And Then We Saved sat down with Aaron Jones, husband of And Then We Saved’s writer/saver Anna Newell Jones to see what it’s like to be married to someone doing a year long Spending Fast while you’re not.
(It’s kind of fun to be the interviewer and see the Spending Fast from someone else’s eyes besides my own. Some of his answers had me cracking up. Like, really? Really! Really? Formally interviewing someone who is very close to me is very insightful and is something I might have to do more often. Like, “Hey you, I have some questions for you. How bout you think about them and get back to me. Anddd. Thanks.” Okay. Now back to speaking in third person.)
And Then We Saved: What was your 1st thought when you heard about Anna going on the Spending Fast for a year?
Hub: Fearful concern. Anna has a tendency to be an all or nothing kind of person. I knew she would dive head first into this thing and dedicate herself fully to the idea. Not only was I concerned about the tension it might cause between us, but also how it would affect our daily life, not to mention my personal pocketbook.
ATWS: What has been the hardest thing for you throughout this year regarding the Spending Fast?
H: The beginning of the Spending Fast was the hardest, probably on both of us. Until Anna figured out how to make an “individual” spending fast work for a married person I noticed that I was spending more money on the things that she didn’t want to buy. I added it up one week and figured out that I spent an additional $25 on such things. I was worried that by the end of it all, I would be in debt due to her spending fast.
ATWS: What has been the BEST thing about the Spending Fast?
H: Actually there have been many great things about the Spending Fast. First, is seeing Anna succeed and get her debt paid off. By her not spending money, I actually was able to save money myself (it’s no fun eating dinner out by yourself) and because we don’t eat out nearly as much as we use to we are much healthier now than we were at the beginning of the fast. And rather than always doing things that cost money, we do free things like take walks or pack a picnic lunch and go to the park. In the end, I think it brought us closer.
ATWS: And, what has been the WORST or hardest part of the Spending Fast?
H: Truthfully, I think the hardest part for Anna was trying to find a way to balance the spending fast and keep a happy marriage. I know it was tough on her (and me) to find that happy medium between saving money and still having a fun, fulfilling marriage.
ATWS: How has your opinion of the Spending Fast changed? From the beginning to now?
H: My opinion gradually changed throughout the Spending Fast…I went from being fearful (of many things…my sanity, my own savings account, our relationship) to reluctant acceptance (it quickly became apparent that she wasn’t going to quit, so I had to change my attitude) to being a big fan of the spending fast.
ATWS: Think you’ll ever do a Spending Fast?
H: I consider myself to be a saver, so I don’t know if I would benefit from an intense year long spending fast. I’m not opposed to trying a Spending Fast for like a month or so to see were I could really pinch the pennies, but overall I am fairly happy with my financial situation. Almost no consumer debt, no car debt, no mortgage. I would like to start paying more on my student loan. Thanks to watching Anna put extra money towards all her debt has inspired me to start doing the same towards my student loan.
ATWS: Since you seem to be a natural saver and fiscally responsible and all that what can you share with those you don’t have those skills naturally?
H: I think a huge step to becoming a saver is to first cut back on personal possessions. Don’t be so materialistic. Don’t buy the things you don’t truly want. I tell myself “No” a lot more than I say, “Yes”. When I do allow myself to buy something it usually ends up being something I truly want and don’t regret spending money on it. Just like an electric bill or mortgage payment, I find it helpful to think of putting money in savings each month as simply another bill that must be paid. I don’t think twice about it. But the biggest hurdle to becoming a natural saver is: truly committing to saving. Don’t save up a small amount then instantly blow your wad (Anna used to do that all the time. It was kinda frustrating to see) …don’t even start to save with something in mind to buy. That’s not truly saving, that’s just waiting to buy (and while that is more financial responsible than putting it on a credit card) you will never become a natural saver with that mentality. I recommend viewing your savings as not even yours, that way you are less tempted to spend it.
