January really is a month of challenges for me. Challenging myself to keep my apartment in tip top shape. Challenging myself to drink more water/tea, and challenging myself to really be under budget this month.
In order for me to really be under budget. And I mean REALLY under budget. I gotta cut back and not spend.
My normal monthly budget for food, clothes, groceries and blog related expenses run me around $900. I really want to drop that. So I can be living UNDER my monthly income. In order for me to really accomplish that I need to knock about $400 off that budget. Or increase my income. While I’m actively trying to do both it can seem impossible at times.
Here’s where I hope to drop my budget:
Eating out! I on average spend about $130 a month. WHAT THE WHAT! I’d like to drop that down to $50-$75 which knocks off about $55-80
Shopping! I still am spending more than I’d like, If I can get my shopping to around $200 a month I’ll be pleased. Which also knocks off about $100.
I’m selling my car soon, so that will drop my $50 a month on gas. Plus save me the $85 a month in car insurance.
Blog Expenses/Jewelry Making. While I don’t spend a ton on the blog in general I’d like to keep those expenses to $50 (for now, until I can generate income). I’ve been spending a lot on making Jewelry this last month and a half, but my mom just gifted me a whole bunch of beads! So I’m going to try to use up what I’ve got before I spend more!
I spend a lot of money on groceries. Like too much for one person. Part of that reason is I waste a ton of food by not using it quickly. I just threw out 3 avocados, a package of asparagus and 3 zucchini because they went bad. Just a waste of at least $10 in produce. I just keep buying the same things over and over and tossing them! I want to get my grocery budget down to $200. I need to coupon for items I dont buy at Trader Joes and start freezing produce and making ahead meals. That should knock my budget down by another $50.
By cutting back those budgets I’ll be able to get my monthly budget from $900 to $520! A $380 drop!
Sounds all good right? But its a lot easier than it seems. I’m a habitual shopper, I shop when I’m bored or when I don’t have clean clothes. I grocery shop often but don’t always use what I’ve already got in my cupboards.
My cleaning challenge inspired me to clean out my cupboards and use what I’ve got! Hence my Garlic and Green Vegetables Quinoa, I had EVERYTHING for this dish hanging out in my freezer/cupboards. I’m working on some other recipes to use up some ingredients that have been sitting in my cupboard for months.
But my biggest technique?
NO SPEND WEEK(S)!
I’ve done a No-Spend week before and let me tell you. It is one of the hardest things to do (for me at least). Because I try really hard to not buy anything…even at walgreens. Even groceries. The only money that goes out, is for bills. Its hard but not impossible. And here’s how I do it:
Come up with a Why. Mine for this month is “I need to pay for my Laptop!” Anytime anyone asks me to do something that will cost me money, or even when I’m thinking “Oh, I could just quick run to walgreens and pick up this or that” I tell them (or myself), “sorry! can’t gotta pay for that laptop!” It got REALLY cold in Chicago REALLY quickly and all I could think about was wanting to buy a pair of those Smartwool socks this week. Everytime I thought about it, I told myself, NO! Thats $25 towards your laptop! Its like snapping a rubberband on your wrist. Sometimes you just gotta say it to yourself!
Your WHY needs to be strong and in my opinion for it to work best, have a monetary amount and a timeline attached. You tell me which Why is more powerful?
I can’t go out for lunch today, I need to save money.
I can’t go out for lunch today, I need to save $200 this month/to pay for my laptop.
The 2nd one is way stronger right? While I don’t tell people exactly how much I need to save or how much I’m paying towards. I always make sure to let people know, that no, I’m not spending this week and this is why. Almost everyone is understanding and some nod in agreement and chime in “man! I gotta get better about that too!” Having a no-spend week is not going to hurt anyone’s feelings (if it does, maybe its time to re-evaluate why it’s hurting them)!
Plan Ahead. Soooooo key! You HAVE to plan ahead. I’m not a meal planner, but I knew that I wanted to have a no-spend week this week and I knew that even though I have lots of stuff in my fridge I was missing a few essentials that I knew I would eat throughout the week. Once I got everything I needed, I was set for the week. Well except I forgot dog food, which unfortunately I HAD to spend a little this week (the only thing I promise!)
Planning ahead kept me from making quick stops at Walgreens and Trader Joe’s. But planning ahead doesn’t necessarily mean just for food. Knowing your schedule ahead of time is also super important. If I know there are important events going on over the course of a week (like NYE last week) I deliberately choose not to do a no-spend week on that week. But I prioritize which events are most important and which ones I can skip. To be honest, I skip most nowadays anyways because I’m happy to stay in with the dogs, watch netflix and work on the blog or my other business ideas every night!
This week I got pretty lucky in two ways. I had zero events to go to throughout the week and it got stupid cold. No one wants to go out when its cold anyways, so staying home in my pajamas was a no-brainer. Not having anywhere to be and it being cold keeps me from wanting to walk anywhere. And driving is a no-go, because that means I have to loose my sweet parking spot (and I don’t have anything for Dibs to save a spot, if you’re not from Chicago google it) It made my week significantly easier to do a no-spend week!
Be serious about it and don’t give yourself a break. I’m super mad at myself for forgetting the dog food. I didn’t even think to check until I fed the dogs the next morning AFTER I went grocery shopping. I’ve done this challenge before and with a friend. While I took it moderately seriously, I still didn’t make it through 100% successfully. She failed on the first day, she didn’t take it seriously enough or see how much it can benefit you! Because it really can! In an average week I can spend anywhere from $120 to $200! IN ONE WEEK. Just on going out to eat, shopping and other random crap. Eliminating even just ONE week of spending like that adds up over the course of the year!
If you dont want to spend for 7 days COMMIT to it, if its just 5 days COMMIT. Don’t just give up half way through. Really stick to it, no matter how tempting it is. Put up sticky notes, set reminders on your phone and constantly tell yourself “no spend week!” I decided this time around to stick to 6 days. Sunday I plan on doing another week of meal prep, as it really helped me this week, so another trip to the grocery store is in order. Next week I don’t intend on doing a full on no-spend week but I do plan on doing no eating out again.
Find something else to focus on. Also very helpful. One of my biggest challenges is when I’m bored I tend to shop, not just for clothes but groceries too. Giving myself something else to focus on (ie my new business idea, more to come on that hopefully in the very near future) keeps me from going out and spending money. Throwing myself into a new project makes it fun!
This week I’ve tried to start putting together my business ideas, work a little on my jewelry and get my finances in order for the next few months. Not to mention start putting together a better plan and schedule for the blog. Its keeping me focused on how I can MAKE money, not spend it!
Keep a list of things you need at the end of the no-spend week/month. Boy do I have a list. I’m almost finished with the week and I have a list of groceries, bits and bobs and things that I need money in order to do. So when I first decided to this and really commit to it, I knew I would be majorly tempted to go get little things here and there. Making my jewelry I realized I didn’t have a certain finding I needed and another tool. Tough luck, wrote it on my list and it’ll have to wait till next week. I’m not going to die if I don’t get it now! I also need to do laundry (I’m out of socks…I really have socks on the brain dont I?) while I normally would go grab some quarters to toss in a load, I’m going to wait. I just gotta stick it out a few more days before I can go get those quarters.
Now that I have my list for the next week I know I need quarters, a few things for jewelry making and some groceries. Plus a few things I thought about over the week that I want to add into my clothing budget because this cold weather is not doing it for me. It should keep me on track next week to keep costs down.