What Was The Point Again?
Remind me why we did this again? LOL. A no-spend month is hard to do. It takes focus and discipline to make every spending decision more intentional. But doing hard things makes us better, so now and again, we try a month like this to see if we are capable of doing it, and each time we do it, we learn something about ourselves. We have some wins and fails along the way. We celebrate the wins and learn from the fails. There is no blame or finger-pointing….well, maybe a little finger pointing. In the end, the goal is not to punish ourselves but to learn and improve.
For our family, this was a reset. Our spending was slowly ticking up. I know this because I track it using Mint. If I did not diligently track our spending, we would not notice when lifestyle inflation creeps in. Having noticed this and talking about it with my wife, we decided to have a no-spend month to reset our spending habits and remind us to be more intentional and value-based with our choices.
If you want to review all of our no-spend month rules, please read the post I wrote about it. I won’t put all of the details here.
Below you will see the actual data from my Mint app. Take a look:
I know it is a little hard to see. Let me point out a few things:
- The $2000 in miscellaneous expenses are reimbursable expenses for the two baseball league/team that I help run. So our total spend for the month is about $7500.
- The Bills & Utilities actually incudes another two payments to Unitil (electric and gas) beause February registered a few days late in Mint. That is an extra $450 built into March. Side note…I hate Unitil.
- I included a picture of the “Other” category because I think that many this is where a lot of people lose track of their spending. All of these smaller charges that aren’t big enough to make the pie chart add up. For March, it was the 6th biggest piece of the pie and totaled $740. If you find yourslef wondering where all of your money went, check the “Other” category.
Let’s celebrate some wins first!. I am starting with the wins because even though our total seems high, we actually had a great month.
Win #1: No Personal Amazon Purchases!
We made it through the entire month without buying anything for ourselves from Amazon! There were four purchases made from Amazon for this blog and podcast business, but that is separate from our personal expenses. Removing the Amazon app from my phone was a huge success. Creating that little bit of space forced me to think and not buy on impulse. It worked so well that we bought nothing! We proved that we could live without Amazon!
Win #2: Our Food Bill Came in Around $1000
We are a family of four that spends a lot of time on the road, at the field, and in the rink. We have two giant teenage boys that eat a lot. Managing a food bill while not feeling a sense of deprivation is really hard to do. If our monthly food cost comes in near or below $1000 for the month, I am psyched.
March has 31 days. Based on our family of 4 and 3 meals a day, that means we consumed 372 meals in March. We spent $1074 on those 372 meals (and snacks), which equals $2.89 per person per meal. There was one “reward” meal in March for my boys. My wife and I treated them to Five Guys. They were the only two that ate, and it cost $32, which is $16 per person, per meal. This is a great comparison to show the value and importance of eating at home. Additionally, with the podcast taking place at our house and the re-opening of socialization lately, we have been feeding many mouths other than just our family of four. So that $1074/$2.89 is actually much better than it appears on the surface.
As I have mentioned before, our goal is to get our per person, per meal cost to $2.50. We will keep working towards that.
Win #3: Living a Full Life
The last win I will mention here doesn’t involve numbers. This win is about mindset. We had a great month where we controlled our spending through mindfulness, intent, and value-based decision-making. While having this success, we never felt deprived. We had a great month as a family that involved great meals, socializing, sports, hiking, work, school, and even the occasional treat meal and snack.
This is very important to me. As we save for our future, we can not forget to live a rich life today. I believe we do that.
Now the good stuff! The fails. I love failure because it is an opportunity to learn and get better. After a no-spend month or any challenge that I put myself through, the most rewarding part is to look for areas to improve and grow.
Fail #1: Jessica’s Mystery Illness (Not Covid)
The biggest fail was a $200 co-pay for Jessica’s visit to the emergency room for a mystery ankle swelling illness. Come on, Jess, it’s a no-spend month! I am only joking, but this is a good example of unexpected expenses that can pop up. Something like this happens just about every month. If you were wondering, Jess is doing great, and her cankles are gone.
Fail #2: Paying a $30 Bank Fee
This is a total fail and 100% my fault. The short month of February screwed up my normal money transfers and bill pay. All of my money comes and goes out automatically. I have all of my savings, investing, and payments automated. Apparently, February has fewer days than other months, I forgot, and a payment drew a few days early, and bam, $30 overdraft. I am now making it a point to leave a larger cushion in that account to avoid this. For future February’s, I have added a notification in my phone to help me avoid making this mistake again.
Fail #3: Subscription Creep
Every company now wants you to subscribe to them. It is so annoying. I always try and find ways to get it free or have it bundled into something I already own. We are still a cable family. Included in my cable package are Netflix and HBO Max. It’s actually an amazing deal. I use the Calm app for meditation, which I get for free by having an Amex card. Getting free or included subscriptions to things we enjoy is like a game for me.
The fail for me is Hulu. My older son wanted to watch a show on Hulu. I signed up for the free 30-day trial so that he could watch it, and I set and reminder in my phone to cancel it in 30 days. When the 30 days arrived, the reminder went off, and I ignored it. Hulu won and got $6 out of me! I know it is $6, but I am annoyed that they beat me. I have since figured out how to get Hulu and Disney + for free via Verizon, so I will not be paying for either one anymore.
It is easy to forget how much you spend on subscriptions. Again, without tracking, I would not have known this was happening, and I would keep making a monthly donation to Hulu. The bonus here is that I am also getting rid of my Disney + monthly payment as a result of my Hulu mistake. My cell phone bill will not be going higher if you were thinking that.
Fail #5: The Ultimate Fail-My Wife Went Out To Dinner With “The Girls”
So clearly, Jess is becoming a problem! On March 31st (the last day of the month), Jess went to dinner with the girls. I mean WTF, we were so close!! This bill actually posted in April, but the indiscretion occurred in March, so she failed!!
Honestly, It’s OK, and I am only kidding. This is another example of how we all need to put things we truly value ahead of our net worth. Spending time with her childhood friends and still her best friends is something she really needed and values a lot. They don’t get to see each other a lot, so they need to capitalize when they get a chance, even if it is a no-spend month!
That being said, next time, just wait 1 day. Thank you.
The Next One
Yes, Jessica, we will be doing this again. May looks like a good month to try it. We have a lot of baseball games that month, including a travel tournament. If we factor in that event and account for it, it will be less of a financial hit by not spending frivolously during the rest of the month.
Have you ever done a no spend month? If not, are you open to trying one? Please let us know in the comments below.