ATWS: What do you think? Another year of the Spending Fast? Up for it?
H: Another year? Sure. The Spending Fast has reached a level where the benefits now outweigh the negative consequences. Besides the occasional scuffle, the Spending Fast doesn’t necessarily impede on our daily lives anymore. We have both grown accustomed to life while spending fasting. Also, I’d like to see how far Anna can take it. CNN today, book deal tomorrow?
ATWS: What would you recommend to anyone who is thinking about doing a Spending Fast. You saw a year long Spending Fast actually go down. What did you learn from an “outsiders” perspective?
H: Be sure to hash out specifics with your significant other. There’s no use in being rich, but divorced, by the time it’s over. I’d also recommend slowly building up to the extremes that Anna went to almost immediately. Had it been a less committed person, they would have failed immediately. I am not sure going cold turkey on your spending like she did is the proper approach for a successful spending fast- that’s hard to do. I’d say: identify unhealthy spending patterns first and start there. Slowly work up to the extremes of dying your clothing and eating 2-year-old canned pineapple.
ATWS: What can you tell other spouses (that’s kind of a funny word) who have a spouse going on a Spending Fast? Tips?
H: First, have a discussion about it rather than blurt out one day “I’m going on a spending fast for an entire year!” Perhaps you both can agree to go on a Spending Fast or some modified version of one. Hash out the details and guidelines before hand. Don’t figure them out mid-fast because it will only cause turmoil. It’s like stepping out to buy a fire extinguisher after a grease fire is already consuming your kitchen. Set boundaries as well. There is a fine line between “asking” and “mooching” and remember someone can only “treat” you so many times before they expect a “treat” in return. It’s not tit for tat but you can’t take-take-take without giving a little.
ATWS: So, do you think the Spending Fast has been overall GOOD or BAD? Huh? Huh?
H: It has definitely been good, (it sure hasn’t been easy) but it’s definitely been good. Not only because Anna has all of her debt paid off (except for an old college loan) but also because of the unexpected side affects. We are physically healthier due to not eating out, the environment is a little less polluted thanks to Anna’s bus riding and we have found new and interesting was to be more “green” by reusing items instead of instantly trashing them. Plus, I was able to save money as well.
ATWS: Any funny Spending Fast moment?
H: There have been many memorable moments from the Spending Fast…some good, some bad, some funny, and some sad. But here are some of my favorite highlights.
– Watching the faces Anna made while preparing and eating the most disgusting looking lunches and dinners made from old canned food in the cupboards, I believe she referred to some as dog food.
– Watching her actually wash, dry and then reuse a sandwich baggie.
– Coming home to see her dying clothes in a pot on the kitchen stove (why the clothes had to be boiling in water, I’ll never know).
– (Sad one here but shows her dedication)…turning down a trip to Portland, Oregon because she didn’t want to spend the money on a plane ticket.
ATWS: Anything you want to share that you haven’t been asked?
H: Yes…moochers! Mooching is a power keg waiting to explode between spouses and the spending faster. A big part of a Spending Fast is personal sacrifice. You may want an ice cream cone but just because your spouse stopped off to get one doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is willing to buy you one as well. Accept the fact that you will be hearing “No” a lot during your spending fast year. And when you are hit with the enviable “No”, accept it with a smile and move on. Remember YOU voluntarily choose to do the spending fast, not your spouse.
ATWS: Are you ready to not hear about the Spending Fast ever again?
H: I must admit, it will be nice not having to hear the verbal sufferings of a year long-spending faster, but that is/was all part of the ride. You have to take the good with the bad and in the end the good outweighed the bad, so it was worth all the sufferings and tough times.
ATWS: Thanks for your time Mr. And Then We Saved. It’s been a pleasure! I’ve heard you’re quite a movie buff. So I must ask what is your favorite movie?
H: My favorite movie is the Back to the Future Trilogy. Yes, I know that’s technically three movies but I no longer considered them separate. If I watch one, I must watch all three.