No Spend Challenge Update

I am seventeen days in to my No Spend April challenge.

These first week reminded me of this yoga pose called Pigeon Pose that always gave me initial grief, followed by an odd sense relief. The first bit feels doable, and then swiftly becomes horribly uncomfortable. Then a painful, almost tingling/burning feeling sets in to your muscles as you contort them into a position they are not familiar with, and they quiver and twitch to adjust. Then that sensation of being exposed to  something so hot it turns into a numbing cold – you know the one – sets in, and you start screaming in your head that you can’t take it anymore. Then suddenly, you reach a breaking point where everything feels eerily great and it’s bizarre that it does, because you know you’re technically engaged in a position completely foreign to you and if you move even a half inch the pain might set back in, but it also feels … really nice. You realize you can do this, you almost can’t believe that such intense pain has led to this almost sublime feeling, and you start thinking you can hang out in this pose for a while. That, my friends, is days 1 to 11 of No Spend April.

This challenge has given me a very unexpected and also very liberating sense of freedom. No more agonizing over if I should spend or not. No more calculating my balances as nothing is going out. I used to stare at my debt balances every couple of hours, as if I was harbouring a secret hope that they would miraculously disappear if I checked in on them just one more time, and then again one more time, and again one more time…. My thoughts are now completely released from all the time I spend wondering what to buy, no more hunting, no more justifying and no more guilt over the push and pull of to buy or not to buy. This is freedom. This is  lucidity.

This challenge gave me the permission and access to fully plunge myself in all other aspects of my life, entirely unfettered. I am free to fully be at  work, free to be accessibly present when with family and my partner, concentration at the task at hand without any other demands on my mental space.

I wonder if this is what life is like for people without shopping addiction. They’re just free to be present in their social settings, to study, to work out, to cook dinner, to work, and just be engaged without this lingering storm cloud of should I or shouldn’t I? I can just be free. The path has been chosen. I’m not sitting forever at the fork in the road, but bounding forward in my chosen path.

To get to the cold hard facts of this challenge, at seventeen days in, I have spent a total of $42.27, and that was all on groceries. I contribute $50 a week to my household grocery budget, so I’m actually under budget by about $58 bucks. I thought about not including this cost because necessary bills aren’t part of my No Spend Challenge (and I consider groceries a necessary bill, one that I budget for) but I would be remiss if I claimed I’ve spent zero dollars so far.

So what does the day-to-day look like on a No Spend Challenge for a recovering former spendaholic, that seemed to not be able to function without spending? A lot of prep work. I haven’t bought food from a restaurant or shop in months, but now I meticulously plan snacks (to avoid any last minute purchases of a banana or nut bar) and brew at home coffee to take with me every day (I miss you, Starbucks tall blonde roast!!). I’ve thrown myself into studying for the CFP designation, and I’ve been visiting my mom more often. I’ve also been side-hustling by selling unwanted items on Craigslist, and have been lucky enough to be called in for some on-call bartending work (which I haven’t done since university!) which I am stupendously grateful for – tips plus making money vs. spending money on weekends makes me a happy lady.

There have been some hurdles, however. Besides the initial ‘spending pangs’ I had while weaning myself off of frittering a little here and a little there (usually coffee, snacks, ice cream cone on the few warm days we’ve had) I haven’t really seen many people socially. I’ve had two friends come visit me at the library where I’ve been logging study time, and gosh knows I appreciate them coming by. I doubt it was their ideal way to socialize on a weekend so I don’t know how sustainable a socializing option that is. I went to a couple fam-jams over the long weekend where I brought bottles of wine purchased with gift cards I got over the holidays – now I wonder how long I can keep up that option until the gift cards run out. I also didn’t mean to keep on my blog, but I’ve been avoiding the internet in general to keep any kind of temptation low, as online shopping is one of my weaknesses. These are some areas I’m going to have to learn to work with if I want to carry on another No Spend Month, or embark on a No Spend Year. I’m toying with the idea of side-gig cash be my “free money” and maintain a “dollar out, dollar in” rule to be my budget, but I’m still sitting with this idea for now.

Has anyone else seen success with a No Spend Challenge before?

