No-spend January week #3

I have the best roommate ever: I got 2 Fuss cupcakes this week! Missing the Groupon deal of $7 for a dozen has thus far been the hardest part of my no-spend month (I know, I’m such a weirdo), but thankfully other people were wise enough to take advantage. I received my Fuss cupcakes without spending and all is well in the world!

I still have yet to use my Starbucks gift cards, which is surprising. Just haven’t been craving it I guess! I did use up most of my iTunes credits I had on my account since December because roomie got me into the HBO show Big Love. As an ex-mormon that lived in Utah for a few years (parents & some siblings still live there), I am obsessed with this series. I find it so interesting and accurate. Alas, I only have $2.01 credit left and another episode would cost $2.49 — meaning $0.38 would have to come out of my own pocket. So I’m not buying.

Yes, I’m honoring the no-spend month even when faced with a purchase of only thirty-eight cents. Admirable? Or is it out of guilt for my $40 hostel deposit? I thought of getting it and not telling anybody, but I couldn’t make myself do it.

I bought some groceries last Saturday, but I didn’t need much to top off what I had so it only cost $16. I’m going to have to get some more tomorrow or the day after, but I’m a bit astounded how cheap I eat. My no-spend month is 3/4’s over and I’ve spent less than $100 on food. I’m not depriving myself either. I always get enough to eat and it’s all very healthy. I’m impressed!

That said, I really can’t wait until I can have my pre-made chicken cordon bleu or sushi again. These are generally $6 or $7 per meal, and right now I’m eating about $2 per meal so it’s no wonder I’m saving money, but I really, really, really want my luxury dinners back. Nevertheless I’ll admit that seeing they were costing me about $50-$100 per month kind of makes me want to limit myself a little. Maybe I’ll only treat myself on Fridays or something.

The thing I miss most in my no-spend month is beer.  I didn’t realize when I started that a no-spend month was also a no-buying-alcohol month by default. Argh. It’s like being mormon again!!

So I’m 22 days down, 9 to go in the no-spend month. A good experience so far, but I can’t say I’m not glad I only have a week & a bit to go. I think when this is over, I’m going to spend a day stuffing my face with sushi & alcohol while watching a dozen episodes of Big Love, one after the other.

Just kidding.. kind of.

A no-spend January

First of all, Merry Christmas! I know it’s Christmas Eve, but thanks to my German heritage, that means I’ll get to open most of my presents this evening :) I’m very excited to give and to get!

In other news, I’m planning a no-spend month. I think it’s important, and post-Christmas will get me the least amount of criticism because everyone else will be dealing with their credit card hangovers and assume I’m in the same boat.

I need a no spend month for a number of reasons. First, I need to see of my emergency fund is actually realistic. Can I really live off less than $900 per month? Secondly, it’s good to break the cycle of how accustomed I’ve become to getting everything I want. Humans are adaptable creatures, and my income jump from undergrad has gone from feeling privileged to commonplace. It’s time I return briefly to extreme frugality, if only to reacquaint myself with just how luxurious it is to be able to say yes to new things. Lastly but not least, it’s just another way to save. With my trip to Iceland coming up, my emergency fund still needing to be topped off, my goal to buy a home demanding more cash, it’s important to me to not spend every dime that’s available. I’ve been entertaining the idea of keeping some of my emergency fund in my checking account, because with 2-3 day transfers from ING, sometimes my money is not as available as it should be — like that time I was shorted $250 and had to do a whack of cancellations of transfers to make sure I didn’t come up “insufficient funds”. I’d like to maintain $1000 in my checking at all times, so I’ll strive to put half that amount, $500, in for January — and the way I’m going to come up with this $500 is by not spending it on stuff!

So, a no-spend January means I will only pay my essentials and then spend nothing else. In other words, I will pay my rent, buy food, and pay my cellphone bill — and that’s it. No new clothes, no iPad data, no iTunes downloads, no dinners out, no new electronics or accessories. Nada. As an added kicker, my grocery budget is limited to $50 a week because, hey, my emergency fund is definitely not big enough to justify pre-made chicken cordon bleu from the grocery store even if it is one of my favorite dinners!

Will it be hard? Well, yes. I know almost none of my friends will get it — but I know the PF blog community will (thank you in advance!). Contrary to popular belief, this is not an exercise in self-torture, it’s just a way to reconnect with my values. Even though I really love money, at the end of the day I know it’s just a tool — it is not the purpose of my life and I do not need it to be happy, spend time with friends, or succeed at my job. I’ve really spoiled myself materially the past few months, and I feel I need to reconnect with some free fun to balance it out.

I’ve prepared myself by stocking up on things that are necessities like prescriptions and contact lenses. I need a hair cut and some new jeans (I ripped two pairs beyond wear this month), but those things can wait until February. Other than that, I can’t foresee any other demands on my income that will try to entice me to spend, but it will be interesting to learn how I cope when those incidences do inevitably pop up. The hardest thing will be saying no to beers after work or friends birthday parties. I did receive some Starbucks gift cards so I can probably meet for coffee, but I’m going to have to decline any other events that would require removing cash from my own pocket.

Wish me luck!