Last month, Amanda at Centsibly Rich threw down the gauntlet. She was beginning a no-spend January challenge and looking for others to join her.
So we did. We did a no-spend month in October 2015 and learned a ton from it. And, fearing that we might slip back into old habits, I put it down as part of my 2016 New Year’s Resolutions. As with so many resolutions, I set it and then forgot it. And, sure enough, as we got to the end of 2016, I realized that I struggled a bit more to control spending impulses.
I needed a reset, and a no-spend January challenge was a good method of resetting.
In our December State of the Blog update, I stated our rules.
- Grocery spending is limited to $10 of produce a week and dairy (milk, half and half, cheese, vanilla yogurt). Maybe TP if necessary. No snacks, no sweets (not like that should be a problem right now), no new meat, etc.
- We’ll limit other shopping to stuff to work on the rentals and the two birthday presents we have on tap for this month. Little Bit will still get her allowance to spend as and when she wants, but Jon and I are limiting purchases.
- Entertainment spending is limited to things our current commitments…Little Bit has a Girl Scout event scheduled for next week. Our Amazon Prime membership comes due in January (and we save enough that renewal is a no-brainer.) No movies, no meals out, and no other events that cost extra, though. (Library and park visits are fine and even encouraged.)
- Bills, gas purchases, church donation, etc get paid per usual.
Very simple rules, right? But of course, we didn’t actually stick to them.
One Restaurant Meal
Stuff happens. And, sometimes, despite your best intentions, you do feel an obligation to eat out. And we did…on January 2.
How can you be OBLIGATED to eat out? Easy, you forget to grab your Christmas present at your out-of-town relatives’ house and they kindly agree to meet you halfway between. At lunchtime.
Actually, my dad and stepmother delivered 2 presents. Jon and I forgot the box of frozen sausages on Christmas day, and that started things. But my older niece and nephew weren’t able to come to my Dad’s on Christmas day, either, so my dad and stepmother had another present to deliver for my daughter.
So, we met at a Smithfield’s Barbeque between Raleigh and Fayetteville to pick up the gifts and spend a nice lunch with my dad, stepmother and baby nephew. Total cost $17.89 (because you can’t go to Smithfield’s without picking up some extra hushpuppies.)
And now we have a freezer full of sausage patties to help get us through the month.
Weather forecasters predicted a huge snowstorm for Raleigh on January 7-8. It didn’t actually materialize the way they predicted (we got mostly sleet,) but we still are pretty much housebound this weekend. While that’s made it super-easy not to go out and spend money, we did pick up some extra stuff for the weekend that we didn’t predict.
First, we got milk. Before a Carolina snow storm, you are obligated to go to the store to pick up milk and bread. But we had a loaf of bread already, so we just got milk. Yeah, dairy is on our list of what we can buy this month. But, obligatory snow storm milk must be mentioned.
Then, having a history of snowstorm-related power outages, I also urged Jon to get the LP gas tank refilled at BJs. We’re having record cold weather, and $10 to make sure we can stay warm if necessary seemed like a good precautionary expense, even if it’s not on the original list.
Fortunately, we haven’t had to use it.
And, we picked up a few other things…mostly a giant pack of toilet paper. (I won’t have to buy toilet paper again until spring.) And body wash and conditioner. Because…um…we were almost out and I don’t compromise on hygiene?
Anyway, we spent a total of $46.68 on Friday morning to prepare for the storm. More than we predicted or planned, but about half of what we’d spend on a weekly grocery trip.
Not only that, when I looked at what we spent on our first grocery trip during our last no-spend challenge, we spent almost the same amount. Crazy! I wonder what all we bought?
Last time we did a no-spend challenge, we had a bunch of temptations to spend extra.
This time, not so much.
First, we have a huge backlog of sweets and snacks in the house from the holidays (and I did stock up just a bit to reduce the grumbling.) And, since part of my to-do list last week included delaying sweets til the weekend, I’m not delving into the snack stash as much. We’re good on snacks for at least another week, possibly two. We’re good on meat, with the sausages, a couple of turkeys, chicken and ham in the freezer.
Next week we should need some fruit and veg. For now, though, food, even fun convenient food, is not an issue.
And, we just started our Sling subscription, so we have new entertainment options to explore. With new toys and games around, not even Little Bit seems tempted to spend her allowance.
I have one unscratched itch…one of my favorite authors released a new book this week and normally I’d use an Amazon gift card from Swagbucks to pick it up (our library probably won’t carry it.) I have a $25 gift card balance right now, and another 2100 in Swagbucks, so I could buy the book without real spending. But, that seems a bit like cheating. I’ll try to apply our credits toward our Prime renewal and delay getting the new book for a month or so.
In the meantime, I’ve downloaded a good book from our library. Jon and Little Bit have just come in from sledding down our hill. Life during week one of our no-spend January challenge is good!
A Quick Word on the Weekly To-Do List
To refocus habits this year, I’m trying a weekly to-do list in pursuit of overall goals to live healthier, increase financial health, improve the blog and do good things.
Last week was the first week I really put this new strategy into effect, and week one seemed to work really well.
I might have grabbed a doughnut hole during the week before I remembered I was delaying sweets, but it was only one. And, my exercise might not have been anything to brag about, but i did jump on the elliptical machine 5 times last week instead of none. I even managed to fit in the HTML class.
So far, this is a promising approach to pursuing resolutions and setting new habits. My week 2 list looks a lot like week 1 (substituting CSS for HTML), but I know if I screw up on them I can refocus my attention again next week.
Week One: Easy Street
We’ve done a no-spend challenge before, and we knew that in a lot of ways, week one is easy street.
Maybe we didn’t quite stick to the plan, but we haven’t veered that far off it either. Even though we veered off course a bit, it was easy to get back to the plan. The supplies are still so plentiful we barely have room in our fridge or freezer for anything else anyway. No one’s bored with staying in for the weekend (and we could hardly get out even if we wanted to go somewhere.)
The big struggle the first week of a no-spend month is controlling impulses to spend on fun stuff. I think Jon and I got a handle on ours a while ago. Most of the time we stay mindful in our spending, at least outside of the grocery store.
It will get harder. Not so much next week, but during the second half of the month when we have to start getting more creative with our pantry and freezer supplies, or when staying home begins to feel claustrophobic.
But for now, I’m gonna enjoy easy street.
What struggles do you have when you try not to spend money?