Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Initial Thoughts on the Living Well Spending Zero Challenge

I came across a link for the Living Well Spending Zero Challenge on Instagram, I think, while we were on our trip last week.  The idea is to cut out all non-essential spending for the month of October.  Since we didn't get home until October 3, we didn't technically start until October 4, but we are doing this challenge for the rest of October. This is going to be a long post, but here goes.
Day 1: Commit. First thing first: we filled out the commitment sheet.  We are committed to doing this challenge and getting our out of control spending back on track.  We are Dave Ramsey fans in this house, but lately we've been what I describe as "gimpy gazelles".  Our paying off debt has been paltry at best, and we've fallen back into some bad spending habits.
Day 2: Ground Rules. Then we laid out our ground rules.  It might be kind of hard to read in the picture, so here goes:

Groceries. We are allowed to buy groceries.  Some people have enough of a pantry stockpile that they just eat from what they have.  We don't have that.  But we are limiting ourselves.  We are lowering the grocery spending to $275, and carrying over the extra $75 for holiday food over the next two months.  I usually go over budget from careless spending and expensive meals, so I'm trying to focus on meals that are cheaper, have less meat, and use up our freezer veggies and extra garden produce as well.

Background: Our normal grocery budget is $350, which we get on an EBT card every month.  We also have WIC vouchers for the three youngest kids, and $57 in Farmers' Market WIC vouchers that we've had all summer and haven't gotten to, which we are going to use hopefully this Saturday. (We don't plan on using these resources in the long run, but while we are paying off debt, we are taking advantage of them because our income more than qualifies us).

We are also lowering our household budget from $100 to $50.  This will allow us to still buy diapers and toilet paper.  I'm going to try to get a $25 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks as well to help with this.

We are also skipping these from our budget this month:

  • Netflix. Yes, it's only $7.99, but it's something we talked about getting rid of once regular fall tv shows started up again, and we mostly watch it out of habit.
  • Gifts. We save $35 per month for gifts, but we are skipping that this month.
  • Homeschool.  We save $50 per month for school supplies and curriculum purchases, but we still have some in the envelope, and we don't have any large purchases coming up, so we've chosen to skip it this month.
  • Car Tabs. We had been saving $20 per month for this, but we got the vehicle information in the mail, and we had more than enough to cover it for this year, so we are not only skipping this, but we actually had some extra money to deposit in the bank from this envelope!

Planned Exceptions.  My brother gets married later this month.  Our hotel is already paid for, and most of our meals will be covered by wedding stuff (rehearsal dinner and reception), so we've budgeted $100 for gas and the meals that we need to get while we are there.  I'll be bringing breakfast and snacks with, which I'll make ahead of time at home.  And if anyone offers to buy Starbucks the morning of the wedding, I won't turn them down!

We are also budgeting a little bit for Halloween candy, since we actually live in a house this year and might get trick or treaters.

Will Not Buy! The main culprits of our spending have been Chinese takeout and pizza, as well as random gas station visits on walks, where we buy drinks, donuts, and random treats.
Day 3: Pantry and Freezer Inventory. I was initially going to skip the freezer/pantry inventory, but I was surprised at how much stuff we had for "not having any extra food around".  I won't list everything out for you, although you can click on the notebook page above if you really want to know, but here are a few of the extras that we've had for awhile:

  • unopened canister of corn meal
  • unopened hot sauce
  • molasses that we bought to make gingerbread cookies once, which we're going to use for another batch or two of cookies, as well as an attempt at homemade graham crackers maybe!
  • ranch dip in the fridge, which we are going to eat with carrots for snacks 
I only found one expired item - French dressing in the fridge that expired in May, which makes sense, because Jesse is the only one who likes it, and he usually defaults to ranch dressing like the rest of us.

Day 4: Menu Planning. We will be having a lot of repeats on the menu plan, with butternut squash playing a prominent role in some of our meals, because we have a ton!  As I mentioned above, it's more about focusing on the cheaper meals for me, because we don't necessarily overbuy on most ingredients during our normal shopping.

Days 5 and 6 have been about different food things - making restaurant copycat meals, and freezer cooking.  I do a couple copycats already, and obviously if you've been reading here, you know I'm a fan of freezer cooking, so those have kind of given me a chance to catch up without having to do a lot.

The results so far. What I've found so far is that without all those extras, we are readjusting our palates to less sugar and more wholesome foods, and we're also readjusting our stomachs to eating less, because when there are less extra snack options, we don't eat as much.

I'm getting back into making some extra things from scratch, like tortillas and bread, when we run out, instead of running to the store for more.  It will be interesting to see how the food side of things plays out over the rest of the month.  Jesse has already decided he is splurging on takeout once this month is over, and I think it will be a well deserved treat at the end of a challenge, instead of what has become a fairly commonplace habit.

Would you do a month-long no spending challenge?  It's not too late to join in...

1 comment:

  1. I'll be interested to see how it goes for you. We're going through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and have been cutting back the non-essential items. We had to budget for Halloween costumes and new work boots for Pete, but otherwise we're doing an "almost-no-spend" month. Good luck!