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.

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 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!

Money Revelations

There’s this post going around Facebook that asks a very simple question.

What does it take to blow $10,000 a year? Just $27.40 of unnecessary spending in a day.

You probably are saying you don’t blow $27.40 a day and that may be true. However, most people don’t realize how much small purchases add up. Whether it’s buying more food than you can use before it spoils, picking up clearance clothes just because they’re cheap, or eating out when you could eat food from home, most people are wasting at least some money every week.

Those small purchases do add up.

If you shop for entertainment or comfort, your weekly waste would probably shock you.

I did a No Spend Challenge in January and have continued the challenge off and on beyond the original 31 day commitment. This is partly because I’m trying to save for adventure season (which will be here soon!) and partly because it’s become so natural to question spending temptations.

This challenge was designed to reset my spending and consumption habits after the gluttony of the holidays. It’s also great for quieting my mind, fostering a sense of gratitude and for coping with some bad habits.

One thing I have learned is that the more time I spend in a store, the more money I spend.

Case in point – I have saved a ton of money by reducing my Walmart trips to just twice a month. I despise Walmart but have to live in the world I wake up in and that world is a place saturated by Walmart.

It’s the cheapest place around to get Scout’s cat food and supplies so I go twice a month for these things and for a few other items that I can only buy there. But each trip always results in impulse buys and it doesn’t matter if the trips are two weeks apart or two days apart.

In this store I develop a kind of amnesia where I can never remember if I have enough shampoo and where I’m certain the dish soap is nearly gone. And then I notice socks on clearance and that cute Pioneer Woman scoop that’s perfect for my laundry detergent and things fall apart rather quickly. The next thing you know, I have gathered $30 worth of cheap socks, shampoo and pecans that I don’t need.

And I’ve always been ok with this because I believe in having a stocked pantry and in keeping myself in a place that I never have to buy anything. However, you can only use so much stuff.

Guys, $30 will fill the tank of my Nerdmobile and a tank of gas will take this fuel efficient car far from home.

So I’m training myself to ask more questions. Is that lunch out or clearance junk worth skipping an adventure?

Not only that, I want to retire without worry someday. Is it worth working longer just to have that stuff in my cart?

Nope. No. No way. It’s not.

Friends, money is a tool to be used to reach your goals. It’s not just for spending. It’s for making life better, for happiness and it’s for security.

Is there something you habitually spend money on that you are willing to cut for an important savings goal? I would love to hear about it.

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!

Simple ways to save: Laundry room edition

Have you noticed lately what it costs to buy just one jug of laundry detergent? Why is keeping your clothes clean so expensive?

About a year ago I realized that my laundry detergent was costing a lot of money every year and that it wasn’t doing anything special. I mean, that $16 container of Tide doesn’t come with Rosie from the Jetsons to actually fold and put away your clothes for you.

A friend recommended that I try making my own laundry detergent and even gave me a recipe. With about a $7 investment I was able to make enough batches of detergent to last my single self for close to a year. My clothes look, feel and smell cleaner. The waste is just two small boxes and a soap wrapper and I store my detergent in an airtight container that looks attractive sitting on the shelf.  I couldn’t be happier!

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
1 c. grated Fels Naptha soap
½ c. washing soda
½ c. borax
For light load, use 1 tablespoon. For heavy or soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.

Here are a couple of other recipes that I have found useful:

Laundry Pre-treatment:
½ c. ammonia
½ c. white vinegar
¼ c. baking soda
2 tbsp. liquid soap or laundry detergent
2 quarts water
Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot.

Laundry Pre-treatment 2:
1 tsp. liquid laundry detergent
2 tbsp. ammonia
1 pt. warm water

Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot, let sit for 20 minutes.

Fabric Softener:
Add ½ – 1 c. vinegar to your softener dispenser

Bleach Alternative  for Laundry
¼ c. hydrogen peroxide

I know in this busy world it may not sound practical to make your own laundry supplies. But look at the recipes. All the supplies should be available at your local grocery or big box store. The most labor intensive part is grating the soap for detergent and that just takes a few minutes. The reward is well worth the grating time.

What do you think? Have you ever made laundry detergent? Do you like it?