No Spend Month Update: Week 2

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In the first two weeks of No Spend Month, we spent as little as possible so we can have more money at the end for food and anything unexpected. I spent $40 this past week: $18 on gas and $22 on groceries. The groceries were mainly fresh produce, eggs, and dairy.

With 14 days down and 17 days left to go, we’ve spent $40 of our $250 budget.

Starting the third week of No Spend Month, our favorite snacks were finished a long time ago. Doug says, “We don’t have any potato chips.” and I answer, “We can’t afford them, but here’s a potato so we can make skillet fries.” He nods his head in agreement.

Here are the questions I hear the most:

How do you only spend $250 during the month? Is the food really cheap in Dallas, Texas? Do you normally not spend much on food?

Considering the specialty dairy-free, gluten-free and corn-free foods that we buy, it’s easy for our groceries to cost $70 – 100 a week. Doug and Lane have enough restrictions in their diets already, so we can be pretty indulgent when it comes to food. Doug reasons that having good food to eat is one of the reasons he goes to work each day.

But as in everything in life, it’s important to keep that balance between discipline and grace.

The simple answer to how I keep our budget down to $250 is that if we can’t afford it, I don’t buy it. That’s it. That’s all there is.

The hardest part of No Spend Month — telling yourself no to the things you would normally buy — is the very thing that makes it so effective. It clarifies the difference between a need and a want. It forces you to be creative, and it shows you opportunities to save money in the months ahead.

As I thought about how to shrink my grocery bill this month, I knew I had to come up with some changes. We used to buy deli meat for Lane, but we realized that we could grill small hamburger patties and keep them ready in the freezer instead. Doug likes to drink kombucha (a tea to help digestion), but I knew we wouldn’t be able to spend $3 a bottle for it. I learned how to make it, and he likes mine better! Last year I learned how to make iced coffee. We’ve been perfecting our waffle recipe to skip buying frozen waffles. Those are just a few examples, and we’ll certainly continue the grocery savings after No Spend Month is over.

So much of what we buy is often through habit, and No Spend Month lets us start over to decide which spending habits we want to continue, and which ones we didn’t miss after all.

Some of our meals and snacks this week: pasta and fresh pesto, homemade pizza, scrambled eggs, cherries and blueberries, beans and rice, and a skillet dinner with frozen mystery meat.

About Rachel

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

Comments

  1. great job! nice post, fabulous challenge.
    keep it up!
    nicola
    http://whichname.blogspot.com

    nicola´s last post…on crafting…

  2. So impressed with your discipline. We were too late to try the no spend month this month, but after learning from you, we’re going to attempt it in September.

    Some of the things we do to curb on groceries is frozen rather than bottled juice, homemade rather than store-bought bread, and baking a whole chicken for lunch meat.

    Burning Bushes´s last post…Dress Up…Redeemed

  3. Because we keep a tight grocery budget and I cook everything from scratch I often think that we couldn’t live on less. This is simply not true. If my husband lost his job there are *a lot* of things we wouldn’t be able to buy, but we would still be able to get adequate nutrition – there would simply have to be some sacrifices.

    I love kombucha too and have a 1/2 gallon brewing as we speak. It costs $3.50/bottle here!

    Shannon´s last post…Fats to Eat, Fats to Avoid… or Why I Love Butter

  4. Could y’all post the kombucha tea recipe? I LOVE that stuff. And I can’t afford it now.

    Also, this is VERY inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing all of the details you have shared. Even though I am not participating in no spend month, I read your posts and it has stopped me from making purchases recently that are a “want” and not a “need”.

    Thanks! :)

    Tara´s last post…Mia brushes her own teeth!

  5. I’m inspired to start in my own way! I hereby resolve to cut my weekly grocery spending budget of $100 (for a family of 4)by 10% each week. It’s not as impressive as an entire no spend month, but after a year its still $520!

    Thanks for the motivation!

  6. Very resourceful in your approach to addressing your needs while still being able to maintain your wants.

  7. I was on vacation until Saturday so can’t participate in the true sense, but will be setting my own spending limit and trying to stay within it right along with you.

    Like Hez, I’ve been struggling to keep grocery spending down below $100 a week. So as part of a scaled down plan for the rest of the month, I’m going to really work at finding ways to save.

    Good luck.

    The Countess of Nassau County´s last post…The Post Vacation Funk

  8. I love reading about what you guys are doing. It sounds like you’re going to make it through the month with money to spare! Very encouraging.

    Jamie

    • I’m dying!!!!!! i need chips, a book, some fajitas!!!! a movie…..

      On the other hand we had the best $0 dollar date night ever on Monday, we got a good report on the new baby ( Rachel is 7.5 months now)….and instead of driving and wasting time we talked and played board games, in fact, Rachel is a Rummicube pro and it was time well spent quiet and together, we did not even talk about no spend month….I did not even notice, but I did notice that Rachel is the best company that I know of

  9. I’m so impressed! You amaze me. You are quite resourceful. And by the way…I have no idea what komboucha tea is! I’m going to have to look for it!

    mrs. e´s last post…Harry Potter

  10. So true! Much of what my husband and I buy is out of laziness to actually make what we have, or make do with something else. I am really going to try to work on balancing the “want” from the “need”.

