This May, I’m taking on a Buy Nothing challenge.
Honestly, I’m kinda scared about it. Mostly because I have a very complicated relationship with money. I think that’s pretty normal when you grow up as I did, worrying about money from a young age. A lot of the people I know have had very privileged lives – people who didn’t have to take out school loans to afford college, or who received a car for their sixteenth birthday, or who took incredible family vacations just because. (People who are also very aware and recognizant of their privilege, I should say as a disclaimer!)
I try to not compare situations because I know we have to make peace with our past and live in the present. And I don’t want to make it seem like I’m not grateful for all the ways my mom supported me. We may not have had a ton of money, but we had oodles and oodles of love. I got to live at home during college (and living with my mom has always been fun and easy and wonderful), and my mom basically gave up her car to me because I needed it for traveling from work and school.
So money is complicated for me. Even now, when I can support myself and still do (most) of the things I want, I feel weighed down by money, trapped by how much I need it. I can’t go out to a simple dinner with friends without calculating how much everything will cost – and being the lame girl who orders a water with dinner because damn drinking is expensive.
I’d like to buy a condo someday in the future, but saving for a down payment is nowhere on my radar.
I’d like to have six months of emergency funds saved, but how do I do that when my bills alone take up more than 60% of my monthly budget?
I’d like to travel a few times a year, but where does that fit in with my longer-term financial goals?
And don’t even get me started about retirement savings or investments or how I’m ever going to afford to have children.
It’s enough to give me a panic attack.
But this is exactly why I want to challenge myself to spend money only on necessities for one month. Because I want to pause my spending, take a step back from my finances, and regroup. I want to challenge myself to say no to spending when I want to say yes. I want to learn more about my money habits and why I want to spend money on XYZ thing – what stories am I telling myself?
And I want to save, save, save. My goal this year is to have $1,000 in emergency savings (I currently have $0, which is a fun way to live your life… if you like to live as if you’re constantly on the top of a roller coaster and just realized you don’t have a seat belt on). I am really interested to see how much money I can save when I’m not spending all of my discretionary income on eating out and Starbucks and Target shopping trips.
So, let’s talk about the logistics of this Buy Nothing month.
What I Can Spend Money On
- Bills (duh)
- Groceries – limiting myself to one visit per week (whimper)
- Gas and any auto-related maintenance – I’m due for an oil change soon, and it might need to get done during May
- Any Dutch-related expenses – food, medication, etc.
- Toiletries – this includes makeup, though I’m very minimalist about my makeup!
What I Cannot Spend Money On
- Kindle purchases
- Shopping for clothes, household items, accessories, or anything unnecessary
- Events that cost money
Basically, anything that is not 100% essential!
The Exceptions for this Month
- My bimonthly hair appointment and eyebrow wax – This appointment was planned months ago.
- Mother’s Day – I’m not sure what we’re doing, but we are doing something.
- Book club – I’m not missing book club due to this challenge. I am absolutely committed to this challenge, but missing book club is like sticking a dagger right into my heart.
- Weekly writing dates – We meet at Starbucks, but instead of my usual breakfast sandwich with a Frappuccino, I’m limiting myself to a tall regular coffee. I’ll put $25 on my card at the beginning of the month and will not be able reload it again until June!
And that’s that! I am incredibly nervous for this challenge, but I plan on checking in halfway through to discuss how it’s going, what I’ve been struggling with, and any lessons I have learned.
Here we go!
Your best advice for completing a Buy Nothing month for a girl who has a complicated relationship with money?