We just finished up No-Spend February! While not everything went as planned, we’re still counting it as a success. Even with the unplanned spending, we still made some great strides that will show up even beyond our February budget update.
Now that it’s over, I want to evaluate what worked well and where we struggled. If you did a no spend month too, I encourage you to do the same. It’s helpful to see where your strengths and weaknesses are.
If you’re new to no-spend challenges, I have a whole category of posts about no-spend months and our experiences.
If you’d rather watch or listen instead of reading, you’re in luck! Otherwise, scroll past the video and keep reading.
Let’s start with our successes!
I finally got back into the groove of making homemade bread again. I know that homemade bread is cheaper for us. I faithfully made it back when we were paying off student loans, but have since gotten more relaxed (that sounds like I mean lazier, but busier is more like it) and out of the habit.
During our no-spend month I didn’t buy bread, but I still packed PBJs in lunches every day, so we went through lots of bread. I like to make 4 loaves at a time.
Staying out of the stores
This was huge for me this time. The past few months our “household misc” budget has been higher than ever before. I know it’s because we have such easy access to stores now and we shop much more often. Without fail I’ll find great deals on something that I know we’ll need, etc, etc (you know how it goes, right?)
Well, if I don’t go into the stores, I won’t even see the great deals or notice those must-have items on the shelves. This worked out perfectly. I shouldn’t be surprised that staying out of the stores kept us from spending money.
Ignoring the sales flyers and promotions email tab
I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m a sucker for a great deal. I’m pretty good at knowing a great deal when I see one, but I can easily get carried away. During February, I didn’t even look at the grocery sales flyers that come in the mail, let alone any other ads around me.
I didn’t open sales emails in my email inbox either. There were some where even the subject line was tempting and I was sad for a minute (a little frugal FOMO, you might say), but I must be over it because now I can’t even think of a single tangible example to share with you!
What Didn’t Work
I went back to cloth diapers for the month after taking a break for the winter. It was fine at first, until the baby got a rash. Diaper creams don’t mix with cloth diapers, so I had to buy a box of disposables. I ordered a big box from Walmart and picked it up at the store (though I could have had it shipped for free) so that I wouldn’t have to wander through the store and be tempted.
With the way everything turned out with our unexpected trip, it ended up being better anyway. Road trips with cloth diapers are do-able (we’ve done it), but definitely not ideal.
We don’t have many subscriptions, but we do get ocassional razor blade cartridges from Dollar Shave Club. We actually have a nice stockpile of blades because my husband doesn’t go through as many as they think he should. Sometimes he grows a beard and other times he’s just good at making his razor blades last.
I usually have our subscription paused, but every three months it reactivates. When I get the pre-shipment email, then I pause it again. Well, I missed the email and got a $7 charge and new razor cartridge shipment. Not a huge deal, just an “oops!”
What I learned
Not shopping saves time
Shopping is a time-filler for me. I spend a lot of time driving between activities and taking kids here and there. There are lots of gaps of 30 minutes here or an hour there, where there isn’t enough time (or it’s not worth the gas) to go all the way home between activities. I didn’t realize how often I fill those gaps with going to the store.
I think in my mind I see it as “saving time” by stopping by the store to get whatever might pop onto my list since I’m just waiting around anyway. Since I knew going to the store wasn’t an option, I tried to remember to bring something for the younger kids to do in the car so we could just wait (happily) in the car instead of spending time (and money) in the store.
It worked out great and I felt like I had more time.
Where we need to stock up more
We have a reasonably good food storage. Between what we have bought ourselves over the years and what we have been given from older couples from church who are downsizing/moving, we have a very good supply of wheat, probably a year’s supply. We also have lots oats, rice, beans, powdered milk, honey, sugar, bottled applesauce, tomatoes, pears, etc.
During this no-spend month, I realized some major holes we have in our food storage. The first is oil (canola oil, cocount oil, etc). I haven’t been storing much extra oil. Basically I just buy a gallon or so of canola oil and a 3 lb bucket of coconut oil at a time and use them up, then buy more. If we were forced to actually live off of our food storage we would want to have more oil stored, as it’s an ingredient in homemade bread and other homemade staples (especially when we run out of butter).
How much we saved
In order to “calculate” how much we saved, we have to guess how much we would have spent. I’ll use our average monthly spending from 2018 to determine how much we saved.
Here’s what we spent:
- Clothing $0 (saved $65)
- Entertainment $0 (saved $55)
- Kids’ Activities $0 (saved $55)
- Household Misc $37 (saved $181)
- Food $77 (saved $323)
We saved $679!
We did spend around $300 outside of these categories (gas and motel) for attending my grandma’s funeral, but we would have spent that whether we were having a no-spend month or not, so we’re not counting that in our challenge.
Will we do a no-spend month again?
A no-spend month is so good for saving money and for resetting frugal habits. It makes for a great start for our big mortgage payoff goal. We’re planning to do a no-spend month once a year while we’re working hard to pay off our house.
If you need a jumpstart toward your financial goals or you need to save a big chunk of money fast, you should definitely give a no-spend month a try!
How about you?
- What worked for you in your no-spend month? What didn’t?
- What were your big takeaways?