Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Last Few Days of My No-Spend Month

I chose March for a no-spend month simply because it seemed like the right time for me. It ties into minimalism because during a no-spend month, the focus is on bringing in only essential items. By cutting out nonessential items, I could focus on what I already had on-hand for fun and entertainment. One of my overarching goals is to make minimalism (and other habits that tie into it) more accessible. Here's how the last few days have gone.

Catch up here:
Week One of My No-Spend Month
Week Two of My No-Spend Month
Week Three of My No-Spend Month
Week Four of My No-Spend Month

March 29-31

I was determined to end the no-spend month strong. I think I did okay!

Day 29: It was a lazy day mostly spent playing Stardew Valley and watching some TV. I didn't have a whole lot going on during the day, save for working on a character for an online Dungeons & Dragons group that my best friend is leading. I spent a little bit of time on a sketch for my character's portrait, which was a fun creative pursuit. I cooked a big, healthy dinner in the evening and wound down for the night with tea.

Day 30: Time after work was spent playing a bit more Stardew Valley, but after that I worked on my D&D character sheet. Once I had the sheet mostly done, I spent a large chunk of the night working on my character sketch more. Getting artistic definitely made me feel good about the day. I had planned to walk with my best friend but it was too rainy for him; so we chatted while I sketched instead. I got to bed at a decent hour with tea and a book to read.

Day 31: I didn't play much Stardew Valley after work. I got about a day done in the game and then decided to go for a longer walk. Partway through the walk my best friend joined me (over the phone, of course) and we strolled and played Pokemon Go on and off for about an hour. Once I got back home from the walk, I got dinner going, filled out the census online, and then put together an IT community article. I ended the night with tea and another chapter in the book I'd recently started reading.

No-Spend Month Summary 

Spending Overview: Outside of regular bills, one of my financial goals was to keep the grocery spend down. In the end I was well under the usual monthly grocery spend of $320 for the "big haul" at the start of each month with about $100 for supplemental trips throughout the rest of the month. This month's grocery spend came to $236 for food and $93 for household supplies. Part of the savings came from yet another Imperfect Foods box failing to be delivered--this time it was FedEx damaging the box--so I just didn't have as much food as I expected to. But even if that box had arrived, I still would have been about $40-50 under the usual spend just from cutting out junk items like chips, sparkling water, and pop.

I had also set aside $60 for spending on band merch at concerts. With so many concerts cancelled due to the spread of coronavirus and various states' and countries' lockdowns, I purchased merch online to support the bands I loved the most and had to miss out on seeing in person. On this category, I overspent by $24... but it was money well over-spent.

I paid off my credit cards, and plan now to use them only for groceries and safer online shopping--expenses that are easy to pay off immediately. I also boosted my emergency fund to a comfortable $2,000 mark. Overall, I put 41% of my take-home pay into savings over the course of the month.

Unforeseen Benefits: Eating healthier from cutting out convenience foods helped me end a weight loss plateau and lose just over seven pounds over the course of the month. Without the convenience foods, I was consuming less in refined sugars and noticed less bloating and clearer skin. Playing more video games kept me mentally engaged so I didn't eat out of boredom. Taking the time to cook my own food and bake my own bread helped me to start fixing my relationship with food. The more time I spent in the kitchen chopping veggies and prepping meals, the less I felt compelled to overeat--I slowed down and started to appreciate the results of my efforts. I saved a lot more for leftovers so I could enjoy a particularly good meal more than once.

I also gained a better understanding of what I do and don't need to be happy, which I think will help with my spending habits moving forward. Of course, a few things did come up that we actually need now that the no-spend month is over, but we had a month to decide just how necessary they were.

I look forward to doing no-spend months in the future. There were definitely some tough days but overall it felt worth it to cut out all the junk expenditures for a month. And on the minimalist side of things, since I had a smaller, predetermined budget for "fun" expenses, I didn't bring anything new into the house that I didn't absolutely want to have. I didn't manage to get everything on my to-do list done, but I also didn't add any clutter to my home. I'm willing to call my No-Spend Month of March a success.

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