No spend month

It seems I’ve returned here in just enough time to get on board with Northwest Edible Life’s No Spend Month.  I do like a good follow-along challenge, especially when it comes to food or budgeting – it’s a good reminder of the things that I want to be doing to build a good life.

Living on a budget is high on my list of important lifestyle choices.  For a long time I’ve tried to keep my spending low and my savings high.  This is helpful for making sure we have an emergency fund, but also lets me put as much money as possible into savings in the hopes that someday we’ll be able to buy a home and some land.  It also makes me feel reasonably secure that we can live on a low income, if need be.  We don’t spend a lot, but every so often it creeps up a bit, and the occasional spending challenge is a good way to take stock.  Sometimes the spending is on things that are worth it, while some of them aren’t, and it’s helpful to reevaluate every few months just to see what’s happening.

The only hitch with following along with the challenge this time around is that I already had plans to spend some money this month.  Possibly even quite a bit of money, if I grit my frugal teeth and really go for it.

I don’t own a car, but every so often – maybe once or twice a year – a good friend of mine goes out of town and leaves me her car for a week or two.  It’s wonderful to have, especially because it gives us the opportunity to go out and take care of the things that we’ve been holding off on, like stocking up on groceries or making larger than usual purchases.

In just under two weeks, I’ll have her car again.  I’ll be far more mobile than I usually am.  Plus, I’m working more than I usually do now, and feeling somewhat more able to spend some money.  As a result, I have my eye on a few things that I’ve been holding off on buying for awhile now.  I’m not completely sold on what exactly to get, but there are a few contenders.  An All American pressure canner and Excalibur dehydrator from a store a half hour away.  A heavy-duty drying rack from the local Mennonite furniture place.  Some tools and other supplies from Lee Valley.

My plan is to follow along with the challenge.  There are certainly areas in which I can improve our everyday budgets.  We could cut down our grocery bill, and I could purchase fewer books and household things.  I wouldn’t mind working harder to lower the electricity bill.   But I’m also going to allow myself a few of these select purchases that I’ve been planning for.  Yes, they definitely go above and beyond my normal budget, sometimes by a fairly wide margin (pressure canners, I’m looking at you).  But I’ve been saving and I have the money to pay for them right now.   Plus, I’m hoping that some of them will save us money over time as we can more of our own food and dry our clothes in the apartment.

My usual budget for the month is $1250.   $1000 of that is rent, electricity, internet, tenant insurance, and extended health plan. $50 is work-related costs and bus tickets, and $150 is half of our groceries.  The remaining $50 is miscellaneous spending – things for the apartment, gifts, grocery overflow, clothing, and the odd book from the used book store not far from here.  It’s not a lot, but it’s this here that I’d like to cut back a bit, along with a bit from groceries, work, and transit expenses.  I’d like to shave at least an additional $50 off my regular budget, if not a bit more – it’s not a huge amount, but even this adds up over time.

This isn’t about being miserly or engaging in self-deprivation.  I’m not about to refuse to buy things that we need, or even cut out all the fun.  What it is about is priorities – evaluating whether it’s more important to spend the money on something that’s maybe not so crucial but feels good now, or put it away for use in the future for something that I very definitely want.  When I remember to think about spending in those terms, it helps to keep things in perspective and to remind me that although some things are important now, there’s also a lot in the future to be excited about and to save for.

As a reminder, I think I’m going to go stick a picture of a farm or a nice chunk of land in my wallet – something with some nice fall foliage, I think.  It will serve as a reminder although, if nothing else, it will certainly be nicer than seeing my driver’s license mug shot staring back at me every time I open it.

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