of your toll experience sometimes. The old “out of sight, out of mind” saying is very true.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – would be a good idea to add to your neighbors (could be win win)
        And after reading your reply (and my toll experience) and your post – it reminds me again being mindful is key – raising awareness –
        And I just bought some small Japanese coffee mugs so I am officially going to have students not use styro or paper cups anymore – they take a mug from my bin – use it – wash it when done – and I’ll sanitize them at home – something like that


  5. Pingback: Kitchen medicine | Zimmerbitch

  6. Oh my God! You have penguins on your bills?! How could you ever use plastic money??? 😂 Although if I had those bills, I’d probably end up keeping them just to look at them – lol! They’re so sweet 😄🐧
    And what an interesting project. I remember being so broke once during my studies that I actually took some toilet paper with me from uni… 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Penguins on the five;
      NZ$10 – Blue Duck / Whio
      NZ$20 – New Zealand Falcon / Karearea
      NZ$50 – Blue Wattled Crow / Kokako
      NZ$100 – Yellowhead / Mohua
      I remember the broke uni days. Just before I started one term I painted my nails. Then I realised I had no polish remover and couldn’t afford to buy any until our allowance was paid. My nails looked hideous by the end of term ☹️

      Liked by 1 person

      • OMG!! Now I need to get my hands on all those bills! LOL! 😀 We used to have portraits of historically important people on the Deutsche Mark bills but then the Euro came along and they are only covered with architectural fragments of one kind or another. Not very imaginative.
        Ouch! That sounds familiar with the nail polish. 😉 But I found a good trick: just apply a new coating and while it´s still wet you can rub the polish off, the old as well as the new one. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe. We have portraits on the other sides. Sir Edmund Hillary is on the five; Kate Sheppard (our most famous suffragette) is on ten; the Queen’s on twenty; Sir Apirana Ngata (a Maori lawyer and politician) is on the fifty and Ernest Rutherford (Nobel-winning physicist) is on the hundred. I think the queen used to be on all of them, but the currency got redesigned a few years ago and it’s now quite cool.
        Thanks for the nail polish trick! I don’t wear nail polish any more; it seems to dehydrate my nails really badly and they split and flake for months afterwards. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • Even more awesome!! I think I really need to move to NZ!! 😀
        And I know what you mean with nail polish dehydrating the nails too much, I´ve got the same problem and wear some only once in a while – a big while! But sometimes I just can´t resist, I really love wearing it, but I have to pay afterwards. 😉 Just now I have them painted black!!

        Liked by 1 person

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