No Spend November

It’s no secret that our society is overwhelmed with consumerism and debt. Statistically speaking, the average American household credit card debt tips the scales at $16,140 with an average interest rate of 14.25% (source). That’s a lot of money!

My husband and I contributed to this number in previous years but have since worked really hard to rectify that situation. We dug deep, rearranged our budget, and made a plan to pay off our cards and we saw it through. But we still live pay check to pay check, and that’s quite depressing.

I’ve been following a lot of different kinds of blogs lately – minimalist, homesteader, and frugalist alike. One thing I keep seeing between all three genres is making do with what you have, not buying what you don’t need, and curbing the excess spending. This blogger is of the same mindset.

When my husband and I set out to correct our debt problems, I adopted the Dave Ramsey plan (well, sort of) and started budgeting and snowballing debt. It’s been a very slow process because we still had bad spending habits. If we wanted something, we simply bought it – but we bought it differently. Instead of dropping the credit card on the counter, we dropped the debit card and then I performed some creative financial magic at home to make the numbers work so we didn’t end up overdrawn. Unfortunately, our savings was always the victim – hence why we still live pay check to pay check nearly 5 years since my Dave Ramsey discovery – three times as long ago as it takes the average Dave Ramsey follower to pay off all their debts. In the end, we’re still treading water.

I’ve been using You Need a Budget to budget and track our spending for about two years now and I’ve noticed a trend: we still spend too much. There are two categories in which we consistently spend too much money: groceries and free spend (Free Spend is the category Dave Ramsey says you have to have for frivolous spending that does not take away from the 4 walls of your financial house – my husband and I both get $25 a week for free spend). We consistently go over budget in both of these categories by $200 on average. That’s too much money. What’s it getting spent on? Dinners out, impromptu grocery shopping trips, gas station stops, coffee stops, unnecessary buys, lazy pizza dinner nights, etc.

If we’re ever going to find our way out of this financial debt we dug our way into in the early years of our marriage, we’ve got to change the way we spend money. Point blank. But how do you change the way you spend money? With drastic measures, of course!

Enter: No Spend November. You’ve heard of No Shave November, where guys opt out of shaving for prostate cancer awareness, right? Well, No Spend November is where people opt out of spending money for financial wellness awareness. And I’m jumping on board.

For the month of November (and 5 days of December – maybe all of December and January), I will have a defined set of rules to follow in regard to monetary spending. These rules apply to the grocery and free spend categories of our budget – nothing else will change. The rules are as follows.

1. Bring lunch to work every day and eat it. No trips to the cafeteria.
2. Make coffee at home. No trips to the coffee shop – except on Veteran’s Day when I’ll get a free cup from Starbucks.
3. Make a meal plan for each week, buy according to that plan, and stick to the plan. No unplanned trips to the grocery store unless I legitimately need an ingredient for dinner and cannot improvise.
4. Use the public library or Kindle Lender’s Library for new books. Do not purchase any new books during the month of November.
5. Limit dining out with the family to restaurants that we have gift cards for, and budget accordingly for the rest of the bill.

Most No Spend November participants say no to dining out altogether, but this is just my challenge and not one my family has agreed to participate in, so I’m trying my best to be strict enough to break my own habits, while being flexible enough to keep my family happy. As such, some dining out has to remain.

Expected result: My expected result will be less creative financing stress to deal with each week, more money available to set aside for upcoming gifting opportunities (Christmas and birthdays are right around the corner), and setting my Free Spend money aside each week to be used next spring on raised garden beds for my vegetable garden. I have lofty goals for 2016 which include a lot of landscaping, debt payoff and savings endeavors because I am very tired of living on this debt treadmill. I want off. I’m not willing to sell all my stuff like Dave suggests, but I am willing to make some sacrifices to my current lifestyle to push it forward. I’m willing to skip the expensive coffee flavored sugar milk in lieu of cedar planks for my garden or red wood mulch for my flower bed. I just have to make it a habit to do so. November is my month to make it happen.

I will revisit this topic in December to share how I did.

What about you? Have you ever thought about participating in a No Spend month? What are you waiting for?

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