No Spend January Recap

Hooray!!! We all survived the longest month of the year and are here to talk about it. I personally always love the vibe in January. Everyone seems fresh and ready to tackle the new year. Often people share their hopes and goals and overall willingness to try something new. This is exactly why I decided that January would be a great month for my family of 4 to try a No Spend month. Now if you are thinking “Hold on a second…this is a home DIY blog not a personal finance blog”, you are right! However, I think at the heart of DIY is the willingness to learn/try/sometimes fail to build things on your own in an effort to make your renovation dreams a reality. Most of us can’t drop $100,000 on a whole house renovation let alone $10,000, therefore we have to be resourceful. A great example of money saving hacks for home renovations can be found in Ashley’s kitchen DIY post here.

No Spend Rules

This completely depends on your family and goals. For me personally I was hoping to get a fresh look at our absolute necessary expenses so I could determine a realistic baseline budget for the rest of 2020. We had made some pretty big purchases last year (i.e. a house, some renovations and a big trip), so I felt it was time for a gut check on our spending.

My husband needed some convincing at first, so we discussed what made sense for our family and he agreed on our rules:

  • No Eating out (coffee, dinners, lunches, etc). The only exception would be when one of us was flying out of town for a work trip. This was also an expense covered by our company.
  • No buying anything on Amazon, Target, Dollar Tree, 0.99 store, etc outside of the agreed upon purchases. If you are thinking what are “agreed upon purchases” I will get there…
  • No entertainment (i.e. movies out, movie rentals, babysitting for dates, games, etc). With the exception of $25 we set aside for parking at a local amusement park so we could use our annual passes.

I’d say these were the main three areas we were focused on. We allowed for normal spending in other parts of our life:

  • We bought groceries once a week and spent the normal amount. I usually shop the circulars and make a meal plan.
  • We bought a few household cleaning supplies/paper products we were out of.
  • In addition to these normal activities we agreed that it was acceptable to spend money on our garage renovation (within reason). This was a project that had been on our list since we moved in last May and we set aside a certain amount of money last year to fund it. It was a disaster…

These were the basics for our No Spend Month plan. I had read some inspirational stories to get me started, if you are interested just type “No spend month” in Pinterest and tons of great resources pop up. It also helped that a lot of people in my immediate Instagram sphere were also challenging themselves to do a No Spend Month. I really enjoyed following Michellecannonsmith on IG since we were both tackling similar goals in January.

How did we do at our No Spend Month?

The first few days were weird. Both my husband and I kept jumping on Amazon to add stuff we perceived we needed to our cart. Then we would remember that it was No Spend Month and close the browser. At the end of the month we both discussed the items we had listed and realized there were only 3 items we actually still wanted/needed.

We Located lost Items

We spent time finding “lost” things we already had and repurposing items instead of buying new. After a move it is always hard to find things in the garage so we made if a goal to start organizing and cleaning that space. The pictures below were taken right after we found the baby bike seat and the bike attachment so we could go on our first family bike ride to the local harbor. I packed a lunch and snacks for a picnic which we happily devoured while looking at the boats.

Clean, Clean and more Cleaning

If you can tell from the heading above, we cleaned A LOT… One thing you realize when you are trying not to buy anything new is that you have to really take care of the things you have. So I spent time cleaning all my banquette cushions and base, using up a leather cleaner to restore my leather couch and just generally taking stock of what we have. Andy spent time detailing and waxing our sailboat a job that can literally cost $1000.

Baking and Cooking

I started baking a lot of different things. I stretched out of my comfort zone and learned how to make homemade sourdough bread. This was a goal I had made almost 10 years ago, better late than never right? We all love our fresh baked loaves right out of the oven. I haven’t had to buy bread once all month and this is just for the cost of one $4 bag of flour/week! We also made a ton of cookie dough and stock piled some of our favorites in the freezer so we can always pop a few cookies in as a treat. In order to avoid the urge to eat out we made some of our favorite dinner recipes which we would look forward to.

Hobbies

We both started working on some old hobbies. My husband pulled out his Captain’s license study materials and started working on his certification again. After locating my paints, in the piles of messes in the garage, I set a weekly goal of painting on my DIY wall mounted butcher paper roll. I only managed one painting this month, but starting is half the battle. If you want to try this DIY paper roll tutorial check it out here.

How we felt about the No Spend Month

Towards the middle of the month I realized that this is how I had spent/lived the majority of my married years…using what I had and not constantly buying things. The last couple of years we slipped into a viscous cycle of convenience and were definitely buying more than we needed and spending more than we should.

Growing up with a single mom and working three jobs while putting myself through college had adjusted my mindset early on. I was pretty frugal by necessity and it always made me uncomfortable when I felt like we were purchasing unnecessarily.

Halfway through the month my husband and I both agreed that we felt less stressed out and were happy to be living like this again! Sure there were some conveniences we had to forgo (like waiting on the library to have a new book in stock instead of spending $19 on amazon), but the reality is we probably would have bought the book and not even started it yet. It was surprising how well we both adapted to our new No Spend Month mindset. So much so that we have agreed to continue our No Spend until we leave for a big trip to Portugal in early April. With the exception of a few key items we have already discussed we don’t see why this can’t happen.

All this No Spend made a few other things clear. Our grocery bill was shockingly similar to months before, despite the fact that we were not eating out…which means we were wasting food or eating too much…both of those things are not ideal.

We would have leftover cash each month if we prioritized what we spent on. The left over cash ended up covering my emergency room visit costs from December without us having to dive into our emergency fund.

Did we break the No Spend Rules?

Of course we did…We are not perfect and here is where we both gave in:

  • $7 cash was spent at the Dollar Tree when my friend told me about a deal on polly pocket grab bags. I was creating busy bags for our upcoming 12 hour flight using random toys around the house and was planning on adding a few cheap new toys for the flight.
  • I spent $6.50 buying a coffee and muffin out.
  • $42 dollars went to our school book fair to buy a book series my daughter fell in love with. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them at the library since they are in Spanish (she is in a Spanish immersion program). So I shelled out the cash and I don’t regret it one bit. She has been reading wayyy more everyday and is looking forward to it.
  • My husband bought lunch out once.

Overall I was pretty proud of our progress and perseverance. I’ll update you each month as we try to keep our No Spend going until our Big trip.

Have you done a No Spend, or do you have any frugal hacks? Please share in the comments below if you do!

– Rocky

P.S. Check out my friend Lauren at Casamochi for great budget ideas and personal finance tips. I also like following YNAB on IG and the original Spending Freeze originator, Anna at and then we saved.

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