January is over, which in itself is always something to celebrate. But this year, the beginning of February brought an end to our New Year No Spend month. So how was it?
Mostly a failure. Or maybe not. I don’t know. Read about our halfway point here, if you haven’t already. We had so many things at the beginning of the month that we knew we’d have to pay for: birthday gifts, baby shower stuff, medical bills; and then things that popped up within the month: dinners with friends, births of babies, laundry; I think we finished the month spending about as much as we would have if we weren’t doing a no spend month. But it was good, and here’s 3 things I learned about myself and my family through this month.
1. I will always choose my community over my wallet (within our budget). When my brother invited us over for brunch and asked us to bring something specific we obviously went to the store and bought OJ and bacon. When a friend had a birthday I bought her a gift. When the ladies in my church group all met for coffee early one morning I went and bought coffee (and a gluten-free donut!). Now, I realize the point of the month was to compromise and either make something I already have, or do withou, and I did that a lot with other things. But I never wanted to turn down a chance to connect with people I love because of the principle of not spending.
2. I self-medicate with comfort food. Yikes. This was not so much fun to realize. There were a few days in January where my depression felt like a weighted jacket and my first thought was always ice cream. Or chocolate. Or baked goods. I thought if I could just curl up under a blanket on the couch and eat what I craved I would be fine. This month forced me to realize that eating those “comforting” foods didn’t so much solve anything as they did distract me. I also realized how often I turn to food instead of healthier pursuits when I’m feeling down.
3. I actually rock at this whole budget thing. Last year I set up some pretty elaborate Excel spreadsheets to track our budget. I know where every penny is going every month and can see exactly what we’re buying. Tim and I talked about doing the envelope system of budgeting, but since we both hate using cash, and enjoy the cashback benefits of using Discover, we decided this was better for our family. Instead of envelopes we have Excel columns, and the bottom line lets us know when we’re out of cash for that area. All this has made our spending intentional, and the no spend month helped us be even more intentional about where our money was going. We avoided all impulse buys in January, which was great, and I think we can keep that going since we track it so closely.
Will we do another no spend month? Probably. But with a different goal. I like the idea better of picking one or two things to not spend on. Like no eating out, or no Target trips, or no coffee dates. It’s good to discipline ourselves in that way, and we can learn a lot by being intentional about what we spend or don’t spend.
Have you ever done a no spend month? Will you ever? Do you struggle with emotional spending?