Typically, I’m a pretty frugal person. As the home manager of a one-income household, I’ve had to be. Our current society isn’t really made for two adults and two growing children to live on one salary. That’s OK, we’ve made it work pretty well. I shop sales, we drive old cars, we don’t go on a lot of exotic vacations. When my husband lost his job in January, I went into survival mode and cut our spending even further. We were very lucky, he was able to find a new job fairly quickly, and by May he was employed again.
Maybe it’s because we were so relieved, maybe it’s because we felt deprived during our “survival mode” months, but whatever the reason, we have spent the last two months spending money like never before. The bills are still paid and then emergency fund is untouched, so I guess this isn’t a terrible thing, but I feel like a lot of the goals I’d had for this time (we still received some extra money as part of our severance package from my husband’s former employer, and I’d had some plans for what to do with that extra) did not get achieved. Plus, I feel like we’re developing a lot of bad habits when it comes to things like eating out and purchasing frivolous things. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I love eating out and frivolity, but it has to be done in moderation. For this reason I decided to declare July (our first month with the Hub’s new salary and no extra) a no-spend month.
What does a no-spend month mean to me?
All bills will be paid as usual. We will buy gas for the car as usual. $100 will be taken out in cash to cover any grocery purchases that might need to be made. Any cash that I have laying around is fair game (I haven’t checked yet to see how much that is). Our one “fun” expense that I’ve already approved is fireworks. Fourth of July is a favorite holiday for us and my boys’ favorite part is watching Dad set off backyard fireworks. I’m not going to deny a favorite tradition, but this will come out of the extra cash we have at home (amount to be determined). I’m a big grocery stockpiler, so we could probably make it the entire month and still not starve. However, I’m allowing milk, produce, and toilet paper to come out of our $100 grocery budget.
What’s the point?
Aside from breaking bad spending habits, I want to focus on paying off credit cards that have a balance. We only have two cards carrying a balance, with a total of about $5,000 debt combined. Part of this is work expenses that will be reimbursed, but we’re still left with at least $3,000 that we owe ourselves. The major goal this month is to pay as much as possible onto those cards. I don’t think one month of not spending will cover $3,000 (wouldn’t THAT be nice?!), but hopefully we can make a dent.
Day 1: I gathered the random dollar bills that I had sitting around the house and bottom of my purse. That combined with a $50 cash payment I hadn’t yet put in the bank means we ended up with about $90 in fun money! This was a wonderful surprise. Of course, $35 of it was then immediate spent on backyard fireworks. This is a family tradition that would really impact us if we gave it up. I’m all for things being challenging, but not making our lives miserable. So I considered this worth it. While we were at Meijer purchasing fireworks, I also picked up a gallon of vanilla ice cream. We had a $6 off anything reward, and this is how I chose to spend it. It made the ice cream “free,” and ice cream is one thing we love to share as a family, especially in summer. Not being able to enjoy a trip for ice cream will really affect our July, I thought this could soften the blow.
Day 2: Today was Fortville’s parade and fireworks. We spent many hours at the park hanging out with friends and enjoying the atmosphere. I knew our favorite ice cream shop, Indulge, would be there, so I made a batch of cookies in hopes that would help distract us from the yummy giant scoops of ice cream everyone else was enjoying. We took snacks, bottles of water, and the cookies, and it worked OK, though there was still whining. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack anything with actual sustenance. We did end up purchasing two cheeseburgers from a vendor with our fun money. Sadly, the fun money is not going to see us through the month. Maybe once the weekend ends, we won’t feel a need for much extra spending (yeah, right!).
Oh, and Little Man fell prey to the vendor selling light up lightsabers. He used $5 of his own money to purchase one. I didn’t approve of this purchase, but ultimately the kids’ money is their money, and while I can advise, I can’t make their decisions for them.
Day 3: The hardest thing today was my favorite thing about other Sundays. I have developed a Sunday morning tradition of checking out the new deals on Target’s Cartwheel app. If there’s something particularly amazing, we’ll go to Target in the afternoon. If it’s just OK, I’ll wait until our weekly library visit and stop in Target during that. As I went to check the deals this morning, I realized that it really doesn’t matter how great the deals are, I’m still not going to go buy them. It also really hit home how upset I was that I could not go take advantage of 50% off hot dogs and mayonnaise. See, we already have a full jar of mayo in the pantry, and at least three packs of hot dogs in the freezer from the last Great Deal I found. Why would I ever want to go buy MORE? And yet I did. BUT, I managed to avoid the siren’s song of half price food and stayed home. We had a nice day of getting some much-needed work done around the house. It was free AND the house looks better now!
Day 4: Independence Day is typically a day we stay home anyway, so not shopping wasn’t TOO hard. We had an all-American dinner of hot dogs, baked beans, corn, and peach cobbler, all things we already had. I did feel a “I wish I had some potato salad” twinge, which normally would have resulted in a quick Kroger run for a tub of it, but really we had a nice dinner without it and I ate so much, I couldn’t have held a single bite of potato salad.
Day 5: We ran out of milk so had to make our first official no-spend grocery run. As I mentioned before, we have $100 for the month to buy necessities (milk, fresh produce, and toilet paper). Normally for quick runs, I go to Kroger because it’s closest. However, I know where all of the clearance spots are at Kroger, and I don’t yet trust myself to NOT hit them and stock up on whatever cheap goodness I can find. So we drove the extra five minutes and went to Aldi. Aldi is usually a stock-up place for me, too, but it seemed safer overall. We made it out with two gallons of milk, a bag of flour (technically not on the necessities list, but…), a bag of potatoes, and grapes. I spent $10.75. I have never done that in Aldi before and I have to say it was pretty exciting. It made passing up the cheap snack foods worth it.
Day 6: Today was a quiet day of just being home and enjoying each other. We caught up on some of the summer reading that was neglected last month during day camps. We spent the evening visiting with friends. It was a quiet, happy day, and zero money was spent.
Day 7: Our grill has been out of propane for a few weeks, but between bad weather and eating out, we just hadn’t dealt with it. Of course, yesterday I was inventorying the freezer and realized how many wonderful meals we could make IF ONLY WE HAD PROPANE. I put the question to Facebook, should I buy propane or live without it? And many friends (who offer me far more grace than I offer myself) suggested a freebie day. One day off from No-Spend Month. I honestly wasn’t a fan of this idea. I’m a rule follower, and I’m also the girl that, once I break a rule, all rules go out the window. I can’t have a cheat day on the diet or the diet just ceases to exist. BUT, life would be better with a grill. So, with the encouragement of the family (read: utter delight and glee), I declared today a freebie day. We took twenty four hours off from not spending and ended up spending about $50. Because, really, if you’re going to have a cheat day, don’t waste it on froyo, do it up with the giant hot fudge brownie a la mode! So in addition to the propane there may or may not have been a trip to Kroger which resulted in wine and a few other off-limits goodies. We’ll see if this is the end of the whole month.