No Spend Challenge – Kick-starting the year with frugal living!
My wife and I were talking the other day about the importance of frugal living: saving money, paying off debt, and building our lives together. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you that we spend a lot of time talking about this subject. When we made the decision in late September to begin aggressively paying off our debt, we never imagined we would be where we are today!
I stress about it often, though. I promise, this won’t be a depressing post – I have a ton of hope for our situation, but I want to explain how we came to our newest decision. Anyway, I try to imagine a world where we can pay off almost $200,000 in debt and it seems impossible (read about how we racked up so much debt HERE). It seems like there is no way that we could ever reach our goals. It’s discouraging to think that even through the most frugal living we can handle, it will still take us YEARS to pay off our debt. And after that, we’ll be even farther behind in our goals to build a retirement, save up for a down payment on a house, and save up for TTC treatments so that we can have kids one day. But you know what? It’s not impossible. There’s hope for us.
I have no concerns at all that we will reach our goals and live the life that we always imagined, but even more importantly: we are living our lives to the fullest right now. In the here and now, in our every day lives, we are working to reach our goals and making changes that we never expected! We created a budget that has worked phenomenally for us and are using the cash envelope system to get even more from each dollar (I’ll write more on this soon). We have come up with creative ways to save money, such as making our own homemade pasta, saving money on gas, creating meal plans, de-cluttering our home, and selling our stuff. We find ways to get free food (I’ll write more on this soon), we come up with creative things to do that are free, and we cut back on all of our expenses as a whole.
We’ve even started working extra on the side to try and earn as much money as we can to put toward our loans. We work side jobs around town (I’ll be writing more on these soon) and we work hard to make money online through various different efforts such as Fiverr, Beachbody, Fronto, Ebates, ePantry, Advocare, Freelancing, and Blogging (more coming soon too).
Yet despite all of these frugal living efforts, my wife and I still feel like we could be doing more to pay off our debt sooner and begin our debt free lives. That’s when we made the decision to create a challenge for ourselves for the month of January: one harder than ones we have done in the past.
- For October, we did a “month of adulting” challenge – where we worked hard to keep our house clean, de-clutter, and start cooking more at home. It’s also the month that we implementing our new budget which has helped us greatly. It wasn’t a tough challenge, but it started us off.
- For November, we did a “self-care” challenge – where we focused on taking care of ourselves, hygiene, spending time outside, and relaxing. It was great for our physical and emotional health and got us to where we needed to be.
- For December, we are just focusing on keeping our heads above water and replenishing our emergency fund (will write more about this soon).
- But for next month, January, we wanted to do something REALLY spectacular. Something that would truly help us to reach our debt repayment goals. Something that would change the way we look at money. Something that would change our lives. What did we decide to do? We created our very own No Spend Challenge. We will be competing against ourselves to save as much money as possible, put as much money toward our debt as we can, learn more about frugal living, and all while not spending a dime as the month goes on!
The No Spend Challenge Rules
The challenge is fairly simply, yet fairly intense as well: Throughout the entire month of January we will not be allowed to spend a dime. Why did we choose this challenge? Simple: so that we could change our lives and our spending habits by jump starting the new year with no spending at all.
Here are the rules:
- No spending money on groceries, fast food, restaurants, clothes, books, fun money, etc. Generally we set aside hundreds of dollars twice per month for these expenses, so the entirety of this money will be put toward our debt repayment goals. The one exception will be the books I need for my graduate classes that begin in January. However, this expense will come from the student loan fund and not from our budget.You are probably wondering what will happen if we run out of food. We made ourselves a deal: as long as there is some sort of food in the cupboards, fridge, or freezer, we have no need to buy any food.We are going to live off of what we have. If we get to the final days of our challenge and are absolutely out of ALL of the food in our house, then we will allow ourselves a small amount to pick up some food from the store (in moderation). We don’t see that happening though – we have stocks of canned goods, frozen meats, and plenty of food to go round.
Plus, we’ll go shopping at the end of December in preparation and we’ll pick up some essentials such as eggs, milk, butter, etc. Don’t worry – we will only be allowed our regular December allowance for this purchase, which means we’ll have to be skimpy on the second half of December as well to prepare. We don’t want to spend extra and ruin the purpose of this whole frugal living challenge! We’ll make a post about it too – so keep checking in.
- No spending money on gas – with the exception of gas to get to work. Because my wife works too far away to walk to work or ride her bike (and it’s freezing out) we will need to spend money on gas for work. In theory, we should be able to make it almost the entire month on one tank of gas if we cut out trips to the store, to the park, or just driving around for fun.
- Bills will still be paid on time (perhaps earlier). We will not cut out our bills for the month – it’s not worth taking the extra late payments that will occur. Instead, we will utilize this month to work toward paying all of our bills early and putting extra toward our debts.
- I had a question about medical and healthcare costs: anything such as these that is considered a necessity should not be put off for a month to save money. If you need medicine, medical care, or items for healthcare, make sure that you don’t cut these out. Just ensure that when you pick up your meds you don’t pick up other things you don’t need (a new blanket, Subway, etc.).
I know you’re probably wondering if it is possible for frugal living to go this far – and I can tell you honestly: I’m hesitant. It’s going to be tricky. No, it’s going to be downright HARD. But would I try it if I didn’t think it was possible? Absolutely not. I truly believe that it is possible for us to be successful in this challenge and save a ton of money over the course of the month because of it.
The hardest thing about budgeting and frugal living is doing it alone. And that’s why we want to invite you all to join us on our challenge. Sign up below to opt in to our email community – filled with exclusive tips and tricks to survive frugal living during your No Spend Challenge month.
Follow our rules or make your own! We know that not everyone is in the same situation we are in. Stick with as much or as little of the challenge as you are able in your situation, but don’t be afraid to sign up and come along for the ride!
We’ll be taking the challenge right alongside you – with daily blog posts and exclusive email information and communication, this will be the single, greatest choice to jump start your new year!
Don’t forget: sharing is caring! If you think any of your friends or family members would benefit from taking a No Spend Challenge, saving money, paying off debt, and frugal living – guide them to DIY Jahn! We would love to be in contact with them. Share our posts with them by visiting our facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/diyjahn
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