No Spend January results are in
Can this feeling last forever?
There are some new faces around here so I’ll quickly re-introduce myself for those who don’t know me.
I’m Rebecca, a former tech worker who escaped the grind, moved to a smaller city (Portland), and now is focusing on living a simpler, slower life. I live with my husband, two kids aged 7 and 2, and dog. My favorite activity since I was young has been organizing my spaces, so I started this newsletter as a way to organize my thoughts around…well, organization.
I’m a systems thinker and apply that lens to everything in my life, from what I own, to how my house is run, to my financial life, health, and more. Here are some classic newsletters to give a sense of what I cover:
I’m in the middle of a Financial Minimalism series (Part 1 here), with the next edition on investing landing next week.
No Spend January Results
In the meantime, I wanted to give an update on my No Spend January wherein I attempted to eliminate discretionary spending for the month to reset my brain around consuming (groceries, supplements, utilities, etc were ok). We just finished a basement remodel this fall, and I was feeling hungover after all the required spending.
I disabled my social media accounts for the month as I knew resisting Instagram’s targeted ads would exhaust my willpower, and I was ready for a break anyway.
I wanted this to be an experiment, not an exercise in masochism — I wasn’t going to be hardcore or overly restrictive. I was pleasantly surprised that I was easily able to stick to my rules with a few exceptions:
We had a crazy snow and ice storm in Portland and my kids didn’t have waterproof mittens, so I bought some with a store credit (somehow store credit doesn’t feel like real money even though it 100% is). My daughter has steadfastly refused to wear her mittens and they aren’t returnable, so I feel sufficiently scolded by the Universe for this exception.
Bought some hay for a wild bunny that has taken up residence in our yard to help it survive the deep freeze, which it did! I have since realized the bunny is eating our carefully cultivated ground cover and leaving poop everywhere, so am now feeling more conflicted about this expense.
My son started a new school late in the month with a strict dress code, so I got him some new shirts at a consignment store. And while I was there I impulse-purchased a stroller bunting for my daughter. Which we haven’t yet used. A good reminder that the best way to resist buying things is to stay out of stores!
There’s a theme to my exceptions, for sure: stuff for other people. Most of these purchases had a built-in lesson, so point taken. I’m planning to slow my roll when it comes to panic-buying in advance of future weather events.
As far as results of the No Spend month, I saved a good chunk of money in January, a welcome (and expected) benefit. Our credit card bill was about half of what it normally is, which suggests that cutting discretionary spending also led me to tighten spending in non-discretionary categories too. I’ll take it!
There were some unexpected benefits as well:
The first week I had to reroute my thinking when my impulse would tell me to fix problems with a purchase. I’d have to take a beat and think of another way to solve my problem, and I always could. After that first week it became effortless to do this.
I spent way less time breaking down boxes—one of my least favorite chores. With less stuff coming into the house, there was less packaging to deal with.
Our Ridwell bin didn’t fill up as much, which somehow was less stressful. It always saddens me to see how much plastic film we accrue each month.
I’ve started using Monarch to track spending, and I’ve enjoyed setting up categories and watching progress over the month. It feels within my control, whereas during the renovation it felt like spending was happening to me.
Without social media or purchasing decisions taking up brain space, I had more room for thinking. It felt really good. I miss thinking!
I generally consider myself a pretty conscious consumer, but this past month has left me with an inner calm that I haven’t felt in a long time. I don’t worry about money as much since I know I’m spending less, and my brain just feels quieter with fewer decisions to make.
I’m planning to extend this No Spend (and no social media) period for another few months, but with a variation: I’ll make a mental note of discretionary purchases I think I need but wait till the end of each month to actually buy. There are a couple things I’d like to get (like more kettlebells for our home gym) so want to add a wee bit of flexibility.
If this system works well it might become permanent. And yes, I realize that my ingenious system here is “stop making impulse purchases,” but let’s just let me have this.
Now you: Have any of you done a No Spend month in January, or ever? Perhaps you’re inspired to do one in February…just gonna point out it’s the shortest month so a great time to start!
Ideas I’m Loving Right Now
After I heard this podcast interview, I immediately listened to it a second time.has a series “Rightsizing in Real Time” that shares super detailed ways she has optimized her home. Not only is her space stunning, she has given me tons of ideas—I’m currently scouting tree branches to use as wall hooks thanks to her. Here’s one to start with, and you can find other editions in her archive.
Elizabeth Gilbert on aging in. takes an unfiltered look at how couples handle money and divide household responsibilities. Why is the minutiae of other people’s lives so captivating? I don’t know but I want more!
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