Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Spend Month Day 11: Love with Little Money

The biggest challenge while on a budget is gifts. I like to think of myself as a generous person, I sincerely enjoy buying things for other people. I like thinking about what they might like, searching for just the right thing, carefully wrapping it up and imagining how they’ll react, how they’ll use it, etc. This is even a bigger deal when it comes to a member of my family. My father, mother, brother and I are a real set of 4, and I’m very grateful for each one of them and all that they do.

So you can imagine how Mother’s Day falling in “No Spend Month” caused me some consternation. I thought about blowing half my budget on a present, because surely a Mother’s Day present is a necessity? But I don’t think my mother would like that. Mom has always been a paragon of thrift and minimalism. She taught us to save, to be careful and thoughtful with our money. She has been very enthusiastic and supportive of the no spending, and I think she would have been very disappointed if I broke it to buy her a present.

I had to do something else to show my appreciation of everything she’s done for me. The thing my mother appreciates most is time together. That’s why for the last few years my brother and I have generally given her experiences rather than things for gifts. I’ll take her for a mother-daughter manicure and he’ll take her to dinner and a movie. I knew without question that I would be spending all of Sunday with Mom, but doing what?

The answer was what it usually is: cook something. I know it sounds trite, but there’s something about sharing food that I strongly associate with sharing love. When I cook something for someone, it’s because I love them. When I make whole wheat bread or a nourishing soup for myself, it’s because I love myself and I want to be healthy and strong. When I make cookies for guests, it’s because I love them and I want to welcome them into my home. Even when I mix a box of Kraft Dinner for my brother, it’s because I love him and I enjoy spending Saturday afternoons the way we did when we were kids.

Saturday afternoon I made a lemon blueberry cake. Mom doesn’t like cakes that are too sweet or too rich, so I picked one that had no icing. Sunday I went grocery shopping with my Dad shortly after breakfast. He helped with the ingredients for the day and I made French onion soup for lunch, then a Julia Child steak recipe (Oh, so good) for dinner with mashed potatoes and peas. All her favourites. While pots simmered we chatted and played crib, and after dinner we retired with our glasses of wine to watch “Brothers and Sisters”. It was a really wonderful day. One of the most fun I’ve had for a very long time. I’m pretty sure Mom really liked it too, which is of course the point.

The idea of love with little money was reinforced for my last night. I had gotten a call from my friend J who wanted to lend her support for the no-spend project. She invited me over to her place for dinner and a movie. Fun and free. She looked up a fancy salmon recipe she’d had once (oh, so good) and picked out a movie I really should have seen a long time ago. (Can you believe I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing before?). It was a great time, but what touched me the most was how she’d gone out of her way to show her support by choosing an activity that would allow me to continue.

And it’s soon time for me to show her the same support, mere hours after I left dear J got engaged!!

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