Phew! We are three weeks into our No Spend Month, with only one to go!! I think I see light at the end of the tunnel! As I'm seeing us actually being successful with this idea for the first time — after many failed tries, if we're honest — I am thinking about how we can translate some of what we're doing into long-term good habits. (The previous posts about No Spend Month are 1) January is No Spend Month, 2) How to Plan for a No Spend Month, and 3) How to Use a Wish List for No Spend Month.)
Realistically, there is no way we could do a full-on no spend month every. single. month. Sometimes it feels like that would be the only way to get ahead — but it's not livable. While some things on our wish list could be put off indefinitely or gone without, several items, big and small, are actual NEEDS. We didn't need them this month, but we do need them.
But even after those are accounted for, there is a valid “need” for blow money from time to time. I heard Dave Ramsey talk about it recently — each person needs money that they don't have to give an explanation for. This is one of the keys to staying on a budget. We can't deprive ourselves indefinitely, or we might overcompensate in a fit of pique one day and blow not just a little but a BUNCH.
However, there are several things we have been doing this month which we should turn into long-term good habits.
These behaviors will help us continue in a beneficial direction with our finances!
1) Meal Planning — I have been such an inconsistent person with this. Even with my own brainchild, the two-week meal planner. Which is still a great concept — so why haven't I been using it?? Just laziness. But the amount we are saving on groceries this month is astounding (more on that next week). We can make serious inroads if I can keep up with this practice.
(To help me do that, I have determined that February is going to be Meal Planning Month here on the blog. We're going to talk about do's and don'ts, my favorite online meal planning service, my fun menu calendar… and more. Don't miss it!)
2) Putting off purchases that are not needed NOW — OK, maybe we don't have to put them off completely until the following month. But writing something down on a wish list and purposely not buying it — even for a just a few days — might very well give us just enough of a delay to realize it's not that necessary to our happiness after all. We don't need to live under the tyranny of the urgent — just because it's broke does not mean we have to fix it immediately. A few days of consideration might make the difference between something we buy new and something we order parts to repair. Or something we realize we don't need to buy parts for but can fix with supplies from around the house. The Man repaired the light switch in my Suburban this way. The new switch would have cost $40. He mulled that over for a couple days and figured out a way to repair it with household sundries. He's a keeper! :-)
3) Being creative and flexible — This means being willing to think awhile to come up with solutions rather than just throwing money at something. It's related to 2) but has wider application. Whether it's figuring out what we will eat right now, or how we will handle dinner while we're out running errands, or what can we do for fun, or can we make that craft with alternative materials that we already own, or can we adapt this recipe or change our agenda so we don't have to go to the store until another day… you get the idea.
4) Communication — We aren't actually talking much about the money itself. This is good, really, because it means that cash is not being flung about as much as usual, lol. But the wish list is a means of sharing our wants with the others, so everyone feels like they have a voice. And since the list is in plain sight for all to see, we realize that we are ALL adapting to make this work. Such mutual understanding is a valueable thing.
Also, the very first money conversation we had this month was to decide how to use the money left over after funding the budget categories. This is in line with my financial goal to pay ourselves first. When the extra has already been “spent”, and you've BOTH decided that, you are less likely to steal from there to cover daily impulse spending.
5) CASH is king. If it's not there, we don't buy it — even gas and food. It's called being careful with what trips you plan and whether you buy real food or expensive snacky stuff. We are motivated for that this month, but it needs to be a continued thing — i.e., we need to budget certain amounts, get the money out in cash, AND THEN STICK TO IT. That debit card is a money sucking monster…
6) Going to W-mart for specific items, determined beforehand, and NOT getting anything else — Wow, what a concept. I actually went to the register with only one item the other day (cat litter, in case you're wondering. Definitely a need when you need it, if you know what I mean). I stopped on my way home from somewhere else. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. Never knew that was possible before…
7) Related to 6) is to stay off of
Good habits are a good idea when it comes to getting the money monkey off our backs. I can't wait til next week, when I can share actual numbers. Right now it's looking really good!! Can we stay the course??? Tune in next week — same Bat-station, same Bat-time!! (Totally dating myself there. If you are too young to know the reference, kindly refrain from saying so. :-) )