I’m a little more than halfway through my Buy Nothing month, and it’s been going really well! I feel more in control of my money and my spending habits, and it’s making me think about what I want my financial life to look like when May is over.
Before this challenge, I wasn’t spending money like crazy, but I also didn’t feel as if I was being very intentional about my spending habits. I’m not one to drop a bunch of money on clothes or frivolous items (if anything, I need to spend more money on clothes… says the girl who hasn’t bought a new sports bra in years). But my food budget was out of control. I was spending a lot of money eating out (an average of $100 a month) and I was also spending a lot of money at the grocery store (maybe somewhere around $250-$300).
I shop the sales, eat leftovers, consider my pantry before a trip… I try to do all of the things that I’m told to do to save money on groceries, but I’m still not very thrifty when it comes to groceries. I’m okay with paying slightly more for food, but I’d still like to lower my food budget drastically.
So this Buy Nothing month has really been a test to see how I handle not eating out on a regular basis because not spending money on clothes and such isn’t a huge problem for me. All emails from retailers are funneled into their own special folder on Gmail, and considering I have more than 300 emails sitting in that folder with the earliest one dating back to January 20… well, I barely remember that folder is there. When I go to Target, I’m usually armed with a list and I stick to my list. I don’t go to the mall because malls make me anxious. Shopping? Not really my thing anymore! My food budget is where the majority of my discretionary income is spent. Followed by entertainment, like movies and special events.
I’m 16 days into my Buy Nothing month and it’s going massively well, but just like anything, there have been highs and lows.
Here’s what’s been good:
- Meal planning
I enjoy meal planning, but I haven’t been very successful at it lately. This challenge has forced me to be more intentional with my planning to make sure I have something planned for every meal, every day of the week. There’s no “Oh, I’ll just pick up a sub on my way home from work” if I forgot to plan for something. Nope – not allowed. So I have to make thorough plans and it helps me to feel much more in control.
- Having less waste
I admit that I can be very wasteful, cooking something and intending to have 3-4 days of leftovers, but only having 1-2 days of leftovers. But now I’m finding myself wasting much less food and actually consuming all of my leftovers. That’s just one less meal I have to cook! (And I haaaate cooking. Ugh.)
- At-home roommate dates
My roommate and I set aside one night a week for each other, and that used to mean going out to a movie (which could cost upwards of $40 if we went to our pricey movie theater, since it includes a full meal with the movie) or going out to dinner. But she was on board to stay in this month for our dates. The first week of May, I cooked for her and then we watched a movie on Netflix. The second week of May, she cooked for me and we played a trivia game. This week, our plan is to make homemade pizzas and watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!
- Not worrying about money
There’s something so gratifying about not spending money, you know? It’s powerful. I don’t have to worry about having enough money for this event or that outing. So much of my life is spent worrying about money and what’s in my bank account. Taking the pressure off this constant worry feels so good.
Okay, so that’s the good stuff. What’s the bad stuff?
- I had to break my rules once
A dear friend wanted to celebrate her birthday with dinner out and I couldn’t say no to that. (Well, I could, but I didn’t want to.) I had to break my rules to get her a little gift and for dinner (though another friend ended up picking up the tab, which was crazy generous of her and I’m looking forward to the time when I can pay it forward.)
- I’m not saving nearly as much as I thought I would
Why is living so expensive? And where did all my money go when I was spending all my discretionary income on eating out all the time? Before I started this challenge, I was so excited about all of the money I was going to save but… it’s not as much as I expected. Hopefully, things change over the next two weeks! Sigh.
- Planning events is tough
I completely forgot that I am participating in the ColorBuzz 5k this weekend with my mom. We’re going together to pick up our race packets on Friday night (since they charge you money to pick it up on race day – seriously?!) and then the race itself starts at 8pm on Saturday (but we’ll be at the race site much earlier than that!) These events fall during the time I would eat dinner, and since I won’t be at home, it’s just easiest to just grab something on the way, you know? We’ll see what ends up happening, but I never realized how tough it was to plan stuff like this, factoring in the fact that I’m not supposed to be spending any money!
I have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and spending less money, but it has also made certain things more difficult, especially with the phase of life I’m currently in. I definitely want to try to continue eating most of my meals in, allowing 1-2 meals out on the weekends. I want to continue to lower my grocery budget and maybe even continue my ban on shopping for the foreseeable future.
But I still have 15 days to go and I am curious to see what other epiphanies I’ll have over these next two weeks. I’ll be sure to give a final overview of my challenge – and a look at what’s to come next for me!
What area of your life is most of your discretionary income spent?