Monday, September 29, 2008

Spend Less Month

This is off topic from what I want my blog to be about (my journey to finish and, hopefully, publish a fantasy novel), but this is a big part of my life for the next month so I'm going to include it.

I'm declaring October Spend Less Month. I read about it on Small Notebook and an MSN article. I have a former co-worker/friend who does a "No Spend" month from time to time. I'm not that hard core. That I'm not concerned about spending in general. It's a tool, I just want to understand how I use it.

We don't spend more than we make. As a matter of fact, we save a decent amount each month. That being said, we spend sooo much. I always joke that we are single-handedly making sure the economy keeps chugging because of all the crap we buy.

The Challenge:
We are going to limit ourselves to $400 on all non-gas and non-revolving bills.

The (Hopeful) Results:
I want to be more aware of my relationship with money. I'm very lucky for the resources that I have, but I think that if I go on a one month "money diet" of sorts I will appreciate those resources so much more. And might be less tempted to use them on a whim.

The Reward:
At the end of the month we are going to look at our credit card bill (to get points we put everything on the credit card and then pay it off at the end of the month) and see how much less we spent than the month before. We are going to take that money and invest it, but I'm not sure where. We will figure that out at the end of the month.

Honestly, we are pretty good on keeping the revolving bills down. We run the AC/Heat at the minimum needed. We don't have cable. Paid off the car. Don't buy large items that we really don't need (ie--still no flat screen TV). Our problem is the accumulation of all the little things. Dinner out. Lunches out. Starbucks. Clothes. Crappy little things that we end up throwing away. The line between wants and needs can get real blurry at times, especially if you can afford it.

$400 for food, entertainment, and impulse buys for two people during the course of a month isn't that drastic. Many families of 4 do fine on that. Some of them do it on much less. I'm sure some people are going to be reading this and thinking that I'm melodramatic, but you have to start somewhere! Growing up my family was very frugal. We didn't even buy boxed cereal because it was too expensive (instead mom made homemade oatmeal). Pete's family had to be frugal as well, although our families picked different things to be frugal about. I'm sure that we have the tools and integrated habits to break our new spending habits that we've developed over the past couple years. I'd rather start trying now rather than in a few more years when we add a little "plus one".

I got buy-in from Pete this morning when I told him that he could buy his new computer (that he's been eying for almost a year, waiting for the price to drop) if and only if he agreed to the $400 Spend Less Month. He and I have the same primary concern: socializing. We go out to eat with friends. It's our thing.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions for less expensive entertainment ideas?

5 tidbits:

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I think it's great you're doing this. I was in credit card debt for years and paid it off before moving to Mexico. Now our lifestyle is SO drastically different from how we lived before that I don't think I could ever completely go back. I miss movies and dinners, but right now we just don't have the money for it. Anything that helps you appreciate what you have is a good thing.

Good luck!

Lola Starr said...

This is awesome. My roomate and I just sat down and did budgets for the month last night. I am SO horrible with money. I like this no spend/less spend month idea though. I don't have many suggestions unfortunately....maybe instead of going out to dinner with friends, do a potluck dinner at someone's house? That way still socializing and cheaper.

Andrea Coulter said...

Good luck with the 'money diet'! My friends and I do a lot of socializing, but since I'm living off of my savings right now I have to be very careful not to run out to dinner every time someone wants to. As alternatives, we do a lot of dinners in with people, either potluck or something inexpensive like spaghetti. It helps that my friends, like me, are not hard to please :)
Also, for friends that I live near, we get together and go walking while we socialize, or play tennis or something. It's free, and it's better for my waistline than eating out!
Again, good luck, I know you'll learn a lot with this.

Lauren said...

melanie, karma and lynn, thank you all for your well wishes. I'm pretty excited, but already seeing how often I spend money. Another girl at work is doing it with me so that should help with the "positive peer pressure" route.

I like the potluck idea, karma, and will be trying that tonight while watching the debate.

lynn, that walking idea is great. I've got several friends that live within a few blocks and all of them are normally on a fairly tight budget so I'll suggest that.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're giving this a try! It definitely helps you appreciate what you have. I bet your friends will be thankful for spending less too, I think it's great you all can help each other.

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