This dreary winter weather puts a serious damper on my mood, not to mention a cramp on my motivation to get any projects done. To combat that, my number one go-to in winter months usually ends up being some retail therapy. Shopping gets me out of the house, takes my mind off the weather and clears my head of anything that’s stressing me out. As you can imagine, in the winter I like to go shopping A LOT. The problem is, when I go on these retail-therapy outings, I spend MONEY. Soon after a shopping haul, that yay, fun, happy feeling I get from buying that really cool stuff is generally followed up with a bit of buyer’s remorse. In the back of my head I know I should instead be saving up for the future or just for that large purchase that may come up. And really, do I need to be bringing more stuff into the house? Near the end of February I was feeling stuck in this cycle of buying and feeling regretful. I finally decided I needed to make a shift. I was going to challenge myself to cut back on shopping for March. Today I’m sharing just how I was able to do No Spend Month Challenge.
The No Spend Month Challenge
To combat my spending, I thought going cold-turkey would help me adjust my shopping habit. My plan was to challenge myself to a no spend (or low spend) month. Of course I would still spend money to pay any bills, buy food, gas, etc. My main goal was to eliminate personal spending so that I could not only put more money into savings, but also eliminate how much stuff I brought into the house. I’ve been working on trying to curb my collections and streamline our home and all these new items just seem to add to the clutter. For me, this meant eliminating purchases on decor, clothes, antiques, random house parts and spending on new projects. We often eat at home, so going out to dinner, or buying snacks for a hangout with our friends wasn’t really an issue.
Getting my husband on board
I ran my no spend month challenge idea by Tim to see if he would jump on board. His retail therapy is mostly through Amazon and other online stores. He’s guilty of prowling the deals of the day and I noticed a consistent stream of packages coming to the house. I thought maybe we both needed this. When I brought it up, Tim took to the idea and was game to test this out for the following month. The added benefit was that I now had someone to keep me accountable. Tim’s vices are mainly video games, clothing, electronics, and shoes.
Basically the no spend month challenge meant eliminating purchases on any personal or luxury goods. If it wasn’t necessary, it wouldn’t be purchased. Here’s the breakdown:
Allowed to Spend money on:
- Food – Including snacks for events, but excluding coffee-shop purchases
- Going out to dinner & drinks
- Personal hygiene items and cosmetics (only if we ran out during the month)
Not allowed to Spend money on:
- Decor (new, antique or thrifted)
- Clothes & shoes
- House parts – I’m addicted to buying old house hardware
- Items needed for new projects
- Electronics (including video games & movies)
- Non-essential stuff for the dog
We did have a couple caveats for our No Spend Month Challenge. These were the agreed on terms if something came up or we felt we really needed or wanted to purchase something. These included:
Spending Money to Complete Projects.
I was allowed to spend money to complete existing projects on the house, but I couldn’t spend money for any new projects. For example, for my first weekend, I decided to hem the drapes and Tim and I agreed that thread or needles (if needed) were a perfectly acceptable purchase.
Agreed on Purchases.
Tim and I also agreed that if something did come up that we desperately wanted/needed during the month, we’d run it by the other person. For example, Tim found a universal remote that was on super-mega sale that we both had been really wanting and agreed that we would be beneficial to both of us to just go-ahead and purchase it.
What we discovered during our No Spend Month Challenge
Tim and I are now less than a week to the finish line and we are both really happy we are doing this. Not only has our No Spend Month Challenge allowed us to save a little extra green (which I’m planning on putting in my savings), but it has also helped us:
Make better use of our time.
Instead of going out shopping I feel like I’ve made much better use of my time by completing a ton of projects around the house. Rather than fill my time with trips to the ReBuilding Center, I’ve been using that time more thoughtfully. It feels so good to get those projects done and I get all the yay, happy, fun feelings I used to get from shopping by completing and enjoying the fruits of my labor.
What I’ve accomplished
I’ve managed to hem all of the remaining curtains in our living room. I’ve finished off a window in our bathroom that has sat incomplete and unpainted for the last 7 years. My dad and I installed a new range hood in our kitchen (The range hood was a Christmas gift from my mom, don’t worry we didn’t buy it this month). Additionally, I’ve also taken on a few smaller projects like painting and cleaning bathroom base-boards in our bathroom, changing out lighting in the kitchen, deep cleaning our stove, covering up some missing flooring and swapping out some kitchen switch plates for some vintage ones I scored at an estate sale a while ago. Getting that stuff done feels so good.
Spend less time looking at things to buy.
We are both actually spending less time searching for things to buy. Tim’s avoiding Amazon and other shopping sites and I’ve reduced (I know, I can’t quit it) the time I’m spending looking at upcoming estate sales, online stores, and Craigslist. If you can’t buy it, why look?
Become more intentional about what we buy.
Before, if we saw something we liked, we’d often just buy it. A new pair of shoes, why not? That cute knick-knack, sure! Now that we are not spending, we realized the things really do want or need, so when we do go back to spending we will be more intentional about what we spend our money on. I know Tim’s already got a few purchases in mind for when the month is over and I’ve even put some things on my Amazon wish list.
Hold each other accountable.
We each still have our independent checking accounts, so we’ve never really been very accountable to the other about what we are spending unless it’s a fairly large purchase. Now we find ourselves running purchases by the other person, asking if that’s allowed under our plan, if it’s an exception to our rules or if we should put it off for the next month. It gets us communicating more about our purchases and again makes us more intentional on how each of us is spending.
Bring less into the house.
This was one of my main goals and it’s totally working. We are bringing much less stuff into the house. Less in means less to organize, less clutter, and no need to find homes for those extra items.
In the end, I have spent some money to purchase materials for a couple of the projects I noted above. In total I’ve spent less than $50 this month. With our exception of our spiffy new remote ($60) purchase, Tim hasn’t spent any additional money on personal items. We are killing it!
Can we keep it going?
Right now our plan is to keep our no spend month challenge going for an additional month, but it will most likely become a low spend rather than a complete no spend. We have discussed giving ourselves a small budget for personal purchases for the month, maybe $100 or less. That way, shopping isn’t totally out and we can pick up those items we’ve been drooling over for the last month. I can tell you I’ve been dying to get out to the thrift stores, but definitely I think a very limited budget will make me think twice about what I’m buying.
Was it worth it?
Do I miss those shopping trips? Of course. Did it suck to not go shopping when I felt the need for that retail therapy? Yes. Was the no spend month challenge worth it? Totally. I have money I’m going to add to my savings account, I’ve been buyers remorse free and have brought much less into our house. The no month spend challenge has really made me change my focus on how to best use my time and how to spend my money. Plus Tim and I are loving all these completed projects around the house.
If you’re thinking about trying a no spend month challenge for yourself, I say go for it, but make sure you make a plan, set yourself some guidelines and grab a buddy to keep you accountable. Next month is right around the corner, so it’s a perfect time to try. You can do it!
Now I want to read
Last week I was listening to Sherry from the Young House Love Has a Podcast (Bonus, if you haven’t listened to their Podcast before you should totally give it a listen) and oddly enough she mentioned the same idea of trying a no spend month challenge after reading The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, a book that came out earlier this year. The book follows the story of a woman who challenged herself to a year without shopping. I’m not sure if I have the willpower to go a whole year, but I’m super interested in reading the book. Maybe it’s something I’ll have to look into purchasing for my Kindle next month, hey it’s only $1.99, that shouldn’t cut into the budget too bad right? And bonus if it’s on the Kindle, i’m not really bringing anything into the house, amiright?