I am embarking on a No Spend Challenge this summer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about frugality, it’s this: it is far, FAR easier to curb one’s spending if one has a strong, powerful goal.
Frugality for its own sake isn’t sustainable for most. But it can become an exercise in creativity (which makes it fun!) when you’re making progress towards a dream.
This summer my husband and I are saving a down payment for a house. Neither one of us has ever purchased a home, so it’s a bit scary. But it’s the right move for us, and it’s time. Which also makes it the right time for a No Spend Challenge.
I’ve done “No Spend” challenges before. Sometimes they’ve lasted a week, sometimes a month, sometimes for a longer season (for instance when I got out of debt the first time and helped my husband do the same).
You can make your own rules with a No Spend Challenge. Obviously, one cannot stop spending money altogether (unless, for example, you live entirely off the grid and have a large garden, bulk foods in storage and farm animals to kill for food. That is definitely not me!).
Exceptions to the No Spend Challenge:
- Toilet paper (if I lived alone, I could totally do family cloth, but no way would my family go for this!)
- Truly needful personal care items (the stash we already have should last all summer, but if somebody runs out of shampoo, I’ll buy it, attempting to get it as close to free as possible, after sales and coupons)
- Truly needful clothing items for the kids. I don’t need anything and I already bought the clothes the kids needed for summer, but if someone needs socks or undies or if their shoes blow a gasket, I’m their gal.
- Bills – rent, utilities, etc. Duh.
- Fun/entertainment for the kids. We’re not going to make them live an ascetic life, y’all. So every other weekend, we take them to do something pricey, but we still have lots of frugal fun too. Still, with a little creativity, one can keep the kiddos happy and save a lot of money. See: the ice cream truck.
- My morning coffee at Starbucks. I head there every day at 5 a.m. so I can write before the family gets up, and that $1.87 a day is absolutely worth it, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get my work done or earn money. I consider it a cost of doing business. (Too bad the IRS doesn’t agree.)
Things that I won’t buy this No Spend Challenge:
- Books (a hard one- if I want a book, it’s the library, PaperBackSwap, or with an Amazon gift card I’ve earned somehow)
- Fast food or eating out
- Kitsch (I’m looking at you, Target)
- Toys (they don’t need ’em anyway. More proof. And more.)
- Personal care/makeup/skin care (I have enough to last me, and know how to make more in a pinch.)
- Entertainment for adults (hubby and I have a plan for the kids, but when they’re not with us, we can have fun without spending money)
- Gadgets or household objects
- Anything else that isn’t truly needed
A few things I’ve done to get prepared for the No Spend Challenge:
- Subscribed to several deal bloggers. SouthernSavers posts deals and coupons relevant to my area. PassionatePennyPincher and MoneySavingMom are two others. When I DO need to buy shampoo, I’ll know how to match up sales + coupons to get those items nearly free, something I used to do several years ago before I found ALDI.
- I bought a cheaper Keeper. I know, that’s technically spending. But I paid $10 for it which is about what I would pay in 2 months of utilizing the alternatives. I’ve been thinking of doing this for years and wish I had sprung for it ages ago. The benefit is that now, there are several “generic” menstrual cups available. (Did I just type that? I guess I did.) Which means the prices dropped considerably. Price being my main objection to the DivaCup, Keeper and others – which is silly, considering they’re an investment that would end up being far cheaper in the long run. An example of how scarcity makes you stupid.
- I ordered both The Tightwad Gazette 2 and The Tightwad Gazette 3 from PaperBackSwap (FREE!) to refresh my memory about its principles. I love Amy D and her books, some of my favorite books on radical frugality.
- Bought (free, I had a gift certificate I earned from doing a survey) How to Eat on a Dollar a Day. This book was written in 1975, but the principles are evergreen. Frugality requires a lot of willpower, and keeping oneself inspired and pumped is important.
- Ordered a huge box of diapers. After some research, I discovered that it is indeed cheapest to obtain your diapers in bulk from Amazon combining the Amazon mom program + Subscribe & Save.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my experiences on this radical frugality journey. I hope you stick around! And I’ll be coming back around to this page as a home base and linking to the other posts I write about the No Spend Summer.
Here’s a No Spend Pinterest board for ideas and motivation.
All the No Spend Challenge posts are here:
1) Launching a No Spend Challenge
(this page) – exceptions, getting ready for a spending freeze
Free shampoo, ultra-cheap diapers, cash back with ibotta and Checkout51 , cutting the grocery budget, consigning clothes (so I can “shop” for free), cleaning with microfiber clothes and water, using up what I have
3) Third update
Tallying toilet paper, free stain removal, savings for the asking, free stuff at consignment shops, which price to pay attention to, creating a price book, knowing the “stock up” price, saving money with a phone call, and research as an investment that saves you money forever
4) My favorite books on radical frugality
A few book reviews for those who want to achieve black-belt tightwaddery.
5) Update 5
High water bills, spoiling sick kids, using things up, budget meeting and hubby gets chintzy, a health insurance win, and our savings hits $4,000!
almost-free hair stuff and mascara, splurging on a cheap meal out.
In which I buy cloth diapers and justify it
What it comes down to: Know Thyself
Stress makes us spend money, and other wins and fails.
Frugality is catching, finding money in the budget, new ebook announcement
… and saving $12
… on wealth and frugality
13) 5 frugal things
… cheap laundry detergent, free ebooks, free audio books, free kid’s books, .01 school supplies
… waiting for books, saving to pay cash, making do with less-than-perfect in the meantime
… we dropped our electric bill by $150 a month; inexpensive nice clothing, sell-by dates are meaningless
… it doesn’t work, for one!
… in the interest of full disclosure. Also, I got all our school supplies for $8.
… and a few things about budgets and budget meetings
… and don’t be a sucka
… it’s what you do. It’s also what you don’t do.
… a few ways frugality benefits you, from the silly to the serious