No-Spend August: We Did This Thing

No-Spend August has come to an end! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go back to our post at the beginning of the month where we explained exactly what we wanted to do, how we were doing it, and why. The short story is we felt like our spending had gotten out of control, buying things with wild abandon that we probably didn’t need. We wanted to give ourselves a break and reset our priorities.

The first thing we did was create some ground rules about what we could and could not buy for the whole month. We allowed ourselves to buy things that ran out, supplies for ongoing home projects (not new projects), coffee once a week, dinners out, gifts for others, and normal bills and groceries. That means buying no clothes, shoes, toys, books, home decor, things we can live without, vending machine snacks and daily takeout coffees.

So how did we do?

Great … and not so great. A week into August our (only three-year-old!) dishwasher died and required a whopping $400 in repairs. Then the same week we had an opportunity to buy tickets to see the Broadway show “Hamilton” at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, which was another $400, plus a really nice, expensive dinner out. It was 100% worth it. (They were $430 tickets each that we got for $400 total, in the 6th row center, which was so so so worth the splurge.)

But despite those big spends, month over month from July to August we still saved $660! And if we compare June to August, we spent $1200 less. Whoa. That just goes to show how out of control our spending had become and why we needed to take a step back. If we hadn’t been hit with a huge (super annoying and maddening) repair bill and if Hamilton hadn’t been in town and if it hadn’t been my birthday month, we would have spent even less!

This pie chart breaks down where our money went when it wasn’t going to random purchases. Bills and utilities took up the bulk of our monthly spending, as it probably should. “Personal” spending included things like gym payments, doctor bills, and pet food. “Shopping” is anything superfluous — clothes, gifts, home decor, etc. Our only shopping in August was Andy buying a birthday gift for me, which was within the rules we set for ourselves.

I made Target its own category because it could cover several different areas from clothes to household supplies to groceries, and  I wanted to be able to specifically compare my spending there since that’s where I do most of my shopping. If you would have asked me, I would have said I’m actually pretty good at avoiding the temptation of buying all the things at Target, but a new outfit for the kids, a new nailpolish for me, all those random inexpensive things add up when you aren’t paying attention. In August I didn’t buy a single unnecessary thing at Target. I was very careful to stick to my list, and I actually spent $150 less than in July — that’s HUGE! Comparing June to August, I spent a whopping $300 less at Target alone. Holy crap.

For comparison purposes, this pie chart shows where we spent the most in July. Some of the categories are quite similar, but shopping and Target both made up significantly larger portions of the pie. In the shopping category alone we spent more than $650 less in August than July. Yikessssss.

What we learned

  1. It wasn’t hard! Most of the time we honestly didn’t even notice a difference. I still browsed online shopping sites for fun. I still looked at all the fun new decor things at Target. I just didn’t buy any of them, which was just fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing out.
  2. The hardest habit to break was going to the coffee shop for takeout coffees. It had become such a part of our routine — and so expensive. For both of us to get our coffees is almost $9, and we were going 3, 4, 5 times a week. That’s ridiculous. But at the same time, they’re soooo good, and we like supporting a local business. However, we plan on continuing our once a week rule.
  3. I did find myself counting down the days to September 1st when I could buy new things again. So I didn’t break the shopping habit completely. However…
  4. Keeping a list helped me to prioritize. I kept a running list in my phone of things that I thought I might “need” or want as soon as Sept. 1 hit, some of which I shared in my last post: All the Things I Want to Buy When I Can Buy Things. I really wanted a pair of jogger pants (done). The kids really needed new tennies (done, but thanks to Grandma). I needed new makeup that was running out (done). I wanted some new pillow covers for fall (I may still order some)… And as the end of the month approached, I looked at my list and really thought about what things would take priority, what things I still wanted after having them on my list for a few weeks, and what things could probably continue to wait. I’d like to keep doing that.

So, what now? 

We want to keep it going! But with less restrictions. I did make a few purchases as soon as September 1st hit, but I want to keep up not spending through the rest of the month, as much as possible. There’s no reason not to. I want to see how we do through September if we don’t have a strict set of rules to follow. If I find that we slowly start to fall into bad habits again, maybe we’ll do another strict no-spend month in October!

What do you think? 

Are you inspired to try a no-spend month of your own? Do you think you could do it? What would be the hardest part for you?

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