The One-Month Spending Crash Diet

Last week, I outlined our plan to make November a spending crash diet. We have only $400 to pay for gas, groceries, entertainment, etc. — everything that isn’t a monthly recurring bill — for the entire month.

By day four, hubby began pouting.

“This sucks. Everything costs money. It’s so depressing,” he said, as he unloaded our $18 bag of groceries. “I’m noticing all kinds of things I didn’t before. This takes too much planning.”

Meaning, he finally is noticing that diapers and formula, leaving the kitchen light on, and drinking beer costs money. And now that he has a set budget, all of a sudden he feels like he’s missing out. Because he can’t do something he really wants to at a moment’s notice. He’s never been a high-maintenance guy, so I thought he would have a much easier time than I would.

I, on the other hand, am feeling optimistic about the challenge. I think we are going to do just fine, even if we have committed to buying the Thanksgiving turkey for the extended family.

The challenge hasn’t put a crimp in our lifestyle yet. We are cooking at home every night, sure, but the food is good and plentiful, and there are still plenty of free movies to rent from the library.

We’ve also managed to live something resembling a normal life. Sitting at home moping and avoiding our friends isn’t sustainable, and we’d like this to be something we can and want to do again.

The first day of the challenge, I went to an art opening at my friend’s gallery. Cost: $1 for the parking meter.

On election night, we had a party. It’s been a tradition since the 2000 election, so it’d be a shame to skip it now. Normally we’d spare no expense to throw a party, but this time our budget to feed four kids and 11 adults was only $30. (Okay, $18 originally, but then hubby realized we had no lighter fluid and no side dishes, so we spent another $12.) We didn’t think we could pull it off, but we did, and there were plenty of leftovers.

Even though we’re only a week in, the challenge has already altered our habits. Our limited budget led us to shop at Aldi’s and look for loss leaders in the local grocery ads for the first time in seven years. By Thursday, the hubby had snapped out his depression and declared “Turkeys are on sale for 78 cents a pound.” Looks like we have our Thanksgiving solution. Here is what we’ve spent this week:

Total spent: $46

That includes $1 for parking, $31.50 for the election night party food, and $5 for raffle tickets as a fundraiser for my mom’s school, and the $8.50 that mysteriously disappeared from hubby’s wallet. He has yet to come clean about what he spent it on, but we’re not over budget, so I’m not going to nag. We had 3 No Spend days this week.

I also hit the jackpot. Sometimes small wishes do come true. Finding a yoga class has been on my to do list for a while, but was out this month due to our budget. Then I got a call from an old friend who is getting her yoga teaching certification, needs to log a lot of hours of teaching, and wanted to know if I’d host a free yoga session at my house once a week. Bingo.

Not shopping and not spending has had an unintended side effect. My productivity has sky-rocketed. In one week, I have knocked several things off of my to-do list, including framing four lithographs I bought 6 months ago and rearranging the guest room furniture. It’s also forced me to come to terms with my closets, which are overflowing with stuff we never wear and never use. It’s time to let all of that go. Ebay here I come.

I can see now the potential this challenge has to be life changing. Everyday, we think about what we really need and what we really don’t, and how to make as much as we can out of as little as possible. These are skills I embraced when I was young, broke, and in college. but somewhere I lost my way. I’m hoping to find my way back.

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6 Responses to The One-Month Spending Crash Diet

  1. sandi says:

    good for you! keep it up. just wanted to let you know that what you are doing is inspirational. Thanks.

  2. Studenomist says:

    I am also taking this November challenge that seems to have swept the personal finance blogging nation.. The only difference is I took out $500 for the month that should cover my entertainment, food, and transportation.. the good news is so far I have $360 left, hopefully I make it until December 1st.. Hope you make it as well..

  3. Cindy M says:

    Congratulations! The main thing this kind of experience has done for me is make me use my imagination and spend more time in this little home of mine I wanted so badly, and I now truly appreciate what I do have. I spend more time in my yard making it look good and have learned from experience I don’t need to blow a lot on plants or maintenance. I’m a much better cook now from soup to nuts; I should be, I’ve assembled a collection of cookbooks over the years that I just had to have. Stuff I’ve lucked out on over the years at thrift stores I’m finally using to decorate with so the house looks nicer. I even got my old sewing machine out and have refurbished good clothes so I actually dress better than I used to. I should say up front I’m divorced with no kids (who can be notorious for helping you spend your hard-earned money, I know from spending a great deal of time with the grandnephews) but everybody should have to try to figure out how to save a buck and feel good about it. When I do get restless in what little free time I have when not working, I know there’s excellent free entertainment locally to be had out that’s just as satisfying as what costs money. I’m reading good books again and actually enjoying it. I plan to do this the rest of my life.

  4. MollyJ says:

    I’m trying this challenge too and I have to say in many ways it is liberating. thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Carol says:

    Well, my hubby got laid off and I wasn’t working full time, so I will definately look forward to hearing about your experiences to get some good tips! Keep up the good work!

  6. Gail says:

    Keep it up and congrats on the yoga class.

    Poster#3 Cindy–I loved your post. this is what people should be doing instead of constantly thinking they need money to be entertained!

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