No Spend January

Illustration by Lore Pemberton.

January is a different kind of month for me and I have come to look forward to it. You see, I do what I call a No Spend Challenge.

It’s a simple concept. Bills are paid and necessities are purchased. So I put gas in the tank and buy groceries but try not to eat out or buy a lot of extra stuff I don’t need.

If the heel breaks on my good work shoes, I dig through my closet for a suitable back up. If I feel like it’s necessary to replace them, then I do so but the rule is I can only buy the shoes I need and not something I just want.

If there’s something I think I want (or need that’s not an emergency), I usually write it down. Often times, by the end of the month, I no longer care about the thing. In other words, there’s not a mad dash to the store to buy all the stuff I missed shopping for in the previous weeks.

This isn’t an outlandish concept. After all, many people live within these boundaries every day by choice or necessity.

I’m reasonably frugal and a smart shopper but have a weakness for buying sale groceries, books, and small items at the cash register like Tic Tacs.

These things add up.

January is a great time to do this as there’s no where to be and it gets dark so early that I’m pleased to stay home where it’s cozy and warm.

Focus is placed on using what I have and taking care of my home. I tend to tidy the kitchen cabinets, clean out the closet and purge a few things. I cook more, making extras for the freezer. Activities like reading, puzzles, movie nights and bubble baths take the place of browsing antique stores and running around. In 2020, I wasn’t out shopping in stores so much but did a fair amount of online shopping and driving around looking at stuff.

This month is a method of realigning habits and priorities while killing the urge to shop. Plus I save money.

Last year, I was so pleased with my no spend month that it ran over into February.

In preparation, I spent some time last week listing all the things I can do to entertain myself for free. Hiking, reading and painting made the top of the list that runs seventy items strong. This particular exercise is an amazing way to remember how much there is to do that’s fun or at least useful and that costs zero dollars.

I was practicing the Norwegian concept of Hygge long before it was cool or even before I knew the term for it. Nothing makes me happier than warm pjs, soft blankets, and delicious aromas emanating from a pot on the stove. I’m so excited to be home more and doing this right now.

January is the perfect time to start or to polish these cozy ways.

The image above is a fun illustration from artist Lore Pemberton. I found her on Instagram this year and immediately was entranced by her vision and artistry. I ordered a couple of small pieces from her for Christmas when she had a sale.

This particular image is a depiction of how I think of my life in January.

Home. Warm. Cozy. Reading.

If you have the time, take a look at her work on her website or follow her on Instagram.

Does a No Spend Month sound like something you would enjoy? Comment! I’ll be happy to chat about it.

One Month Down

January is typically a quieter time for me but this month has been extremely low key. I’ve been home a lot – stress has played a big role along with weather which has made it difficult to get outdoors for hikes.

This has actually made my No Spend Month a little easier. If you stay home (and away from your favorite online retailers), there’s little temptation to buy stuff you don’t need. Even still, I did have some unplanned purchases – a work function took me to a cute vintage shop which I wanted to support. So I spent $21 on two cute hats.

I ate out more than I wanted because of work travel and ended up exceeding my grocery budget as well. This was mainly because I found some deals that will save money in the long run. Even still, I ate well and came in under what I would normally spend on groceries.

There were a number of opportunities to shop for entertainment, to pick up clearance deals or seek out vintage treasures. However, I was so busy doing other things that I don’t feel like I missed out on anything.

I did buy tickets for a couple of upcoming local shows that I really want to see and I’m ok with that.

Perfection isn’t nearly as important to me as “good enough.” And I did good enough.

My little cat is happy having me home more and I’m better read, having plowed through a big stack of books in January.

I didn’t focus on exercise nearly as much as I wanted, opting instead for more rest. The treadmill isn’t nearly so inviting as the open trail.

In all, January feels like a success. It has been pleasant enough that I’m planning to continue through February with some new exceptions to the rules.

So, there you go. One twelfth of the year is now complete. One twelfth! How quickly did that pass?