I'm thrilled to welcome Amy Clark from MomAdvice.com. MomAdvice is packed with money-saving advice, recipes, home management inspiration, and creative parenting ideas. In other words, it's awesome!
In light of the current economic situation, I asked Amy to share her experience during her month-long No Spend Challenge.
This February our family decided to embark on a No Spend Challenge for an entire month. When I say that we did not spend money, I only mean that we bought the necessary items needed to keep us fed for the month and our budgeted amount for gas in our cars. Anything above that was considered spending and was not allowed for our family’s No Spend Challenge.
I realize that a No Spend Challenge is not a unique idea. Many personal finance advisors encourage families to take a break from spending to shed light on your spending patterns. I have seen other bloggers take on the challenge for longer lengths of time or even part of their yearly routine. Still others are forced into No Spend month because of the loss of a job, a low paying job, or have no spouse to rely on to get you through those lean times. When my husband was unemployed our No Spend Challenge went on for years it seemed and that was not by choice, but because it was simply necessary.
How lucky am I that I can choose to not spend money for a month? How rich is my life that extra spending has even been a part of my life? I feel quite blessed to know that I can make this choice and I approached our challenge with enthusiasm and excitement.
Was the No Spend Challenge difficult for us? I will admit, it was more difficult than I expected… but also very rewarding. I discovered so much about myself, my spending habits, and the strength of my family to see a challenge through.
Let me share with you a little bit about what our family learned through our No Spend Challenge.
- I am more resourceful than I gave myself credit for. Committing to stay within our grocery budget was more difficult than I had expected. I did not realize how often I ask my husband to stop off at the store for one or two items for dinner. I found that many times I could whip up some really great cooking substitutes for the ingredients I needed or I was able to make those items I would have bought.
- Cooking every night is harder than I thought. I love working from home, but it can be challenging to get all my work done and get dinner on the table. Often I am in conference calls or working on a project until my husband gets home. I do love to cook, but I also love the occasional break so I can just relax. I realized during this month how often we actually do eat out. Trying to be inventive in the kitchen every single day was a challenge. I discovered that a box of macaroni or sandwich night was a wonderful way to still give myself a night off without spending money. I also learned the art of stretching a meal as far as it could go, reinventing it, or even double-batching meals helped give me the nights off I needed when I was working.
- I can still give to others. Do you ever feel like you can make very little impact on someone because you don't have the money to do it? I can admit that I feel that way often. There are so many around me that are affected by job loss, medical problems, and depression. Many times I feel so helpless to these situations because I don't have the financial means or connections to help someone out of these situations. It has been weighing very heavy on my heart these days. That is why I am so proud to tell you that I was able to provide five meals for others during this month and hosted countless engagements at my house caring and serving my friends and family. You don't have to have a lot to make a positive impact on someone else. What seemed like small gestures to me means a lot more to someone than you might think. We are so hurried, so busy, so tired. I know I often feel like I have nothing to give anyone. I realize now that a woman of small means can still give with her whole heart and make a big difference to someone else.
- My social calendar needs some revising. I never realized how many of my social engagements centered around spending money. Meeting up with friends for dinner, grabbing lunch for a play date, sharing coffee with a girlfriend are just some examples of things that are typically on my calendar. I will admit that I was a little bummed to miss some of these activities, but I was determined to approach this challenge creatively. We hit the library, we went to our friend's houses for play dates, we packed our lunches, and I hosted my friends at my home instead. What I found was that I had a deeper connection with the people in my life when I could sit at my kitchen table and our children played at my house than I would have at a play area where I am running around after my kids and dealing with crowds.
- I feel more grounded when I am home and not spending. Since we weren't out spending money, we ended up spending a lot more time at home. I suddenly had the time to tackle all of those projects I didn't think I had time to do. In fact, I had time for things that I loved to do. I haven't read a whole book in probably a year and during this month I read four entire books in one month. I baked bread. I weeded through things that needed organizing in my house. I actually got caught up with laundry a few of those days. I hung out with my children. I finally felt centered. I felt like a calendar addict who was just given permission to take four weeks off. That first week I felt the withdrawals, but by the second week it began to feel wonderful. I used my “No Spend Challenge” as my excuse to detach myself from anything and everything so I could just relax and do the things I truly enjoy.
- The best things in life really are free. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Giggling with my friends over coffee. Playing those dusty board games. Helping others around me. Snuggles from my sweet children. Good music. Dancing with my kids. Knitting. Soaking in the tub. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.
Although my No Spend Challenge is over, I look forward to repeating this challenge each February and making it a priority to get our finances in check. I did have readers who worried that I would overspend to make up for my month of not spending. I was happy to assure them that the first thing I indulged in was a $1 Diet Coke from McDonald’s and a $20 trip to Hobby Lobby to replenish my yarn supply so I could knit some gifts.
I encourage you to start your own No Spend Challenge today. Visit our No Spend Challenge for a little inspiration today!
Thanks Amy! Your article is inspiring. Is anyone else feeling pulled to take the No Spend Challenge? The idea has been nagging at me for a while. I'll let you know what I decide. I'm pretty sure that The Hubster will do cartwheels around the yard if I decide to go for it.
Here is just a small sampling of my favorite articles from MomAdvice:
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
The Only Corn on the Cob I Will Ever Make Again
World's Greatest Homemade Slushies
Sponge Ball Fun
I'm linking this post to The Inspired Room for A Beautiful Life because I think not spending could help make my left more beautiful.