September Spending Fast Recap

As many of you know, I challenged myself to a no-spend September, which means I attempted to avoid spending money on non-essentials. I say attempted because I didn’t make it through the month without spending any money on non-essentials — but I did pretty well.

Total non-essential spending in September: $122.69

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I found the first 2 weeks were a breeze, but after that I started to crack. By week 4 I was so annoyed by self-deprivation, I was assembling a lengthly October-1st shopping list. I ended up caving in and going to dinner for a friend’s birthday ($35) and buying a dress from H&M ($62). I had a devious plan to return the dress, then buy it again once the calendar turned over to October, but I figured cheating was essentially the same as breaking the rules, so there was no point.

All in all, a successful month. Not spending on crap let me afford $200 in textbooks and business cases for my MBA, which after 8 years of post-secondary is something I should know to plan for but never do. Because my boyfriend-now-fiance also got on board with a no-spend September, together we managed to put $400 in our joint savings account. I also managed to put $450 into my TFSA, $100 in my RRSP, and $200 in other savings for a total personal savings of $750 this month.

This means reigning in my spending for September resulted in about $1,100 of captured money, which after my textbooks, almost all went to saving.

Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about caving in a few times! I also kind of get the advocates of an uber-frugal lifestyle, because banking this every month would be incredible (though if I can’t even make it 4 weeks without slipping up, I know it’s not sustainable!)

Overall, cutting my spending for a month was awesome. It resulted in less waste and more cash in my pocket. How was your September?

September Spending Fast Mid-Month Check-In

Happy September 15th! Winter came early this year and snow has already fallen in Calgary. It’s melted for now, but I still feel like we skipped Fall entirely. Good news is I haven’t been skipping out on my spending fast, and have cut all unnecessary spending out of my budget to the absolute bare minimum. Here’s my mid-month check-in!

Total unnecessary spending in September so far:


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Bed Bath & Beyond – bought some goodies for the apartment with a $100 gift card… but the total came to $100.74 so I had to fork over the extra seventy-four cents. Whoa, big spender.

Alcohol - my MBA program had a welcome back party at a local bar the first Saturday of the month. 1 drink ticket was not enough for me, and I ended up buying 2 glasses of wine. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did.

Tea – on Friday I woke up with a sore throat to rival all sore throats, but that’s no excuse for the stupid $4 tea I bought. I was just wandering around and wandered into Teavana, and after sampling one of the teas they had out, I was too weak-willed not to buy. I nearly choked when the clerk told me my tea was $4 but I didn’t know what to do — say, “that is stupidly priced, I’m not paying!” ?? — so I just paid and left. Gah. On the upside my sore throat was soothed, but I’ll be bringing tea from home this week.

Gift – I bought a coffee for my boyfriend through the Starbucks tweet-a-coffee program. It cost $5. I have no excuse for this, it just made me so sad that he had never tried a pumpkin spice latte before.

Though if a single tea was my biggest spending mistake in 15 days, I’m not going to beat myself up. Let’s be real here people.

Things I wanted but did not buy:

  • tickets to Maroon 5’s new tour
  • an Amazon Kindle
  • a rain jacket
  • rain boots
  • an umbrella
  • nailpolish
  • eyeshadow
  • sweaters
  • coffee every day
  • …. and a ton of things I’ve forgotten because I only wanted them in passing and they are completely unimportant and I’m so glad I didn’t waste money on them because I can’t even remember what they are anymore!!

I can already see the savings in my bank account by not spending everything that comes in, but I’ll wait until the end of the month to give a recap of actual extra dollars in my pocket.

It’s been hard to turn down dinners & lunches with friends, but otherwise it hasn’t been as difficult as I thought. You kind of get into a rhythm of I’m-not-spending-money-today and it becomes habit. After enjoying a decent income for the past few years, I’m happy to see returning to a super-frugal lifestyle hasn’t been as big of a pain as I expected — though I know a lot of the ease comes from the understanding that it’s 100% temporary. If there was no light at the end of the tunnel, this would be much harder.

Anyone else on a spending diet with me this month? How’s it going so far?

September Spending Fast

Happy September! September always marks the end of summer for me, and since Fall is my favorite season, I couldn’t be more excited. I’m hoping it doesn’t start snowing until late October, but I am looking forward to that chill in the air, pumpkin spice lattes, scarves scarves and more scarves, and teensy tiny bit of happiness about going back to school.

Originally the end of summer meant the end of my MBA summer internship, but employer has extended my contract which means I am NOT going back to school broke! I am taking this week off to complete a block week class, but as of next week, I’ll be working ~30 hours per week and completing 2 evening classes. It’s about 400% easier than last term, with less than half the academic workload and nearly 3x the income. So many wins.

Having a job this Fall changes a lot of my spending plans for the better, so you might be wondering why I’m starting of the school year with a drastic budget cut.

But what is a spending fast?

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It’s the practice of reducing your spending to only essential bills for a fixed period of time. This means giving up spending on things like new clothes, dinners out, coffees, house decor, magazines, movies, etc. in the interest of saving money. 

It is drastic but it is NOT permanent. 

The spending fast is not a new concept, but I think one of the most popular champions of the practice is And Then We Saved, who did a year-long spending fast. I’m not quite that enthusiastic and feel a 30-day reset will be sufficient.

Why bother with a Spending Fast?

  • Temporarily reducing your spending forces you to evaluate your wants vs. needs, and more often than not you come our realizing you really didn’t need to buy everything you wanted to and are doing just fine without it.
  • Procrastinating the purchase of things you really want by 30 days makes buying them later a bajillion times sweeter, because in addition to getting something you really want, you’ve added in the element of delayed gratification. The only thing better than getting something you want is getting it 30 days later.
  • You will keep more money in your bank account by avoiding spending on non-essentials. Having more cash leftover at the end of the month means more money to meet your financial goals such as paying off debt or putting extra cash towards an emergency fund, travel, or retirement savings.

I need a spending fast this month for a number of reasons. First, I’m completing a block week class the first week of this month, which means I won’t be in the office. Since I’m still paid hourly, I’m losing a week of work and therefore half my pay on my next paycheque. The easiest way to cope with a drop in income is to spend less!

Furthermore (and perhaps more importantly), I want to go on a vacation! I cut travel from my budget as a grad student, but with a full-time income again I’m looking forward to getting on a plane to somewhere new again. Lastly, having a wedding or party to attend all the time threw a wrench in my meal plan every damn week. Whenever I ate bad on Friday-Saturday-Sunday, it took me until the following Thursday to feel better — at which point it was time to indulge once more. My fitness goals demand that my body is fuelled appropriately, so I’m using September to hit the reset button before Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas.

How I am managing the September Spending Fast:

  • I already eat at home most evenings and bring a lunch to work, so I don’t need to drastically curb any dining out.
  • My house is so well-stocked with wine from my housewarming, I don’t have to show up empty handed to any MBA parties.
  • My Starbucks card is at $23 with one free drink only 2 more beverages away. Since I loaded the card up weeks ago this money was “spent” before the spending fast started. Phew!
  • I have tons soaps, lotions, and just ordered fancy schmancy shampoo so I can stay out of Sephora. But I also have 6 empty MAC container which means I can get a free eyeshadow if I feel the spending itch!
  • I’ve pre-ordered both Taylor Swift’s and Maroon 5’s new albums, as well as Margaret Atwood’s new book, so I’m not going the whole month without anything new.
  • I am pretty sure my mascara can make it another month.

But the real secret to cutting my September spending? I don’t need anything I can’t buy on October 1.

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!