    You are such an inspiration!

  11. You’re doing great! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that no-spend forces you to discriminate between needs and wants. As tough as self-evaluation and self-control can be, it’s an exercise we all need to varying degrees.

    Skillet fries- great idea! Got a recipe?

    Evenshine´s last post…Now you are five

    • It’s just cut up potatoes cooked in oil in the skillet, and then some seasoning sprinkled on it. Also good with sweet potatoes.

  12. Do you find that you might spend more money than usual in the months before and after the no spend month? I have been trying to wrap my mind around giving it a try, but I see myself doing a massive shopping trip before to stock up and another restocking afterwards. I can where I can save by not doing the mindless unplanned shopping.

    Andrea´s last post…6 pack reusable produce bags with star paisley storage bag Amy Butler

    • Maybe some, but not as much as one would think. I’ll be sure to answer this question at the end of the month.

  13. Please do share the waffle recipe when it’s perfected. Freezer waffles are one of my biggest grocery “sins.” I’m a WAHM – no reason, really, to use convenience foods for breakfast. I just get lazy. :(

    We are doing No Spend, too, but I haven’t trimmed our grocery budget back quite as much as yours. It is AMAZING how much I just buy out of habit. Things like packaged “fruit snacks” that are really just HFCS, the aforementioned freezer waffles, diet coke, chips . . . on and on.

    Another revelation to me is how often I buy stuff for the girls simply because it’s on sale. Is it a great deal? Yes. Is it needed? Really, truly needed? Oftentimes, NO! No Spend is helping me reframe so many of our purchases.

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last post…What We’re Reading Wednesdays: James and the Rain

    • I don’t mind sharing the waffle recipe, but I don’t think it’s what you’ll be looking for. It’s got an assortment of gluten-free flours, and wheat flour is so much easier.

      I’ve been thinking about sales too, especially the ones I’ve skipped at the grocery store, reminding myself that I don’t need to go every week.

      • We always make home made waffles. I like to try little changes to spice things up. Some are more healthy than others, but we like them all the same. I have added an over ripe banana, frozen berries, frozen strawberries, and chocolate chips. So far the favorite is the banana waffles (and the child the loves them the most is the boy that will not eat fresh bananas).

  14. Great start! I can’t believe that the month is almost half over! Everyone always talks about need vs. wants…which I never understood. After some recent self-examination, I realized that I was spending more along the lines of need vs “I need”-aka-”what I think I deserve.” After setting a becoming debt-free goal I now weigh my “I think I deserve this” purchases against building a more secure financial future for my family. This helps me be disciplined and keeps me from making those impulse purchases.
    I also really like your “reexamining your spending habits” concept. Great job…I am so interested to see how the rest of your month shapes up! Abbie

    Abbie´s last post…Giveaway – Rubbermaid 20-pc Food Saver Set

  15. Frozen Mystery Meat? Hmmm…. LOL!

    So, you would do it like the good ole’ days. Cooking with flour, eggs, and butter…fresh produce. Make your own buscuits type thing, I take it. Congrats on your progress.

    Christine´s last post…Bill Gates Net Worth?

  16. I learned years ago while I was living abroad on a volunteer salary that improvisation is also the key to saving money. In that time in my life, it was simply practical since we couldn’t find so many things from home.

    However, I’ve taken that skill with me throughout the years…I’ve gotten really good at substituting cheaper ingredients that I already have for more expensive or hard to find ones (the internet is great at helping with that).

    I’ve also learned to rig together something that I want from things I already have…recently I wanted to buy one of those makeup organizers from the Container store costing about $20. Instead, I found an eating utensil tray in our closet, cleaned it out, put everything in, and saved that money. The same can be done for countless things around the house…

    Finally, I resist more kitchen appliances. Almost everything can be made without expensive equipment– pasta, ice cream, and yogurt– all with ordinary bowls we all have already!

    Mary R´s last post…Okinawan Baby Shower Lost in Translation

  17. I am still amazed that you are able to spend so little, but when I really think about it, some of our most favourite meals are homemade and dirt cheap! I love sweet potato and black bean burritos on homemade tortillas and a chickpeas and tomato skillet dish where the only splurge is some feta cheese.

    I hadn’t intended on doing no spend month, but after some unexpected bills arrived this month, money has been tighter than expected and it kind of turned into a no spend month anyway! We’ve been doing really well at sticking to the needs and avoiding the wants to balance the books.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Jen´s last post…Fix, Freeze, Feast and Toddler Firsts

  18. I have never done a no spend month but spoke with my hubs last night and we are going to try to do it in Sept. Now, our budget will be more than yours because we drive alot and our girls have dietary restrictions as well but we are going to try to 1/2 our budget. I am excited and dreading it all at the same time.

    great idea, glad I found your blog.

