Half-Way In: Our No-Spending Challenge

posted by Andrea | 05/17/2013

Dave and I are half-way into our month-long no-spending challenge, and honestly, it’s harder than I expected it to be! Even though I rarely step foot in a shopping mall, it’s amazing how many opportunities there are to spend money each day.

I’ve noticed that we have been relying on fast food a bit more often than in prior years. I’ve noticed that it’s really convenient for me to quickly place an order on Amazon.com any time we “need” something… especially since I always have Amazon credit built up from Swagbucks. And I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten lazy about “shopping around” ever since Nora came along. Maybe lazy isn’t the right word… probably just too tired and busy to care if I can save $2 by shopping a different store. :)

I think the hardest part for me so far is the fact that May is PRIME garage sale season in West Michigan… and I’m totally missing out! There are brightly colored SALE signs everywhere (many in walking distance from our house), but I’ve been a good girl and I haven’t purchased a thing. In fact, I’ve decided that it’s probably best if I don’t even go to the sales.

I also haven’t even been looking for anything on Craigslist — well, except items for a humorous post I wrote last week!

So far, we haven’t broken any of our rules.

  • We went out to eat once (Culver’s with gift cards and a BOGO coupon)
  • I used $20 of Kohl’s cash (which was going to expire) to purchase a $19.99 item for Dave (Kohl’s cash is taken pre-tax so I actually got $0.01 back!)
  • Dave purchased 2 quarts of oil for our lawn tractor (about $5) but we deemed that a necessity since our city ordinances don’t allow lawns to exceed a certain length and we didn’t want to start a hayfield.
  • We spent some money on fencing supplies for our yard — but one of our rules is that yard projects don’t count.
  • We didn’t do Mother’s Day gifts — and I’m 100% fine with that. Nora is too young to understand Mother’s Day and Dave doesn’t need to get me a tangible gift to prove his love.
  • I made baked goods for each of our moms and picked up cards for them before the month started. I let Nora “color” inside the cards and we traced her hand print :)
  • I haven’t purchased anything online (even with a gift card or credit) except one item we needed for our fencing — but again, that falls under the yard work exception.

I think that’s about it so far.

I’m not exactly sure how to calculate any savings we’ve incurred at this point — but if nothing else, this simple challenge has made me more aware of how easy (almost too easy) it can be to spend our money without giving it a second thought.

That’s definitely worth it right there!

Are you participating in our no-spending challenge? Or have you ever done something similar? 

What have been the main take-away lessons for you?

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19 comments

  1. Amie

    05/17/2013

    I am not doing your May no spend challenge voluntarily but I have had it imposed on me and it is eye opening! Two weeks ago, my car was vandalized and my purse stolen. I had about $100 cash (I usually carry $3 cash), one debit card (we don’t use credit cards), my check book, and at least $500 in gift cards (when the kids get them, I stick them in my purse so they are handy, I also had just purchased several gift cards for Mother’s Day gifts)…as a result of this crime, I was without easy access to $ for over a week (the bank took longer than usual to replace my debit card and checkbook). My husband gave me $150 at the beginning of the week. I could have had him get more for me but I thought I’d see how easy or hard it was to only have a limited amount of $. I am not a big shopper but I am not as thrifty as Andrea! It was hard going to the grocery store and keeping track of the costs before I went to the register. It was strange going to the gas station knowing I only had $20 for gas (instead of filling up and not knowing the cost). It was interesting when my kids (we have 3) asked for something and I had to say…wait, I need to have $ for groceries and gas. I now have replaced my stolen card and check book and do not have to be as limited in my spending, but I’ve chosen to keep a closer eye on my spending habits and have empathy for people who have more limited means….

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Oh no Amie — that’s awful!
    You seem much more positive about the situation than I would probably be… I too carry a decent number of gift cards in my purse and always think about what I would do if my purser was ever stollen.
    Well, glad there is something good coming out of this crummy situation!

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    Jessica Reply:

    Amie,
    As absolutely horrible as this experience could be and certainly was at first. I am proud of you, as someone who has always had very limited means. I thank you even more for stepping up to challenge yourself and sharing it with all of us.

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  2. Lauren Phelps

    05/17/2013

    Very Cool! I’ve never tried to go a month without spending. I bet it’s much harder than one would think. Congrats for pushing yourself to do this. You’re almost there! Have a fabulous day!

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  3. Mama Murrey

    05/17/2013

    During half of February and most of March, I was so weary with first trimester fatigue that I didn’t go much of anywhere. This meant I didn’t do my weekly shopping trips like usual. My husband happily reported we’d saved over twice as much as usual for the month! And we really weren’t low on groceries or anything else; we weren’t being deprived of anything during that six weeks I barely shopped. That tells me there’s been way too much mindless spending going on around here.

    Though the fatigue is way better, I still don’t have excess energy for shopping or couponing or deal-seeking. So I expect we’ll continue to see more savings, probably for the whole pregnancy. And then I’ll have to stay home for awhile recovering. Looks like my days of shopping with abandon are over.

