You guys, I did it! I completed No-Spend May!
I feel so good about myself today, knowing that I completed this challenge. It’s a crazy thing, you know? This idea of going an entire month of not spending money on anything but necessary purchases is just a little nuts. It means turning down plans with friends, scheduling my weekends so I’m not tempted to eat out or go shopping, and just… taking out the choice of spending. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t all that hard. I think I was finally ready to commit to this challenge this time around.
What was most challenging about not spending money was turning down lunch plans with friends. For someone who grew up with friends who were solely school friends, not let’s-spend-all-weekend-together friends, I’ve loved having a more active social life than I have had in the past. And I’m always worried it’s all going to be taken away from me. Like, I’ll wake up one day and all my friends will be gone. The rest of my days will be spent as a hermit. It’s this fear that should probably be talked about in greater detail in therapy, so I’ll just say that I do not love saying no to plans. I hate disappointing people and I felt like I had to do that a lot this month. It was necessary, but it didn’t always feel good.
The other challenging part of not spending money was that there were just some nights when I was either sad or lonely or had a rough day… and all I wanted to do was order a pizza. Instead, I had to own my feelings while I heated up another plate of leftovers in the microwave. It’s an interesting realization; I’ve always known I’m an emotional eater (I’d seriously love to know who isn’t, though), but I’m also realizing that I engage in restaurant therapy when I’m feeling sad. Kinda like retail therapy… I want someone else to cook for me, I want some other kind of comfort food. I don’t want leftovers. And yet… I had the leftovers and the world did not stop spinning. And I felt better about myself for doing so.
What is most curious to me is how I feel today – nervous. I’m proud of myself for completing this challenge, but I’m also nervous about where I go from here. I liked how I felt this past month – in control, on top of things. For the first time in a really long time, I felt like I finally had enough. I was able to get ahead on bill paying and even pay off my cruise deposit in full (which isn’t due until the end of September, so it was a big deal for me). There was no cringing as I logged onto my bank account to check my balance.
So the last thing I want to do is to go back to how I spent money before. For me, the point of a no-spending challenge isn’t the physical act of not buying anything; it has more to do with the emotional pull that spending money has over me. It’s to figure out the why behind the spending.
I use shopping as a crutch, as a way to make myself feel better, as a way to fit in with everyone around me. I don’t shop nearly as often as most people, but when I do shop, it’s usually done impulsively and because I want to fit in to this consumerist culture I live in. Shopping has always been something I do to impress other people, rarely for myself. Thankfully, over the past year or so, I’ve been able to shed this need to shop and have new clothes in my closet or new things in my house at all times. I have downsized my closet and minimalized my home, now adding pieces intentionally – things that I know I need, not things I think I want.
Eating out is my biggest struggle when it comes to money because I truly enjoy eating out and it’s one of my favorite ways to socialize. I’m not much of a cook and spending time in the kitchen is more of an annoyance than anything else. So this part of my no-spending challenge was really difficult, but man, was I able to save a lot of money. I took away the choice to eat out, which made everything so much easier. There was no thinking involved: I can’t spend money, so I can’t eat out. Done and done. Maybe I’m more of an Abstainer than I realized.
The truth is, I’m not exactly sure where I go from here. I want to have the choice to eat out if I want to, but I want to limit the amount of times I do. I want to continue thorough meal planning and eating in as much as possible, both to save money and to save calories. I don’t want to spend impulsively, but I know I’m not perfect and that will happen from time to time. I want to place an emphasis on saving as much as I can. And I think it’s also time to invest the time and money into budgeting software (specifically, You Need a Budget) to take this one step further.
I’m really proud of myself, though. I’m really proud of finally completing a no-spend month when I’ve failed at them in the past. How did I do it? I just took away the choice to quit. Quitting wasn’t an option. I knew I had to see this through, for myself. I stopped letting other unnecessary things take precedence over this thing I really wanted to do.
And I can’t wait to take on this challenge again.