February was my very first, officially titled, No Spending Month. I had never taken on this specific challenge before, and on Feb 1st, was excited to tackle it and see what I would learn.
I had given myself the following guidelines:
- The spending ban would apply to extras, not regular bills or necessities (groceries, gas, utilities, rent, etc..)
- This spending ban did NOT apply to my husband (he may not even be aware that I did it until he reads this!). It was a challenge for myself alone, and did not feel the need to ask him to join me this time. So he was free to buy his extras as he liked, but I challenged myself to not ask him to buy something for me.
- I purposely chose a month with no family birthdays, travel, or gift centered holidays. For my first attempt at this, I really didn’t want to set myself up for failure.
- My children are all little (four under four), so I did extend the challenge to them indirectly. No new toys or clothes. Only diapers if we ran out. I don’t think they even noticed…
So 28 days later (and no, I didn’t purposely choose the shortest month of the year…), during which there were no runs to Starbucks for lattes, no movie rentals, no browsing through Target, and no late night online purchases, I had made it through an entire month.
There was only one exception: we bought a new couch. Though, to be fair, this did fall under the guideline applying to my husband. I had promised him that this was the year we could replace our old couch. One sunny Sunday afternoon, he made a fun family outing of looking at couches, and was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to ask him to wait any longer (the poor man has been waiting 8 years..). I felt that that one exception was justified. You know the saying, “Happy husband, more grilled food”! …
Anyway, not only was I proud of myself for making it to the end of the month, a few thoughts struck me along the way:
- 9 times out of 10, you really don’t need that thing. Throughout the month, I would still save items to wishlists, but found myself returning to those lists again to diminish said items. Having gone a month without them, I found I didn’t really need them in the first place.
- No more thoughtless purchasing. By removing the quick buy trigger, I was forced to consider each possible purchase, both current (groceries) and future (wish lists). Do I really want this? Do I really need this? Will this actually bring value to our lives, or simply become a burden in a short time?
- I don’t need to own everything. There is a simple beauty in borrowing something. A ladder from a neighbor, a book from the library, walking to the neighborhood park instead of buying outdoor play items for the kids…I was once again reminding that there is freedom in enjoying an item for a time, then returning it. No need to always buy, always own, always keep. There can be beauty in the temporary.
- I want to set a new example for my children. My children may be quite young, but they do observe how I live, speak, interact, and….shop. By showing them that not every trip to the store deserves a treat, I can display not only self control, but contentment. I hope and pray that they learn to value each other more than things.
It was a good month. A reflective month….and I plan to challenge myself to another no spending month again in the future.
Have you taken on such a challenge before? What did you take away from it? –besides extra purchases 🙂