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During the Month of April, I spent almost no money. I feel like I did great on my no spend month compared to what I expected. I didn’t pay off as much as I hoped I would have, but it was still super exciting to push myself to get creative.
The whole debt free journey has taught me a lot about what is important to me and what I can live without. I think the thing it has taught me the most is that no great journey is ever as easy as “just the numbers.” I can make my spreadsheet with my budget look fantastic, but it is all about when that paycheck comes in and how I handle it.
8 Things I have Learned by Not Spending Money
1) I don’t eat out nearly as much as I thought
During my no spend month, it wasn’t actually that hard to not eat out, but now that I am out of it, I have eaten out more in May than I would have all month if I would have just done it in moderation during April. It seems to go in spurts. Some weeks I am on top of planning and others I am not as good about it. Right now I am trying to get back off my binge from eating out because I have probably eaten out six times since the beginning of May! Eeek. I need to get back into the swing of things.
My biggest struggle was probably planning breakfast. When I am on the go, I have very little time for breakfast in the morning, but it is a meal that I will not skip. I found myself giving in to breakfast on the way to work a few times during the month. Lack of planning really got me when it came to breakfast.
My goal moving forward is to plan my eating out around my friends and try not to eat out by myself. I found that I would eat out by myself for lunch and be fine with it. When I got home from work that day, my roommate or one of my friends would want to go out. Eating out twice in one day rarely ever happens for me, but it does happen.
2) $25 in groceries per week wasn’t actually that hard.
I kept to the $25 a week except for the last few weeks. My pantries weren’t nearly as stocked as I thought they were in the beginning. I mostly used my money for chicken and some fresh fruits and veggies. I bought a few other things like ice cream and chicken nuggets, but for the most part, I stayed within my budget on groceries.
If I would have been really disciplined about it, there is plenty of pasta and ramen in my cabinets that I could have made last a few weeks, but I am also trying to stay healthy and improve my run time. I could probably live off mac and cheese my whole life if it had any nutritional value.
I am now budgeting about $40 on groceries. Most of the stuff lasts me a few weeks, but it seems like I am always buying one of those items that I only have to buy a few times. During the month, we ran out of BBQ, Ranch, Salsa, and a few other staples of our fridge. I feel like $40 is a perfect amount, but there are definitely times were I don’t hit that. Usually, I go to the store one week for everything and the second week I go to the store for just a few random odds and ends because I still have a good amount of stuff left in my cabinets.
3) My biggest waste of money is in my groceries.
My groceries are 90% meal prep food and 10% convenience food for the days when I don’t feel like meal prepping or eating what I have prepped. There was one week that I ended up throwing out 3-4 prepped meals because I had eaten my chicken nuggets instead. I end up throwing out so much food because I don’t get to it before it goes bad. I need to get better about planning and only cooking for the days that I actually need meals.
At one point in the month, I bought a loaf of bread (which I hardly ever do) thinking that it would be great for some cheap meals. I was seriously so excited for a grilled cheese sandwich. Unfortunately, I only got a few slices because it went bad before I even got to use it. Lesson learned, I need to freeze half the loaf if I am going to buy bread.
4) I don’t have the urge to shop.
There are very few times in the month that I really felt the urge to go shopping or get anything that I didn’t have money in an envelope. I either worked or stayed at home most of the month which made not spending money super easy. On my bulletin board is a list of things I wanted to buy throughout the challenge, but managed to not get any of them until I had a plan to pay for them or money in my envelope.
I very rarely shop for material items, but groceries and eating out are a good portion of my spending budget. One things I do budget for is pedicures because of my military boots and being a waitress. My FitBit also broke during the month of April, so off to the store I went with money from my “Electronic Replacement” envelope as soon as April was over. I absolutely love my FitBit because it tracks my activity and how I am sleeping.
5) Working two jobs is the worst and best thing.
When I started this journey, I knew that if I didn’t go all in, I wouldn’t finish. I worked pretty much non-stop through the month of April and it has carried into May already. There is not change in the near future either. I am waiting to hear from my new supervisor of my Temporary Technician job. This means I will be working for the military at least until the end of September 2017! It is all going towards student loans!
It isn’t always terrible, but it creates some really long days. I am never home so I don’t really have to worry about being bored or doing any online shopping. On the other hand, I am never home. I still have laundry on my floor that has been clean for weeks and just not put away.
Some nights, I crawl into bed almost immediately after getting home. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like laundry, cleaning, and other things that need done. It has been a struggle to balance home life and working so much, but I think I am actually getting into a routine now.
6) People who work regular jobs don’t get paid the same day they work.
This one might sound a little ridiculous to people who only get paid once or twice a month. I have been a waitress for a full time income for a little over a year now. Because of that, I am pretty accustomed to getting paid the same day as I work. I didn’t really think about the fact that I wouldn’t be getting paid almost immediately for working for the military. There is usually a week or two delay in the pay.
During the month of April, I have been getting paid a week or two after I work. I budgeted for all of this money to come in during the month of April, but it didn’t quite work like that. Actually, I had a good chunk of money come in the first few days of May, which really helped my financial spot.
7) I am DONE using my credit card.
This has been said before, but this time it’s true. I wrote about this in my monthly debt free journey report, but I ended up paying off $300 on my credit card again. I keep putting things for my blog onto my credit card instead of just planning and saving for it. If I wouldn’t have had to pay that off, my student loan would be gone by now. I have a small payment that I need to make on my credit card, but then I am done with it! (At least until I am completely debt free, then we will see how I feel about them.)
I am tired of continuously paying them off month after month. It is true that I spend more money with my credit card. It is scary how easy it is to use my credit card. I am considering closing some of my accounts, but I haven’t made a decision on that yet.
8) This journey has made me stronger than before
Being 22 and watching all of my friends go out has made it hard stay on track. I don’t go out as much anymore because I am tired, but I also don’t want to spend money. My priorities have changed tremendously since the end of last year. I am completely different than I was and I am very proud of that. Many people don’t understand, but when I am a home owner with no mortgage, it will all be worth it.
I am proud of how hard I have worked to get to where I am now. Anything is possible if I actually try. As of the end of April, I have paid off close to $2000 in debt. I have also never been charged interest on my credit cards. I exceeded my expectations tremendously with this journey, but I am excited to kick start it a little more. The last payment of my student loan is scheduled for next week! I will throw money at my Jeep payment. Payoff goal date is the end of June.
What things did you learn from your No Spend Challenges?