Birthdays and How They (& I) Have Changed

Anna Newell Jones
Me and my birthday cupcake. What you don’t see is the other cupcake that I ate too. They were both delicious and I only got kind of sick. It was totally worth it.

Yesterday was me (and my identical twin sisters) birthday (wooot woot). I turned 32 years old and I actually FEEL different. 32 sounds older than 31. I hear someone say they’re 32 and I think “Man, they are an adult!” That’s an adult age. I feel like I’m an adult. Maybe that should’ve happened earlier in life but it didn’t. It happened yesterday. That’s okay. Maybe everyone’s different and maybe we’re all more the same than we ever realize. It’s completely possible.

Does anyone else get into a reflective mood when your b-day comes rolling around? It gets me thinking about where I was last year at this time… 8 months deep into the Spending Fast and just putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to continue. I was so happy to be getting big chunks of debt paid off and amazed with how the momentum of the Spending Fast worked. It felt like a reward every month to send the checks off to the creditors at the end of every month. It was like, “Take that Freaking Debt- I’ll knock you out!! Watch me!”

Pre-Spending Fast when my birthday would come around I would go ALL OUT. I’m talking all day spending spree, then a fancy dinner and drinks out all night. I basically went on a no-holds-barred frenzy because if I deserved everything I wanted on every other day of my life because I worked hard and deserved it then since it was my birthday it only meant that I had an even better excuse to spoil myself- because I was celebrating of course!

To me, celebrating meant spending money and spending money was exactly what I wanted to do to celebrate. It was a perfect combo.

Pre-Spending Fast I also loved to spend money on other peoples birthdays. I liked to think about what they would like and buy it for them. I thought this made me extremely generous and thoughtful and wonderful even though I was in a hot financial mess. Any mess I was in did not matter because I was being generous and thoughtful and wonderful so it was justified and made up for it.

I thought that the amount of money I spent on others told them how much love I had for them. I thought things were a way of proving my feelings for them. I struggled a lot with the new non-existent gift purchasing part of the Spending Fast. (This post captures that struggle well.) It made perfect sense to me to spend money on others if I liked or loved them. I knew that they would do the same for me to prove their affection for me and then I would prove my own worth to myself by buying even more things.

It was this whole cycle of proving love with things. It wasn’t right. Things don’t mean love. It took me awhile to learn this. Not to say that I’m perfect at remembering this every minute of eveyday… I can tell you though that it does get easier to remember and now, I can recognize sooner when those old thoughts crop up.

I’ve mentioned before that the Spending Fast went and ruined shopping for me and while I wouldn’t say the Spending Fast and Spending Diet ruined birthdays for me they have completely changed the way I look at birthdays and spending money on birthdays. And that’s a very good thing.

This year for my birthday all I wanted was to go camping (and an iPhone but for now my $11 refurbished cell phone will have to do… I’ll have to tell you more about that in another post). We’ve had a very amazingly busy season shooting weddings and lots of family portraits so we blocked off a weekend (this last weekend) and we were gonna do it! We were going to go camping for the 1st time this Summer!

Friday night came (when we were going to leave) and we decided we’d wait until Saturday morning after a good nights sleep to make our way to Goblin Valley in Utah for my Big Birthday Weekend Camping Trip! Saturday morning came and went and there we were sitting there Saturday afternoon not really wanting to make the 6 hour drive to Utah.

So, we decided to skip camping and have an old-fashioned “staycation”. I could not have been more happy to stay home, sleep in, lolly about (as my Australian aunt puts it:) and just relax. Turns out relaxing at home costs $0.00 and it was perfect.

Yesterday, I woke up to flowers on the kitchen table from my husband, drank the darkest and strongest coffee as slowly as I wanted while savoring every sip, took a 4 mile walk/run, opened some gifts (!), made spaghetti, ate garlic bread, got sick on the most delicious cupcakes around and watched 4 True Blood episodes. In. A. Row.

This Birthday was simple and just right. I think it just might go down in history as one of the best birthdays ever.


What was your best or most memorable birthday? How do you celebrate your birthday… do you go “all out”, “kind of all out” or “not all out” at all? Do you have to spend money to prove love and recognize love from others? Is this a cultural thing? What’s the best thing you have ever received that didn’t cost a cent? Do you like sprinkles?


6 thoughts on “Birthdays and How They (& I) Have Changed

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  1. Rich

    Happy birthday Anna. Just wanted to say that your site has inspired me in a big way. 32 is not old at all, and the fact that you have straightened all of this out by that age is fantastic. I am much older than you and way more in debt. And this after having been debt free about 12 years ago. I have all of the standard excuses but have come to realize that, in the end, the vast majority of this is due to bad planning (well, no planning really) and bad choices. However, your site has inspired me to get free of debt. It took about ten years to get into this mess, and I figure that it should take 4-5 years to get out. But I am very determined. So, happy birthday and thank you.

    BTW, I understand the $11 phone. My new, post-smartphone cheapie was $10. It is taking some getting used to not being connected constantly, but it is not as bad as I thought.

  2. clm

    happy~happy birthday, anna!!! i love the story about your birthday! sometimes i think that we get so caught up in the celebrating…associating it with spending…when actually, a staycation is much more calming and relaxing! i am glad that you had a great time!
    and rich!!! welcome to the club! anna has been very inspirational to me, too! it just has something to do with owning up to it and getting started. you will find lots of support here to help keep you going! best of luck to you! :o) c

  3. Karen in MA

    Happy Birthday Anna! Congratulations on all of the media attention! And thank you for continuing to share post-debt. You continue to be an inspiration to me and many others.

  4. Rosie

    Happy Birthday! I'm glad you had a lovely day/weekend :)

    I've never been all that attached to birthdays because it's been years since I've felt that my actual age matched up with my mental age. So it's just a little jolt, like "oh yeah. I'm only actually 16. Still got a few years before I catch up to my mental age." I'm not going to lie though, I love presents, especially the thoughtful ones. This year my mum got me marzipan vegetables, and while it sounds really silly, it made my day.


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