As part of the wrap up for my no spend month, I thought I’d share the answers to the questions I posted on Monday: Important Questions After A No Spend Month and share exactly how much I spent.
What I discovered after a no spend month
Can you live on less?
We can live on less (I think most of us probably can). I found that we are pretty conscious of what we spend most of the time.
That said, we certainly wouldn’t be able to get by every month on the groceries I purchased in January. It just so happened I had a freezer and pantry full of food that needed eaten up. In fact, I’m planning to continue to buy less of certain items because I realized I buy too much when I see a good sale.
One of the best things about the month is that I now know approximately how much our bare bones expenses are. It’s nice to know how much we need to have to cover expenses in the event of an unexpected job loss.
Do you WANT to live on less?
I could live on less, but I’m comfortable with our level of spending. We don’t spend much on food, clothing, or household items, but we do spend on going out to eat a couple of times a month, climbing, and other things that are important to us. Our spending aligns with our priorities the majority of the time (though we do slip up sometimes!).
What did you discover about wants vs. needs?
I don’t need as many groceries as I thought. We buy grass fed beef in bulk each year, plus I had an overflowing pantry and freezer at the beginning of the month. I think I have a scarcity mindset when it comes to food and over-buy the sale items. While I like having extra food on hand, it needs to be food we actually eat, not food I buy because it’s cheap.
In a normal month, we spend more of our discretionary money at the home improvement store than I care to admit. Again, it’s a spending to save trap that both Alan and I fall for. Menards has “free” t-shirts (with mail-in rebate) again?! Sure, pick up 10! Granted, he does wear the t-shirts and we do tend to buy things we will use, but I think we go overboard here sometimes – just to get the rebates.
I want to go out to eat for entertainment more than I thought. Go figure. If it weren’t a no spend month, we would have went out for an additional meal or two. I had never really thought much about it – but maybe it’s because it’s winter in Iowa and I feel the need to get out a little more. Whatever the reason, it’s something I’m willing to spend on, just not too frequently.
What was easiest to cut back on? What was hardest to cut back on?
The hardest things to cut back on was groceries, but it was also the easiest. Let me explain. I had so many food stores, I didn’t really need to buy many groceries, which made it easy. On the other hand, I saw the markdowns at the grocery store and the colorful ads with great deals on food I would have otherwise purchased, which made it hard.
Also, the kids started to complain about ¾ of the way through the month. But, really, since grandma insisted on sending them treats, they didn’t “suffer” at all.
What did you learn about yourself?
Of course, I learned I buy too much food when it’s on sale and I like to use going out to eat as entertainment.
I also learned I don’t like to cook as much as I used to. While I thought I would cook more during the month, I didn’t. I have days on the weekend when I enjoy putting together a larger meal, but for the most part, I like meals I can make in 30 minutes.
Mostly I realized I don’t really feel the need to spend much. I like the simple pleasures in life – I love being home and spending time with family and friends. Sure, I like the occasional meal out, and of course, I’m a sucker for a vacation on a budget. But I would be just as happy without those things.
Did you spend more or less time with your loved ones?
This was virtually the same for me. Alan and I typically spend much of our free time together. We also saw friends and family just as often as we usually do.
If you remember my very first No Spend Month Challenge post, I listed out my exceptions for spending (though I did occasionally spend outside of the exceptions). And I noted that the spending for the month didn’t include all of our regular monthly bills, including the mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc.
So beyond my regular monthly bills (including exceptions), I spent $519.10 in January. My average spending in 2016, above and beyond the regular monthly bills was $1650. So that’s a good deal of savings. It helped pay my annual insurance bill without dipping as into savings as much as I normally would (I should add – this is savings I set aside each month for this purpose). And it showed me how much less I can spend.
I’ve approached February spending cautiously. It doesn’t make sense to just delay spending. I wanted to ensure I didn’t run out on February 1 and spend $200 on groceries and other stuff. I’m buying what we need to eat healthy and evaluating any other spending carefully before making a purchase.
How did you do?
Photo Credit: my son, Jake (Iowa really can be beautiful in the winter!)