Well, we made it!
It’s the very last day of January and the final day of the 31 Day No Spend Challenge we embarked on the first day of the year.
We started this challenge because we wanted to:
- Cut out unnecessary spending.
- Become more aware of our daily spending habits and behaviors.
- Create more intentional allocation of our financial resources.
Half-way through the month I posted about three different purchases that were necessary and, I believe, fully justified. The second half of the month, we did not incur any extra expenses beyond monthly bills and groceries. Yipeeee!!!
This experiment has felt both exciting and somewhat restrictive, but overall, this challenge was a fantastic way for us to become more mindful of spending behaviors, and have a larger appreciation for the hard-earned dollars that we bring home each week. In addition, we realized that we do spend more than we should on non-essentials, such buying things for our home or our closets (these are largely my own, rather than my husband’s, habits). However, this experiment also confirmed to us that there are things we spend extra money on that are non-negotiable for us.
- Food. We are committed to purchasing as much fresh, whole, unprocessed foods for our family as we can, because these are essential for good physical and mental health. We know this is not for all families, but for us, this is a non-negotiable in our budget. For example, we won’t purchase a $1.00 4-pack of ramen noodles when we can buy a $2.00 package of dry black beans that, when cooked, can be included in meals for several days. I would also rather spend $4.00 on a very large bag of un-peeled, organic carrots than purchase a cheaper, smaller, ready-to-eat bag of conventional baby carrots that have been soaked in preservatives. We also like to buy meat and dairy products that come from animals that have not been treated with antibiotics or other questionable substances. We fully acknowledge that it takes more money, time, and preparation to eat more healthful meals, but for us, we believe that the long-term health benefits are priceless. So, we will continue to spend more on unprocessed, organic foods, because less exposure to pesticides, or GMO food-like products, is important to us.
- Unexpected, yet essential, purchases. A week into this challenge, our son needed new shoes. Committing to this no-spend process for us did not mean not providing for the actual needs of our family. There was also one night at work when I purchased a small coffee at Starbucks and dinner at Chipotle. You can read about that here. We believe that committing to the no-spend challenge does not mean being so rigid that certain, specific needs that arise due to real life circumstances are not met. Again, this may not be right for everyone, but this is what works for us. And we feel good about that.
But, the main thing that came from this journey was a heightened awareness of the way we think about our money and the behaviors that are attached to those thoughts. We began to look more closely at the reasons behind why we spend money on things.
Like going out to eat. At the end of our long weeks, we had gotten into the habit of regularly going out to dinner. We had rationalized that we were tired and deserved a nice meal that we had not prepared. Because we told ourselves that we worked hard for it. Which we had, but we began doing it too much. And truly, eating out became sort of an ordinary experience, rather than an exciting treat to savor.
Desserts just don’t taste as sweet if we eat them every day.
Is going out for dinner and enjoying a relaxing meal important? Absolutely it is. But not every weekend, and not because we tell ourselves that we deserve it. We have learned to be more intentional about scheduling a night out to eat, and have enjoyed making our own pizzas on Friday nights instead of schlepping out to a restaurant. We have learned to slow down and enjoy our date nights just relaxing at home. It has been quite nice.
This 31-day journey also helped me realize that I spend too much money at Homegoods. I love this store. And I love to decorate. But in this process, I have learned that I am absolutely seduced by the newness of Homegoods’ revolving products. Like unique picture frames, pillows (I am addicted), lamps, art, and adorable clothing. (Well done, Homegoods.) So while I used to go in to Homegoods and maybe only spend $8.00 on a shirt, or $15 on two picture frames, I don’t necessarily need these things. And all of my small purchases were adding up. I’m a pretty frugal shopper in general, but even an extra $50 a month adds up to $600 a year. I can still have a few fun, frugal visits to Homegoods each year, but I can choose instead to put the bulk of that $600 towards debt or savings instead.
One of the things that we also did this month of no-spending was not use the gift cards that we had received as gifts over the holidays. This was a way for us to really examine our behavioral spending. We could have purchased clothing or gone out to eat with these gift cards, but it wouldn’t have given us a truly accurate picture of our spending behaviors, or the ability to really examine the thought processes behind the purchases we make and where we allocate our hard-earned dollars.
Would I do Ruth’s 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge again?
In a heartbeat. It’s awesome. (Thank you, Ruth!)
And here’s why.
- We did cut out unnecessary spending.
- We did become more aware of our daily spending habits and behaviors.
As far as creating a more intentional allocation of our financial resources, we are working on where the dollars that we saved would be best spent in terms of our long-term financial goals.
For us, this was a great experience, and while it was a little uncomfortable at times, it was truly eye-opening.
I am excited about the awareness it gave us when it comes to our behaviors and thoughts about our money. Because really, spending habits begin as thoughts, and are simply an outpouring of the beliefs that we hold. It’s not necessarily finding out what we spend our money on, although that is important.
It’s understanding the why behind our purchases and spending habits. Once we discover what our intentions are, we can gain more understanding, and therefore, more control over our finances. Because we don’t want our hard-earned dollars to blow away in the wind.
Although we will not necessarily be committing to this very process next month, we have already planned the specific things we want and need to spend money on in the coming months. If you are thinking about joining this challenge next month, I highly encourage you to try it. It’s a great experience. You can visit Ruth’s website for more specific information on the challenge.