A No Spend Challenge

I’m thinking about doing a no-spend challenge. I do this periodically, choosing a period of time like one month or even just two weeks and work to not spend money.

Whenever I do this I always set some ground rules. For example, I have to drive to work to make money so buying gasoline is non-negotiable.

But I don’t NEED that pack of gum at the gas station or that cool t-shirt on clearance at TJ Maxx. In fact, I don’t need to spend my free time browsing stores and buying things at all.

I usually set a grocery budget for the period. Say maybe $5 or $10 a week to buy fresh milk, fruit and bread if need be. Sometimes I spend every penny on these perishables and sometimes I don’t buy anything at all. But the grocery budget can’t be spent on a pastry and a Diet Coke just because I have a hankering.

This comes up after a recent review of my budget where I tried to figure out ways  to pay for some reasonably expensive home protection items I purchased after the burglary at Mr. Wonderful’s house. This has been a very expensive month so far and I need to plug up the holes and get things back to normal.

I’m not a big recreational shopper but I notice that I’ve been doing more of this than normal lately and it really needs to stop. If I need a pair dress shoes for work that’s one thing but browsing the stores for the sake of seeing what they have is a very bad habit.

This weekend I walked in a local 5k and then went hiking with Mr. Wonderful. We spent a few dollars on a Subway sandwich for a picnic and we took our cameras out to play (pictures coming soon). If I had been home that morning I would have made something for our picnic but a $5 footlong was still was an inexpensive option and the hike was a relaxing way to spend our day. We went home later in the day and watched movies, lounging on the couch and enjoying each other’s company.

That’s the way it should be.

We didn’t frustrate ourselves with the crowds and high prices in stores and we just relaxed. We didn’t do anything that cost money. We just had a nice, quiet day.

To put this in perspective, on Sunday we had a whirlwind day with his family eating out and shopping to celebrate his dad’s birthday. We had a terrific time and I adore his family but I was exhausted. Plus I spent money that I shouldn’t have. Not much, really. I used a Kohl’s card to buy something and used $5 cash to cover the balance owed. And then I spent about another $20 on some other small things. Like I said, I didn’t spend a lot but I still spent. And I still came home with that vaguely dissatisfied attitude toward my life that sometimes creeps in when I’m comparing my stuff to other people’s stuff.

And you know something? My stuff is just fine. It’s even nice! There’s nothing wrong with my stuff.

I am aware that my neurosis is bleeding through here. My apologies.

Anyway, it is  better for my morale if I stay away from stores and shopping for a while. It’s also better for my budget if I leave my money in the checking account where it belongs instead of in the stores.

As I have been writing this insanely scattered post it has occurred to me that the No Spend Challenge needs to begin today.

I will attempt to make it to October 5.

It has been a while since my last one of these so I fully expect slip-ups but will do my absolute best to only pay my bills, buy gas for my car and pick up the absolute necessities for food. I have a pantry and freezer full of supplies so that part shouldn’t be too hard.

One confession though. I have to travel some and I usually indulge in some kind of fast food meal, mainly because it’s just too hard to find food for the road that doesn’t need refrigerated or heated. But my idea of cheating here is to take my own aluminum water bottle and apple from home and grab a Subway breakfast sandwich or a value menu burger. So this category isn’t the budget breaker it could be, I suppose.

But as we know, every penny counts so I try to keep this occurrence to a minimum.

Ok. So who’s with me? Who is willing to pack their lunch, give up their morning Starbucks coffee and spend their weekends living instead of shopping? Anyone?