- Posted by marysastevens
- On February 7, 2018
- 2 Comments
When I decided to enter the new year with a month of no spending, I was eager to see how much money I would save by the end. While I saved money as compared to previous months (see chart below), I walked away with unexpected lessons and knowledge that will continue to help me save money each month. This experience helped me slow down and look at the way I spend and helped me evolve as a consumer.
I’ve had minimalism on my mind for years. Sometimes I look around my house (especially my closet) and get overwhelmed. I go through and start tossing things to go in the donation or yard sale piles. I felt like I was doing this a lot but seeing significant changes of less clutter. I realized it needed to be a combination of what goes out and what comes in.
The goals I set for January were simple. I could purchase: groceries, baby necessity, bills and gas.
This meant it was off limits to eat out at restaurants, go through the Starbucks drive through and no clothing, makeup or entertainment purchases. Full disclosure: The first couple days in January I had company and we ran through Starbucks together and went to the movies. At the end of the month, I got Starbucks at the airport.
At the end of the month, what did I learn?
- Go Shopping at Home
Along with no spending, I also committed to simultaneously detox my home. I went through cabinets, drawers and closets to throw away trash, build a large donation pile, find change (I found more than $200 in change!) and to my greatest surprise, I found things tucked away that I would have purchased at the store if not for the no-spend challenge. Candles, batteries, pens, pacifiers, a book I forgot I purchased a few months ago, and more. When cleaning out my bathroom cabinet I found a brand-new bottle of my $40 shampoo that I bought during the Ulta sale back in September. I didn’t need it then, but I bought it to save for when I ran out. I forgot I had it and I would have gone out and bought it had I not been encouraged to take the time to go through things tucked away. The cleanup taught me that not only do I have a lot of junk, but I have a lot of useful things at home already that I completely forgot about and would have just purchased instead of spending the time to look for them.
- Stop the Waste
In December had so many boxes from online shopping packages I needed my neighbor to take a truckload of them for me to the cardboard dumpster. It was an embarrassingly high pile of boxes in my garage and a slap in the face of how much I really had ordered. It became obvious to me how much waste there is with online shopping (the cardboard, the plastic wrap, fuel used to ship and deliver), that it kept me motivated throughout January to do my part to reduce my carbon footprint.
I looked at how much I use each day: paper towels, trash bags, disposable breastmilk bags, disposable coffee cups and straws, the list goes on. This inspired me to look at how I can be a better steward of our earth and limit my trash and waste. (Spoiler alert: This is my February challenge).
- Less Clutter Means Higher Quality
Getting rid of clutter and keeping it from coming into the house isn’t just important from an aesthetic point-of-view. Having less “stuff” around is also freeing for the mind. Without being bogged down my things, I allowed myself to have more mental clarity and time to focus on things that are most important to me. They call cheap, trendy stores “fast fashion,” and something I try to limit and instead invest in high-quality pieces that will last longer than two washes. There’s a lot of fast in our worlds and it manifests into physical clutter and mental fogginess. Focusing on high-quality products will help me live a more inspired and fulfilled life.
- Saving is More Important
Looking at the chart at the end of the month told me that I spent half as much as I typically do each month at Target and spent zero dollars at Nordstrom as compared to months before (I should have added July in there because the Anniversary Sale was $$$$$). What did I buy at Target in January? A baby jumper for Josie, baby sunblock and other travel items for my trip to Florida. We are planning several vacations later this year and knowing that I was able to save a money not shopping and put into our savings account was exciting! I’m definitely looking forward to having a nice vacation instead of throwing that money at things I don’t really need.
- Thoughtful and Purposeful Spending
Yes, I went to Target and spent some money. It wasn’t my intention at the beginning of the month, but with the jumper toy for Josie I put a lot of thought into it. I saw how beneficial it was for her at daycare (where she only goes 1-2 times a week) and how it could really help her if she had more time in it at home. It was not a purchase on the whim walking down the aisles. I went to the store with the intention of getting it after thinking it through and discussing the purchase with Alex. Making a list of things I need also goes with shopping at home – now I will always do a double take before I head out to buy anything.
Tips for a Successful No-Spend Challenge
I highly encourage you to commit to a no-spend challenge. But be prepared, it isn’t as simple as saying “I’m not going to spend any money for the next 30 days!” If you don’t set yourself up for success ahead of time, you will crack at some point and fail. Here is what made it successful for me:
- I deleted all the shopping apps on my phone, including my favorite Like.to.know.it., which makes being influenced and shopping online way too easy.
- Buy things you need to avoid going to the store and get tempted. Before January, I bought two boxes of diapers to get me through the month. I knew if I didn’t have to buy any then I wouldn’t be so tempted to run to Target or the PX and get distracted by other things. Same with dog and cat food to last the month. I can spend a lot of toys and treats to spoil the fur babies.
- Plan and prepare. Take the extra time to make coffee and take it with you, and bring a snack so you don’t rush through a drive-through when you’re starving while out and about.
The best lesson I learned is how to slow down when purchasing. Who hasn’t gone through Target or Costco and bought all the things? January may be over, but the way I look at shopping is significantly different than before.
This past weekend I went to Target and walked away with a heavy receipt. But I felt that I could justify the expenses because I had made an intentional list before I went there (high chair for Josie, kitchen gadget to prepare baby food, diapers) and may have splurged on some baby outfits. But for every outfit I bring in, I’m making sure I get one out to the donation pile.
Are you inspired to do a no-spend challenge?