No Spend Challenge Update

This No Spend Challenge is going pretty well. I haven’t really been tempted to break the rules and I’m proud that practicing gratitude has kept me satisfied.

I have chosen to spend some weekends sleeping in, doing some purging and organizing, and using the things I already own. Nothing makes you want to stop shopping like dumping a carload of donations at the thrift store.

That said, there has been some spending outside of bills, groceries and gasoline. Work lunches on travel days have added up more than anything else. Then there was the heat pump repair last week.

Cat food supply issues have posed a challenge. Scout only eats one brand and he doesn’t like anything that involves seafood or the the word pate. The three little boys who live with my folks eat a different brand and only want seafood flavors. They also don’t approve of pate. There are lots of rules.

It is rare to find more then a few cans of what they will eat so I am making frequent trips to the store to keep all these picky little mouths fed.

I tell you that to tell you this.

For most people, every trip into a grocery or big box store will cost a set amount of money more than intended. In other words, it’s more expensive to make frequent small trips than to make one big trip unless you are highly disciplined and willing to pass on your impulses.

Pre-pandemic that amount was about twenty bucks for me but it’s higher now.

This ties in nicely with the other issue I’ve had this month. Grocery shopping is one area that I’m not great at controlling. So when I pop to the store for cat food, it’s tempting to pick up snacks and things I probably don’t need.

After all, food is a necessity. Right? Never mind the freezer at home packed with supplies.

The other night, I finally found fully stocked shelves of kitty food that the little boys will eat so I bought a ton. Then I went to Kroger to grab some produce and bottled water. I got to the checkout and and realized I had somehow forgotten that there were only six things on the list – not the usual cartload of stuff.

I spent about $40 more than intended. Is this terrible? No. Could I afford it? Yes but I didn’t need those extras – especially during a No Spend Challenge.

I’ll have an opportunity to redeem myself this week as I really do just need some produce, water and yogurt. Luckily, I won’t need to buy eggs because my aunt’s chickens are laying again! They’re pictured above – aren’t they pretty?

As much as I hate to, I think I’ll order Scout’s cat food online to save myself some hassle this time. Here’s hoping I don’t develop temporary amnesia at the store again!

I’ll keep you posted.

Cheat Day

Teasers for the movie A Man Called Otto have been torturing me for months. Tom Hanks never disappoints and the movie looked enticing. Unfortunately, it opened two days ago, squarely during my No Spend Challenge.

Five years ago I would have denied my own request to spend money on entertainment during a No Spend Month. These days I feel like I have a better hold on the intention of my No Spend Challenge. So while planning back in December, I decided to give myself a pass to see the movie with one caveat.

I had to make it a social occasion.

As an only child and a single person, I am comfortable in my own company to the point I may be too comfortable. I like being alone and rarely think to include others in my day. So I gave myself a budget for a matinee, snacks and dinner out with my cousin Sherrie. We walked inside her local mall to beat the cold and rounded out the day at the grocery store.

Exciting, I know.

I also filled my car with gas for the first time in almost two weeks, dropped a big haul at Goodwill and wandered around a vendor mall following our walk. I did make an unplanned, unnecessary purchase. It was a vintage suitcase in fantastic condition for $2.15 with tax.

It was an extraordinary bargain and will go well with my suitcase collection at a fraction of the cost they normally sell for.

So I found a bargain, enjoyed a movie I was dying to see and had some social time too.

In all, it felt successful and I regret nothing.

So my No Spend Challenge resumes today and I’m happy to continue following the rules for a calmer, more restful experience where I stick close to home and find ways to use what I have to be happy. It’s pretty rewarding once you have the hang of it!

Leave Nothing Behind

Products like toothpaste, shampoo and the above pictured Olay face wash are never really empty when you think they are. Cut off the end and you’ll be surprised to find there are several more days worth of product left.

Given how expensive everything is, it’s best not to leave anything behind. After all, a dollar saved is gas in the tank for your next road trip!

Food Waste And Travel Savings

If reincarnation is a thing, I was once a pre- war housewife. Waste bothers me and I’m pretty good at stretching resources a little further.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not washing out sandwich bags – mostly because I don’t use them much. Paper plates are ok for parties but not daily use and I average two rolls of paper towels year.

Food waste is super annoying to me and I’m always dismayed when I hear people proudly proclaim they don’t eat leftovers.

Why is this important to someone who mostly writes about leaving home and doing fun things? The short answer is that saving money now is how you afford the fun travels later.

So I spent some time Sunday salvaging some fridge food and transforming it into something better.

– Roasted some veggies that were on the verge. Some chunks of onion, a few mushrooms, half a zucchini and shriveling asparagus all got tossed in olive oil and sea salt. There’s enough to provide veggies for a few meals and this is terrific because I try to eat veggies at every meal, including breakfast.

– Chopped up a pineapple that was also on the verge. I relish fresh pineapple but there’s a disconnect between putting it on the counter and actually cutting it up to eat. From the fridge it disappears super quick either as yogurt topper in the morning or just a refreshing snack.

– Whipped up some healthy, gluten free pancakes using two sad bananas, the end of a peanut butter jar, a little applesauce and some other pantry ingredients. These are now tucked into the freezer for breakfasts and dinners when I don’t want to cook.

– Discovered some blueberry jam that will make a great topping for yogurt or pancakes. Or, ooh, yogurt and blueberry jam on pancakes!

– Half a head of raw cauliflower, sour cream left from another recipe, and the end of the butter were added to potatoes and pantry chives. Together these were transformed into some delicious mashed potatoes. I’ll eat them as-is for a couple of meals and repurpose whatever is left into potato cakes for dinner one night.

