April 25, 2011 by Leah
Our latest financial scheme is brought to you by Big Love. For serious.
Aaron and I like to watch TV on DVDs. Partly this is because we don’t have any means of getting TV in other ways (this is by choice), and partly it’s because there are no commercials and we can watch four episodes in a row if we want (this is not so good for our sleep schedules). We just powered through Mad Men and are now taking Big Love at a slightly more leisurely pace since we bought the first three seasons for $12 (I can’t remember if that was total or each) at our local Blockbuster’s going-out-of-business sale. (We also got Season Three of Mad Men because Netflix was screwing up royally in the middle of a critical plot juncture. Netflix has excellent customer service, by the way.)
So, as anyone knows who has watched or heard of Big Love, it’s about polygamists attempting to live a “normal” life in Salt Lake City. I find I can’t watch it without thinking of the enormous financial burden of maintaining three households and seven or more children. All the wives have lovely bedroom furniture, and I could barely bring myself to buy our bed frame and side tables new. (I did, and I love them, but still.)
There’s an interesting subplot in a couple of episodes about how one of the wives gets into credit card debt. (She was raised on a compound, so it’s to be expected she never learned to handle money. I don’t have the same excuse.) Though her debt seems – magically – to vanish, the writers occasionally refer back to her poor money-handling skills. At one point in the dialogue, the husband says to one of the wives, “she gets the same $850 a month as the rest of you.” This struck me as a good idea, so I told Aaron he should give me an allowance and then I’d have to stick with it (I do 96% of our shopping). He was bemused, but decided $150 a week would be enough for sustainable eating and probably slightly less than we currently spend. I thought this was an excellent figure, and now I’m challenging myself to come in well under budget every week.
Well, I was. Two days after we had this conversation and set a budget, I found myself at Whole Foods. I went to Whole Foods for grassfed ground beef when I discovered we had none in our freezer (there was no CSA delivery this month). Sadly, no grassfed beef was delivered to any of our local Whole Foods stores this weekend. The butchers were so apologetic it seemed like they’d been getting major grief from customers. I felt bad for them, and angry at idiots who give sustainable eating a bad name by just expecting biodynamically-raised food to be constantly available and in season. I bought bison instead. Then I made the mistake of wandering around. (Note: the only strategy that allows me to effectively manage trips to Whole Foods is going in for my one item, usually a chicken, and leaving again.)
I found pastured eggs for $6.99 a dozen and, since the farmer’s market was closed due to yesterday being Easter, we were down to one egg in the house. Aaron likes oatmeal, but not enough to eat it every day for a week. I decided to buy the eggs as a treat, even though I can get 30 pastured eggs for $7.50 at the Friday farmer’s market. I texted Aaron about this. He texted back, “Okay, but remember you’re on a budget now.”
Well, I hadn’t – and I was already through the checkout line. When I got home, Aaron presented me with the Trader Joe’s receipt he’d incurred earlier than day “for your budget.” The upshot is I’m going to need to start tracking expenditures again, at least in a general way. If things get too bad I suppose I could always just ask for my allowance in cash.