Trying to stick to a budget can be a transformative experience. This is how I learned to save money, love the beach, and a few other stories.
I’m an A type personality. For most of my life, my existence has been a constant fight against boredom and a strange sort of purposeless melancholy I fall into when I don’t need to work. Live in the moment? Not something I do well. Patience? I don’t do that well either. In order to be amiable I have often drugged myself with sleep deprivation and intense workouts. I’ve found this tends to slow down my thoughts and actions and makes me more inclined to “go with the flow.”
Because of this, most activities that people do together I’ve secretly found incredibly dull. Recreational hiking? Um, can’t we make this a workout and go faster? Hanging out and drinking beer? Hey, where is the dancing? Can’t we talk about work? I like work! And going to the beach? Don’t even get me started. It’s 15 minutes of maybe feeling hot in a bikini, then the rest doesn’t make any sense. Are we surfing? Are we swimming across the lake? If not, why are we doing this? I don’t frolic. It’s hot, and sandy, and I can’t eat ice cream because I’m in a bikini. Can’t I just read an interesting book AT HOME?
But recently something has changed. And I kind of like it. And the funny thing is, this all changed because of my budget.
I currently live in Sacramento CA, in a tiny 205 ft^2 apartment. That’s right. A fancy dorm room, essentially. My windows are single pane, and have tiny holes in the sides that stink bugs sometimes crawl through. This makes air conditioning both ineffective and expensive, so whether 85 degree or 105 degree heat, I endure. Processed foods are a luxury and an in room washer and drying a dream. Half my Sunday is spent cooking food from scratch for the week, and lugging my laundry bags through the aforementioned 105 degree heat to the laundromat and back. I don’t have internet, just enough data on my phone for e-mails and a little blog research. No TV. If I want to watch something I have to go to the theater downtown, the nearby Starbucks with wifi, or bike to the library to pick up a free DVD. Sometimes I splurge on a redbox. I stitch up any clothes I can feasibly repair, from socks and underwear to bras and spandex. When I clothes shop it is at the local goodwill. When my boyfriend (Jesse) visits from Portland OR, if we want to go somewhere, we walk or take a bus.
I first realized the change last weekend, when Jesse came to visit. There is a sand bar on the river in downtown Sacramento where people swim. On my long runs, continuing my days of constant sweating by adding yet more sweating, I looked at the cool water longingly. On this particular visit I told Jesse I wanted to run the 3 miles down there and jump in. He gamely agreed. It was 95 degrees out. We ran, more like a shuffle from the heat, and ran into the water at the end. The cold made our hearts race. Cool for the first time in a week for me, 2 days for Jesse, we sat on the sunny bank drinking cool Kumbucha, and I smiled at the goosebumps all over Jesse’s chest. I like this, I remember thinking, I really do! And as I watched all the kids playing at the beach, enjoying the break from the sweltering heat, I realized that I wanted to go back.
I cook now, out of necessity yes, but I’ve learned to look forward to my weekly bouts of slaving over a hot stove. When my apartment gets too hot, I pull out a blanket and lay outside in the back yard under an umbrella. The heat makes me spend more time outside, how crazy is that? I wear dresses and skirts because they are much easier to find resale then shorts and pants. I read so much more now than I used to. I like going to the beach. On my walks to the laundry mat I have favorite houses that I pass, who have beautiful gardens. Yesterday as some friends and I ate gelato at Devine Gelateria & Café (wickedly amazingly good!) a hummingbird paused to drink out of a feeder. I stopped talking and watched for a full minute or so before he flew away, amazed at the beat of his tiny wings.
If you see me walk by on the street, you’ll see a tan athletic looking girl in a breezy dress, looking at flowers or getting excited about a newly found organic juice shop. You might believe me to be a carefree, outdoorsy, happy and home raised California girl. Who would believe my natural inclination to be a melancholy, stay at home, isolationist and unathletic workaholic?
I think I am beginning to understand why there are so many articles on the younger generations being over stimulated. It’s like when you have pancakes, and drink orange juice afterwards. Both are sweet and good, but too close together and it doesn’t work. I used to look at clouds, remember of pictures I’ve seen, and think they looked fake. Now I just think they look like bunnies or dragons. I can get satisfaction from a good patch of shade, a flower, a tomato taking shape in my garden, or a good baking venture. My brain hasn’t slowed down, on the contrary, it’s spinning with ideas on how to make this simple life work, and how to use what I’ve learned to help better myself and my community. There is a very old song I once heard on a Sunday morning with a small group of Quakers, and I’d like to share it with all of you.
I’ve worked very hard to make this budget work and to keep buying organic and from good companies with good business policies. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, but in the end, I seem to be bettering myself as well as my wallet. A good budget and a simple life is (as cliché as it sounds) both a journey and an end result. And at the end, you may be a very different person. And you know what? You might like yourself, and how cool would that be?
This Week In Updates
Easy budget week this week, because I’m leaving next week early and I didn’t need too many core items. I was out of rec money, so I cut into the grocery budget for a movie ticket to see Inside Out, WHICH I LOVED. I highly recommend it. I did some exploring and yes, bulk spices are way cheaper that the individual bottles. I bought ginger in order to up my rice and bean curry game. I’m trying to get away from Safeway and their organic grapefruit, because recent research suggests that buying organic from a large company like safeway isn’t really that much better than buying non organic. (That might be next week’s blog post!) Thus, I got a $6 container of Odwalla smoothie, only to realize later that they are not organic either! Oh well. Their business practices are not that bad. But I really am going to have to play around with the whole fruit produce thing in order to try and buy whole organic fruit from good companies. Maybe I’ll have to eat peaches or something. Bleh. But if I can learn to love grapefruit, I suppose anything is possible!
The Recipe: From Scratch Spicy Pesto Burritos
I used the basil from my garden for this, and it was fantastic! I loved seeing the whole thing come together; from a bunch of dried and raw ingredients to a real yummy dinner. This is certainly labor intensive, but most of these ingredients you should have laying around your kitchen anyway. If you have the time, try a little break away from the norm, and make some delicious burritos! Makes 4-5 burritos.
- 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 cups cooked beans
- 1 cup cooked rice
- one large handful of fresh basil
- Siracha to taste
- Mustard greens or other green
To make the tortillas, mix flour, oil, and water together. Roll with your palms into 4-5 balls, depending on how large you want your tortillas to be. Heat up a skillet and coat with a light amount of the olive oil. Roll out the flour balls with a rolling pin, and cook the flattened tortillas on the skillet, flipping when they get slightly puffy and brown.
Cut up and saute the greens until soft.
For the beans, mash them with a fork, and mix them with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and siracha. This makes basically a mock refried bean, and they’ll be easier to put into the tortillas.
To make an easy pesto sauce, put the basil and a few tablespoons of olive oil into a blender and mix until smooth.
Put some of the “refried beans” into each tortilla, then rice, then greens, and then the pesto sauce. Roll up and enjoy!