Thursday, August 15, 2013

Every Little Bit

While I was training for my new job, the Fashionista (my trainer) and I discussed finances and the challenge of budgeting.  She mentioned a book she was reading about the very subject, called Living the Savvy Life.  I then mentioned how the beginning of a new job would mean an overhaul of my own budget.  She told me I should write a blog about it, when I did.  This is the requested post. 

Even Spinoza knows how to balance!
Actually, I take that back.  It’s not quite.  See, in between that training day and now, I also read Living the Savvy Life, and I was surprised and interested to discover that the author’s point is not the necessity of scrimping on every penny.  Instead, she advocates a balanced life.  Your budget is based on an analysis of the things that are important to you, versus those that are not.  By being ‘savvy’ in the latter, you can afford to indulge in the former, but also have savings and pay down debt. 

As you might guess, I was excited because balance is something I strive for in my life. 

So today, instead of talking about budgeting per se, I thought I might look at the idea that has been occupying my mind lately, and how it applies even to finances.  If you’ve read my recent posts, you may have noticed I’ve been talking about how important the little things are – little moments of happiness, little contributions to artistic projects, etc.  It turns out the same idea is a good guide for money, too. 

For example, last Sunday I was expecting to eat dinner with my parents.  I didn’t have anything specific laid out for an evening meal because of that, but then plans changed and the dinner was cancelled.  I had to find something to eat for myself.  Often when this happens, I end up going out for fast food or take out.  In such cases, I can easily lay out $8-$15, since you always end up paying an unexpectedly large amount for the convenience of a take-home meal.  

Then I thought, ‘What would the savvy person do – the person who appreciates the important of little things?’

Fancy, cheap eggs are the best!
The answer was: stay in and see what I can find in the refrigerator.  Might as well get the most out of the food I’ve already paid for, after all!  So then my creativity had to kick into gear.  I’ve always been a big believer in the reflectivity of the creative act.  If you put thought and imagination into making something in one part of your life, your mind will be awake and lively to make something in another part as well. 

Now, I’ve always appreciated an occasional ‘breakfast for dinner’ meal.  In the refrigerator I found a few slices of unused bacon, a few eggs, some leftover cheddar cheese, onion and kale from the farmers’ market.  The kale was just on the edge of turning wilty.  The cheddar cheese was too small of a piece to use for much of anything.  The onion was a quarter left from a Mexican meal.  So I made an omelet, and nothing went to waste.  Moreover, with bacon, cheese, kale and onion as the filling, it was both healthy and delicious.

To celebrate my thrifty accomplishment, I ate my dinner with a delicious screwdriver to wash it down. 

As I was savoring the omelet, I reflected on the fact that if I’d gotten a cheeseburger and fries from Burger King, or Chinese takeout, I’d have probably regretted my choice by the end of the meal.  A noticeable dent would have been put in my budget (currently rather tight as I transition between jobs), and I probably wouldn’t have felt very good, thanks to all the deepfrying. 

Instead, I felt refreshed and revitalized - just full enough – and happy that I’d not wasted
money and that I’d flexed my cooking muscles (something I always enjoy!).  In fact, the omelet was about the best one I’d ever made because I let the pan get hot enough to cook the eggs through without browning the outside. 

Hodgepodges are creative and beautiful!
Often it’s easy to think, ‘Oh, that will be too time-consuming to make dinner for myself, plus what does $10 or so really matter?’  In the end though, putting together something – even just cleverly reassembling leftovers – only need take 15 or 20 minutes, and you can rest easy with the money still in your pocket.  The same principles end up applying to everything.  When a seam splits in a shirt, you can spend $25 for a new one, or you can whip it back together in a few minutes with a needle and thread. 

 I think it’s not hard to feel rather dissatisfied with life.  We wish its quality could be better, and often we imagine that a bigger salary would magically solve everything.  My opinion, though – reinforced by my recent omelet – is that a more encompassing creativity is a better solution.  Instead of seeing every change of plans or failure in some belonging as a downturn which obliges us to spend money to fix, look at it as a challenge.  Let’s ask ourselves, ‘What can we do here and now to fix this, engaging our minds and hands, not throwing money at it?’

The answer will often prove to be something enjoyable in itself – something that wakes us up and gives us greater satisfaction with our lives. 


  1. Nice. I think you might have already seen this:

    And I didn't need a needle and thread and both pieces are machine washable!

    Moderation, balance good words for living. Cheers!
    Oh you might also enjoy this concrete poem that I couldn't put in WP.
    A different type of 'balance' :)

  2. this was a really good read today Chiara! you sum up my sentiments entirely! loved the sound of the omlette (without the melted cheese though!!!) good luck with your tight budget between jobs

  3. Hello Chiara. We just saw this blog entry. Thank you for the kind review of our book. We're glad you found it useful. You hit the basic philosophy right on the head. You should be living and enjoying your life, not just surviving. 90% of doing that is having the right attitude!
    Best of luck to you,
    Kevin Gibbons and Melissa Tosetti

    1. Hello, Kevin and Melissa. Thank you for commenting! I feel honored that you took the time to do so.

      I read your book in August and since then, I've been applying principles I picked up from it everywhere in my life, so I feel very grateful that you two collaborated to produce it.