The numbers stared at me. My pen felt frozen in place. My brain kept saying over and over, “I don’t understand!”
For the past few months, we really have seen a decrease in our finances and my goal was to not buy anything that we didn’t need. But, I was not as diligent in monitoring that or thinking about each and every thing that went into my cart when I went shopping. Am I the only one? I thought of it as a whole, but in the little tiny moments, I did not grasp how tiny grains of sand end up being hills to climb.
Those numbers staring at me represented items that were not a need! A book for my son here. A few new shirts for my daughter there. A purchase from a friend’s online party. Items mailed to love ones to let them know I was thinking about them. All good things alone, but in light of food, electricity, water, and mortgage, they went far beyond our monthly budget. I sat thinking, “but, I was careful! I kept saying no!” It was an awakening that made me reflect on how easy it is for small things to add up quickly and unfortunately see how we would continue to pay for it down the road.
I am very fortunate that my husband has a good job, both of us work hard; one from home and one in the world. We would be ok. But if we didn’t have a money already set aside in savings, I could see how quickly this could become a “we’re in debt” scenario. And because of this, and an invitation a friend sent, I jumped on the No-Spend November wagon. On top of that, I am doing the Shelf-ember challenge where you eat your pantry and fridge up so that there is no waste, nothing going bad and you’re preparing for all the holiday meals ahead. Both of these challenges also help if you need some cash for Christmas coming up. So let’s talk about the 5 things you can do to set yourself up for success!
1. Don’t jump in with no plan.
I knew I had a stocked pantry and freezer and during October I added a couple extra items to our grocery trip each time so that I would be better prepared for this month. When November started I had a pretty good stocked fridge, freezer and pantry that I could pull from. I also made a list of the meals I could make with all the ingredients I had on hand! You can see more about all that in this video here that I made for YouTube. I was hoping that by not shopping every week and using what I had we could save that grocery money and build up our account some more. If you are building an emergency fund, this could be your way to save your money for that. So, have a plan. If you have birthday’s coming up, you want to make sure that it won’t nil your no-spend month. The best way to save money is to be prepared in so far as possible.
2. Have an accountability partner
When you start working out again, aren’t you more consistent when you go walking with a buddy then if you are on your own? If you are the only one in your household doing a diet and no sugar while everyone is not, its really hard to stay on track! I am actually using this platform as my accountability partner and realizing that whatever I do bring in and spend, I share with you, so I am more conscious in the back of my mind and in the fore front of my wallet, that I report whatever I do. But having a friend, spouse, or whatever, is another great way to make sure that you stay motivated, Have weekly check-ins.
3. Figure out your own habits
We all have habits. Find what triggers your spending habit and then create a new one. I read The Power of Habit book almost 6 years ago and still a lot of that book has stayed with me, which is more than I can say for a lot of books! One of the things that I took away from that book was that many people try and break habits the wrong way. People jump into breaking a habit by saying, “Ok, I will not eat sugar anymore and eat fruit only,” but forget that they have triggers that create that sugar craving. Typically people crave sugar after lunch and after dinner, the times when they usually start feeling a little sluggish. Well, if you have a) the fruit prepared in the fridge, and b) notice that these happen during these times and say, “Ok at 2 O’clock I’m going to do my daily workout and then after dinner I’ll do some kind of activity that keeps my energy up for the rest of the night and keeps me busy so that I don’t turn to eating.” Likewise, figure out your spending triggers! For me, I actually go back up to points 1 and 2! I spend more when I do not have a plan and it becomes a domino affect: 1 forgotten item leads to grabbing one more item for this person and then thinking ahead since I am already here and it just goes on. Then I am discouraged with myself and have this throw-up-my-hands, mentality. For example, yesterday I had to grocery shop and get some items that we were just out of and would make the rest of the month really difficult, and so I went for it. During that trip, my eldest son borrowed some money from me, that he already has paid back, but again that triggered a domino effect– daughter wanted another item for her collection of small princess babies for her dolls (don’t ask!) and so we worked out a list of chores she would do to pay me back (so, does that count for the no-spend month? It wasn’t a necessity, but technically I didn’t pay for it, but I would not have paid her for chores… ) Which then caused the 4 year old to ask for a $0.97 hot wheel for his collection and then again we worked out a small list of chores for that… which, as you guessed, led to the last kid that was with me wanting something. He actually made a wise decision, for an 8 year old, and decided something that he had been wanting for a while, was not the right time to be purchasing it. And walked away from said item, to the checkout with a cheerful attitude (after having a few meltdowns earlier) that I grabbed a treat and “rewarded” him with it. I prefer to think of it as acknowledging a tough decision and showing how proud I was. See, gifts! My love language. But had I planned things out better, we could have had a discussion about not purchasing that day, my son would have gladly waited before borrowing the money and I could have saved myself a domino effect trip. Also knowing my triggers helped me to not go grab something else for this person and that person since I was in a love infested trip anyways! I decided to go home and write a note to those people and surprise their inbox instead. I can’t stress this enough, know your habits! Do you like a good deal? You don’t need to spend any money to find a good deal on something you didn’t need before now! Stay away. Love to bless someone’s socks off? Send a note! Are you a scroller and what the eyes see they want? Stop! Put the phone away. Grab a book, play a game with the kids, go for a walk with your spouse, and choose to enjoy what you already have!