– A green bell pepper got diced and frozen. I keep leftover peppers, onions and mushrooms in the freezer for quick fillers and toppings for quiche, omelets, pizza, etc. Otherwise, I would be throwing away shriveled up veggies all the time.

– Made a plan for some leftover guacamole with tomatoes, black beans and the rest of the sour cream. I’ll add a little sweet corn from the freezer and the end of some shredded cheese. If I add rice, it can be burrito filler or it could be a dip. I will either buy some chips or some tortillas while out tomorrow. Decisions, decisions.

I also made a mental list of some things that will need addressed. Some leftover cucumber, an orange pepper and a bunch of carrots were not pressing yesterday but they will be soon.

All of this took practically no time. An hour?

Not only is there now food prepared or ingredients ready for lots of future meals, the fridge is nice and tidy now and money has been saved.

Life is expensive. With the cost of everything going up, it’s more important than ever to be smart with our resources. And yes, that sad asparagus is a resource. You evidently thought it was a good idea to trade your hard earned money to get it so it’s smart to use it.

The rising cost of groceries has certainly outpaced income for most of us. When we throw away food, it’s like throwing away money. And wasting money cuts into adventure savings. For me, it’s worth an hour of my Sunday now to have adventures later!

This is the least glamorous part of traveling on a budget but it is vital. How could we travel at all if we don’t save money at home?

So you have food savings tips? Share them!

No Spend Month Update

When you decide to do a No Spend Challenge, the first thing you’ll notice is that everyone is trying to sell you something.

There’s traditional advertising like tv, mail, Facebook and email. Then there’s the person you haven’t seen since high school trying to guilt you into buying bags and soap and plastic containers from multi billion dollar companies.

It’s kind of discouraging the first time you realize your value to the world is as a consumer and nothing more.

When I check email each day, I try to unsubscribe to as much as I can but there are some marketing emails that I find useful when I am spending and don’t want to part with in the future. I just delete these without reading them so I’m not tempted today but can still get the coupons later.

The next thing you’ll notice is how much marketing is designed to make you unhappy with your life. Women’s magazines are enemy number one. They are filled with stories that are glorified advertising telling you about the cream that will lift your eyes, the jacket that will make you look taller and thinner, and the new furniture line that will make your home feel like a spa.

How’s your relationship? Shouldn’t you lose weight? Here’s a complicated recipe to make you feel completely inadequate in the kitchen. Better yet, let’s talk about expensive meal subscription boxes to cater to your gluten free, vegan, paleo or fruititarian lifestyle!

For most, the goal of a no spend month is to save money. That’s a great reason to start. In fact, that’s why I started doing this a few years ago. However, I quickly realized that there is a greater purpose to the exercise.

As the days turn into weeks, I find myself growing more satisfied with what I have and even a little skeptical of most purchases.

THIS is why I do the no spend challenge now. The saved money is nice but the deep sense of satisfaction is the true reward. With satisfaction comes gratitude and a sense of peace that there’s not much you can buy that will make you happier than you are right now.

After all, will that expensive cream really make you look younger?

It’s ok to want things. I like my home to be cozy, neat and comfortable. I want it to look pretty. There are things that I would like to have but few things that will elevate my feelings of happiness beyond where I am now.

When I have a large chunk of time at home, I tend to put down my phone more and gravitate toward projects – cleaning out a drawer or closet can’t be done while reading news. You’re less apt to kill time on Facebook when you’re engaged with something that keeps your hands and mind busy.

I tend to cook more and to use up those odds and ends that somehow accumulate in the freezer and pantry. The creation above is basically my favorite meal of all time – a baked potato topped with scrambled eggs and leftover vegetables that are lightly sautéed. Hey! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It’s tasty and it uses up odds and ends.

But I digress. The point is that these changes in habits make an enormous difference and help you to appreciate that it is not just about the money.

In case you are wondering, it’s day thirteen and I have paid bills but have bought nothing else. I do need a new phone case but that is a necessity to protect my very expensive iPhone from – well, from me because I am clumsy. That needs to happen soon as this one is no longer water proof.

Are you doing a no spend month? Give me an update!

Doing My Part One Book At A Time

The nice thing about being a reader is that this simple act allows you to move freely through time and space without leaving your chair.

The nice thing about the internet is that you can shop for books without leaving your house.

I’ve been doing my part to stimulate the economy and to support small businesses by buying books from the website It’s sort of like Amazon for books only it’s mostly small booksellers. You can buy new or used and so far, I’ve found fair prices on everything I have wanted to buy.

In fact, every title I have purchased so far has cost between .99 and $2.99 for both hardbacks and softcovers. New and newer books obviously cost more. You do pay to ship but it’s typically $3 or $4 and some retailers will reduce your shipping costs if you buy more than one item from them.

You can search by title, author or ISBN. You can also browse by topic or store. The books are listed by the store and include full descriptions including condition and edition. This is helpful because you may want the newer reprint of an older book.

So far, I have no complaints about condition or quality. If you’re accustomed to free and quick shipping from Barnes and Noble or Amazon, this can take a little longer but not by much.

I try to buy from small Ohio booksellers although the only chain stores I have seen listed are Half Price Books.

There are few bookstores in my area and they’re all closed right now. Plus, I like supporting the mom and pop stores. Even though my orders are never for a lot of money, I hope that it all adds up!

Meanwhile, my reading stack is piling up again and I look forward to opening my mailbox every day. And I always say that having something to look forward to is a key to happiness!

Plus, instead of adding them to my bookshelves, the new titles are stacked together in my laundry room and when I’m ready for a new book I go “shop” the new stack!