Today, I blew it.
Breakfast was fine. We both had coffee and nothing else. Lunch was a small salad and the rest of Tuesday's Fassoulia Fourno. (And I have to tell you—it was delicious. I marvelled at the flavor with every bite.) I unthawed Week 1's Tex Mex Chili and we had a small bowl of that for dinner.
So where did I go wrong? Today was Jesse's birthday.
At some point in the day, I concocted a plan, a crazy plan, and without thinking through the consequences, I acted on it. In the afternoon I drove to the store for a pint of ice cream. There were 3 organic varieties available, and I chose the one that seemed likely to have originated the closest to home: Strauss. It cost $4.29.
Then I came home and baked the only cake I know how to make, a Hot Fudge Pudding Cake from Cook's Illustrated Magazine.
Before I did, I sat down and typed out a sanctimonious little draft about the important message celebration can send to a family in distress. It was as I was measuring out the dutch-processed cocoa from my cupboard that it occurred to me that I had just lost all credibility with everyone who has been reading this. Scratch baking is great, and probably saves money in many cases. But dutch-processed cocoa?
There was an organic cake mix at the co-op, $2.49 a box, I checked. That would have been an appropriate choice if I wanted to do something special. I mixed things together and thought about what I had done.
I remember something like this from when my own money situation was difficult. I remember being so good—so frugal—and then, maybe once a year, spending a stupid amount of money on something unnecessary—once it was a fancy facial cleanser. I would walk home wracked with guilt, castigating myself for having bought the item, wondering why I had done it. What was I thinking?
I think it was a sort of safety valve being let off. No extras for so long, and then just wanting to splurge on something. It was like a temporary insanity would take hold of me, and then I would just buy something I couldn't afford.
That's not what happened today. It's easy enough for me to see two weeks into the future when we can go to a restaurant to celebrate, and I can cook anything I want.
"Joy is one of the ingredients that is required to live well," I wrote in that earlier draft, and it is. But what I did today wasn't principled. It wasn't calculated. It wasn't planned for. I don't know how it's going to affect my budget. I'm pretty sure the food costs will be within bounds, but I worry that the outlay will be well beyond the means of anyone trying to live on such frugal means.
I just wanted to do something nice for my husband. I wonder how many mothers and fathers and husbands and wives have made similarly bad decisions for the same reason?
Happy Birthday, Jesse. I love you.
Thursday total (estimated): $10.19. Remaining weekly allowance: $31.39.
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