Those of you who were bored enough to browse my Day Zero list may have noticed an item you didn’t know much about, or which piqued your interest: complete a No Spend Month.
What is this? you ask. You are now going to hear too much about it, because I’m getting an early start to my list and attempting to tackle part one of this item in July. (My goal is to complete this challenge at least 2 times in the next few years.)
First off (and you’re clear to stop reading here without missing much), here is the link which got me interested in the first place.
There are few things more inspiring to me than the thought of having money in savings. Unfortunately, this is something I will probably always struggle with, as it is easier to say “I’m putting $500.00 in savings this month” than to actually do so. I don’t like to say that I really waste my money. I do need a new computer so I can actually work at home, and I don’t want to get a low-end thing that won’t last; I do have to invest in garden supplies so everything isn’t devoured by chickens and rabbits; I do need a new car before my rust bucket collapses; I do need proper clothing for work so I don’t look grungy.
But even I have to admit I’ve given in to way too many impulse buys lately. Sure, I held back when I bought my new glasses and got the less expensive frames, but then I went and bought (and subsequently killed) another house plant, picked up a coloring book I don’t need, bought some chocolate and feta cheese instead of bell peppers, wasted money on more tea than I can drink in a month, and splurged on several shirts at Salvation Army which, after bringing home, I decided I don’t actually like wearing. (On the plus side, I successfully convinced myself multiple times that it was not in the best interests of my limited funds to purchase the $25.00 pen set I’ve been drooling over.)
I like spending money. It makes me feel powerful. Once upon a time I struggled with buyer’s remorse, but that was before I made $14,500.00 a year after taxes (BTW: don’t ask me for a how-to on living on $15,000.00 a year. I cheat because while I pay rent, I pay my parents and it’s a relatively small amount.) Meanwhile, I hate updating my budget because it makes me feel stupid.
It does help that I make sure all of my necessary payments are made first (gas, tithe, rent, dog sitting, etc.), and I don’t use my credit card unless the money is in my bank account. (Side note: why is it so blooming hard for a responsible 20-something to build credit?) But when the month is out, I rarely have anything left over for emergencies or that new car I will need sooner than later. (‘Nother side note: I’m not yet 25 and I’ve already owned 2 cars and am looking to get a third. Such is my life. Have I ever told you about the year our family went through 12 cars?)
So! How will this No Spend Month work?
The idea is to set yourself a budget and buy all of your necessities for one month using that amount. Necessary payments like rent, insurance, and tithes are not included in the “No Spending” bit. To choose an amount, you would have to have an idea of what you typically spend on things like gas and groceries and go from there, often making the number lower than your average to try to cut out excess spending.
On the blog where I found this challenge, the writer set a budget of $250.00 for a month (coincidentally also July). This money is all that is available to buy gas, groceries, clothes, and anything else all month long.
I’m working with a smaller amount: $150.00.
Here’s my budget breakdown:
Average monthly income after taxes: $1,200.00
Fixed Monthly Expenses (not included in the $150.00 spending limit): Tithe, monthly missions giving, rent, car insurance, phone bill, dog sitting*: $485-500.00.
Other Typical Monthly Expenses (included in the spending limit):
- Gas: $60.00
- Dog food and treats: $10-20.00
- Groceries: unknown. I am really bad at tracking how much I spend on food, and food is usually where my budget starts to fall apart. My ideal food budget is $100-125.00/month.
- Subscriptions (Spotify and Audible): $8-18.00
Rough total: $180-230.00
This should leave me with anywhere from $475-550.00 a month to put into savings. For a little while I was getting close to that, but then I spent most of my savings recently on a large planned purchase, so I’m back to Square 1.
I have a couple of items I need to save for: my dog has a vet appointment due this autumn, but she has to take behavioral classes first, and those cost more than $200.00 on average. Then there’s the vet bill. Additionally, I’m saving up to get a decent car which will last me more than 2 years, and that’s going to cost $3-4,000.00. I want some money set aside for Christmas so I’m not spending all of November’s paychecks on gifts. Then there are the emergency and 6-months-living-expenses savings I need to establish. Lastly, I’m trying to get a road-trip fund up, because Calli and I want to take some time next summer to explore out west (also on my list), once I have vacation time saved up.**
If it wasn’t challenging enough to keep my spending to $150.00 in July, here are some additional challenges I’m facing:
- Mom and Dad’s anniversary, which falls on a Saturday and requires some ceremony.
- Our annual fundraiser for church, which means weekends spent in a hot tent staring at Culver’s and salivating over frozen custard.
- Deciding if I want to splurge on another month of Audible, which I’ve been using at work.
- Coming to the middle of July and “realizing” I still don’t have enough summer-friendly blouses to get me through this year.
- I’m working VBS this year and have no costume ideas.
- At some point my car is going to need more oil or coolant, and I’ve nearly depleted my stock.
If I do well this July, I will be able to put aside the better part of $600.00 into savings, which will at least take care of the things I need for my dog. If I do well enough to think I can manage a second month, I will be on my way to having some proper savings in place.
My main goal, however, is not necessarily savings; at least not to start. My initial goal is to get a grip on my spending, learn to recognize needs versus wants, and declutter my lifestyle. With less time wasted ogling pens at the store, I’ll have more time to clean out my bedroom, take more hikes, and weed the garden.
Finally (and then I swear I’m done), here are some tips, tricks, and notes about how I intend to survive July:
- It is recommended to fill up on gas before the month starts. It feels vaguely like cheating, but it helps.
- The idea is to spend as little as possible in the first week or so, recognizing that there will be moments of weakness around Week 3.
- It helps to utilize foodstuffs currently in your pantry. This one will be harder for me, as I don’t technically have my own pantry and freezer stocks and what’s in my parents’ is mostly cranberry sauce and spices.
- Another suggestion is to make more food at home because it’s more cost-effective. I already do this for the most part, as I’ve never been big on eating out. I also don’t suffer from a coffee addiction, so that’s one expense I don’t have to try to cut out. My problem is splurging on treats like feta cheese and hummus.
- There are some things I buy, like chick feed or laundry detergent, which I apply toward my rent with Mom’s approval; this means these items don’t count toward my budget.
- I stocked up on shampoo and the like this month, which will hold me through July (and hopefully longer).
I believe that’s it, folks! Look for updates/rants/panic attacks come July!
*I pay Nina to take care of my dog while I’m at work. If I run late by more than 30 minutes, I double her pay for the day. For this reason she likes it when I have errands, which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid by this arrangement.
** Not-so-fun-fact: it would take me 1.5 to 2 years’ worth of No Spend Months to accumulate the amount listed here. Baby steps, kids. This is why I have no hope of moving out until I’m at least 25. Or married. So probably 26.