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Let’s face it, sometimes money is not our favorite thing to talk about, let alone deal with. But it is one of those necessary evils that we just can’t ignore for too long before it becomes a real problem.
Well, I really like ignoring money. Mostly, I like to pretend that I have a lot more than I do, and that usually gets me into trouble. Opps.
So after reading (actually, listening to) Ruth Soukup’s book Living Well Spending Less, I decided that my finances needed help.
And so I decided to try a NO SPEND MONTH.
Actually it was more like 6 weeks. But I was desperate.
I was so interested with Ruth’s book! In the beginning she spends a lot of time talking about her life, and how spending just consumed her life.
I could relate to a lot of what she said. She was spending to fill a void, but it was never enough.
I’ve been there. I spent hundreds on planner supplies because I thought if I had the perfect planner then my life would magically organize itself (oh but that’s a story for a different time!)
Then because of some changes in my life, I found my expenses going up. Which is not fun since I’ve been working the same PART-TIME job for 5 years. Something needed to change.
So my spending stopped. Right then and there I knew that if I wanted to have enough money to just pay rent (let alone all my other bills) I couldn’t spend a dime on anything that wasn’t a necessity. Because that is how I run out of money, just a couple dollars here and there. It really adds up.
It was a hard few weeks (and to be honest I’m still kinda doing the same thing, just without the official title). But I actually learned some pretty cool stuff about myself and my spending habits.
I highly recommend everyone try a No Spend Month, whether you need to or not. I had my doubts, but it was a cool experience.
Tips for Having a NO SPEND MONTH
- You need to prepare for it. Even in the situation I was in, I gave myself a day to evaluate what I would need and plan how I could make it work.
- Make a list of acceptable purchases. This will be different for everyone. Of course bills need to be paid. But other than that, your needs will vary. I had a list of about 5 food items I was allowed to buy. This worked for me because I have a large amount of food in my pantry and freezer. Plus, I work at a food place and could get free meals every time I worked. I knew I could eat regularly without buying groceries weekly. I also gave myself permission to buy more printer paper if I ran out during the month (which I didn’t) because I knew I was running low, and that is a necessity for me.
- Don’t use credit cards either. My reasoning was that I needed to be able to pay rent. Using a credit card didn’t actually take money away from my bank account, but it was still off limits. Because if you are spending on a credit card, you aren’t experiencing what happens to your mindset when you tell yourself no. And that is vital for this to work!
- Try to save money other ways too. I restricted myself to also not using the heater/AC during this time. I was lucky because the weather has been mild and I never felt too much of a need for either one (it has been weird in this area and there were times I could have used both).
- Don’t look for sales if you can’t buy it! Do you know how many times in the past I have justified a purchase because I had a great coupon and “I would buy it eventually anyway.”? Nope, bad idea. Because then once I was in the store, I would always find something else that was a great deal. So don’t look in store ads. Don’t wander around the mall or store aisles. Don’t look to see what coupons Michael’s is offering this week (*ahem*). It just isn’t worth it. It is so much easier to not feel disappointed about missing a sale when you never knew there was a sale in the first place. And you can’t feel regret for not buying something that you never thought to buy.
What I Learned During My NO SPEND MONTH
- I spend money just to spend money. I went to a Women’s Conference with some women in my family. There were so many food options and a bookstore set up! I would look around at all the things and I wanted to buy something. But when I would focus on one individual item, I found that I didn’t want that item. I really just wanted to buy something for the sake of buying something. I even brought my own lunch so even buying food wasn’t a temptation.
- I like to spend money when I’m upset. Stressed, sad, or just cranky. It makes me want to shop. I don’t know what I’m shopping for, but I knew I wanted to buy something (I might have given into this one once or twice during the end of the month). I was trying to fill a void. Something was missing or wrong in my life, and I wanted to buy something new in an attempt to make myself feel better. But experience has taught me that this rarely works.
- Having a goal of NO SPEND made it easier than if I had said “I only have $10 to spend for the month.” It became a game to see how little I could spend, or even how I could get by without going to the store at all.
- Shopping is faster when you don’t browse. I could make it in and out of the grocery store in 10-15 minutes because I knew exactly what I had gone in for and knew I wouldn’t get anything else. I didn’t spend time looking through the isles for more things to buy because I knew they weren’t on my approved list.
- I have a lot of things already that I can use to pass time. If you are like me, then you shop when you are bored. I started finding other things I could do that were more productive. Exercise, cleaning, and creating a nice meal from those things in your pantry that need to be eaten. Also, I bet you have some unfinished project stashed in a corner that you could work on instead of spending money on the supplies to start a new one. Or look around for supplies that you might have forgotten about and see what you can create.
Want more info? Check out Ruth’s books about spending less and spending zero. 🙂