Fat Tuesday might be my favorite day.
It’s always been a day of celebration in my family.
In fact, as I type, a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is keeping my keyboard company.
What? You thought I was hanging off a float or catching beads?
Of course, I like Fat Tuesday because it’s an excuse to indulge. I love Fat Tuesday, though, because it’s a moment of anticipation for me as I set off to be a little more reflection, a little more thoughtful, and a little more restrained.
In a lot of ways, this tradition means more to me than the new year. I’ve never been particularly great about setting goals. But I also hate the fact that the new year always seems steeped in new commitments. New routines, new promises, new habits, new pledges, new opportunities to become the next Tim Ferriss.
Perhaps it’s my personality. Perhaps it’s the journey that I’m currently on. But the idea of filling my life with anything more–even if it’s an optimized more–just feels unnecessary, excessive even.
Instead, I welcome this period of reflection, and I’m thinking hard about what I’m going to attempt to give up. Not because 40 days is a long time to go without chocolate as a teacher (it is!), but because I think there are some things that I need to consider going without indefinitely.
Cutting Back on Excess
Parenthood just seems like one giant justification for caffeine.
And it is.
If you want it to be.
But apparently I cannot do anything in moderation. (I honestly don’t know why I find this so shocking. I have both been the person who once bought a pair of shoes in five colors because I liked them so much and the person who refused to spend any money for an entire spring break. There clearly is no middle ground in my life.)
Because of that, a cup of strong tea morphed into as many cups of strong tea as I wanted.
Then add sugar. Lots of it. In the form of cartons of chai concentrate. Which isn’t even good so much as it is convenient.
But that’s a breakfast drink. So toss in a Diet Coke for later in the day. Plus one with lunch.
Do you see what’s happening here?
It’s true that I am tired. It’s also true that there is no easy fix to this tiredness.
But I do know that this is too much. It’s too many calories. It’s too much sugar. It’s too many trips to the bathroom during the work day. (My fellow teachers are nodding in agreement.)
So in addition to cutting out chocolate for Lent, I’m going to focus on cutting back these extra indulgences. I’m not going to eliminate caffeine cold turkey, but I would like to seriously reduce this. Starting now.
Being Less Connected
The other day, I was sitting with my son, staring at him while he played. I was watching him cook in his play kitchen in a way that I hadn’t previously seen.
He figured out how to take the bowl out of his pretend mixer and put it in the oven. He was baking. Mostly.
My instinct was to grab for my phone. To be honest, I’m not sure if I was going to snap a photo, make a video, type out a tweet, or just text my mom. And then I thought to myself: It must have been nice to be a mom before we were so connected all the time. It would be so nice to slow down and savor the moment.
What’s stopping me? Nothing and no one. Except myself.
When my son was first born, I promised myself that I would only have my phone out when he slept. That was a fine idea, and it wasn’t even particularly challenging. Newborns cat nap a lot.
But now? It’s actually embarrassing that my instinct is to grab my phone. Shouldn’t I be grabbing a toy and joining in the fun?
I’m not saying that I’m going to give up my phone. I’m not doing a strict social media fast. I am going to really work to stay off my phone when I’m with my family. Sure, I’ll still snap the occasional photo. But I want to practice being in the moment more than recording the memory.
What Does This Have to Do with Money?
In case you’ve somehow missed the fact that time is money, let me say it again.
So are excesses. The little treats that I’ve allowed into my life? They haven’t just taken over
my mornings my evenings my life; they’ve taken over my budget as well.
First, I was wrestling with the notion of adding another case or two of pop a month. It wasn’t a huge difference compared to the sparkling water I was drinking. But then I thought, if one can of Diet Coke a day is good, two must be better!
(Don’t even tell me that it’s a de-greaser. I know. My dad owned a shop for most of my life, and I’m familiar with the cleaning process. My insides must be sparkling.)
Then, I decided that making chais at home was a perfectly excellent substitute for the occasional Starbucks run.
RELATED POST: Why I’m Skipping Starbucks
And then I decided to make one every morning.
I’ve let a lot into my life with these little indulgences; I’ve also let a lot of money out the same way.
While I would love to say that I will wake up the moment this post goes live and automatically and permanently eliminate everything from my life, let’s be realistic here. Going cold turkey on the chocolate is hard enough. But even reducing the pops, the chais, and all the other excesses will free up at least $10 or $20 a month. The best part is that this money has already been spent for so long, I won’t miss it. So I’ll add it to our giving budget for the month.
So Tell Me…Are you focusing on giving anything up? For the new year? For Lent? For other reasons?