Just the other day, I was thinking that it’s high time we have another “no-spend” month. It’s been about ten months since we’ve had one. Our first one, which we didn’t plan or prepare for, went really well and was a great way to begin getting serious about paying off all this law school debt. We hadn’t set our official big, fat debt-free goal yet, but we had decided to stop saving for a house and pay off over $130,000 of law school loans as quickly as possible.
Our First “No-Spend” Month– June 2013
Last year, at the end of May, I mentioned to my husband that when the garden was in full swing, it would be fun to see if we could go for an entire month without buying any food. We both like a good challenge, so I wasn’t surprised when he said “I bet we could go for a whole month without buying anything.”
So we did!
For the month of June, on a whim, we decided to have a no-spend month. We didn’t make any special preparations or any additional trips to the store between our decision and the beginning of our no-spend adventure.
A wise nanny once said “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and… snap! The job’s a game!”
We are both easy-going, yet competitive. We love adventure and challenges. It was easy for us to make a no-spend month into a game.
One of the highlights of the month was a camping trip we had planned with friends long before deciding on a no-spend month. Since we were just shopping the pantry and garden– neither of which had any hot dogs or traditional camping foods– we had to get creative. Our menu included apple cobbler made from dehydrated apples, zucchini and sausage stir fry over rice, zucchini brownies, zucchini bread, chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs. Since we used our dutch oven to do a lot of cooking, we lined it with heavy duty foil each time, which made clean-up a breeze. We had never eaten so well on a camping trip!
Here are a few other take-aways from our experience:
- Habits: Before June, I had been baking homemade bread off an on, but still buying bread from the store too. Making all of our bread for an entire month forced me to fit it into my regular routine. Now it is a habit! Nearly ten months later, I am still making all of our bread!
- Patience: When we thought of things we “needed” during the month, instead of starting to research them online, we wrote them down on a list. While nothing was urgent, it still required patience to to wait until the next month.
- Temptation: I avoided temptation by not going to the store, which is actually pretty easy for me (one of the benefits of living in the boonies). I ignored or deleted all emails from online merchants, even if they were having a fabulous sale on something that we may have “needed” and even if they were having free shipping with no minimum (love those).
- Food storage: We have a pretty decent food storage, some which we had been storing since as early as 2008 (wheat, rice, beans, powdered milk, etc) and some which we got from friends, an older couple from church, who were moving out of state. Thankfully we cook mostly from scratch using these ingredients anyway, so it didn’t feel weird at all.
- Involving everyone: We told our kids the “game” we were playing. Since we were excited about a “fun challenge,” the kids (5 and under) were too. They know that we are earning and saving money to “pay for Daddy’s law school.” Instead of getting upset when we ran out of tortillas, for example, they said, “I guess we’ll have to wait until next month.”
Planning a No-Spend Month– April 2014
If you’ve kept up on our monthly debt repayment progress reports, you know that we don’t really spend all that much besides what is absolutely necessary. We normally don’t spend anything on entertainment, eating out, or (non-grocery) shopping.
This month we won’t be spending on:
- Food– we normally budget $300
- Household– we normally budget $40
- Clothes/Dry cleaning– we normally budget $25
That means we will have an additional $365 to go toward debt next month!
Because we didn’t plan at all for our first no-spend month, it was like a test of our emergency preparedness in addition to being a way to save money. This time, it kind of feels like cheating to prepare. While I know we would be fine if we didn’t go to the store until April, there are a couple of things that would be nice to get before we start our no-spend challenge.
Since this isn’t a contest for “roughing it” I decided that I will plan to go to the store this week before April begins. However, I will use only what is remaining in this month’s budget categories for food ($67) and household ($13) to buy a few things before April begins. Here’s what I’m planning to get:
- Milk– we’re already down to powdered milk this month
- Tortillas– bean burritos and quesadillas are a staple around here
- Cottage cheese– for a wonderful recipe I plan to share with you soon
- Potatoes– creamy potato soup is an inexpensive and easy favorite
- Carrots– we have dehydrated carrots, but it would be nice to have fresh ones for lunches and soups
- Bananas– (maybe) they don’t last long around here
We have plenty of toilet paper, toiletries, and other household supplies. We have some apples in the fridge from when we bought a couple hundred pounds a few months back. We have greens (chard, kale, spinach, and lettuce) and asparagus in the garden. We have turkey in the freezer in case we get hungry for meat. Plus, I have some frozen stretched ground beef left, I think.
It should be a fun month and will make a nice contribution to April’s debt payoff.
Other Articles in the No-Spend Month Series
- No-Spend Month Update
- No-Spend Month Menu
- No-Spend Month Update- Easter Edition
- Does a No-Spend Month Really Save Money?
Have you done a no-spend month before? How did it go?