  19. Rachel:
    Keep up the good work! Thanks for inspiring us!

    Laura Leigh´s last post…It Was All Yellow

  20. Thanks so much for the post. I am interested in your tea (for digestion) and waffles (for freezing) recipes! Are they posted anywhere?

    LOVE the site!

    Andrea in NC

    Andrea Holloman´s last post…Just a Few Random Thoughts. . .

  21. I admire this post and REALLY am excited to read about this “no spend month” more. I am having a “budget sit-down” with my husband this month and I am going to suggest this. I think there is simplicity and beauty in learning what you need and what you don’t. Enjoying what you already have and being grateful.
    Thank you,
    Rachel

    Cherry Tree Lane´s last post…Frugal Francine Domestic Challenge Reminder

  22. Where can you find Kombucha for $3? I’ve only found it at Vitamin Shoppe for $19 for a 32 oz bottle. I’ve been considering making it, but wanted to try it first.

    • Whole Foods regularly sells a brand of kombucha tea called GT Dave’s for $3.50 for a 16 oz bottle. I’ve also seen it at some other health food stores around town. This link may help you find it locally.

      Yes, try it before you make it; it’s certainly an acquired taste.

  23. Wow! You are an inspiration. Thanks so much!!!

  24. Rachel.. Congrats, once again this year!

    Here are some crazy questions…

    If you only end up spending $200 this month – would you spend it on a night out? or save it? would you reduce your no spend next year because of it?
    How come you don’t include inflation in your budget – it was $250 last year too, right?
    Have you noticed a difference this year b/c of the price of gas? I know here in WI – we are about $1.50/gallon cheaper then last summer.

    Dana

    Dana @ Letters to Elijah´s last post…Satisfying 186 Calorie Breakfast!

  25. I love this idea! When I was getting out of debt I had plenty of ‘No Spend Days’ and aimed for 10 or so every month, but the idea of stringing 31 of them together? Scary! Although I’m going to be a student again shortly so it’s a skill I might try to cultivate!

    Congratualtions on your achievements, we live in such a ‘convenience society’ where almost anything can be bought and made for us, your experiment semms to have let you discover new skills and that sometimes doing it yourself (aka the ‘hard way’) can actually be more satisfying and fun!

    Lindsay´s last post…Starting Out ‘Starting Out Simple’

  26. we did no spend month last year with great success — i was SHOCKED at the savings that resulted!! we are starting no spend month today — middle of the month, yes, but starting none the less. just needed to say it out loud for accountability’s sake! thanks for the inspiration!!

  27. Yes, please post your kombucha recipe! Did you have to buy mushroom cultures? My husband goes through it like crazy, and we’ve already had the discussion about how much of the food budget it takes up. BTW Whole Foods gives a case dscount if you buy 12 bottles at a tiime (and you can mix flavors as long as you are buying the same brand)

  28. I am inspired by your post. We live in San Francisco and sometimes I feel like we’re just hemoraging money, and consider moving. But I LOVE this city. We’ve made this place home and have so many friends we love here. I am going to talk to my husband about trying this. Thank you!

    and ps – would love the kombucha recipe!

    Danielle
    author at
    http://www.milkshakesandmargaritas.com

    Danielle´s last post…The Sweet Side of Allison Krongard, Founder of WallCandy Arts

  29. Thanks for posting so much great information about this topic. Our family is going to follow your example and do an August “no spend month” starting next week! We have been talking about doing something like this for a while and your inspiration/ideas were just what we needed to get going.

    I am nervous and excited as we jump out and sacrifice this coming month.

    Vicky @ thecitycradle´s last post…Sunday snaps

  30. I am so happy that I found your blog! I think what you are doing is a wonderful. After my daughter and I were diagnosed with gluten intolerance and diary intolerance I have seen over grocery bill sky rocket! I noticed that you mentioned making pizza and that your husband has a dairy intolerance – what did you use for cheese on the pizza? Also, do you buy gf flours during your no spend month, or do you buy in bulk and thus have them already at your disposal?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Blair, we skip the cheese. Sometimes we use pesto instead of tomato sauce, and that has enough richness by itself. We already had some packages of Bob’s Red Mill pizza mix, but I think we did buy some flour during the month. The flour can be so expensive that gluten-free muffins and the like are a treat and not a diet staple. We eat more rice and potatoes instead to help balance the meat and produce. It’s been a year since we started eating gluten and dairy free, and it was expensive while we experimented with different foods and brands. Thankfully I’ve started to see our grocery bill come back down some now.

  31. I just came upon this and it looks interesting. The one thing I would see changing is that there is no premium assigned to your time. In other words, you save money on items but making from scratch can often take a lot of time and effort. If no value is assigned to your time, you do not know if that is a good cutback. Example; Frozen waffles. In the morning, that is a quick breakfast for the kids before we head out the door. However, making from scratch could be quite an investment in time and loss of sleep! I wonder if after you do these months you look back at your time spent and wonder if it could have been spent better on something else, perhaps something that creates income or income opportunities?