The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

Thoughts on No Spend January 2017

My spending has gotten out of hand. Every month bills as well as discretionary spending. That’s what I realized this No Spend January.

Let’s cover all the things. We had some spending around the first of the year that threw off a bunch of my budget categories. On the way back from the family NYE gathering we ate out, we bought longer shirts for Delaney, and we hit Caribou. I don’t regret it. Beyond that, everything was in line. We didn’t go out to dinner, I only bought lunch a few times, and our Target and Amazon shopping was kept as minimal as possible.

I always think going out to dinner is the saving grace for my sanity, but I realized this month it’s not, meal planning is. I’ll go into more detail later this week, but knowing what we were having for dinner every week made it really easy to eat at home.

I didn’t treat this month as zero spending, I wanted something that we could continue. That said, just our base spending seemed very high. Even with only a few meals out and very little shopping, there just didn’t seem to be the extra money to go towards savings that I thought would be there (and that has been there in past years). I’ve been using our rewards credit card for larger purchases for the last year, and I think it’s enabled our spending to slowly creep up and up. All of the girls activities and larger than average utility bills certainly don’t help, but I’m definitely looking at areas we can cut back. I’ll be calling the cable company and negotiating our tv bill this week, as well as Verizon for my cell phone. I’m hoping after a few more months of really tracking our spending, I’ll have even more areas to trim.

The girls are awesome about No Spend January. They know not to ask for treats or shopping or dinners out. They were less than thrilled when I informed them it would be a No Spend February and March as well. I want to bring our spending back in line, but I also want to stockpile some cash. Trump scares me, and from everything I’ve read he will undoubtedly send us into a recession with his economic policies. I’m assuming my healthcare costs will also drastically rise since the Republicans still don’t have a replacement healthcare plan. And – travel! More than ever I want to travel and show the girls the world, places and people beyond this state we live in.

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No Spend January

In 2015 I didn’t spend any money on clothes for myself. It was a great way to break from that shopping cycle and I loved it! It made me really utilize the clothes in my closet, and freed up so much time. But, it also made me realize some holes in my wardrobe and in 2016 I filled those holes. And then some. I love to shop. There’s no way around that. I love going to the mall, I love browsing, and I love treating myself. I really thought I could keep that “I don’t need that!” attitude beyond my shopping ban, but it was hard, especially once the floodgates opened.

September – December is always expensive. Back to school, back to activities, Christmas shopping. I felt like money just flowed out of my account with no control. Having No Spend January is always this light at the end of the spending tunnel. I love knowing it’s coming!

This year the rules are going to be a little different. I’ve noticed that I’m fairly good at sticking with something for a month, but beyond that it gets difficult. New habits, new routines, exercising, frugality – I can do all of those things for a month, but then things fall apart. I want 2017 to be a year of saving/paying down, and that is going to require more than one month of not spending.

No coffee shops, but that’s an easy one. We scaled back our coffee shop spending last summer when the girls started horseback riding. I got a gift card for Christmas, and I go occasionally for work, but this isn’t a three times a week thing like it used to be.

No clothes until May. With the girls growth spurt I bought them both quite a few clothes in the last month. They have more than enough to get them to warmer weather. Same with me. I’d really like to get to May before purchasing anything new.

Eating out. I meal planned for the whole month and you guys, do you know how awesome it is to know (and like!) what you’re cooking for dinner every night? It’s been amazing. The stupid thing is, I know how much meal planning benefits us, I was just burned out on it. I thought it would be SO hard to do it for the whole month, but it wasn’t. And it means every week I don’t have to dread the task because it’s already done! I think we’ll be able to make it through the month easily with no dinners out except social events. I also meal planned smarter this time, using cheaper cuts of meat and recipes I know we like so there is less waste. Last year we spent more in January on groceries, than we normally do on groceries plus eating out. That was dumb. I’ve also pulled a few recipes I know I like to take as lunches. It helps that it’s cold out and I don’t want to leave the building.

Needs vs wants. The girls are very much involved in No Spend January and we talk about it quite a bit. They both needed new ballet shoes, so we bought them. But, when we went to Target we stuck to our list. Speaking of Target, I’m shooting for two trips for the month. I stocked up on creamer and coffee when I was there so we don’t have to go back again next weekend. I’m also shooting for two Amazon orders outside of our Subscribe and Save orders. The UPS guys will have some extra time on their hands, but I’m guessing they’ll appreciate it.

I’m hoping this month is a good reset for all of us and that I can carry that new mindset forward. There are definitely things I want more than another pair of black pants, and I need to remember that when the urge to shop hits!

