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My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month

My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month

This past February, I decided to attempt my first ever no-spend month.

This idea came partly from the interest in seeing if I could do it. But, also by necessity.

Shortly after we planned our new month’s budget, my husband and I realized that there was much less in the “extra” fund than usual, due to some surprise work-related expenses.

So, I decided that I was ready to take the challenge and that February would be the perfect time for my first attempt at a no-spend month!

My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month Challenge - What I learned while trying out a no-spend month |

Although I had researched no-spend challenges as a way to avoid overspending and also to get some extra cushion in your savings, I hadn’t planned on taking part in one in February. I would have liked to have more time to prepare myself mentally, and to stock up on a few things. But I forged ahead anyway, taking notes so I could share my experiences afterward.

The first step in planning for a no-spend month is to make your rules.

The rules for spending will be different for everyone, but you have to take into account your personal spending habits, any holidays or special events, and also how to avoid any budget sabotages that might come your way.

For my no-spending rules, I decided that buying gas and food would be ok, but we would also to eat from the pantry and freezer. We could buy basic toiletries, but only if we were totally out of something. I wouldn’t stock up if I found a good sale. No makeup or clothes. Nothing for the home or hobbies.

I knew we had a couple of birthday presents to buy in February, and I planned using gift cards that I had put aside. So there would be no out-of-pocket cost there.

I also encouraged my husband to join in, but with no pressure. We have very different budget styles. That is a post for another day.

One other thing to note is that our family’s budget starts on the 28th day of every month, so this no-spend challenge would actually be from 1/28 to 2/28/2019. So much for the shortened month of February!

My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month Challenge - What I learned while trying out a no-spend month |

During the first week of February, a large polar vortex covered much of the country with extreme cold.

Even though it didn’t affect us in Delaware as much as it did for those in the midwest, but it was still pretty cold. So cold, they closed my son’s school, so we spent Thursday, 1/31 inside playing and getting some minor bloggy stuff done.  But a major blow came on Friday when we got hit with a bill for one of our toilets that wasn’t flushing well and was wasting water. We knew it needed to be fixed, but it was about $100 more than I was expecting.

This could have thrown my entire month out the window, and it would have been easy to give up right away. But I decided to keep on trying to avoid any other spending and moved on to the weekend.

Other then the toilet, I didn’t have any other extra expenses and the no-spend challenge was off to a great start!

My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month Challenge - What I learned while trying out a no-spend month |

I’m not sure if it was the warmer days we had this week, but the time flew by. And somehow, I didn’t even think about buying anything.

My daughter and I spent a lot of time playing outside and in her room. I did pick up some paper Valentines for my son’s class at the grocery store, but I was able to roll that into our food budget. Our weekend was spent at home and visiting family. The real test will be next week when my husband leaves for a 4-day business trip!

My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month Challenge - What I learned while trying out a no-spend month |

Week 3 started off with a snow day and the first day of my husband’s business trip.

There were also loads of special events at my son’s school this week, which will help him feel like he’s got some extra entertainment. These small excitements gave us some fun things to look forward to all week, and also helped with missing dad!

Valentine’s day was this week too. Our family’s tradition is to go out for burgers as a special treat. This is something my husband and I have done since we were engaged. Our kids really enjoy it too, so we had this expense already built into our budget.

I did have my first slip-up this week.

I took our son out to a big used book store that he’s been wanting to go to and treated him to a Lego Encyclopedia for $4. Of course, we had to bring home a little book for little sister too, bringing the grand total to $7.50. Not the biggest budget whoops, but the books definitely weren’t a needed purchase.

We also went to the movies this week, which is extremely rare for our family. So rare in fact, that my husband had never even been with our children at all. To pay for this, we went to a very early matinee of the Lego Movie 2, and used 2 gift cards that we had saved from Christmas.

I know it sounds like we don’t have a lot of activities scheduled to entertain our children. And we really don’t.

We realized a few years back when our son was really little, that he didn’t really respond well to being extremely busy. And we didn’t enjoy it either. The more we tried to schedule, the more stressed we all were.

Now, we spend a lot of time at home or with family and friends. There are lots of imagination games, tons of outside time and visiting local parks. My daughter is enrolled in gymnastics and both our children take swim classes throughout the year. That seems to work for us, but of course, every family is different!

My First Attempt at a No-Spend Month Challenge - What I learned while trying out a no-spend month |

Yet another snow day on the Wednesday of this week.

We did have to buy a gift as we were going to a birthday party, but I used a gift card that I was holding onto. So no extra spending there.

But, then there was a minor vacuum cleaner emergency at our home, so we had to purchase a new one. We didn’t necessarily have the cushion set into the budget for this so it had to come from savings. Womp womp….

I learned a few lessons about my personal spending habits this month.

It’s surprisingly easy for me to stay out of stores, especially with all the snow that keeps falling. I’ve never loved the act of shopping for myself. I don’t have a lot of clothes or shoes. My real weakness is food items, craft supplies, and thrift shopping for home decor items. Somehow I was able to stay on our food budget, and refrain from staying out of the craft stores!

Another realization was that I was never bored. I had made a mental list of all the house updates, crafts, and recipes I could tackle this month with supplies that I already had in the house. I got a few things done, but I never reached the end of that list. Not even close.

All things considered, I would call my first attempt at a no-spend month a success. Not an overwhelming one, but a success none the less.

I would have liked to not have had to dip into savings for the toilet fix or the vacuum cleaner surprise. But I’m happy that I didn’t add to our clutter or impulse buy anything aside from books for my children.

I’ll definitely challenge myself to another no-spend month soon!

Have you ever taken the no-spend month challenge? Do you have any tips to share?

I’d love to read about them in the comments below!

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