No Spend Challenge April – the Summary


April came and went and boy, do I have some mixed emotions on my No Spend Challenge.

To start, I’d like to report that I’ve magically managed, for the first time in ohhhh, let’s say about 14 years, go a whole month while only spending money on my pre-determined grocery budget. Even as a backpacking student meandering with near-empty pockets through other continents, I managed to find a way to break away and go buy a trinket, a shawl, some memento – maybe more for the need to buy something than for the actual souvenir (as a sidenote, isn’t that awful? I couldn’t break away from shopping even as a broke backpacking 23 year old…these rivers run deep).

Normally, I would be thrilled to report this. I managed to accomplish something that I truly, in my heart, wasn’t certain I could do because of the innumerable failed attempts. But no… I’ve had some unexpected bad luck some darken my doorstep that’s robbed me of the joy I was hoping to have over this big accomplishment. 

To preface this, I’d like to note I am not the most patient person. When I embark on something challenging, I like to see results right away – even if it’s just a sliver and the real rewards come later – to keep me going. I’ve always been more about the final destination and less about savouring the process. Yes, wiser people than I wax poetic about how this is the absolute opposite way that I should view challenges and projects if I’m going to enjoy life, but I’m not rushing to change my ways; my focus on the end result allows me to bear many journeys that normally would be found unpleasant and even undo-able by many. My why (the end result) allows me to bear many a painful how (the journey). This being said, I want need indicators that I’m going to actually reach my desired outcome if I’m going to embark on an unpleasant or uncomfortable journey.

What I’m trying to say is, No Spend April would’ve been just peachy if I felt like I made a dent in my debt, but that wasn’t the case because I got slapped with a big ol’ tax bill out of left field. To add insult to injury, I was convinced I was getting back over $1000 in a tax refund. This year was no different than others: the “standard of living” raise was under 1% (pathetic, I know), I put in the maximum contribution to my work-sponsored registered plans, and even had education credits as I’m always working on a new accredited financial designation. I was dead-set that I would get over a grand back. I even budgeted in that extra $1000 in my debt snowball calculations, for goodness sake. So needless to say, I felt plowed by a truck three ways to Sunday when I got a bill for over $600 from the CRA.

In short, work didn’t take enough taxes from me (could’ve fooled me – last I checked, about 40% of my paycheque goes to taxes…) and know I have a bill for $600 that I just paid immediately to get rid of and not accrue any interest.

So No Spend April? I am not better off by a single dollar more than my usual debt payments would’ve brought me to.

As a teeny, tiny rant that I tried so hard not to express but can’t help, yes, I know the bright side is that I’m not in even more debt after a big unexpected bill. Yes, I’m proud I achieved this. However I really, really wanted to see some tangible progress after a month of utter and complete “NO” to everything I desired. All of April I denied all desires, stayed home with my leftovers and home-brew and I just wanted to see a little movement forward, ya know??

So maybe I need to try this again. May is full of some extra expenses, but perhaps there will be a No Spend June…. to be determined. In the meantime, I totally own that today, on this first day of May, I have walked over to Starbucks, put down $2.00 for a brewed coffee, and am sipping it now with absolutely no guilt. After 30 days of NO, I feel like I need just a little coffee to nurse my wounds with.


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  1. Hey now! I wouldn’t count a surprise tax bill from Uncle Sam for a No-Spend month. I thought No-Spend months were more about reining in your fun expenses–I wouldn’t include unexpected bills. Anyhoo, I think you’re still doing fantastically and you should celebrate the success. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Mrs. Picky P! The encouragement goes a long way. I’m trying to not be hard on myself as it is a necessary expense, I just really wanted to see that debt number take a nose dive with a No Spend Month! However the good news is that challenge part of the month went very well. Thanks for the kind words!

  2. AH, boo! I totally sympathize, FD. (I have a story that would knock your socks off but it’s not mine to tell, especially online). You have real, legitimate reasons to feel peeved. And everything you say is true–it’s a good thing you didn’t spend all month, etc etc etc. But it’s cold comfort.

