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In 2011 I posed a challenge of sorts, or a suggestion, not only to readers, but to myself. And I must say this now monthly ritual that I voluntarily have brought into my life has revealed itself to be worth its weight in gold. What is this challenge, you are asking? The refusal to spend money, of any kind, for one entire week each month.
You may be thinking, how is that even possible? What about emergencies? What about ________? What about ________? And I can definitely attest, that sometimes my attempt at not spending for an entire week can be thwarted by a must-have purchase for dog care or gas or something that is a necessity. However, even in those instances, that week is not a loss. That week still saves me from spending money, and so whether I am entirely successful or moderately so, making the determination to not spend for an entire week has always been a benefit to my budget and overall to my peace of mind and contentment.
The amount of success attained is determined almost entirely on planning. As you will see below, you must be very clear about what you need: food, supplies, appointments, prescriptions, etc. And the good news is the planning helps you to become clear about how you are living, helping you to realize if the way you are living is beneficial or if your money is supporting something that does not coincide with the life you wish to live. In other words, this simple monthly ritual will not only save you money in the short term, but in the long term as well.
After having just completed my week of no-spending this past first week of August, I took careful note of what was necessary to make sure it was successful, and below are the eight tips I came up with.
1. Have a well-stocked home épicerie
As someone who cooks most of her meals at home, there are essentials that are needed for most meals. All of these items are listed in my post 34 Must-have Items for Your Home Épicerie. These are items that are not fresh food you pick up weekly, so you can stock up ahead of time. However, as I discovered, knowing your kitchen is properly stocked helps aid in the motivation to stick to the no-spending approach. Why? You’re less tempted to pick up take-out when you know you can cook your favorite meals at home. Not only will you satiate your tastebuds, but you will satiate your need to spend rashly or spontaneously as well.
Extra: If you have dogs, pets or care for anyone or anything else, make sure their food and supplies are stocked as well.
2. Pick the best week
The week doesn’t need to start on Monday or end on the weekend, the week can be any seven days in a row that works best with your schedule. While I mentioned in 2011 that the 2nd and 3rd weeks work best for me, I have since changed my preference. I typically balance my monthly budget (pay my bills, deposit my savings, etc.) on the last day of the previous month. What this allows is a fresh start on day one (my day one is the first of the month, but everyone’s first of the month will be unique based on when paychecks are distributed). And so now I have chosen the first week of the month to be my no-spending month.
Why I have been loving this change:
- Motivation is high – I’ve just seen my paycheck come in and much of those funds be paid out for bills. Wanting to keep as much as I can in my accounts, motivates me to not want to spend.
- I know I have money for the rest of the month, so I don’t feel truly deprived.
- My spending month is now 3 weeks rather than 4 weeks – which makes it feel as though my money is worth more.
Sometimes, the first of the week won’t work due to appointments, dates, visiting guests, travel plans, etc. But ideally this week has worked very well for me.
3. Have packages or gift cards already pre-paid
What about my regular stop at the cafe? My weekly yoga class? Won’t this monthly ritual make me anti-social? Absolutely not. Look into pre-paying or buying a card at your favorite coffee shop and placing a set amount on it for each month. I think every coffee shop in Bend has their own gift card, and that is exactly what I have been using lately. From Palate to Thump to Backporch Coffee Roasters, I have been using the cards and not my cash, and being mindful of the balance I have on them. The same thing can be done with your weekly fitness classes: buy a 5 or 10 pack and not only be able to adhere to this monthly ritual, but save yourself money as well.
While keeping the épicerie well-stocked is key, so too is having the fresh ingredients on hand to make the dishes and meals you love. As a weekly ritual, I go to the markets once a week and pick up these ingredients. My capsule menu approach helps me not only buy within my budget, but also allows me to organize my meals in ways that utilize the same ingredients multiple times, but in different ways throughout the week. Read this post which talks about what a capsule menu is and how to create your own.
5. Get creative with entertainment
The forms of entertainment in which we partake, as we know, don’t always have to cost money, but when we consciously know we cannot spend money on entertainment, we are forced to get creative. Now that need for creativity is sometimes just a lovely way of reminding ourselves or giving ourselves permission to revert to our childhood or simply do what we really love without apology. Pull out Scrabble, clear the table after dinner, pour some wine and settle in as you display your prowess of vocabulary, or take an evening hike to watch the sunset. Since you’ve paid for Netflix, watch your favorite classic film or maybe this one week of the month is a time to complete some household chores or dive into projects you’ve been waiting to find time to do. The key is to find hobbies and take pleasure in things that don’t cost a dime. I think you will be amazed at how rich life can be without requiring we rake in oodles of dough.
6. Visit the library
Speaking of simple pleasures, dive into reading . . . for free. Visit your local library. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you have access to one free book download a month; use the opportunity to enjoy reading books you love without spending any money.
7. Change your perspective on what living well looks like
The beautiful gift you can give yourself by incorporate no-spending for one week is the gift of being less busy. Now I know, we don’t have to be spending money to be busy, but if we have to watch our gas level, if we aren’t going for take-out and we aren’t running to the market each night when we need an ingredient, we can be more present, we can be less hurried. And instead of looking for something to fix whatever isn’t going right, we slow down and, perhaps at first, are forced and then appreciate the ability to slow down. We may dive into conversation, pull out a book we’ve been wanting to read but couldn’t find the time, or simply sit on the back porch with a cup of coffee, put our feet up and watch the birds twitter away in the yard.
Before long, you may look forward to this week each month as it is the respite that gives you even more time to breathe, relax, and appreciate the life you have cultivated.
8. Place a carrot on a stick
As you begin to put into place this monthly ritual, give yourself some extra motivation. Nothing big or extravagant, but something that will motivate you to put spending on pause long enough so you can then enjoy the reward you give yourself on the morning of day eight. I did just this last week as I found myself enjoying an afternoon sitting in my adirondack chairs reading, relaxing with my dogs and observing how many birds were in my back yard. At that moment I could have kicked myself for not having a bird feeder! So, I promised myself that I could go pick out a bird feeder from the specialty store I’ve been wanting to stop into if I made it through this week of no-spending. Much like a kid waiting for their birthday to arrive, I was even more okay with my week of no-spending if it meant a bird feeder would soon be hanging in my yard.
I am happy to report, earlier this week, I stopped into my local wild bird store, picked up a feeder and some food and have been giddily enjoying the lovely new birds that are visiting my yard.
Choosing to not spend for one week is a small way of taking control of your spending, no matter how much control you already have. It allows you to effectively assess the conscious spending you do and perhaps recognize the unconscious spending that happens and needs to be curtailed. The funny thing I have also discovered is that when the second week of the month begins, I am more reluctant to pull out my debit card. I am more reluctant to hand over my cash. While this does subside as the month goes on, when the first of the month begins again, it is much like a tightening of a rubber band, pulling me back in and reminding me to keep my spending in check.
And remember, if you have to run to the store for a basic food item (my most recent one was butter – yikes!), let yourself do it and know that you are still doing yourself a great service. The goal is to reduce unnecessary spending, not deprive yourself. After all, a life lived consciously is our goal which ultimately leads to a life of fulfillment and contentment.
Thank you for stopping by and enjoy the rest of the week!
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~To view the entire Archives of Money posts, click here.