January is a special month for me and I have come to look forward to it. This is the start of a slower period and one where I intentionally keep things quiet.
You see, I do a No Spend Challenge where I intentionally stop spending money, stay home, use what I have and focus on being happy in the world I have created here. It’s a type of winter hibernation and I savor these quiet, cozy days at home.
How does it work? I’m so glad you asked.
First off, I pay my bills and buy needs. This should go without saying but you have to pay your bills, put gas in the car and buy food to eat.
That’s about the extent of it.
During most of the year, I don’t typically eat out a lot. It’s mostly when I’m traveling for work or on adventure days. My biggest weakness is buying books, accessories and bargains at TJ Maxx. Another weakness is at the grocery store. I like having lots of fresh produce and tend to shop sales to stock up on pantry items.
That said, compared to most people, I live frugally and without a ton of waste. In fact, I live this way so I can afford to travel and to do the things I enjoy.
During my no spend months, I question every purchase. I don’t buy a candy bar without questioning motivation and need. You may find it shocking to realize how many things you consider buying in a month when you say that you can’t buy anything.
I know people who spend five or ten dollars a day just on snacks and drinks while they’re at work or commuting. That’s upwards of a hundred dollars every month and way more than I spend on car insurance for a month. Is a snack really worth more than a grand a year?
I’m going to say no. Yet these very same people often complain that they have no money and make snide remarks about how it must be nice to travel so much.
There are some exceptions to the no spend rule. For example, genuine need shouldn’t be ignored. If you work in an office environment and break the heal on your dress shoes, you’ll either need to repair or replace them. But first, shop your own closet to see if you have something appropriate to use for a while.
If I’m traveling for work and can’t pack a lunch, you bet I’ll eat out. If the car needs a repair, that’s important too.
Instead of going on adventures and spending money on museums or movie tickets, I spend my Saturdays at home. This gives me a chance to sleep in, to work on my hobbies, have a movie marathon, dive into a book or take a walk. I focus on getting things done at home and doing things I enjoy.
I shop my pantry and freezer to experiment and create meals. Instead of buying a package of cookies, I make homemade cookies or muffins with pantry ingredients. I also usually make a few kinds of soup that I can freeze in two serving containers so I don’t feel the need to buy canned soup.
My grocery trips typically involve produce, eggs and whatever ingredients are needed to fill the gaps.
Whenever I feel the urge to buy something, I make a list of all the stuff I want to buy. I review that list at the end of the challenge and consider two things. Do I still want the thing? How much money did I save by not buying the thing?
After being in the habit of shopping and spending over the holidays, it’s a healthy move for me to say no to spending on extras. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it feels like work. However, it is eye opening to realize how many times a day I say no to buying.
If you’re looking to pay off holiday debt or to save for the adventures ahead, this is a super way to do it.
One more thing. What does it take to waste $10,000 a year? Just $27.40 a day or under $200 a week in unnecessary spending. Think you don’t do that? Maybe you don’t but you might be surprised at how much you do waste.