I've decided to take on the Living Well & Spending Zero challenge for the month of October! Want to join me?! Wondering how to do it? Ruth Soukup, the creator of this challenge, has created some great resources to help you along. Not only will we not be spending money this month, we'll be completing daily challenges to help us use what we have, get organized, be creative, and foster gratitude for what we do have. You can get the daily challenges delivered to your inbox, or in a convenient paperback or kindle book format (affiliate link). I'll be following along with the challenge with her paperback version.
Does this challenge sound crazy? Yes, it absolutely does! Am I really excited to take it on? To be honest, not really! Let me explain my hesitation.
Just like all good things, I believe this challenge will take time, and time seems to be a rare commodity these days! I love the idea of saving money, but let's be honest, often saving money requires and investment of time. Between preschool runs, a hectic soccer schedule, and the normal demands of home life, I'm kept pretty busy. Combine that with the Brilliant Business Moms podcast and blog that my sister and I are developing and growing, that leaves precious little time for extras.
So if you're not psyched up about this challenge Sarah, then why are you doing it? Well, my husband Mike and I discussed it, and we could really use a shake-up of our finances. A lean month will be really helpful, and the discipline of not spending money we hope will reset our spending expectations. We are in the habit of creating a monthly budget and recording what we spend, but each month we seem to go over budget. Mike and I think this challenge will help retrain us to make better spending decisions and at the same time save us money in the short term. So although it's going to be tough, we've decided to give it a try.
That being said, if we don't end up making it the entire month, we're not going to berate ourselves too harshly. We're going to give it the best shot we can, for as long as we can, and see how it goes.
So what are the ground rules? The idea of the challenge is to spend zero on non-essential items. Ruth suggests you make a small list of essentials that you are allowed to buy. Mike and I decided that we will only spend money on fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, milk, eggs, and gas for the car. The gas is necessary for Mike to get to work, and the only driving I usually do if I'm not running errands is to preschool, kids activities, and church.
So what do you think? Want to try? I'll be updating this post every so often with how I'm doing on the challenge. I'm going to try and do as many of Ruth's suggested activities outlined in her book as I can, but I won't be able to get to all of them. Let me know if you decide to join in the “fun” of Living Well & Spending Zero! The fun begins October 1st!
Well, 4 days in to the challenge, and we've had some successes, as well as some failures. Let's start with the successes! On Day 2 I saw a beauty product recommended for Rosacea in a magazine. I have Rosacea, and am always trying to find a product that will help control it. In a typical month, I think I would have went ahead and ordered the product to try it out and see if it would work, but this month I said no! On Sunday, Day 4 we had an away soccer game for my daughter Lilly. The game was an hour and a half away, it ended at 5:30, so we didn't get home until 7:00 that night. In the past we would have planned to pick up fast food on the way home since it was dinner time. Because of the zero spend challenge we brought along snacks for everyone to eat in the car, and we fed the kids a late dinner when we got home. Victory!
I suppose I should fess up to our failures. Failures already? Yes, I know. On Saturday, Day 3, Charity and Sullivan had soccer pictures. Mike is coaching Charity's team this year, and this is Sullivan's first year playing soccer. We debated whether or not to order pictures, but we ultimately decided to do it, sentimentality won out. This cost $14 each or $28. On Saturday we also discovered that Mike was out of deodorant and blue cheese for his salads. I think deodorant counts as essential! I'm torn on the blue cheese, because Mike takes a salad almost every day for work, so he uses blue cheese a lot, and he buys an economical big bag at GFS that will last him the month. On Sunday, Mike bought the kids each a donut at church.
Total spending so far? $150. This includes a $46 fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk run I did on Day 1 (I went a bit over board on fresh items), gas for the car, and our mess-ups. Not terrible, but we need to continue to do better.
In Living Well & Spending Zero, Ruth recommended that you organize your pantry, plan your meals, and organize a meal swap on these days. Great suggestions! I had just organized my pantry the week before, so that was done, but I still need to plan some meals. I think I'll skip the meal swap for the sake of time, but it sounds like lots of fun!
Well, we have done pretty well this week I'm excited to say! We have run out of cereal, so I've been making muffins and bread pudding to compensate. Mike even made pancakes Saturday morning! Yesterday we had hamburgers for dinner, but we didn't have hamburger buns. We considered running to the store, but instead I busted out the bread maker, and made a batch of dinner rolls that we used for the hamburgers. They turned out pretty good!
We've had a few minor purchases which were not necessities, so let me tell you about those. I was at a craft store with my mom, and noticed that they had a package of tea lights for $1, and I knew I was out of candles for our carved pumpkins on Halloween, so I splurged on that $1 purchase! I had $10 Kohl's cash left over from September, and Lilly was in desperate need of pants. I went to Kohl's and looked for the cheapest pair of jeans they had, after Kohl's cash, I paid $6 out of pocket. Not the worst! Mike was a bad boy at church this morning and bought a $2 coffee. The proceeds benefit the youth group so he said it counts as a donation. I say that goods were exchanged, therefore its a purchase! I tried to talk him out of it, but he could not be persuaded!
Other than that, we spent $21 on milk, fruit, and veggies, and $49 on gas for the car. All of that gas was for Mike's car, and he actually gets reimbursed by work for each work mile he drives at the federal mileage rate, so all of that should actually be reimbursed back to us at the end of the month. I'm including it here just because we do track it each month as part of our budget.
Total spent this week was therefore $79. Total for the month stands at $229, $95 of which is gas that will be reimbursed. Not too bad! I'm pretty proud of us so far!
How am I feeling, has it been tough? It actually hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. I'm starting to wonder how we spend so much money other months! The one thing that is getting increasingly tough is that we are running out of “fun” food. Our snacks are dwindling quickly, but I'll hold out for as long as possible!