Let me sum up: January is remember-your-sanity-and-break-out-the-budget-reality-check month in the Wells’ home. We fondly shorten our reference to this special time to Budget Diet Month, which spans January 3 (allowing for our anniversary), to February 3.
Let me explain: Four years ago, in January 2009, we Wells were still feeling the December high. Amazing events. Overwhelming indulgences. Gifts still in their store wrappings. Glorious gluttony. And nearing the end of a wonderful winter break. We were also pudgier, whinier, spendier, and headed for certain implosion with the very next satisfied whim. Totally a first-world problem, we know.
More than a new year’s resolution, we needed a reality check. A cleansing of the palate. A hard drive reboot. Not necessarily a rude awakening, but a gentle, playful game that would bring the family back into balance. And so the Budget Diet was thought up.
The Budget Diet game has three simple rules:
1. Every family member plays.
2. No non-essential purchases for the duration of the game.
(Groceries, gas, plumbing leak fixes-Yes. Fluffy new blanket, just- released game or dvd, plants for the garden, party shoes-No).
3. Dine-out with a coupon only.
(We learned that preparing home-cooked meals every night threatened the sanity of the head cook and we quickly found our limit for leftovers. Remember, it’s just a game and this actually is one of its funnest features. FYI, the coupon selection in January is a bit thin. Enlisting extended family members to keep an eye out helps improve your choices).
At first, as perhaps with any new game, we were delighted and felt smug with ourselves. I planned out delicious meals with fresh and fragrant ingredients. We thwarted tempting purchases and “great deals”. We cleared out closets, exercised more, and watched the credit card expenses stall out. After that first week though, that’s when the resolve had to kick in and the smugness evaporated. Like addicts attending to withdrawal pains, we hunkered down and searched for shiny coupons more diligently. Around day 20, my concerns about what I could not have began to wane. I was more aware and appreciative of what I did have. There was even less grumbling among the boys. Then, thank goodness for Day 30, end of the game and our cleansing diet was completed.
So 2013’s Budget Diet ended on Superbowl Sunday. The boys were thrilled. Though I must confess one dine-out cheat at Cafe Sevilla with the girls, overall I declare this year’s game well-played. We especially thank our wonderful lunch time friends who fearlessly followed where our coupons lead, even sharing and treating when an encouraging perk was needed.
Monday was our first step back into the spend-as-you-please world. My splurge purchases for the day were an early-bird car wash and a mani-pedi, the pleasures of a clean car and painted toes! For dinner, the boys voted originally for IN-IN-OUT, however in support of Roger’s Music Program, we agreed to participate in Domenico’s Night and ordered lasagna and salad. A great start for February if you beware of the dressing.
Stephanie Mendoza and Michelle Wells are two Belmont Shore parents, Type A Volunteers, as well as small businesswomen who are interested in finding healthy food and healthy choices for their families and friends.