Joining us this week is Joanna from It’s Just Change, sharing the results of her month long No-Spend Experiment. Joanna is a computer programmer by day, gardener by night in central Indiana where she lives with her husband and her dog. She writes about saving money & spending it ethically at It’s Just Change, and about everything else at Keeping Feet.
This July, my husband and I took a long look at some upcoming expenses and the state of our Emergency Fund, and were a little disappointed with the progress we’d been making. The Emergency Fund had been growing slowly, but “emergencies” here and there kept putting us back to where we started. We needed a windfall or something to get the ball rolling, to let us feel like we were making progress. Enter the No-Spend Month challenge.
We set rules for August: We’ll pay the bills, but nothing extra. We’ll eat out of the garden, freezer, and pantry, avoid restaurants, find free entertainment, and put home improvement projects on hold. We’ll see how little we can get by on- and, in the meantime, beef up the Emergency Fund a significant amount. We were motivated!
I made a month-long meal list, and was determined to not eat at a restaurant. We entertained guests, found free community events, and even found creative ways to give to others. As the month went on, I really began to examine my habits that I was being forced to break: avoiding impulse buys, falling for “free” promotions, and identifying why I get a case of the Wants.
The reflection on all of this was good- I became aware of my habits and vices when it comes to spending money. “Leaks” in our budget, like the “forgotten” lunch, were discovered. We discussed and prioritized gifts to others, and decided that important people in our life were worth spending on. Also, I had no idea how much milk we went through. Wow, I felt like I was running to the store all the time getting another gallon.
In the end, the numbers in our bank accounts spoke for themselves:
- My husband’s classes for a professional certification, almost $900 were paid for without dipping into any other fund
- $0 spend in our budget categories of Home Improvement, Miscellaneous, and Allowances
- $33 spent on grocery necessities
- $10 spent at restaurants (due to forgotten-at-home lunches)
- $70 spent at birthday dinners at restaurants
- Had our lowest-spending month (since last November when I started tracking it), by almost $1,000
- Added $2,000 to our emergency fund since mid-July
More importantly, we learned so many lessons about ourselves and our spending. Seeing how much “extra” income we have was sobering- because many months, it disappears. The No-Spend month was worth it, and the August experiment was deemed a success.
But, you better believe it—I went on a huge grocery shopping trip September 1st! Our cupboard was bare!
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