    But oh, this baby is worth it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    So sorry you’re not having an easy pregnancy, but you’re right, it will be worth it — especially since you might have a little extra savings built up to spoil your new baby :)

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  4. Stacie Kaltz

    05/17/2013

    Andrea that is awesome! I can understand the garage sale thing, I too love garage sales! I would definatley love to do this challenge, but summer time would be difficult for me since we do vacations and family comes in town. I need to remember this in the fall! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Stacie — keep in mind you could do this challenge for a week or even just one day. Or you could do it for a month, but take a break from the challenge for your vacation. You can make your own rules :)

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  5. Kristia

    05/17/2013

    I don’t even buy greeting cards for family anymore. I have my kids make cards for family and everyone loves them and my kids enjoy coloring and drawing. It’s free and cards usually get thrown out eventually anyway.

    [Reply]

  6. Lisa Rohrssen

    05/17/2013

    I applaude your honest with admitting you eat fast food but I feel that it goes against what you stand for. I know how difficult it is and your admitting it proves to me how real you are.

    I made a conscious effort 6 ears ago to stop with fast food. I did and I can’t stand it now. It does not even look appetizing to me. What looks appetizing to me is a meal that was cooked.

    In January my resolution was to reduce the amount of packaged foods we eat.

    That was hard. It took a lot of planing and it took a lot of working and stocking my freezer. You helped with that.

    Now I am proud to say I reduced packaged foods by half. We still buy potato chips but no more do I throw a bagged dinner in the skillet and call it dinner. That was my go to for busty nights. I would buy skillet meals, you feel like you are cooking but it dose not taste better and it’s full of stuff you don’t want to give anyone you care greatly about.

    I am not the Food Police but I decided that my family deserved better and I step up and do that even when it means planning meals a week in advance so I my school days (I am in school full time as is my husband) I can still feed everyone.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lisa!
    I’m not necessarily “against” fast food or eating out all together, I’m just against it as last resort when you’re too busy and didn’t plan ahead. Dave and I do go out to eat a couple times each month but they are planned outings and I usually try to coordinate them around gift cards and coupons we have on hand.
    However, thanks to this challenge, I realized that we were often not being as “planned” as we could have and sometimes (maybe once a week at the most) relying on fast food because we didn’t think ahead.
    Sounds like maybe we should come to your house for dinner instead — you seem like a fabulous cook :)

    [Reply]

  7. Sandy

    05/17/2013

    We have taken an “all cash” challenge for a period of time before. No credit or debit card (both automatically deduct from my checking account anyway), no online spending… shopping using only bills and change. Even though I am extremely particular about entering all our “card” transactions in my records at home, we sure think more about spending when forking over cold hard cash…..(can you tell I’m a Dave Ramsey fan?)
    $25 spent at the hardware for yard care was much more thought-provoking using cash, rather than swiping my card. Even grocery shopping with cash makes me think about my purchases. It’s been a good exercise periodically for us to “cash-ify” our spending. In these days of electronic everything, we tend to lose the “value” of a dollar.
    For convenience I use auto bill pay and a debit card for most purchases. Our pay is directly deposited to our bank accounts. Really, most of us could go weeks without actually handling cash and that’s what worries me when I look at our society’s view of spending and debt.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Sandy — and all-cash budget definitely helps you see you spending in a different light. Even though Dave and I are quite responsible with our “plastic money” It’s still amazing how much more we think about purchases made with cash!

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  8. Emily

    05/17/2013

    I would really love to do a challenge like this with our family. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to embark on one yet. Maybe this fall. Thanks for the inspiration though! I love your blog!

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  9. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    05/21/2013

    Might be interesting to try. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Priya

    05/27/2013

    Hi Andrea,

    can u disclose your monthly budget in $ ?

    [Reply]

  11. Ann Marie

    05/29/2013

    Hi Andrea,
    Firstly I’m so glad I found your site, without sounding too over the top, it really has changed my outlook on my home, which after raising 6 boys and helping out with grandchildren had taken a back seat and I’d fallen out of love with it I suppose. But now I have a monthly purge on clutter, I meal plan and can tie a scarf like like a pro lol
    Secondly, I joined you in your no spending for a month challenge, it’s been hard at times but I have the added incentive that May 31 is my birthday.
    So thank you and thanks to your lovely ladies who share their experiences on your blog

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Ann Marie! Sounds like you are making huge progress reclaiming your house again!
    And congrats on joining in on the no-spending challenge! Only 2.5 days left… and then you can celebrate your accomplishments (and your birthday)!

    [Reply]

  12. Megan

    10/22/2013

    I just stumbled upon this after doing a google search and cannot wait to try it out next month! I’m a 23 year old living in the city where its EASY to spend lots of money. I’m trying to save up for a new computer and upgrade the blog so its time to be frugal! Thanks for the rules and advice!

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