4 Schedule in fun days!
It can get discouraging and old quickly to always be alert on not spending money, not going anywhere, and just being on hyper alert about your finances! It’s actually for me very emotionally and mentally draining! So, I have 4 days in my month calendar that I plan for some fun things! I have a picnic planned for the kids on a nice day (for those of us in weird weather states, I just wrote it down to do it some week). I decided to have someone over for dinner one day and have a meal planned out for that– again, only using what we have here! I have a date night at home planned for my husband and I. This is big because a) we never go out on dates and b) because we don’t go out on dates, I don’t ever think of doing ones at home! But I have a meal planned as well as a movie to watch afterwards. Again, just something we don’t normally do! And my last planned fun activity is to use my MyPoints and cash in for a $5 Starbucks gift card to grab a cup of coffee next time I go to the big city. You can do a variety of apps like, Rakuten, MyPoints, Ibotta to earn cash back on your purchases. I’ll talk a little bit about each of these that I use and how I use them to my advantage.
Mypoints sends emails to your account and some of them can range from 1 point to 6 points just to click open the link they send you. They offer you way to use them to shop for items and then credit the points to your account for using their browser to make your purchase from. Some places that are good for the points are Home Depot, Children’s Place, Old Navy, and Vitacost. However, I only use this site to open the emails they send me and print my coupons.com coupons from them. They have a section at the top where it says coupons and then I select printable to grab and print the ones that are useful for my family. The points are SLOW building but its free money and only takes me seconds to click and close. That’s all. My referral link is here, and I earn only 25 points for you signing up (it takes 790 to get a $5 Starbucks card as reference), but if you make a $20 purchase (Walmart grocery order?) then we both earn points and it starts to build. Again, I recommend this, but don’t jump and make a purchase during your no spend month!
Rakuten is actually the site I use to make online purchases from. I actually do not do a whole lot of online purchases so this also has a very slow growth for money back. However, if you already do purchases from places like Osh Kosh, Old Navy, Children’s Place (can you tell I am a mom who has to cloth children?!) then WHY NOT get money back! It’s like another stackable coupon that is allowed! You can use Rakuten on Hello Fresh, Erin Condren and more! Right now, if you use my referral link, and spend $40 at any of the site available on the Rakuten site, then we both earn $40! Limited time only! Again, I share this now– BUT DO NOT MESS UP YOUR NO SPEND MONTH!
And lastly, Ibotta. Ibotta gves you cash back on the things you already purchase. If I purchase milk, I earn 0.10 back. If I buy eggs, again 0.10 back. Yogurt, 0.10 back. Recently, I shared how I got a free Thanksgiving meal from Ibotta offers! I paid the money from my debit card, uploaded the receipt to the Ibotta App and then they gave me back the money that I had put out and then I just transferred that back to my bank account. You can build your Ibotta cash up in your App and then use it for your shopping but since I’m doing a no-spend month, I just wanted that money back in my account. Ibotta is offering $10 for NEW sign ups and you can learn more about that here.
I do not change my spending habits to fit what Ibotta, Mypoints, or Rakuten is offering. I just use it as an added bonus. And because of this! I have a Starbucks coffee coming to me and I have a full meal that I can use as a host.
5. Last, but not least, find your inspiration.
Find other people that are doing this challenge, see what their struggles and strengths were. See what suggestions they have. Don’t do this alone! YouTube is filled with videos. Some people even going so far as to do a no-spend year! #goals. I love reading biographies during this time as well, just knowing that so many people live on so much less than what we have in our country today is so amazing. Realizing that I want to raise up a generation that is content in what they have and not seeking fulfillment in stuff. We live in such an “entitlement” world and it’s up to us to be the example and teach our children how money works, how quickly it disappears, how to be good stewards, and how to help others! What inspires you? Is it recording how much money you saved by not purchasing anything this month? Is it by placing that money that you would normally have in an envelope for later? For me, I wrote down 30 days of November and each day I am trying to place a certain amount of money in an envelope that will correlate with the day. So, day 1 you add $1 to the envelope, day 2 $2 and so on. In order to spread out the money so that on the last weeks on the month you aren’t scrounging for $25, $26, $27, and $28, you can reverse the days and day 1 save $30, day 2 $29, day 3 $28, and so forth. Regardless, by the end of the month if I was able to meet each day, I would have $462! That is inspiring!
So, it’s already the end of the first week of November. You can start today and go into the first week in December. You can take this and have a plan in mind for January to recover from the holidays! Whatever you decide. If you need to go small, have a no-spend week! Go two weeks! It’s all customizable to you and what would help you!