When I first began my simple living (what I call lovely living) journey a little over a year ago I read about no-spend months. On minimalism and simple living blogs people were writing about how they spent money on only the necessities and nothing else for periods of a week, a month, or even a whole year. No treats, no lunches out, museum visits, new clothes, trips to the movie theater, shoes, dishes, household items, cookware, etc. I decided to give it a try.
I consider myself a frugal person. I rarely buy myself treats like lattes to go, lunches out, or new handbags. But books. . . . books are my weakness. People participate in no-spend periods of time for numerous reasons including saving up for something, paying off debt, testing their willpower, because they’re having difficulty paying bills, practicing appreciation for what they already have, or taking back the time they usually waste shopping. My first no-spend month happened to occur in November and I made it about practicing appreciation for Thanksgiving. I have since continued this new tradition every year as my “Thankfulness November.” For the month of February, my month dedicated to using money wisely, I decided to bring back the no-spend month. It turned out to be necessary after I recently had to replace my MacBook Pro and had a large unexpected vet bill for my dear elderly cat, Mister. One week later I had to replace the serpentine belt for my car (I still need to get new brakes). Along with taking a week off of work to help my grandmother recover from a shoulder replacement (she is doing great!) and my upcoming wedding, I’m a little tight on money right now. Make that a lot tight on money. My no spend month is essential to help me keep above water with my bills this month. Rent in the United States isn’t cheap I’m afraid.
Something amazing happened after my very first no-spend month. I realized that I could get by on a lot less than I imagined and I could build my savings too. Eventually, it was the very event that gave me confidence to quit my job and move on to something smaller. It turned out, I needed a whole lot less than I thought. Because of my no-spend month and journey with spending less, I had savings that helped me get through this past month’s unexpected expenses instead of going into debt. It bought me more time for the things in my life that had more value that working for someone else in a job I didn’t love. That first no-spend month put an extra $200 into my savings account and ensured that I had plenty left over in my checking for groceries and activities I wanted to do the following month. It is what inspired me to eliminate the extras in my life. Now, whenever I am tight on cash, I reenact this month to get myself back on track. In other words, money does not have to own you or run your life, you own your money. I felt in control for the first time in several years.
I bring this method up for February’s Year of Living Lovely goal because I believe that it is an alternative view worth mentioning (and trying out for yourself). Most discussions involving money are about how to make more of it. Studies have shown that no matter how much people make, the majority tend to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Whether you struggle to make $30,000 a year or you make over $200,000, people almost always spend what they make and less than a third of Americans have at least $1,000 in savings. My first no-spend month altered my feeling-broke mentality into a living-with-enough mindset.
This month I am taking back my money power. No spending. To be honest, with easy access to affordable goods and online shops such as Amazon, if I really want something it is so simple to order it. People no longer have to wait, save up, or plan out purchases. Instant gratification can be a lifesaver, but let’s be real here, I don’t need to order that new bathing suit for my honeymoon right now. It is freezing in February and I already have a few bathing suits. It can wait. I say that to myself a lot these days. I feel like one of those [important] don’t text and drive public service announcements; “It can wait.” I say this mantra to myself frequently, and to be honest, it ends up saving me money in the long run because after I have had time to think about it, I usually don’t end up needing or even ordering the items I had in my online shopping cart.
On the flip side, no-spend months also show me what I do want to spend my cash on. Items such as a stick of gum, ice cream, a chai tea latte, a new pair of shoes, or new photography gear usually are forgotten after a short time. If I am not thinking about it, I didn’t actually really need or want it. Many of the items I think I “need” end up being items that I happen to want at the time. Those would have been impulse purchases for sure. If, after a month, I am still wishing for that pair of snow pants so I can do more outdoor activities during these colder months, then it is truly something I should spend my money on because it brings my life some value; ie. more time outside this winter. I put off unique purchases (like the snow pants) or larger items (such as a new camera) for a couple months at least to give myself time to really think about it. Sometimes I will talk myself out of items or even forget about them, but those items (or activities) that I’m still thinking about deserve my attention.
This month, I truly will use money wisely. It will certainly test my willpower.
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