Tuesday, December 3, 2019

No Spend Challenge Thoughts

At the end of last year I put together 19 goals I wanted to try and tackle during 2019. Now I realize there are still a few days left in the year, but let’s just say I am far from crushing the majority of them. We won’t go into the specifics now (it’s probably a topic for another post), but one of the goals that I DID conquer was doing a No Spend Challenge.


If you remember my post from back in October, the hubby and I set aside November to attempt a No Buy Month. Now, we had to allot for two exceptions - gas and groceries - but other than that, if it wasn’t in one of those two categories (or emergencies, but thankfully we didn't have any of those) we put the purchase on pause (at least for those 30 days).


Since we are now on the other side of the challenge I thought I’d share my thoughts about the experience and what we learned from our little experiment. (Side note - you can read all about the reasons behind taking on the challenge HERE, but suffice it to say that although increasing our savings would be an added benefit, the main goal for the month was to become more aware and conscious of our spending and to see if the money we were spending was actually increasing the joy in our life {or, said a slightly different way, if we would miss any of the things we weren’t spending money on}.)


I guess I always expected November would be a tricky month because we were getting into the holiday season and our culture focuses on “buy, consume, spend”, but with a ticking clock and since we were nearing the end of the year (not to mention I knew December would be impossible) we had to make it work. #BlackFriday #BuyBuyBUY

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If you know me, you probably know that I am already a fairly an extremely frugal person. Friends joked with us that the only thing that'd change would be we'd miss our weekly Friday trip to our favorite Mexican restaurant, and in the back of my mind I was thinking that might actually be the case... Even still, I was interested to see how the 30 days would go.

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Let me start off by saying we had quite a few events planned for November that we had paid for before the month began, so it may seem like we did a lot “for free” but really we had planned ahead of time and had already spent the money before our No Spend Month came around. For example, we went to a Saves The Day concert and a Detroit Red Wings game in the middle of the month. Although we had bought the tickets ahead of time we were creative with parking for both events and utilized street parking about a mile away from each venue instead of paying to park at the designated lots. We also refrained from buying food or drinks at the event, choosing to eat at home before we went.


Another trip that we had booked prior to the month starting was to Las Vegas for the Rock ‘N’ Roll race. We paid for the hotel when we made the reservations a few months prior and brought food with us for our meals instead of going out to eat. (There is also free parking at a few of the casinos on the strip so we parked at a different hotel and walked to where we were staying.) We realized that often times we pay for convenience and comfort, but that if you use a little creativity (and leg-power) you can save a few extra of your hard earned pennies (and get in some extra steps while you’re at it).

We weren't going to Vegas for the shows/ food/ nightlife... we were there for a race, so it made
things a little easier because we could pack all of our own meals and bring them with us.

We also went camping for Friendsgiving for a week, but had booked our campsite at the end of the summer and were able to eat all of our meals out of the AdventureMobile. I’ve seen a quote online about camping that goes something along the lines of “camping - where you spend a fortune to live like you’re homeless”, but for us it couldn’t be further from the truth. The hubby and I have found camping to be a very inexpensive way to travel and this trip was no exception. Sure, we bought food (groceries) for the trip, but we would've had to eat at home just the same so no additional money was spent.

Obviously the purchase of the AdventureMobile was NOT cheap, but once we bought it, everything else is fairly inexpensive.

I’ll be honest, we don’t eat out a ton (maybe once or, at most, twice a week), but I think that was what I missed most during our month. The hubby LOVES this pizza place in Vegas (Pizza Rock) and he may have been a little heart broken when he realized we wouldn’t be going during our trip (and that he "missed" Secret Pizza). Also, eating is a social event and sometimes it’s nice to go out with friends and share a meal together. We have lucked out and have some pretty amazing friends who are fully supportive of everything we do, but there was a time or two during the month where we had a little FOMO because we were missing out on a meal here or there. PS We were able to go to a couple restaurants during the month thanks to a gift card and a Yelp Elite Event, but our normal go-to trips were ixnayed for the month.

Thanks to a Yelp Elite Week Event I was able to try out a new-to-me smoothie place. 

