No Spend Month Jan 16

ES and I are ringing in 2016 with a no-spend month. Essentially, we’ve given ourselves $400 for the entire month to cover gas, grocery, restaurants, entertainment and household purchases. Anything that’s discretionary comes out of the $400 pool. Now, we’re not total masochists, so the $400 doesn’t cover recurring bills like mortgage, cell phone, utilities or medical expenses or gifts. I got the idea from Rachel over at smallnotebook.org and the whole premise to be CONTENT with what you have and see that you can live on less.

January was the perfect month to start. We were both feeling like we had a spending and eating induced hangover after the holidays and we needed a little detox time. My busy season at work is in January, so that was an extra bonus — when you’re sitting in your cube it’s hard to spend money at restaurants, which is by far my biggest vice.

We did cheat a little — we went to Costco right at the end of December and stocked up on eggs and meat for the freezer. But other than the Costco trip, we’ve been eating up what we already had in the freezer and pantry. We haven’t gone to the grocery or out to eat yet, but we’ll probably stop by the grocery this weekend.

So we’re almost half way done with the month and I have to say I completely enamored with no spend. In the words of Buddy the Elf, “I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!!!” (ES, are you nervous about this??) Here’s why I’m so happy:

  • When I check my credit card balances, they’re not creeping up and up and up everyday. We never carry a balance on our credit cards, but we do use them for all purchases. So it seems like whenever I log in, the number just grows and grows. And then at the end of the month when I go to pay the balance, I’m like “holy cow, how did we spend THIS much?? I guess I won’t put anything in savings…” Seeing little activity on the AMEX gives me a sense of peace I never expected.
  • The Gimme Monster is quiet. I call that little voice in my head that wants Stuff the Gimme Monster. I’ll be online and see an ad for shoes or get a catalog in the mail and see a beautiful duvet and the voice says ‘ooooh, gimme that right now!!!’ The Gimme Monster sucks and I don’t like her. She undermines a lot of what I try to practice in my life. She makes it hard to fight the War on Stuff. She makes it impossible to be content and to find enjoyment in the moment. She sends my thoughts into the fantasy future that’s so much better than my current place. Fantasy future Erin lives in world where all the Stuff is beautiful — Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie, Madewell, vintage turkish rugs and beautiful leather goods feature prominently. And then I feel sad that my real life doesn’t look like my fantasy future life. I focus on what I don’t have, on my perceived lack.
  • One thing that drives me insane is going to grocery, buying food, then letting it go to waste. My grandparents would die if they knew how much food we throw out. We throw out produce and dairy mainly because we don’t plan meals and then eat at restaurants for the week. When I throw food in the bin I feel shame and guilt every time. No spend is forcing us to use the food we have in the freezer and the pantry and we are USING what we have. I love it.
  • We’re becoming better cooks because we’re being forced to practice and forced to improvise with ingredients. ES got a sous vide for Christmas and no spend has given him reason to use it. A lot. It really is an amazing little system and the food has turned out amazing, seriously, the meat has been restaurant quality.

As of today, we’ve spent $120 for the year. I’ve spent $15 on gas and $1 on a candy bar. To be fair, I’ve had it much easier than ES so far. I’ve only driven to work and back (4 miles each way) and haven’t had much else going in life besides work. ES drives a small truck, so it takes more gas and he’s also had to drive to job sites all over the city and drive out to Tempe to participate in some volunteer work we do. He’s trying super hard and if gas is removed from the equation, he’s probably spent $15 or $20 on things like snacks and diet coke. Honestly, I’m proud of us.

We’ve talked about continuing this experiment in February. I’d really like to do that, since we already have the momentum going from January and I think we’ll meet one of our mini savings goals if we continue through February. I’m excited to keep writing about this and keep posting updates.