I really wanted to do a no-spend month update, as I’ve done the last two weeks. But then I realized that nothing much is going on. Three weeks in, we haven’t seen a big revelation from our changes in behavior.
Maybe that’s because we haven’t made any major changes in behavior.
Aha! I think I’ve found my big revelation!
No-Spend January Blahs
Three weeks into our No-Spend January Challenge, we started seeing a few holes in our supplies.
It’s a far cry from last week.
Ice Cream? We’re out. Meat? Well, we still have a ham and those darn turkeys, but Jon made chili this week using a frozen turkey burger and a couple of sausage patties. We’ve emptied most of the cereal boxes and the stash of Christmas candy is seriously depleted.
I was feeling a bit off track. We spent a fair amount on groceries this week, pretty close to what we would normally spend. We ran out of laundry detergent, fabric softener, and coffee…there went $30. Little Bit got an ear infection that kept her home for three days and all of us awake for two nights. Jon figured everyone needed a treat and bought 2 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from our stash for another $8. And we picked up a fair amount dairy and produce for $40 more.
Aren’t we supposed to be cutting back?
When I looked at our monthly spending total, I was pretty depressed. Then I remembered all the weirdness adding to our total spending that had nothing to do with the no-spend January. Our power bill was double the usual amount, probably because our water heater was on the fritz and working way too hard until Jon fixed it. And, oh yeah, we paid the HOA fee on one of our rentals for the entire year.
So our total spending might be high, but that fact didn’t reflect what was going on this month.
…And No-Spend January Revelations
Our discretionary spend is way down, way more than it seemed at first glance. I think it’s still well within the challenge, even if some numbers this week seem wonky. It was pretty unlikely that we could have a whole big stash of Girl Scout Cookies around for half the month without breaking down and getting a box or two, right? Little Bit recovered enough for school today and her parents will consume their daily quota of caffeine.
The library even notified me that I could now download two e-books from my wait list. That makes waiting til next month to pick up 2 new releases from 2 of my favorite authors much easier. Jon, Little Bit and I are perfectly happy to read, watch Netflix and Sling, and play with toys without spending anything extra on entertainment. Little Bit hasn’t even wanted to spend her allowance this month.
We’ve gotten through the first three weeks of our No-Spend January, and mostly I’m struck by the fact that we don’t seem to be doing much out of the ordinary. We’re a little more aware of the fact that we aren’t giving in to our impulses to spend, but other there’s far less of a sense of accomplishment this time because we’ve gotten used to fewer indulgences.
November, when we went to Orlando, and December, when we celebrated Christmas, were the odd months. No-spend January just feels back to normal life.
Just maybe with a little less ice cream.
Speaking of a little less ice cream, I made an effort this year to focus on weekly to-dos to help move me towards my bigger goals rather than big resolutions. And I really wanted to improve my health habits, with year 50 approaching this fall.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been really concentrating on two healthy living goals: eating sweets only on the weekend, and trying to get moderate exercise at least 4 times per week.
Yeah, Baby! Saying “I’ll only eat sweets on the weekend” makes it a lot easier to NOT indulge my sweet tooth during the week. Yeah, it means Jon and Little Bit got into my stash of good chocolate, but it also means I’m cutting my sugar intake way down.
And it means that our supply of junk food has lasted a lot further into the month than it would have otherwise.
I may make exceptions for birthdays and other celebrations, but I’m happy to find some incremental success on the way to healthier living. This victory is sweet!
I’ve also been able to make movement a priority with regular sessions on our elliptical machine.
I’d love to say I was getting tons of steps in, but that just hasn’t happened. A combination of short days and my work schedule this month has meant a lot less opportunity for neighborhood walks or other outdoor activities. That’s what happens when your part-time job turns out to be much closer to full time than you anticipated, at least for now.
But I have still been able to spend 20 minutes or more on the elliptical machine at least 4 times a week. Not great, but not bad considering we’re all adjusting to a new schedule. And I haven’t let extra-busy days or lack of sleep derail the plan yet, so I’m feeling pretty good about the success I’ve managed so far.
I’m even seeing longer sessions, now that I’m building stamina. So for now, I’m happy with the to-do list approach. It’s meant I’ve stayed focused and prioritized. When I have let things go, I’ve had to confront the fact the next month and decide whether to recommit to the list item or rechannel my energy.
If I can keep it up, that should lead to a lot more progress this year than last.
The Big Revelation?
So that’s our big revelation…we may be making changes this year, but it seems to have very little to do with changing our short-term spending habits and a lot more to do with setting some new habits.
In retrospect, that’s hardly surprising. Over the last year and a half, our focus has been frugal living. I’m not ready to say that we’ve mastered it. We (and especially I) can still get off track from time to time. But when I focus on saving and not spending, as I’ve done so much of this month, I find myself satisfied with most of the spending habits we’ve established.
Time to stretch a bit into new goals and new goal setting areas…healthier lifestyle goals, income-related goals, and more productivity. I have plenty of self-improvement to look for elsewhere.
Have you ever done something to reset some bad habits only to realize the bad habits weren’t really there?
Or as an alternate discussion, what parts of frugality do you find easy? What parts challenge you?
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich*