By Jessica Searcy Kmetty
In Part I of this blog series, we introduced you to Meredith, a self-described community creator, home curator, minimalist, hipster mama who is raising 3 “wonderful wilds” in NYC. We talked about how she manages finances for her family, how she and her husband discuss their money scripts, and her philosophy on debt and spending. In Part II, we’re going to dive deeper into something she has been trying out with her family – no spend months.
What is a no-spend month?
You may have heard of No-Spend November. For many families, this is a time where they try to not spend any “extra” dollars in the month of November so that they have a better cushion leading them into the holiday season. This means necessities are still covered, such as a mortgage or car payment, electric, healthcare, etc. But anything above those recurring bills are cut out. Some even go so far as to set a reduced food budget limit, but that’s optional depending on your family’s needs.
However, no-spend months are not limited to November or a month leading up to a big event. You can practice a no-spend month if you are budgeting for an item in the future, if you feel like your spending has gotten out of control, if you find your house is building up with clutter, or if you just feel like making a reduction in your life. You can think of it as a way to hit “reset”.
Below, we chat with Meredith about how this works for her family:
Why is budgeting important for your family?
Money in general, and budgeting, is my husband’s strength. I have struggled through budgeting and money management, and had to learn the hard way that credit cards can be dangerous. However, I’m continually learning and improving and seeing how budgeting can have a huge impact on my family.
We can live the lifestyle we live (where my husband works in the corporate arena and I am currently home raising our children) because we budget.
Was there an instance that solidified this mindset for you?
Yes! I once found myself in a situation where I used a credit card to purchase items for my four year old’s birthday party. Because I wasn’t in the routine of regularly using credit cards, I forgot about the bills and months went by before I remembered the charges. I was late on the payment and became really anxious about the situation. It was not a conversation I wanted to have with my husband but I knew to solve it, we had to have the discussion. We called the credit card company together and because we hadn’t been late before, they did waive the late fees. However, they did not waive the interest.
This pushed me to check in more regularly to all my financial accounts, to set up free credit monitoring, and to use a mobile app for easy access. It’s a learning process to be aware and pay attention, especially if money management isn’t your strength. But, there are so many tools available these days that make it easier so you can’t use the excuse of forgetting anymore.
How did you become interested in a no-spend month?
I read “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders, and this author self-imposed a shopping ban for an entire year. I started looking into other people who had tried this technique and wanted to see if I could do it myself.
What did this month look like for you?
My husband and I keep our finances separated into multiple categories. He has his own budget for travel and work necessities, and then we have separate accounts for our home, groceries, children, etc. When I set out to do my first challenge, I wasn’t including my husband’s portion, it was just a challenge for myself.
I meal planned so that I was more aware of what we already had at home, used those ingredients first, and made meals more intentional as a way to maximize our grocery budget. I planned our outings in order to cut my gas bill by $10 per week. This may seem like a small part, but it snowballed into a $40/month savings.
Each of my children have a $30 incidental spending amount each month, or rather I have that month allotted to each of them, and I tried to bring that as close to $0 as possible. As far as I’m concerned, we don’t NEED anything.
When I made purchases, I asked myself if it was in the budget and the no-spend guidelines, but I also asked myself if the purchase aligned with my values. Does it add value to our lives or just clutter? Does it follow my hope to reduce our waste and packaging? These rules became even more important during no-spend months.
Pictured: Dahlia Picking Lettuce from the Garden
What challenges have you faced during no-spend months?
During one challenge, my mom recommended a book she had just enjoyed, and I immediately added it to my Amazon cart. Then I thought, HOLD ON! I’m not supposed to spend money on extras so I took the book out of my cart. So many times in life, our first instinct is to spend money without even thinking.
Another day of my challenge, my kids came with me to Target and found a toy that was only $9.99. It seemed like such a small price to pay for something I knew they would enjoy, and I had a really hard time saying no.
It’s really the little things that you mindlessly spend money on throughout a month that add up to a large dollar amount. If you can be more intentional about those little items, you may realize there’s a lot of room in your budget for the more important things.
In general, what is it like to say “no” to instant gratification items (even those that seem like must-haves) in order to say “yes” to the more important things?
If I have a shopping trip planned, thinking ahead to how I’m going to be feeling is beneficial for me. The moment you’re in a store, unprepared, and see something super cute, it’s so easy to talk yourself into why you need it and how it will make your life better.
But remembering that once that item comes into your home, you have to find a place for it, you have to update your account ledger to show you no longer have the money that the item cost, and you have to know the money won’t be there in case of an emergency… The buyer’s remorse sets in quickly!
You might have a nice feeling at the time you purchase something fun, but I generally seem to wish I hadn’t made the choice after I think about it and the good feeling hardly ever lasts. By not making these purchases, I know I’m working toward goals that really relate to our values as a family, those important items, and those bring the most joy of all.
Even if Meredith’s story doesn’t immediately have you penciling a no-spend month into your planner, I hope it gives you confidence to say no to the impulse purchases and work toward the “important things” in your life.
Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.
The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.
Published for the blog on October 4, 2018 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.