Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Miserly Month

Note from Andrew - "For the first time, this blog has a guest writer. Be nice to her."

by Jen

Hi, everyone in Internet Land! My name is Jen. I'm Andrew's girlfriend. (Yes, I won the dating lottery. Don't ask how many tickets I bought. Lol!)

Andrew did a project in July that he called his 'Miserly Month'. He said he wouldn't spend any money and that he would write about it on his blog. Well, the year's nearly over and there's still no sign of any article.

"Where's your article?" I asked him about an hour ago. "I really want to read it."
"Here's my article," he said, throwing a dog-eared notepad at me. Receipts and post-it notes showered in its wake, like sparks from a comet. "You write it if it's so easy. Go on! Write it. See what happens."

I used to like writing. I mostly did poems about ponies and homoerotic Westlife fanfiction. "Fine," I said, "I will. As soon as I find my crayons."

Setting the Record Straight

Since I'm here, I'd like to make sure everyone knows that things Andrew writes about me aren't always true. 

First, I'm not a dwarf - I'm 164 Swiss centimetres tall and can reach almost all the shelves in a supermarket. Second, all the stuff about me getting furiously angry about inconsequential things is only true according to a very narrow definition of the word true.

Events Leading to Miserly Month

Andrew had been reading a subversive blog called Mr Money Mustache for a couple of weeks. Its idea is to furiously squirrel away money until you can quit working. Sometimes Andrew would look up from his phone and say things like 'this guy in Milwaukee sold all his chairs and now he just squats' or 'this guy in Denmark harvests his own toenails and sells them to churches as confetti.'

After reading the entire blog from start to end, he jumped out of bed.

He stormed around the flat looking at things, questioning if we needed them, querying the cost of everything. Where do we buy our milk? What's the EBITDA on these houseplants? Why do we need two frying pans? ("One's for chicken eggs, one's for ducks.") We never use this table! ("I use it every day but you never notice.") Why do we have ornaments? ("They're cute and pretty.") How much do we spend on toaster oil? ("Nothing, that's not a real thing.") Could we sell this used cardboard? Could we wall off half the flat to save on heating? 

And on and on. I began to wonder where this process would end. It was easy to picture Future Andrew very very clearly.

Future Andrew

After working himself up into some kind of financial frenzy, near the end of June he said, "Oh, by the way, I'm not going to spend any money in July." 

I'll admit that I freaked out. I wanted to yell, "I don't want to use junk mail as toilet paper!" I wanted to shout, "I don't want to take baths in reclaimed rainwater!" I wanted to scream, "I'm a girl! I like soft furnishings and creams that cost more per kilo than plutonium! You're supposed to make my life better not drag me into your whirlpool of craziness!" 

But I couldn't form the words. I ran out of the flat sprinted to the nearest shop and bought a cake and ate the cake right there at the checkout while the woman watched me eat the cake and said I had cake on my chin

My Experience of Miserly Month

It's fair to say I was dreading July, but it started quite normally. As always, I woke up giggling because of a dream (this time about a pair of crime-solving ponies who told me secrets), and started getting ready for work. 

I was surprised to find Andrew in the kitchen making a packed lunch. He never did that. He told me that normally he'd spend 15 francs at Subway. 15 francs! My mouth dropped open and it took me a moment to realise he was trying to wrap some grapes in greaseproof paper. I showed him where the clingfilm was and left.

When I got home I asked him about his day, looking for clues that he was slowly turning into a tramp. I was perplexed to hear that he had bought a new iPhone. "What's miserly about buying the most expensive phone on the market?" I asked. He said that "because of reasons" it was actually only going to cost him 70 francs and he thought it was worth it to skip two generations of phone.

I started to wonder if I'd misjudged this miserliness thing. You can be frugal and have nice things?

The days passed. We were supposed to meet a friend for drinks. "I don't want to spend silly money in a bar," said Andrew. Aha! I thought to myself. Now I can get angry at him and have one of those dramatic episodes I enjoy so much. But he continued, "So I bought some little bottles of prosecco and some snacks. We'll sit by the river." "Oh," I said, quite disappointed, "That actually sounds lovely."

His main target for savings seemed to be food. He encouraged me to make healthy things for dinner and to make big portions so he could eat leftovers for lunch the next day.

sensed an opportunity to break his spirit and end this stingy stupidity - I cooked lentils night after night after night.

On the sixth day I held a bag of red lentils behind my back. "Andrew, guess what's for dinner?" I revealed the bland, lifeless legumes.
"Oh," he said, his face crumpling. "Lentils. That's... really great. Cheap and healthy. Yes, sir, cheap and healthy." He went to his computer, opened a financial spreadsheet and stared at it while rubbing his temples.

The next day he came back from Aldi with a bag of groceries. "Look," he said, "They have lentils in Aldi. Half the price." We stared at each other for a very long time. I cleared my throat - "I was thinking we could phone a pizza tonight. Um... my treat."

So Andrew won that round, but who won the war? 


Andrew spent 280 francs in July, which included a haircut (I didn't notice), 3 giant tubs of ice-cream (unshared) and 2 pizzas. About a third of what he'd normally spend. Not zero francs, then, but not bad. (For comparison, know that I spend 90 francs a month on cake, pony ornaments, and my Westlife Uberfanclub membership.)

Eating all my delicious veggie food helped him lose two kilos - his belly was getting almost ripped. It's back to flabby now because in the meantime we had two holidays and a stressful move. But he's still fairly frugal, and a good thing too with all the bills we've had.

I'm not 100% on board the frugality train, but at least I've learned that it's clean and the seats are comfy. (We just bought a premium sofa for half price - yay!)

Most of all, I've learned not to be such a drama queen babyhead and to trust in Andrew and the wisdom of all his plans and whims.

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