Last month, Jackson and I decided to participate in a modified, watered down version of No Spend November. We realised that there were a few areas in our life where we weren’t using our money wisely and saw this as a good opportunity to turn that around.
My hope going into this challenge was to strengthen my self-discipline, begin spending money more intentionally, and to increase the amount that we are able to dedicate to debt repayment each month. Rather than declaring all things non-essential to life to be off limits for the month, we started by defining what we would and would not spend money on according to our values and known weaknesses/trouble areas.
In order to make this work, I took a look back through our spending in previous months and identified some areas where spending could/should be reduced, as well as those that provide a high enough return to be worth continuing to invest in, even during a month of reduced spending. This is what I ended up with:
Rent & other monthly bills
Cat food + supplies
Replacing a consumable item that we’ve run out of
Theatre, film, festivals, or other cultural events
One weekend car rental (grocery shop/visit parents out of town)
Dinner out for Jackson’s birthday
New makeup/nail polish
Home decor/other household items
Cake, cookies, etc. (bakery or grocery store) - things I can make at home
I would track our spending using Quicken as usual, but also keep a daily journal to look a bit more closely at my feelings and patterns around the things we were spending money on.
Buying junk food at the grocery store. As much as I loathe to admit it - to myself as much as anyone else - I am an emotional eater. This is a coping mechanism that I once had under control, but have been forced to recognise has become more and more of a problem this year as I’ve struggled a bit with my mental health. Watching the small but alarmingly frequent grocery store purchases for a pint of ice cream here or a bag of chips there add up over the month has been concerning, and I am equal parts grateful to have become aware before doing too much damage to myself and annoyed to feel like I now have one more thing on my plate to tackle.
Tea. Something I found surprising throughout the month was just how much I missed buying loose tea from places like David’s Tea. I found myself getting cranky about not being able to spend money however I wanted in this area, and there were a few instances throughout the month where I almost broke down and just went for it. Overspending on loose tea was one of the things that led me to consider No Spend November in the first place, though, so I restrained myself and eventually it got easier.
We ate healthier meals. Surprisingly, the area where I was the most worried about us caving - takeout - was the easiest to avoid. Sure, there were temptations, but I quickly found that by investing a bit more time in meal prep on Sundays (prepping more dishes at a greater volume), I was able to make sure that we had plenty of quick meals on hand throughout the week for a fraction of the cost of takeout. This meant a lot more home-cooked, veggie-filled meals - even on days when neither of us felt like cooking. Bonus: as an introvert who has really been struggling with stress and anxiety these past six months, those hours alone in the kitchen each week have been extremely therapeutic.