    This is why it’s so hard for people to keep a forward momentum with saving/not spending. Every time you think you are getting ahead something happens to set you back (by “you” I mean “me” “us” or “them”!) It’s just. so. difficult.

    I really liken this struggle to that of weight loss, since I’ve managed to have a hard time with both in my lifetime. The first month of a diet can be so hard, and a roller coaster of emotion in depriving and motivating oneself. And at the end of the week or month, if that scale hasn’t budged, what a disappointment. Enough to make one go out and buy a toffee cheese cake and chow down 😉

    So I have come to believe that it isn’t the “diet” that will save me but rather the “lifestyle change” that will see incremental results that get me to where I want and need to be. And will bring me feelings of pride and accomplishment rather than self-loathing and disappointment.

    You’ve had a set back, yes, and you have earned the right to feel frustrated and angry. I don’t blame you–I feel mad on your behalf. Allow yourself a little time to wallow there with that feeling and then consciously shift again to the real news: you pulled this off. You didn’t buy anything. You kept yourself busy, identified and avoided triggers, and you did it! Whether it got you the results you’d hoped doesn’t change the fact that you actually did this. I’m so, SO happy for you.

    There’s usually something waiting around the corner to foil the best laid plans, but not letting it foil your determination is the real task. It’s hard. I hope you don’t give up on yourself even when it seems impossible. You’ve proven that you can do this 🙂


    1. Your words are always such a comfort, Jill. Thanks for shining the green light on a little wallowing; I think once I allow myself a good little wallow (but briefly) I can own it, then set it aside and dust myself off to try again next month, while also acknowledging and feeling darn good about the successful part of the challenge! I think when I try not to feel low moods, it just kinda hovers around anyways and disallows me to feel the great stuff that also happened too.

      I absolutely and totally agree that not spending is just like a diet/changing eating patterns; the emotional side of both of those challenges is almost identical, in my books. The roller coaster, the peaks and valleys, the sacrifice that’s not always rewarded. I don’t know about you, but often when I set a strict rule, the feeling of doing the opposite is SO much more intense than if I had no restrictions (I want the toffee cheesecake even MORE when on a diet, I want to go shopping even MORE when on a spending challenge). And goodness, the self-loathing and disappointment applies equally to both 🙁 To comment on my experience here, remember how I hired a nutritionist earlier this year? I followed everything she suggested to the last detail, and actually *gained* weight. I felt punched in the gut after all that hard work and change. So I decided to take a break, and made one simple change on my own: I stopped eating after 6:30pm. No other changes. I’ve lost 12 lbs in a month! I think it’s the whole lifestyle change you mention; it was something habitual that I did daily and didn’t have to think too hard about, but just managed to tick it off day after day. I’m still surprised at the results!

      Your last note there reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote that always resonates: “success is stumbling around from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” We just got to keep those spirits up, no matter what unexpected bills or delicious cheesecakes come our way!

  3. Hey there, I was also blindsided by a whopper of a tax bill + the tax prep bill, so my usual strides didn’t make a dent in my savings snowball (I use Dave Ramsey’s idea of debt repayment but with saving for 3 specific goals). Felt lousy to be so careful and then be no further along- I feel ya!
    I’m going to have a no spend June if possible but have to front load a few presents for retirement parties and baby showers that are in that month. Planning and strategies are the tools, our goals are the power behind it all. Keep the goals in your sights and keep on sharpening your tools! You’ve got this, keep going.

    1. We’re in identical situations, Karen! I’m glad you get that I’m not just being a whiney-pants (but sorry you experienced the same) – not getting further ahead after being so careful definitely is a punch to the gut. However one we can recover from and come back stronger than before!

      I absolutely love what you just wrote – our goals are definitely what powers us through, and the actual planning and strategies are the tools that help make it all happen. Brilliant way to put it. May so far has had a vet appointment, dentist appointment, and 3 big birthdays coming, so I’m setting aside cash for those and hoping for a No Spend June to recover from all of it.

      Good luck for the rest of the month! Drop in and let me know how you’re doing! I posted a bunch of things on Craigslist last night to see if I can help alleviate the May expenses coming up. I’ll post how that goes!

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