As part of my goals for 2017, my handsome husband and I decided to try a "No Spend" exercise for 4 months. The main goal was just to not buy anything unnecessary. I really wanted to try it because I wanted to pay down some of our debt and I, if I am being completely honest, I have been feeling very out of control in regards to my spending. Sure, we are paying the bills every month but I know that I have been spending money without too much thought on things from groceries to books. So the No Spend time was really about getting back in control.
Now, I happen to have a brilliant friend who continues to inspire me in pretty much every way possible. We have always been able to chat about money and goals and all those other possibly uncomfortable topics, something which I am eternally gratefully for. So as we talked about my hopes for No Spend, I just kept rambling and rambling and rambling (thankfully she is also an amazing listener with the patience of a saint). As I babbled I began to realize that there was more to it than simply debt. I began to realize it was about feeling overwhelmed and incompetent. I mean, the solution to not having debt is pretty simple, right? Don't spend more than you have. So why was I feeling so out of control?
As I cleaned the kitchen and continued to talk, I began to feel empowered and excited. (Any one else like that? You know, talk something to death? I swear, this is how I process certain things. Crazy!) And then my friend mentioned Dave Ramsey again. Yes we had talked about him before, especially when she and her husband were buying an expensive used car for cash and I was like, "Wow! That is amazing." In all honestly though, can anyone tell me why? I mean, if it were my kid, I would say to him, "if you have enough money, you can buy it." Why am I not living the same way? I used to be so aware of how much I was spending on groceries. I kept our monthly bill (not including milk) under $150 and we bought almost all organic, except for a few things for us grown up. What exactly was I doing?
After our conversation, I couldn't stop thinking about my poor decisions. Now I know you keep reading "my" and not "we" because my husband is not the spender, I am. He is, by nature and upbringing, a saver. I am not for the same reasons. It is something I have never really done. I am more of the ok, the bills are paid and there is X left, what do we want to do with it? Not a good philosophy. The more I thought, the more I became committed to this crazy no spend plan.
Of course, December 31st rolled around and I thought about any items that wouldn't make the list of necessities over the next month. I ordered my few extras that wouldn't be necessary, such as L2's birthday present and thought, no biggie, I can totally do this.
I did great for 4 days. Don't laugh. Seriously, only 4 days! On day 4, I stopped at a store sans kids to pick up one item. At the register, as I was thinking about my next stop, I saw the Christmas cacti on sale and thought, oh those look so nice. I was paying with cash so I picked one up. Literally 2 minutes later driving to the bank, I realized that I had just broken our no spend. Let me tell you, I spent the next 3 hours going over it in my mind and I realized a few more things about myself:
1. I am a distracted shopped, especially without the kids! Without the kids, I am not grabbing only what I need and rushing out. Without the kids I am savoring that little bit of me time and perusing everything. It is easy to talk yourself into an extra soap or chocolate.
2. Paying with cash *can* be problem for me. Without having a specific plan for the cash in my hand meant I had no accountability.
3. I needed a budget.
Now the word budget gets a really bad wrap but in reality, a budget is nothing more than deciding how you want to spend your money. It is really a way to put yourself in more control. Needless to say, after realizing that money that wasn't set aside for something specifically was money that I tended to spend I came home and continued to stew. Over dinner with my husband, I told him that I bought a plant. Insane as it sounds, it was so hard for me to admit that I had failed. I could have said nothing and he would never have known but (and here's the weird part) I really wanted to tell him. I hated the moment I said it because I felt incredibly stupid, like one of those people on bad TV shows where everyone is thinking "What were you thinking you idiot!" but I told him anyway. Telling him, made me feel more accountable. I was admitting I messed up. I am not going to lie, it really, really felt terrible but as I realized that day, it was probably the best $5 I am going to spend all year. It was like a bucket of cold water and damn it, now I was feeling angry at myself. Game on, I told myself, I can do this.
So we talked about budgets and made some decisions. I have written $400 as our monthly budget but my goal is to keep it under $250. We spend about $125 in milk every month so that leaves me with $125 for other groceries. I wrote it all down and then started Googling "envelope system" because that was what my friend used. One thing lead to another and I spent a bunch of time on Dave Ramsey's site. Okay, I thought, I will check him out. I did a little reading and went to bed.
Once everything had ruminated in my brain for a day, I decided to listen to his show. A little warning: it can be addictive. Wholly moley batman, I was pretty determined to do a budget and a no spend before but listen to his shows and you too will be starting to plot permanent debt-free life. I realized that I can definitely do better so I am going to really start tracking our spending. I also have this rather competitive thing happening so I kind of want to see how tight I can go while still eating well.
Now we have a rather well stocked pantry so I am at an advantage at the moment. Between a freezer full of frozen organic meat and 50 lbs bags of flour, oats, coconut, etc. we don't have to buy too much, but those bags can add up pretty quick. I am hoping to squirrel away $350 between now and May from the grocery budget and sign up for our CSA share through New Leaf Farm because we absolutely love their produce. We also are budgeting $150 for home items such as seeds or home improvement needs. I am hoping to not use that much and tuck it into our savings.
For this month, I have already spent a good chuck of our grocery budget on 11.97 lbs of imported Brie cheese from the distributor ($3/lb on sale = $35.91) and a box of organic pretzels from Amazon ($30.50), neither of which most people would spend their money but I know that we eat a lot of cheese (tonight we had kielbasa, fresh bread, apples and brie for dinner) and pretzels with lunches are something we all love. I can see thought how $50 for a $50 lbs bag of flour will eat up a lot of the budget every couple of months though.
I plan to include an update of each month's budget in future posts and try to figure out ways to save money on organic grocery items. Feel free to share any ideas in the comments.
Do you have a grocery budget? How do you save on eating organic?
This article was shared on Lindas Lunacy,