Surprisingly I received a bit of flack for this challenge. A few folks mentioned they thought the idea was a bit silly (they didn’t say it in those words exactly, but it was sort of implied in the conversations) because they thought we might be spending less one month but we would be spending more the following month so it would net out to be the same. While this may be the case (although I don’t think it’s exactly true since most of what we weren’t spending money on were things like going out to eat or entertainment that we wouldn’t be doubling up on in December to “make up” for what we missed), like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the savings was an added bonus but the real hope behind doing this was to be more conscious of our spending. I definitely feel as though this was an eye opening experience. There are some things that we think we “need” to spend money on (parking at the hotel you are staying at, eating out while on vacation, etc), but if you do a little research there is often a free (or at least cheaper) alternative that may be available.

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I'm sure this won't surprise you, but I'm almost always down for a cheaper or free option (What can I say?! I'm a saver!) . Well, sometimes the hubby wants to pay for convenience, and seeing as he is the bread-winner I need to be "okay" with that. (Obviously this wasn't a new revelation, but was definitely reinforced throughout the challenge.) I think I might be able to talk him into a few less expensive options on some things (like where we park as long as we will be walking in safe areas and aren't hauling a ton of stuff with us), but when it comes to things like removing eating out that definitely isn't something we are considering. Sometimes it's the small things that really add up (like getting a coffee from the gas station when you're filling up or grabbing a t-shirt because it was on sale and too good of a deal to pass up) and I think this challenge really forced us to ask ourselves if those purchases are things we really need or want BEFORE we make them.

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PS Just in case you were curious as to what my first purchase would be once the challenge was over, it was my registration for the 2020 Chicago Marathon ;) I had a time-qualified race I could use for a guaranteed entry, so submitted my application on the afternoon of November 30th and was approved and charged as of 12:38am on December 1st! The deadline to register was December 2nd, but I figured it would take at least a day or two for them to confirm my submission... Thankfully I waited as long as I did or it may have charged me before the end of the challenge!


Have you ever tried a No Spend Challenge?

6 comments:

San said...

I haven't done a no spend challenge per se, but I have overall adopted a more mindful mindset regarding "senseless" spending... I've gotten into the habit of putting stuff in my digital shopping card, only to let it sit there to see if I really need/want it .

I feel like, if I really, really, want something, then I will be able to wait a few days before I make the purchase. Sometimes I follow through, but sometimes I realize that I don't want/need something that bad and I end up abondoning the cart altogether.

Sam said...

I have considered doing a no-spend month, but I prefer to only do “I won’t spend money on clothes, extra makeup, shoes, & accessories”.

One thing I did want to point out in the article is that some things you choose not to pay for & they way you phrased talking about those who do choose to pay came off a bit ableist, in my opinion. Some people don’t pay for the convenience of a closer parking spot, but pay because they physically need to. They physically don’t have the leg power to walk as far as you did. I would have made it more well known in the article that you physically could park that far away so you made that decision but know that others may not be able to due to disabilities or chronic illnesses. I have a chronic illness where if I am having a flare, I physically cannot be on my feet for a long time. What was written honestly hurt me a bit because I don’t do it out of convenience & yes there are many times I wish I didn’t have to pay either, but my health is more important.

Britters said...

Definitely, something to consider, especially since I have a goal of paying off my student loans in 3 years! Growing up, when I wanted something, my mom would always say, "is it a need or a want?" and I'd get so annoyed but it's funny because that's how I see things now!

Carlee McDot said...

Sam - I am sorry that you were hurt by the post. I thought I was being clear that these were conveniences that we (as in my husband and I, not we as in a collective society) often pay for that we may be able to get around. Being a long sufferer of a chronic illness (for the last twenty years), I am very aware of the limitations of my body/ health. Again, I am sorry that you read bias into my post, it was absolutely not how it was intended. I was only stating my personal thoughts on what my husband and I did for the month and our feelings about the experience.

Carlee McDot said...

San - I LOVE the "wait" idea. I was telling a friend this past weekend that before the challenge I would just buy something immediately when the "need" came up, but with the challenge in place it made me see if there was a way around the purchase and make due with something we already had.

Carlee McDot said...

Britters - It can be annoying how right our parents were, can't it?! ;)