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No Spend January, v2016

I’ve done No Spend Januarys for 3 years now? It’s a good financial reset after the spending during the holidays. At this point the spending has been going on since September, and it will be good to take a step back and wait when I think of things we need, rather than immediately heading to Amazon to order it. Even though January is only five days old, I’ve already thought of at least four things to buy that I have put off until February or later. I’ve realized that I say yes to a lot of little things, but those little things add up and make it harder to do the bigger things we want to do.

Here are the rules for this year’s No Spend January.

No coffee shops. Coffee shops are a bad habit for us. I love to stop in to Starbucks during the week, and into Caribou on the weekends before or after grocery shopping. A latte is $5 now! That’s crazy. My coworkers are also staying away which definitely helps my self control.

No Amazon orders. I’ve placed 51 orders on Amazon in the last six months. That’s crazy. Granted, the majority of my Christmas shopping was done there, and clearly, I order almost everything I need through them since it’s easier than running around town trying to find it, but 51 orders is excessive.

Two Target runs. The easiest way to not spend money at Target is simply not to go there. I’m hoping to keep it to two Target runs for the month which will mean we need to plan a little better than we have in the past.

No restaurants. No eating out with the family, and minimal lunches out. I had planned on bringing my lunch three out of the four days, but with the menu plan I have, I should have more than enough leftovers to not have to buy lunch at all this month. This is the toughest one, since a meal out means no cooking AND no clean up for me, but I’m actually excited about the meals this month, so I’m hoping this one isn’t too difficult.

Groceries. I’m not going to put any real restrictions on this. I’m interested to see where our grocery spending is with zero eating out.

No purchasing of anything not completely necessary. The girls start ballet on Thursday so we bought leotards and ballet shoes, but that is a need not a want. Beyond that, no purchasing.

The river of money has been floooowing out lately, so I’m weirdly excited to not spend this month.

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Content

I wanted 2014 to be the year I took action. I kind of did that. I got clarity on some decisions, and the realization that other decisions needed more thought, and we definitely did a lot of things that I had been wanting to do. Overall though, I still feel a little in limbo on things, and that uncertainty takes up a lot of mental energy and I’m kind of over it. I’m a planner, and instead of worrying, I have a tendency to run through all the scenarios and try to research my way through things.

And so for 2015, I want to be content with what I have. I want to enjoy this house and the yard and stop looking at houses for sale that I’m not in a position to buy. I want to focus on my project and stop trying to figure out what should be next for me career wise. I want to be content with the things we have, and stop shopping needlessly.

That last one has led me to a challenge that I didn’t even know I was seeking. A personal finance blog I read recommended another personal finance blog that is all about saving, so I went over to check it out and what was the first article? What a year without clothes did for me. She went a year without buying any clothes! No workout clothes, no casual clothes, nothing. As I was reading the post it really resonated with me and before I got to the end I knew this was something that I needed to do.

I have a shopping problem. When I did a No Spend January I realized that I don’t like my stockpile of food to get too low. That extends to clothes as well, especially if it’s a good deal! The girls have way more clothes than they need, as do I.

My goal is to make it an entire year without buying clothes for me, and six months without buying clothes for the girls. I think both goals are incredibly doable. I’ve bought a fair amount of clothes for myself, and definitely don’t need anything. As far as the girls go, I had them try on the t-shirts that they wore last year and they still fit. The t-shirts I bought a size up (on sale of course! can’t pass up a deal!) are way too big, and we likely won’t need them until summer 2016. So truly? We should be able to make it until September just buying a few pairs of shoes to get us through summer.

On average, I spend around $300 a month. That number is obscene! I’d much rather put that money in savings, which is exactly what I intend to do. Considering I want to move in a few years, I really want to ramp up my savings so that the next mortgage is as small as possible. We’ll likely buckle down on eating out for the first few months as well in order to kick start the year.

I have a bad habit of committing to things like this and then either quitting early, or finding loop holes. In order to remove as much temptation as possible, I have spent the first week of the new year unsubscribing to as many shopping emails as come into my inbox. It’s been so freeing!

I’m looking forward to this. I’m hoping to gain some insight into my habits, free up some mental space, and watch my savings grow.

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Midway Point – No Spend January

So we’re a little more than halfway through January, so I thought I would check in on how No Spend January is going.

Different than expected.

The truth is, I’ve spent more than usual on groceries, but we also aren’t going out to dinner, and I’ve been bringing my lunches, so it’s expected. I also didn’t have much of a stockpile at home, so the groceries have been necessary. I’ve maybe fallen under the spell of strawberries and blueberries at Costco, and so we’ve spent more on fruit than strictly necessary.

