Starting Out On My No Spend Year

I challenged myself to not spend any money on anything outside of my needs for a whole year - here is what I did before I got started!

When you decide to embark on a no spend anything — month, week, year — it is initially daunting. It doesn’t matter what the length of time is, the idea of being a complete tight wad not only scared the crap out of me, it made my family and husband question my sanity. But most of all, they questioned if I could actually do it — which of course made me want to prove them wrong even more.

Since I knew my wants and needs would change with each month, I created a tentative list that I decided I would evaluate at the end of each month for the next month. Unexpected events and expenses tend to come up that I can’t predict right now, I didn’t want to paint myself into a corner that I wouldn’t be able to get out of.

Here is an example of my year round “needs” for the challenge:

  • Rent — I do need a roof over my head
  • Utilities — My house is old, so heat and electricity are definitely a need
  • Groceries — I have a strict budget of $60 a week to feed my husband and I
  • Gas — I am going to attempt to only fill my car with gas once a month. I work from home so this shouldn’t be too difficult
  • Cell Phone — I did make changes to this — keep on reading
  • Hulu — I don’t have cable, so this is the next best thing
  • Business Expenses — I obviously need some of these in order to even make money

Tentative wants throughout the year include:

  • Small expenses when family comes into town — but within a strict budget
  • Occasional dinner with my husband — because my marriage is important
  • Thanksgiving travel — we are traveling to family this year, so this will become a need
  • Nieces/Nephews — I support my kiddos with things like girl scout cookies and raffle tickets — but within reason
  • Experiences with my husband — again, because I choose marriage. (more on this below)

Getting Everyone To Believe You

I told my husband about my challenge and he sort of nodded his head slowly as if to say “here she goes with another extreme idea that she won’t follow through on.” I can’t blame him, really. But this time I told him it’s different. I am tired of using my credit cards every month when it’s not necessary. I am tired of sending almost 60% of our hard earned income to debt.

The next morning, as I was sitting in line at Starbucks, I brought it up again. He raised his eyebrows and said, “you do realize you are talking about this and you are about to buy a ridiculously priced latte while there is a giant jug of iced coffee in the fridge at home?” Touché, I said. But I also pointed out that my challenge had not started yet AND I was using a gift card. It didn’t really sell him anymore on the idea, but I wasn’t ready to give up.

What finally got him on board? It wasn’t until the 2nd day of my challenge. When I received an affiliate payment for $16.22 and I turned around and sent it off to my highest interest credit card. In the past I would have just thrown it into our account and spent it on something trivial. Because my thought in the past would have been, “what difference will $16 make? We’re paying off debt until the day we die.” And that is when he finally had the look in his eyes like he knew I meant business.

Getting Everyone On Board

When I laid out all the details to him, he may have freaked out a little bit. What about us? What about our marriage? I know being under the pressure of debt takes a toll on a relationship, but not taking time to enjoy ourselves in our marriage can break it as well. He had a point. We are in the early years of being married, no kids — we should be experiencing all kinds of things together. So I decided that marriage was a need — and that each month we would look at our wants/needs coming up that month and decide together what we could do for our marriage need the next month. But I told him sometimes that need might be a whole weekend of Netflix movies and popcorn, and other times we could set aside some money for one of our little adventures we like to go on. He said that worked out perfectly for him — score! He was almost on board!

I know you are probably wondering — is my husband on board with me, or am I flying solo? Well, both. He isn’t a spender like I am. When he wants something, he spends weeks doing research on what he wants and 90% of the time he decides against it. He brews his own beer and is a craft beer aficionado — so I told him I budgeted money into our groceries each month for his beer. Once it’s gone, he gets to decide if he wants to spend his hard earned money on more. We set aside a small amount of money each paycheck for him to do whatever he wants with. In turn, any random income I make each month I get to do whatever I want with. I have decided to throw all of my miscellaneous income at our debt. He can do whatever he wants with his. Maybe one day he will see our progress and start doing the same. But this is my challenge, and I didn’t want to force him into anything.

Adjusting To The Challenge Before It Even Starts

There were some changes I wanted to make before the challenge even started, to make sure we even had any small positive income leftover to use. Here are some of the things I did to get myself ready to take on the challenge:

  • Evaluated our cell phone plan — I realized we were not using the large amount of data we were paying for, so I changed to a lower data plan which put $20 back in our pocket
  • I bulk ordered some of his vaping supplies (he used to be a smoker) so that it wouldn’t pop up as an expense at random times when he tells me last minute he is out
  • I put my photography expenses on hold — although it was hard to do, I haven’t been marketing it like I should be right now and in turn I was paying all of these expenses to run the business
  • I put our electricity bill on a plan that paid the same amount every month
  • I did some research on balance transferring some of our high interest credit cards to cards with 0% APR/fees for a certain # of months (more on that next month)

Setting Up My Accountability

Although I had the support of my husband, I knew I would be writing about my challenge on this blog and having you guys as my accountability. I wanted to make it fun, interesting and inspiring for other people to read, so I set up a page within my blog that will showcase my progress — you can check it out here! I also set up a page of resources and will be updating it throughout the challenge with things I have tried and recommend. And, there is also an email sign up if you are interested in being notified anytime I update you on my progress. I would love for you to follow along! I am going to need all the cheerleaders I can get!

Here is the first snapshot of my challenge — my overall credit card debt to be paid off. The number scares me, but I feel really good about getting rid of it this time around. I use the program Undebt.it to enter in all my debts, their interest rates, etc — the program is pretty phenomenal and its free. When it told me how much interest I would be paying alone on all of these cards in the next few years — yowza! It really kicked my need for doing this into high gear. The paid version of Undebt.it allows you to set your own payoff schedule and see the difference in interest, payoff dates, etc. And the paid version was not something astronomical — I think it was $12 for the whole year!

I challenged myself to not spend any money on anything outside of my needs for a whole year - here is what I did before I got started!

So wish me luck, friends! At this time I am already 15 days into the challenge, and so ready to tell you all about it at the end of this month!

Are you doing a no spend challenge, or have you ever done one? If so, any tips and tricks or words of encouragement you can share?

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