Well, wasn’t January just the longest year ever?
I’ve seen that meme everywhere on social media, and I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels that way. Isn’t it interesting how some months seem to just fly by (like, where did the first week of February go?), and some months just seem to drag on?
I’ve been meaning to write a concluding update for my January no-spend challenge, but we’ve been dealing with some issues with the baby’s health and weight gain, and that’s zapped pretty much all my mental energy for the last two weeks (don’t worry, everything is under control, but it was a very stressful time for me).
As I (finally) sit down to write this post, it’s important to remember that perfection is NOT the name of the game here. I challenged myself to not spend outside the absolute necessities: groceries, bills, gas. In doing so, I was able to really understand what I consider to be necessary, and what I consider to be just impulse and convenience buys.
For the most part, avoiding unnecessary purchases was fairly easy. I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in my ability to say no. It was almost FUN to say no. It felt different, new, and a bit of a thrill, which is weird to say since normally we feel that thrill when we DO make those purchases.
But truth be told, there were also a few points in the month where I had a REALLY hard time determining if something was a want or a need. Or if I or a family member was “going without” if I didn’t buy something.
What I can say is that a no-spend challenge is best undertaken when your almost 5-year-old isn’t due for a growth spurt.
So how did I do overall?
I was successful!
The ONLY times I made a purchase of something outside those three “necessities” were that birthday gift towards the beginning of the month, and the very last day of January. I just had a super stressful day with the baby, dealing with a potential health issue (thankfully it’s been resolved for the most part), and I just did not have time to make something for dinner. I asked Chris to pick something up on the way home.
And that, folks, is okay. I don’t see it as a failure of the challenge at all. Because one thing I’ve realized during this challenge is that by being disciplined most of the time, I can give myself some grace for the few times we end up not following the plan.
The January No-Spend Challenge, in numbers
Number of purchases made *outside* the 3 necessities: 2
Number of times I bought fast food: 1 (donairs, on the last day of January)
Amount spent on groceries: 736.44
Now, that might look like a LOT of money to a lot of you, and you’re right. BUT, I should note that groceries in general are much more expensive where I live compared to other parts of the country. I always have to chuckle a little bit when I see bloggers in the U.S. talking about how they feed their family of 8 on $300 a month. Yeah, that just wouldn’t work for us unless we ate nothing but Mr. Noodles.
Truth be told, I didn’t save my receipts this month, thinking I could just rely on my online banking statements to determine how much I spent. But you know what? Keeping receipts would allow me to determine what it is I’m spending all my money on every time I go grocery shopping. Am I being as strict as I could be in regard to buying convenience foods? Could I find ways to spend less on those and instead make more things from scratch? Those are some of the lessons I’m learning as a result of this challenge.
Going forward from No-spending to Low-spending
I think the habits I’ve formed this past month suit me well, and I’m looking forward to carrying on a lot of those principles into the months to come. Habits such as building my “wish list” as I think of them but NOT hitting the *complete purchase* button. Continuing to develop my awareness of wants vs. needs. Keeping receipts so I can better see where exactly my grocery budget is going.
As I continue though the year, my hope is that these habits allow me to better plan for things, such as timing when we’d need new underwear for when year-end sales happen.
And I’m working on giving myself some grace for when it’s time to spend on me. A little restraint makes the treats that much sweeter.
Have you ever done a no-spend or low-spend challenge? What worked for you and what didn’t?