I’ve been spending a few days reflecting on last month’s No Spending Challenge and thinking about how to carry some of those new habits forward. (Because why would I save money all month and then toss it at the end?)
This was our third year to try this family challenge, and each year was definitely easier than the one before. The first year we learned the hard way that even something as small as $15 on dinner out made it difficult to meet a $40 weekly food budget. This year we were committed to making the most of every dollar.
Here is what helped me the most, and what I plan to carry forward:
Skip the weekly grocery shopping once every few weeks, and take the chance to use up the food accumulating in the pantry and freezer. It can be hard to skip the weekly sales, but stores will always have more sales.
Create a wish list instead of buying instantly, and wait a couple of weeks before making purchases. After waiting a while, I ended up crossing a few things off my list instead of buying them.
Finish up current projects before buying supplies to start new ones. This one is tricky for me, because I love the inspiration of new ideas, and new projects always seem more appealing than the ones I haven’t finished. This month I was able to accomplish a lot of projects that had been sitting around and taking up space.
Always have a few quick meals in the freezer so you don’t rely on takeout for the hectic days.
I didn’t send my husband to the grocery store alone. There are a lot of things that he can do better than me. For one, he’s a better cook. He can fix things. But between the two of us, I’m the more price-sensitive shopper. He doesn’t go to the grocery store often enough to know when something is really on sale or when it’s just a promotional sign.
Establish a routine errand day. By grouping my errands and shopping into one day a week, I saved gas and time by consolidating trips. I made a well-planned list ahead of time of what to buy, and I didn’t make extra quick trips to the grocery store that would have enticed me to bring home more than we needed.
Find your favorite cheap meal. When we’re on a beans and rice budget, we get tired of beans and rice. Neither of us want the leftovers. I found out we both enjoy scrambled eggs with salsa and baked potatoes. We could eat it every week without getting tired of it.
Keep good food at home, especially having favorite snacks on the weekends, to avoid the temptation of going out and spending more.
Think about why you’re shopping. I learned early in the first week how often I was tempted to do the shopping as a way to procrastinate other work. Shopping is time consuming, and even though it’s good to buy things for your household, it can often wait.
What Others Said
It’s been fun to read the comments and insights of others who have taken on similar challenges. Here are just a few:
“We did our own version of the no-spend month… It was so awesome to be forced to really evaluate each and every dollar we spent, and it also helped us to reach our goal of paying off our car in full by the end of that month, which was the absolute last of our debts. Since then, we’ve been able to save, save, save, which is just such a good feeling!” — Stephanie from Keeper of the Home
“We did a no spend month last October and though it was hard to go through, it really did open our eyes to how much we spent on the “little things.” It also gave us more strength to say no to spending in other situations once the month was over.” — Jenni from Life from the Roof
“Coupons and gift cards don’t save you any money if they cause you to spend money you weren’t planning to.” — Holly from STL Chases
“The biggest benefit we’ve experienced this month is we’re getting much better at sticking to our grocery budget… If that’s the only skill we’ve learned through cash budgeting, I’d say it’s absolutely worth it.” — Karen from Living Well on Less