 

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6 Comments

  1. Good for you! I knew you could do it 🙂

    I’ve had various different no spend challenges to myself over the years, to the point that it is now just how we live. What helped me the most was tracking every cent I spent in a month, for a few months in a row to get a real accurate feel for where the money was going. Also, reporting on my blog is what kept me most accountable and I feel like the combination of the two really brought about a lasting change in my spending habits.

    It’s lovely that you have taken the opportunity to visit your mom more. You really do need to replace the shopping habits with new ones. In that regard, how very smart of you to realize you must also stay off the Internet to avoid online shopping. You have to know your triggers before you can avoid them, right? Great job!

    1. Thanks Jill! I really would like to get to the point where you are now – where it’s just how I live, no big challenge needed to keep me in line. Slowly but surely! Tracking spent money (and doing a little “colour down” chart every time I knock off $100 of debt) and the blog have definitely kept me accountable!

      In sad news, I learned a couple days ago that this year I owe over $600 in taxes…and here I thought I’d be getting back over a grand 🙁 There was a few moments where it’s like my brain floated away from my body and just looked down said “so you lived super frugally all month to just be slammed with this bill?!?” but I can’t go down that rabbit hole. I have to think that if I spent money, that CRA bill would’ve come anyways then I would be even deeper in the hole. Oh man, murphy’s law.

  2. YES. I was excited to read this and glad to see that its working out so far! What have you done differently this time to keep on the right track? I hope this successful month leads to a good bite into your debt. Stay in charge!

    1. Thanks so much, Laura! I think this time the difference was that I got really angry. I’ve been so angry at my debt, that I just want to completely crush it. I’m at a point where there is nothing I could buy that would give the satisfaction that lowering my debt would bring. So I suppose it was just arriving at a certain place mentally/emotionally? I also deleted a lot of who/what I follow on social media, didn’t go online much, and started following a great group of debt crushers on instagram. Having a community of like-minded people to look towards and reading their posts was really inspiring!

  3. Great going so far! I suggest you sink any “found” extra $$ right into the debt snowball/tax bill. I think you are getting to know your triggers really well and introducing new habits to keep yourself happy. I think you can be social, just in a new way. How about hosting potlucks/game nights/movie nights at your house, instead of going out, get creative. You are really on the right track, by investing in your skills (cfp) selling extra stuff and taking on side gigs–youve got this!

    I took the same track by logging every expense for several months before i tried a no spend January. It was great and I pocketed $600 extra to put towards my daughter’s tuition. One trick I learned, if any extra $$ came my way, I just put it away, didn’t even consider spending it, as if it didn’t even exist.

    One question, as you tackle this great big debt, are you stashing away retirement fund and an emergency fund? I sure hope so, even if it is a little bit, because once the debt is done, you’ve got yourself a little fund that you can continue to build on cause you are on the right track!!

    Karen

    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Karen! Amassing an extra $600 is a fantastic accomplishment, how great did that feel?! Tracking every penny is wise advice I’ve heard from many that have experienced success in handling their finances, and I’m glad it worked for you too. I notice that when I have a week or so where I don’t keep on top of it, I wind up getting into a situation where I think “where on earth did that cash go?” It’s a terrible feeling to not feel in control. I think being diligent with recording any spends is what will help me transition from a no spend month to a back to normal month.

      As for cheaper entertainment, by golly, I try! My last 4 attempts at potlucks resulted in my friends deciding to meet at a fancy restaurant instead – to which I said no to. I have yet to find frugal friends…my old/current ones live rather expensive lifestyles and have zero desire to dial it down. So until I find a more mindful and frugal circle, it can be lonely. In good news, it means more family time – my family has some pretty ingrained frugal values so time together always means potlucks! The more family face time I’ve had lately has been a wonderful byproduct of distancing myself from spendy friends.

      I’m lucky that work has an amazing stock-matching plan, and I’m almost shocked at how hefty my pension has grown in the past 2 years I’ve been here! I max out my employee savings plan and retirement fund, which I’m thankful I signed up for as it accrues with no effort on my part. However the emergency fund is something I need to work on. I have some side work coming up, and I plan on keeping all the earnings for the next 8 weeks in an EF.

      Thanks for the good advice!

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