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.

No Spend Challenge 2023

Each year, I challenge myself to not spend money on unnecessary purchases during the winter. This No Spend Challenge began on December 30 so I’m starting day seven and feeling good. My initial goal is to make it through January but I really want to go through February.

Here’s the deal. This isn’t an excuse to shirk responsibilities. In my version of the No Spend Challenge, bills are paid and gas goes in the car. I eat out if I have to (almost always because of work) and I still tip generously. I buy the things I need. So if I blow the heel on my work shoes, I first shop my closet to see if there’s something usable. If not, I will go buy the needed shoes but won’t go looking for other stuff for fun.

My pantry and freezer tend to be well stocked enough that I am able to use some of those reserves. This is intentional as I live in the country and you never know when you won’t be able to make it to a grocery store when the weather turns sour. This week, I need some cat food and a dozen eggs. Maybe some bananas.

You get the idea.

It’s actually kind of fun. Ohio winters are an ideal time to hibernate. I stay home, try new recipes, feather my nest and catch up on my rest. This week I actually sat down at the piano for the first time in over a year and I have a list of small indoor projects to work on.

In fact, I wrote out a list of about fifty things I can do that don’t involve spending money. It’s mostly things here at home and using what I already own.

Society pushes on us these ideas of buying and needing stuff from the time we are born. It’s easy to forget that we are more than consumers.

When I was a kid my She-Ra action figures came with a small story book and checklist designed to help kids see how many more action figures they needed to collect the entire set. Spoiler alert- you could never have the entire set because there was always something new.

That’s right. There is ALWAYS something new. From home decor to fashion to a new flavor of chips, there is always something new to buy.

Advertising messages as far as the eye can see sell us creams to make us younger and pills to remedy all our problems. Foreigners are often surprised that pharmaceuticals are advertised as commonly as a box of cereal in America. There’s no end to the products being sold.

We even have access to the perfect pant. Yes, ladies. According to an ad in my Facebook feed last night, Spanx has created a fashion marvel so incredible they literally have named it “The Perfect Pant.” At just $158 a pair, these black pants are guaranteed to change your life or at least drain your checking account.

There’s a meme that sometimes appears on Facebook. I have mentioned it before. It asks what it takes to blow $10,000 a year. The answer is $27.40 in needless daily spending. You might not be wasting $192 a week…. Or maybe you are. It’s an interesting thing to consider.

Classic marketing slogans like Burger King’s iconic “Have It Your Way” and the unforgettable contribution from Rent To Own that assures consumers that we all deserve nice things tell us that it’s our right to drain our wallets by spending with their companies.

If I am to really have it my way, I’ll have my money in the bank where it can gain a few cents interest in anticipation of adventures on the horizon. And that is a great motivator – this idea that a dollar saved today will fund a trip to somewhere memorable later.

Lots of people seem to think I’m somehow neglecting myself or denying myself things I need. They often try to find ways around the rules on my behalf. They’ll offer to buy my lunch or argue that a gift card gives me permission to go shop. A kind, if not misguided gesture.

I tend to be quite strict with this, only occasionally stepping outside the box to buy deeply discounted items that are both a future need and a robust bargain. Last year, I found a box of Christmas cards for ninety percent off at the grocery store. They were cute and I was glad for my $1 box of cards this Christmas. Before purchasing, I did at least stop and consider my decision, choosing also to forgo the rest of the clearance section which was packed with stuff I did not need.

It is a fine line to walk. If there’s a true deal on something you will need soon, it’s silly to pass up the deal in favor of following the rules and spending more later. There’s another line to walk in all of this. You see, it is tempting to say no to everything now and then binge shop when the challenge is done. That’s why it’s important to modify behavior and thinking so the urge to spend is lessened by the end of the challenge. This could actually be a future blog story as there are several things I do to make not spending money much easier.

How will I occupy my time through this No Spend Challenge? Come back tomorrow and we will talk about it. I can assure you, I will not be bored.

Have you ever done a No Spend Challenge? I would love to hear about it!

A Key To Happiness

Anticipation is one of my personal keys to happiness. No matter what, it’s important to always have something to look forward to. Luckily, that something doesn’t have to be big.

