Our No-Spend Month

At the tail end of August and beginning of September, we took a long careful look at our finances and decided we needed to enlist the help of a No-Spend Month to curb our spending.  With fall on the way, and winter just beyond that, we were going to need to get in a mindset of not spending.  Getting in all our curriculum for the year in August did not help… but a quick assessment of where we stood showed that if we didn’t do something drastic, we were going to end the month of September majorly behind.

So we decided on a No Spend Month.  And to do that, we had to come up with a few rules for ourselves.  The first thing we had to do was determine what we needed to purchase, and what could wait.  We had to buy a rake for leaves- we didn’t have one.  Andy needed some new jeans because he lost a few pair recently to some unrepairable holes.  And that was it.  We purposed together that we would spend money on groceries, gas, and bill-paying.  I then gave myself a weekly limit for grocery spending of $120.  Now that $120 included our trips to the apple orchard- that came out of my grocery budget, so I had less to spend those weeks.  We also would not be eating out at all- no quick lunch, no coffee, no bottle of soda from the convenience store.  Everything we ate would be prepared at home.  We also decided that we also needed to commit to buying a newspaper subscription.  The primary election in the middle of the month showed us how little we know about the city we live in, and we need to stay better informed as to what is going on.  So we also agreed to spend $17 for a daily newspaper subscription.

You would think that this mindset of not spending would have been easy.  But it wasn’t.  School is back in session, and that means that all those back to school sales in the stores are being clearanced already.  Agh! Temptation that I resisted.  I swear that every day I was getting e-mails from my favorite places to shop at, enticing me with huge savings off this or that- or even free clothing items with any purchase.   I’m not kidding when I say that Every. Single. Day. I was enticed in one way or another to spend.  Whether it was via e-mail, something in the snail mail, or a person asking if we wanted to go out to lunch or dinner or something.

And then the middle of the month came.  And I realized that things were not going well with our math selections for the year, and a purchase must be made.  I had to consult with Andy, because new math programs for both kids was going to cost a big chunk of money.  We both agreed it needed to be done, and I reluctantly made the order.  Thank goodness that decision is already paying for itself.

When all is said and done, despite our best efforts, we will still be leaving September in the hole.  Not by much… in fact, if we had not needed the new math books, we would be on the plus side and could have added to our savings.   But when I think about it, had we not determined that September was a no-spend month, we wouldn’t have had the money available for the math and then I’d be in a real pickle of a spot.

The thing is, I’ve already been on a kick of not needing stuff for a long time now, but then every once in a while, I just get in a mood and we’ll go pick up a few things that we don’t really need.  Or I’ll decide to tackle a new craft and have to go pick up the supplies necessary- or we’ll just go pick up a new video game or something.  All those little things add up!  Even things that are necessary like books.  Our curriculum for school is literature based, and I haven’t been able to quite get in all that we need.  Hello, library! If our library doesn’t have them, we can get them on inter-loan from another library. Otherwise, even if I only spent $20 a week on books, that adds up big-time over the long run.

During this month, we’ve also had things start to wear out on us.  Of course they have, because we are in the mindset to not spend.  But as I’ve been doing laundry, of course socks are filling with new holes, Zander’s clothes seem to be shrinking, and I managed to put a huge, unrepairable hole in one of my nicest pair of jeans.  I have no idea when they will all be replaced, because the fact is, we’ve been managing just fine without.  It IS incredibly tempting to just swing by a thrift store or consignment shop and see if they have an item or two.  But that one item or two will snowball, and that’s what I’ve found eye-opening with our no-spend month.  I know that if I walk into a store that sells used clothing, I will probably spend at least $20 on clothing.  $20 that we may have on hand- but really isn’t available to spend because we need it elsewhere.

There have been many things that we’ve been doing without.  A mop is an example.  Shortly after we moved in, we had sewage back up into our basement.  Andy used my mop to clean that up… so the mop was certainly not going to ever be used again.  With no mop, how does one clean the plethora of wooden and tile floors I have?  Why, the old-fashioned way, of course.  I use a broom to sweep up the debris, and then I use a soft rag and a bucket of warm soapy water to do the job.  Would a mop be easier?  Perhaps, but my floors sure look clean, and since a nice mop is in the $20 dollar range…

See?  All those $20 bills add up! And at the end of the month, had I spent each one as I thought about it, I wouldn’t have been able to pay all our bills on time and in full.

Is not spending fun?  No.  It really isn’t fun to have to turn down lunch invite after lunch invite because we’re not spending.   I know that many, many people are Dave Ramsey fans… I am not.  I think he has a lot of great things to say about money, but I don’t think that his answers are the answers for everyone.  However, there is one thing that he says that I take to heart completely, and I may have been remiss in doing so in the past.  And that is to Act Your Wage.  If you don’t have the income for all the extra things in life, you shouldn’t be doing them.  We don’t have the income to go out to dinner even once a month basis.  So we don’t.  We stay home and for less than $20 a day I can feed my family of four three wholesome meals a day plus snacks.  That’s acting our wage.

Another thing we don’t do is go see movies.  We did go see Toy Story 3 in the theater, but that is such a rare occurrence.  We simply don’t have the extra money to spend the $40 a movie out with the family costs.  So instead, we borrow movies from the library for free.  (Yes, the library has new, recent releases.)  We pop some popcorn at home which is practically free, have a glass of apple cider and have a wonderful evening being comfortable watching a movie on our own furniture.

We act our wage.  And this No Spend Month has driven that point home for us even more so, as I realize the simple acts of buying a few pieces of clothing is not acting our wage if we really can’t afford to be doing so.  Do I wish I had another pair of nice jeans?  Sure, I do.  But I do have others, and I also have skirts I could wear with a nice pair of boots.   It’s just simply amazing the things you learn that you can do without when you really put your mind to it.

In fact, I think this No-Spend month was such a success that I plan to continue it into October.  I do think that we’ll need to first do a thorough assessment of the kids winter clothes before we commit fully, but another month certainly can’t hurt.  I’m encouraged by the fact that had it not been for the newer, better math curriculum, we would have said goodbye to September with a little extra.  And so we plod on.  I suspect I may have a few more things to say about our no-spend month.  Especially in regard to smart grocery shopping.

And by the way, that newspaper subscription?  Paid for itself in two days as I saved $29 at the grocery store using coupons.  $29 dollars! I’m working on a method to save and keep track of coupons, and I hope to get that ironed out so that I can share that here as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *