2nd Week of No Spend Month

20080715 - Iced Coffee

This second week of No Spend Month was harder than the first.  I would love to go out to eat one night soon.  I sure don’t take it for granted anymore, but I guess that’s the point.  We spent $44 this week, which seemed like a lot compared to $13 the week before. Then I realized that we’re halfway through the month, and we’ve only spent $57 total!

The second week:

  • We spent $44 on groceries.  I bought the good, expensive juice this time, because the cheap kind last week was really, really bad.
  • We didn’t have to buy gas, because we only used 1/4 tank.
  • We ate food from the freezer and some meatless dinners.
  • I dreamed about going shopping at a J. Crew sale, and every skirt was the perfect size and style.  I didn’t want to wake up.
  • I finally learned how to make delicious iced coffee!  I’ve always been confused if I should make regular hot coffee and then chill it, or steep the grounds in cold water.  Finally this recipe (via How About Orange) explained why cold-brewed iced coffee tastes better.  It could not be easier!  I followed the recipe and used my french press to filter it.  I didn’t need to add much sugar, because the coffee tasted so good.  I’ll be having this every day.

A little about budgeting:

In a typical month we use our debit cards, try to remember how much we spent, and then hope it comes close to our budget at the end of the month.  This month, though, we switch to a cash budget since every dollar counts.

At the beginning of each week, we start with $50.  Most of it goes to me to use for groceries.  I write down how much we spend, and at the end of the week, I compare the total to the cash left in my purse.  If there is money left over, it gets carried over to the next week, since we’ll probably need it for gas or more food.  We try to leave a few dollars for unexpected or fun things too.

We came up with our $250 limit by thinking about how much we normally spend on groceries, and then making that cover everything, including gas.  We thought having a tight budget like this would get us out of the habit of getting take out and going out for coffee.  It works.  It definitely is easier this second time around, because last year we had spent quite a bit more at this point.

Anyone have some budgeting-success stories to share?  Let’s hear about them!

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Do are doing so well Rachel..that coffee looks delicious :)

  2. I think you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.
    Hubby and I have been discussing converting our budget to a cash system by using envelopes for different categories. I know the change won’t be easy but I think it will be beneficial to us in the long run.

  3. I’m just curious…is your normal grocery budget $250 a month? If so I’m very impressed and would be interested in your tips.

  4. Working with cash makes a world a diffference in my opinion. It seems like you want to hang onto it vs. spend it, see how long you can make it last. Plus, when it is gone, you’re done!

    curious, did you have the coffee “rest” overnight? I want one now!

  5. My wife lost her job last month so we’ve had to cut our spending in half. And you know what? We’re doing it just fine. It’s amazing how much money we waste. It’s almost like we were spending money as a sport. It’s been an awesome learning experience.

  6. Thanks Laura and Nancy!

    Nancy, I think it’s great that you’re willing to try it.

    Ashley, I think our food budget is more like $300 a month on average. We discounted it for No Spend Month because of the food I already had in the freezer and pantry. Actually, our food expenses have been going up the past few months. I have some tips for foods that are inexpensive and healthy, and I’m looking for more ways that I can keep our food costs down on an ongoing basis (after Doug doesn’t want any more p.b. sandwiches).

    Denise, this coffee is better than Starbucks! I grind the beans (1/4 cup) and let them soak in water (1 cup) overnight. The next morning I add 1 more cup of cold water to dilute it, and then strain it with my french press. Add lots of milk and a spoonful of sugar. Love it.

    Wow Dana, what an amazing testimony. It’s awesome for you to have such a motivating outlook for a challenge like that.

  7. zapatosdecocodrilo says:

    This is a funny thing to try. I’ve considered it myself as an experiment, too. I was just worried that it was a little disrespectful to the people who are actually, you know, poor.

    And then I became one myself. I mean, not sleep in a phone booth poor, but with the crisis, an already low salary and being forced to move to a more expensive apartment, there are months on which I’m working on a tiny budget like this, purchasing kilos of pasta and tuna fish as a backup in case the money for fresh food runs out. It’s not fun, it’s a tight situation, and it has a way of taking over the rest of your life, even after the money problems have been resolved.

    In the end, I think having money issues made me like the consumer society more, not less. People treat spending money on yourself like it’s a crime in the middle-lower class, but knowing how little is really necessary, I no longer think my friends are entitled to criticism of somebody else’s big cars and houses and then spend a night out of town just to go to a concert. They’re both luxuries to somebody, and not having any luxuries definitely isn’t the ideal situation.

    • We have been trying to raise a lot of our own food as my part of helping because I am a stay at home mom. I home school our children. We try to raise our own beef. We had our beautiful cow lose her twin calves and also had a $112 vet bill. I feel we just keep going backwards with feed bills etc. It is also sad for our girls. One good thing is that the girls are getting a great work ethic. They take turns getting up early for chores. Our sweetcorn all went down in a bad storm. I feel sick!

  8. bentlyr says:

    Great work! You have inspired my gf and I to start this next month.

  9. That sounds like a great system. I prefer cash because it hurts a lot more to hand it over when I am holding it in my hot little hand versus striping the card. It helps definitely keep me on track for the grocery store too.

    Am loving reading about your month :)

  10. This sounds awesome. But, I don’t know how you do it! I can barely get two meals for $50!! Gas costs $4.50 a gallon (in So.Cal).

    This is not meant to sound negative. I’m just dumbfounded!

  11. Thanks for the thought-provoking comment, Zapatos. What my husband and I found is that by voluntarily deciding to go with less for a period of time, we became more sensitive to those who don’t get the choice, and we realized just how significant a couple of dollars can be. I agree that it’s good to be able to enjoy some luxuries, since you’re right, very little is actually necessary. I do think it’s important to be purposeful in it (since impulsive spending is rarely satisfying for very long).

    Bently – I originally thought my husband was not going to like it, but he was pretty easily convinced when he thought about the extra money savings. I hope it goes well for you!

    Amy, cash is definitely helpful to me at the grocery store!

    Wow, FitMom, I don’t know, maybe there’s a regional difference in cost of living?

  12. I’m here via Simple Mom and love your blog! I probably won’t have another iced coffee at McDonald’s after reading the ingredients that you posted. In addition to the cold-brew recipe, the recipe for “Easy Iced Coffee” on allrecipes.com is pretty good and quick. I use Trader Joe’s instant coffee in it.

    PS Here in Southern California $50 covers more than two meals.

  13. Wow. This is blowing my mind. We spend at least $800 a month on food!! And I thought we were trying to cut back! There are 4 mouths to feed in our family and we do eat out a bit but we spend around $150-$200 per week on groceries. It is the milk, fresh orange juice and fruits that kill us. We also eat a lot of fish, which can get spendy.

    Good for you guys! I guess I need to look at what we are eating a bit more and cut out the 15 ingredient recipes!

  14. KS – I love allrecipes.com. Thanks for the coffee tip!

    Andrea, I love fruit too! We don’t necessarily give those things up, but we do try to balance the expensive items with foods that are less. So I load up on bananas, and beans and brown rice. I buy expensive juice, but then we try to drink more water so it lasts longer. We eat eggs as often as meat. I must say, you are probably a much better cook than I am!

  15. Do you really want to spend less money? Get a bike. Ride your bike to and from work, ride your bike to the grocery store with a backpack. not only does it cost less, but you learn to think twice about buying stuff you don’t need. (how the heck am I going to get this home) If you guys go to the gym for exercise, you can knock that off your expense list too, riding a bike to and from work will take care of your exercise. Think about it. by dropping one of your two cars, you cut your insurance by half, registration by half, gas by half (I’m ignoring the company gas card here) and maintenance by half. All for the price of your average car repair bill, which comes at least four times per year.

  16. nice articles, thanks for sharing.

  17. Mirco, I was just recently talking to Doug about getting a bike. Great ideas.

  18. Ok, I tried the cold coffee recipe and it is so delicious!!! I drank two glasses and didn’t get that jittery,almost sick feeling I get sometime after drinking too much coffee. I was always a big coffee lover and now I can enjoy it even more. Thank you!!!

  19. Incredible coffee recipe…I think of your blog and this lovely image each morning when I drink it. It’s a very soothing ritual to prepare the coffee the night before, knowing that I’ll wake up to a delicious treat in the morning!

    Your blog is wonderful, I love what you write and how you write. Blessings to you!

  20. Thank you so much for your sweet note Brooke!

  21. ArianahsNanah says:

    I would love to try this, although living on a small island will probably make this difficult. I would love suggestions on how to save money with two teenagers(one in college,and another in high school) and three younger children. It seems every day there is something new, baseball mitts, poster boards, etc… Typically our family spends about $600 a month on groceries alone, sometimes more and with two cars to transport kids to and from school and all after school activities it seems quite impossible to save. I’ve tried hiding my debit card also, but always cave when one walks in and yells “Mom, I need a new folder/book/pen for school tommorrow’.
    I would some ideas on saving some money. We live in American Samoa, and gas prices have still not dropped here(4.24) a gallon and food prices have almost tripled in the last couple of months.
    Thank you and God Bless