Sure, it’s amazing having an exciting trip to anticipate. Yet, it’s just as effective to look forward to browsing at the library or settling in on the couch with some popcorn and a movie this weekend.

I suppose this is why I like to plan as much as I do. I looked forward to my trip to see the Franklin Park lights starting the minute we scheduled it. Today I’m looking forward to a much needed tune up at the chiropractor. I lead such a glamorous life!

It is much healthier to dwell on the good in life so I’m always looking for ways to be more satisfied with what I have and to be generally more happy.

I’m also anticipating the start of my No Spend Challenge. Officially, it begins on New Year’s Day but I’m thinking Friday would be a great kick off day.

I have enjoyed months of excess – holiday shopping, eating out, travel and fun have again defined this year. At least the good has tied with the bad – the thyroid issue – for top billing.

I crave the quiet of winter and the calm that comes from a No Spend Challenge. Consequently, I’m excited to get started.

When I do this, I focus more on self care and relaxation. I go to bed early and cook nourishing foods. I read more and cozy up with a soft blanket more often. I am kinder to myself during a No Spend Month than any other time of the year. That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything. Part of this month involves decluttering, getting organized, picking up old hobbies or even trying something new.

If I adventure out of the house, it will likely be a cold Saturday hike on the way to the grocery store or maybe a morning getting lost at the library. But don’t worry. Adventure season will be here in a few months and I’ll be back at it sooner than you think!

It is incredible how full and beautiful life can be when you focus on appreciating what’s before you at home rather than constantly running around seeking more.

Stay tuned. I’ll write another day about my own No Spend Challenge rules and my perspective on what it really means. I was kind of surprised that this will be my sixth year in a row and I’ll tell you about how it all has evolved since that first year.

It wasn’t always so easy and I have never before anticipated January so eagerly as I do now. Just a couple more days of commitments and vacation fun and I’ll get started!

No Spend Saturday

Welcome to day eight of my 2022 No Spend Challenge. Some people do the challenge just to save money. For me, it’s about resetting all my habits and taking an intentional step back from the activity that typically defines most other months.

I usually like to be on the go from April through December. But after the decadence of the holidays, the overspending, over eating and all around overexertion, I’m pleased to slow things down. So I aim to stay home, drink more water, rest more and eat better while saving my money.

This challenge me gives me license to stay in and cozy on a chilly day. I’ll feed the birds and maybe take a little walk around the yard but have no intention of leaving the property.

Instead, I have some small projects in mind for today. My utility room could use a little freshening up and I badly need to reorganize the freezer. After that, an All Creatures Great and Small binge may be in my future. The PBS series returns for season two tomorrow night and I want to be ready.

Scout will gravitate toward the window where he can watch over his birdies but will check on me periodically. He likes to supervise and see if there are any boxes, bags or crevices where he can cram his little body while I’m begging him to please move. It’s a fun game we play, he says.

In other words, it will be a plain old ordinary day at home and I’m excited for it. Happy Saturday, friends.

No Spend January

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.

Not Buying Whatever They’re Selling

Twelve days into my No Spend Challenge and it feels like everywhere I look someone is trying to sell me something.

Advertising is designed to make us feel insecure, to make us feel like what we have isn’t good enough. You’ll look better in these jeans. You’ll be happier if you drink this beverage. You’ll be wealthier if you invest with us. Your house will be prettier if you buy hundreds of dollars of crap at our store. Better yet, buy a whole new house and fill the entire thing with the widgets we sell!

Even the otherwise inspiring podcasters I enjoy are trying to sell their books and consultations.

Satisfaction is a threat to sales people everywhere.

I’ve all but stopped reading women’s magazines, hardly ever catch a tv commercial, am actively unsubscribing from marketing emails, and blissfully scroll past all the targeted ads meant to sell me what I don’t need.

The world claims that my most important value is as a consumer but I’m choosing to go a different route.

This annual No Spend Challenge is a meaningful reminder that my life is good already. I have a nice home, plenty of healthy food to eat and tons of ways to entertain myself that don’t include shopping or buying things.

And by saving my money now, I’ll have funds for adventures this summer! That is worth way more to me than anything the world is selling right now!