Fortunately, as a dual income family that has always “lived-within-our-means”, we are generally able to buy what we need, when we need it. We also generally have the means to buy what we WANT. For that, I am truly thankful. We’re looking to redesign our lifestyle, however, and that includes reigning in our discretionary spending to allow for more travel. We have a big savings goal for 2013, and have also…gulp…calculated our per day cost of living. So, I thought…
Let’s go 7 full days without spending a penny.
I shared my idea with Ben, he rolled his eyes, and dutifully agreed to my crazy scheme.
- Mortgage and bills are paid to date
- No grocery purchases
- No fuel for the cars
- No gifts
- No giving to charity –
- No restaurants or coffee out – (that’s Ben’s frown)
- No using gift cards or prepaid meals
So, how did we do?
If you’ve ever dieted, or gave up something delicious, you know the first few days are difficult. It.Is.All.You.Think.About! Same for me on the first day of no spending. Would you believe me, though, if I told you we actually made money this week?
When I first posted the kickoff to this project on Facebook, one friend said something was sure to come up. In fact, two things came up – a Christmas tree and “chips & dip”.
Christmas tree: We really needed one because a special person is coming to visit from California (Hi Grandma!) and we wanted the house festive.
Chips & Dip: Ridiculous, I know, but Ben’s work was having a potluck and this was his assigned item and we had nothing resembling chips & dip in the house. His coworkers were not likely to go without snacks for the sake of my spending fast.
How did we handle these critical expenses?
It was important to stay true to our zero spend goal. So, I pulled out my selling hat and posted a bunch of stuff on our local Buy, Sell, and Trade Facebook group. One hour of work on Friday night netted $83 on Saturday in meet ups and money under the mat– books, toys, clothes, even a dog harness.
Now that we had some unexpected cash, we needed to make the most of it.
We always visit the same tree farm, cut our own tree, and have our picture taken in their decorated barn. After some complimentary cider and yummy butter cookies from the big blue tin, a nice teenager then bales the tree and ties it to the minivan. We then tip him a folded up $20, which he gratefully puts in his pocket without looking. As we drive home we picture his (hopefully pleasantly surprised) reaction when he finally unfurls the 20-spot. This tradition is pretty important to us.
Ben said “well, with our budget you can’t tip the teenager $20 like usual.” WHAT? That’s a highlight for me!
So I said, “Well, what if we got a smaller tree, between $40-50, so we still have $20 in the budget to tip?” Done. Sweet!
Having a clear budget made our tree hunting more efficient. Our budget didn’t allow for those funky, expensive skeleton trees (ya’ know, the kind Ben likes). Instead, we chose a bushy, perfectly cone shaped weak-limbed tree (ya’ know, the kind Ben thinks look like a shrub). We ate the cookie, tipped the young man, and spilled our cider in the minivan.
Success – and right on our $70 budget.
When we got home, we pulled the seven totes of Christmas items out from under the stairs (yes, seven). After my prior haul, I was still in selling mode, so as we decorated I looked at each item critically. I ended up with a large “sell” stack made up of some Christmas favorites, like a beautiful 28” plastic “ice” wreath that drops beads all season long and kills bare feet. Another hour of Facebook selling netted $91. This was more than enough to get the chips & dip. In fact…
After buying the $44+tax tree, $20 tip, and $15.33 worth of chips and dip…we still came out $89 dollars ahead!
When not selling, what did we do…?
We went without coffee shop coffee. Sigh. It wasn’t so much the caffeine we missed (we made coffee at home), it was the experience. Ben generally purchases two coffees per day at his office (total: $1.20) and I like to go work from Starbucks an afternoon or two a week – gets kind of lonely working from home. I know, having to make coffee at home is a first world problem. We survived.
We didn’t go out to eat. This was a biggie – again because we enjoy the experience as much as the food. We don’t eat much fast food. We prefer the taste and ambiance of sit down restaurants but, who am I kidding, we often eat the same type of junk (burgers and fries, etc.). Also, our “kids” no longer eat from the kids menu, making our restaurant bill between $40-$70 for each visit. Instead, Saturday afternoon I made delicious grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread (from the freezer) served with tomato soup. “Isn’t this delicious!?”, I asked the kids, “And we’re saving so much money! I think it even tastes better than [insert any restaurant name here]!”
Blank stares became empathetic …“Uh…sure mommy, whatever you say.”
As mentioned, we ate through a lot of freezer and pantry goods. We have a freezer full of frozen veggies, salmon and steak, but I am not good at pulling said meat from freezer to make dinner planning a breeze. This week, we had to.
We ran out of fruit. Fresh fruit, and the fruit that is pressed, fermented, bottled and aged to perfection. This was a problem and poor planning on my part. Should have stocked up. Instead, we ate lots of smoothies using frozen fruit. And, Ben received a gift of two bottles of wine from a coworker. No rules against that! Whew! Of course, some random things came up that will have to be paid for later. Nothing significant, though, and while it may seem like all we’ve done is shifted our spending patterns, we definitely saved money. The biggest thing, though, is…
We were acutely aware of our spending, or lack of, at all times.
Will we change our behavior on a regular basis? That remains to be seen. I think we’ll be more mindful of our food spending and will continue selling our treasures-that-other-people-want. We have a big savings goal for 2013, so I have suggested we do this activity once per month. If nothing else, it forces me to clean the pantry and freezer.
We will make an exception for purchasing fresh fruit however. And wine, unless someone wants to donate to the cause…
So, that was our 7-day spending fast. How do you handle saving? Budgeting? Does your family roll their eyes too?