No Spend January

My wife got the idea to go for an entire month without spending money. I think she got the idea from one of her blogs. At first, I was against the idea, then I didn’t believe it could work, but I decided that we had nothing to lose and agreed to do it. Here are some of my thoughts and experiences from our “no-spend” month.

Obviously, going into a no spend month requires setting some goals and boundaries. It’s  impractical to not spend ANY money whatsoever, so we had to restrict ourselves to the most necessary expenses. I needed to put gas in my car to get to work, and we allowed a $20 a week withdrawal for fresh fruits and vegetables. We figured this would be realistic. We also allowed cash withdrawals to give to church. My wife fueled her car up at the end of December. Since my car is the family car, hers is only used for errands and she can easily go two or three weeks without putting gas in her car.

We planned for a few exceptions going into the month. Shop-Rite has a “can-can” sale in January. My wife likes to use this sale to stock up for the rest of the year. We solved working this into our no-spend month by using a $100 AT&T Rebate Visa card from my Samsung Epix. Since the money came in pre-January, we decided that we weren’t spending January money in January. We also needed to make a trip to Sam’s for a few perishables that we rationalized by saying that the Sam’s card would be paid in February. I’m sure this could be declared a failure, but it was our no-spend month and these minor allowances were necessary and agreed to by both of us.

I figured we’d get through the month by stocking up ahead of time. I was wrong. One of the rules is that you can’t stock up too much, but you should have on-hand items like beans and rice, flour, canned tuna or chicken, etc. My wife has always done a good job of keeping us stocked, so I left that up to her.

Here are some things I learned:

  • I don’t miss eating out one bit. Seriously, I don’t. I always used to enjoy eating out, but we reached a point of taking it to extremes. It seemed like we always had running around to do, and while we were out, there wasn’t time to make dinner so we stopped somewhere. The thing is, the service at the places we tended to go to wasn’t very good anyway, nor was the food that great. We were spending money for an often sub-par dining experience. Eating out also wastes a LOT of time. Seriously, sometimes a trip to a place like Denny’s or Friendly’s can last up to 2 hours if the server is slow. I hate the dead time between finishing the meal and waiting for the server to come back with the check. I solved this by asking for the check the moment the server comes to take the plates. If you miss this chance, it can take a while for the server to come back. Then you’re stuck at the table with bored kids. This adds to the time. By the time you get home, it’s time to get ready for bed, and you wasted an entire evening at one restaurant.
  • I really enjoyed the break from running around. My wife hates it when I bring this up, but I don’t enjoy errands. I know, running a household requires going out often, but sometimes it seems that we take this to extremes. It seems like my wife always has somewhere to go. “We have to run to Target to look for Cars, since the kids scratched theirs.” “We have to go to the Amish Market because there’s a sale.” “We have to return the humidifier that I bought at CVS because it worked one night and broke.” “We have to go back to Target because the shirt I bought for Joshua is too small.” “We have to go to Ikea to buy a new dresser.”

OK, I like going to Ikea, but I don’t enjoy most of the other errands. I don’t know why women think that accompanying them on errands is an expression of love. I have a friend who’s wife gets upset when he won’t go grocery shopping with her. Mine does too, although we’ve reached a point where I don’t have to go grocery shopping as much. She also doesn’t seem to like the idea of letting me and the boys stay home while she runs out. On the other side of the coin, she won’t go to Best Buy with me.

  • The savings in time have allowed me to spend more time at home. I’ve been able to read more, and I’ve had time to start working out and play with the Wii Fit.

The money that we saved is going into our “debt snowball”.

Like any good goal, occasionally other events or the winds of change will blow you off course. We put our house back up on the market to continue on toward our goal of taking over my in-laws’ house. In order to achieve that goal, we had to break our “no spend month” to begin putting money into repairs and getting our house back into show condition. The boys destroyed their dresser, so we had to get new ones from Ikea. We made it up to January 24 before we had to break our plan I’m hoping we can carry on the lessons that we learned from the no-spend month into the future.

On the bright side, we still haven’t eaten out.


One Response

  1. Eric,
    In this world today what you and Christina did was wonderful even though you didn’t ake to the end of month. It is a great start. We face many of the same problems with the running around. I am going try this in my home. Thanks for the great idea. God has told us to be good stewards with what He gives us. You are o the right track.

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