Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The no spend month challenge

Do you ever look at your bank account and ask yourself "Where did all my money go?".  If you are like me, this happens all the time.  I have been seeing these "No-Spend Month" challenges on a few blogs, and had entertained the idea of trying it.  Now that the house buying, moving, and holidays are over, it seems like January is the perfect time to try it, with everyone all freshly energized with new resolutions to improve themselves.  The rules of the no spend month vary, but the gist is that you are trying to curb your incidental spending by setting a tight budget and sticking to it.  The way we decided to do it is this:  Keep paying all regular bills, but think about what we should spend on groceries and gas, and then set the budget a little lower than that.  The idea is to challenge yourself to think differently about spending, and try to find creative ways to not spend.  I used to be VERY good at this, back in the broke days.  And even now, we have already made some changes to the spending habits we had developed in Portland.  We go out to eat much less often, and generally shop less as well.  But it still felt like the spending was a bit out of control.  I feel like the no spend month will allow us to look at where the leaks are in the budget, and changes we can make to fix that.  We are not trying to become cheapskates or misers, but to become more mindful of how we use money.  It is also just a way to challenge ourselves and grow.  Sort of like a budget fast.

We set our expense budget to $250 including everything outside of our normal bills.  We were going to set it to $300, but we have to cut the month short since my BFF is coming for a visit at the end of the month.  Since we are not doing quite a whole month, we decided to bring the budget down to $250.  We will probably go back to a "no spend week" the first week of February to make up for the few days we take off during our visit.

What we started with:
I started with a full tank of gas and K started with an empty tank. For food,  we weren't particularly stocked up on anything, but have staples in the pantry and freezer.

The Challenges:

The biggest challenge we anticipate is the gas for K's commute - we now live further from his work and his car...has a drinking problem.  The second challenge, and the one I am hoping will make the biggest improvement, is the grocery budget.  Since we started cooking at home nearly all the time, our grocery bill has exploded.  We look at cooking as entertainment, since we enjoy cooking together, so we were not trying to limit ourselves much with what we spent on food.  My goal for this month is to be able to continue to enjoy cooking delicious foods, but to do so frugally.  We have already cut out many processed foods and started eating less meat, which lends itself nicely to this goal.

What we changed this week:
K had a problem with his headlight, and thought it would need to be replaced.  Because it was no spend month and he didn't want to go buy a new headlight, he took a look at it and discovered the he could actually fix the problem for free!

I avoided driving to the store for one ingredient I was missing for dinner, and found something I had on hand to substitute for it.

We made a meal plan that consisted of many ingredients we already had, and is mostly meatless.  The items that did need to be purchased were mostly sale items.

I decided to start couponing again, and the no spend month is forcing me to do it carefully to avoid spending too much out of pocket.

We normally go to breakfast on Saturday mornings, but instead we went to the farmers market to pick up a few veggies.

We found a nice walking path near our neighborhood.  Free entertainment, plus exercise!

What we spent this week:

Yikes!  I'm a little nervous because we have already spent a big chunk of our budget.  The main expense was filling K's car up, but we are hoping that is the only time this moth we will need to get gas.  This challenge is forcing us to think of ways to save gas.  I am trying to limit my errands, and K is thinking about working from home one day a week, and possibly taking my car to work one day a week since mine gets better gas mileage.

Expenses ( rounded)
Gas: $56
Groceries: $29
Misc: $8
Total: $93
Left: $157

What we ate this week (dinners only)
Tuesday: Soup (I had some in the freezer)
Wednesday: Spaghetti Squash with sesame peanut tofu
Thursday: Veggie Stirfry with rice
Friday: Grilled steak, sweet potatoes and onions
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Spicy Lentil Stew
Monday: Veggie stir fry w/ the remaining leftover steak

Most of this was from what we already had since I didn't go grocery shopping until Sunday.

I'm participating in the No Spend Month link up with Growing Slower


Colleen said...

Yay for BFF visit! I've been really curious about no spend months, but I think starting with no spend weeks is more my speed, I am a shopaholic, you know ;)
Have you been meal planning?

NW Girl said...

I have been meal planning, and I am planning a post about it. I think the no spend week would be a good way to start if a whole month makes you nervous. I definitely avoided this for several months before deciding to try it.