I’ve also bought a few sweaters. I know! But, I realized that my wardrobe was off, and maybe I watched too much Project Runway. Either way, they were totally necessary.

The good? We’ve only been in Target once, and it was for groceries. (Okay twice, but the other time was so the girls could spend their allowance money. My mom couldn’t handle watching Caden count out her dollah bills, and swooped in and threw down her credit card. Delaney declared “It’s like it was free!”) Target eats a lot of my money, and simply by staying out of that store, I have easily kept $100 in my pocket.

The other thing that has helped? The cold! I don’t even want to go out to dinner in this cold! We’ve stayed home, eaten our own food, and played with the toys we have. It’s been good.

Overall, I’m happy with where we are. With the holidays, I always feel like I’m spending money at every turn. This month, I haven’t felt that way at all. The girls are well aware of No Spend January, and have mostly stopped asking me to buy them things. I feel like I’m evaluating things a little more before buying, and trying to make do with what we have, which really is the attitude I’m going for all year long. I’m hoping that attitude sticks around past January.

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No Spend Month – Halfway Check in

Since it’s January 15, I thought I would give a little update on how my No Spend month is going. Overall? Not bad!

My goal was to bring my lunch four days a week and I’ve done that. I was a little worried about this one. I used to bring my lunch all the time, but lately I’ve gotten lazy. The thing is, there are only a few places I can eat gluten free, so it’s not like I have a lot of eating out options! Anyway, it’s good to know that with a little planning I can do this.

As far as eating out as a family goes? We haven’t at all! But I will say, I miss it. As a single mom who makes every single meal, eating out is a huge break for me. No cooking and no clean up! Going forward my goal is to continue bringing my lunches, but build in a weekly dinner out as a family, going to local restaurants that serve awesome food. I’d rather spend less money on lunches out, and put that money towards dinners out instead.

I’ve spent more on groceries than I wanted to. $70 the first week, $55 the second. I am not so good at eating out of the pantry! I realized that I like my hoard of food. It’s been hard to eat what’s in my cupboards without replacing it immediately. Why? Will we suffer needlessly if we run out of a certain cereal or frozen waffles?

The only shopping I did this month was for two birthday gifts and a new pair of running shoes. I was going to wait on the running shoes until I realized mine were so shot that I wouldn’t be running again until I got new shoes. The new shoes became a need, which I was okay with. For the birthday gifts I emailed the moms ahead of time to ask for ideas so that our gifts weren’t a shot in the dark. We were two for two! The presents were opened and played with before the party was even over. Awesome.

From August when I buckled down and made a rule to only go to Starbucks on Wednesdays, I know it takes about a month to build/break a habit. I had hoped to build some new habits with this month, but I didn’t expect the sharp insight into my spending that I got. I know my cupboards are full of food I don’t eat, and our closets are full of clothes we likely don’t need or wear, but it was interesting to realize how safe it makes me feel to have these things. The moment of panic that creeped in when I realized I was using my last can of tomatoes was telling.

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No Spend January

The holidays have been a little crazy. I’m not sure what it was, if it was the combo of busy work + holidays, or if it was just the way the holidays fell right after the weekend, but I’m exhausted and feeling not organized at all. Considering work is only going to get busier, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can make our lives more efficient and happy (which I’d love to say is another post, but really is just going to be an ongoing dilemma for me).

As part of this, I really want to start 2013 off right. I’ve wanted to do a No Spend month before, but something has always gotten in the way. There was something to buy, an event that would require shopping, clothes to purchase. This time around there are no obstacles! Our wardrobes are stocked, our pantry is stocked, I just bought toothpaste and shampoo.

My goal is to not buy anything that isn’t essential. I’d like to bring my lunch at least four days a week, and eat out only minimally as a family. I’m also hoping to eat from our pantry as much as possible to keep our grocery costs low. I’m hoping this is freeing rather than stifling. I’ve already decided I’m not going to do birthday shirts for the girls this year. They’re expensive, I agonize over the design, and they wear them twice. Why? Instead I’ll find cute dresses just before our trip, something they can wear again this summer.

Will this be an every month thing? No. But I do feel like we all need an extreme break from buying Stuff. I’m overwhelmed with all of the presents from Christmas, as well as the girls greediness. I’m hoping this resets both our budget and our attitudes. Although truly, I’m hoping that at least a few of the habits we’ll build this month stick. There’s no reason I can’t bring my lunch to work more often, and the girls have more than enough clothes.

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