• C. N. Sloan

I Did A No Spend Challenge

Starting off 2020 I really wanted to challenge myself with my finances. I’ve been blessed to make decent money that allows me to afford my lifestyle. Yes, I still have to watch my spending. However, minimalism opened my eyes to the world of over consumption that we live in. I know I could be better with my money, so I figured what better way to start the year than doing a No Spend Challenge.

The challenge lasted January 1st– January 31st. Obviously, I have to spend some money so below were my rules I had for my No Spend January.

1) Pay My Bills – Duh, self-explanatory. Can’t not pay rent.

2) Subscriptions – I didn’t feel a need to stop all my subscriptions just for one month. I already purged the ones I don’t use and only have the ones I use all the time. They include Audible, Netflix, Apple Music, and Writer Duet (a screenwriting software for those who want to know). So, subscriptions stayed in the loop.

3) Groceries - I shop pretty often so I had a limit of $65 per week for groceries.

4) One Refill Trip - In case I run out of soap or tampons or something, I can head to Target for one refill trip of the personal care essentials.

5) Nails - I can get my nails done once!

6) Charlotte Trip - I went to Charlotte NC for four days. This was the only time I allowed myself to put the No Spend on temporary lax. I instead limited myself to $100 per day for eating out, activities etc.

7) What I Won’t Do: For January I restricted myself from eating out, doing any online shopping, or purchasing anything at all that I hadn’t already planned for.

What I Learned

I consider the no spend challenge a success for me. Was I perfect? Fuck no. I forgot I needed to go to the barber shop and get a haircut ($25). I did go out to eat once at a nice place with a coworker ($50). I did Doordash food when I got back from Charlotte ($23). $100 a day in Charlotte? Psh, probably not. I didn’t even try to restrict myself on my vacation. Oh, oil change prior to going to Charlotte that I didn’t account for ($35). And I also bought a ticket to Greece. I’ll be going in August. Sort of counts but sort of doesn’t. I spent $1,204.18 on that.

It wasn’t all bad though. I was good on sticking to my grocery budget. I had to go to Walmart a couple times for things, but luckily nothing too crazy. I did only get my nails done once like I allowed myself. And I tracked every single thing I spent in January.

Personally, I don’t think it matters but to some people it does. I’ll tell you exactly how much money I spent in January. This is everything. Bills, food, gas, nails, tampons, candy bars, more food, Greece ticket, Charlotte trip, everything.

My total amount spent was $3,745.39. For perspective I split rent, electricity, & internet with my boyfriend so those costs are a little bit lower than if I paid a full rent for my apartment. Also, in Charlotte in total I spent $469.19.

Whether you find it a success or not I did learn a lot from the experience. Here are the top 3 takeaways.

1) I Spend A Lot on Fucking Food.

Most of my mistakes involved food. However, I also know I saved an extreme amount of money simply by cooking my own meals. I truly believe and stand behind the idea that if we start cooking our own meals more often, our pockets will thank us enormously. Cooking doesn’t have to be boring or bland like you may be thinking. Pick up a couple of cookbooks that are colorful, watch some YouTube videos, and you can start cooking today. Always have a few essentials like avocado oil, black beans, seasonings, sweet potatoes, brown rice, lemons and limes, and you can always conjure up something delicious. Cook with or for other people. That has a tendency to make it more enjoyable. Trade in the expensive drinks and overpriced mediocre food for some homemade dishes with friends and loved ones.

2) The Need To Spend Is Everywhere.

Everywhere you go, every move you make, there is someone asking you to buy something. You’re thirsty, stop by the gas station and get a water bottle. You want to take a walk in the park, there’s a vendor selling their artwork. Your eyebrows look crazy, go pay someone to wax them. You’re at work and you get hungry for lunch, go with the group. Most everything you want, you can solve with opening your wallet. However, all of these scenarios also have solutions that do not involve immediately pulling out your cash. To overcome the temptation to always spend requires being intentional with every decision you make. To me, that is what minimalism is all about. Being intentional allowed me to save money and make better choices with my dollar.

3) Budgeting & Tracking Does Make A Difference.

What made the biggest difference for me was budgeting my money. Once I wrote out all of my bills, I was able to see how much I would have left. Then I budgeted how much I would spend on groceries and it made shopping much more intentional. I made way better choices like staples that would last me longer like bags of brown rice, black beans, and a huge container of avocado oil. Also keeping a running excel sheet of every purchase I made was very helpful for me in figuring out the areas I can improve on with spending my money (yes, I know it’s eating out). But I recommend everyone track every purchase they make for a week and see where a bulk of your money goes.

After everything my biggest recommendation is to track your money and make small steps to being more financially savvy with your dollar. For me, it’s an empowering feeling to make smarter decisions and to be intentional with my dollar instead of letting society tell me how and when to spend it. If you don’t want to do a no spend month, start with a no spend week. Embrace minimalism and see how it affects your bank account. I can’t wait to see where it takes you!

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