Last month was no spend month over at Northwest Edible Life. Great idea, great activities, great information about cutting down on expenses and making your spending work with your values. Trouble is, I did pretty badly. A friend lent me a car for over two weeks of October, and I took the opportunity to stock up on every thing that I’d been putting off for months. This was good for the pantry (and my sewing supplies, and my bookshelves, and the medicine cabinet). It wasn’t really so great for the budget, though. I didn’t actually go over my monthly budget by that much, especially given how often I was out and running errands, but I also didn’t save anywhere near as much as I wanted to, which was the whole purpose of the endeavour.
Since I didn’t do all that well, I’m going to use November as my no spend month to see how things stack up when I’m not trying to take care of every errand that suddenly seems possible and practical. In truth, I already save a lot of my income even when my spending is a bit higher than usual, but I’m always looking for ways to be better and to cut down on unnecessary purchases. Plus, since I’m looking to a buy a pressure canner and have a few more big acquisitions waiting in the wings, the more I can save, the better.
After I pay all the regular bills in a given month – rent, electricity, health and tenant insurance, and Internet – I generally spend about $400 on everything else. This includes food (but J. also pays a good portion of our food bill, and I’m not yet sure how that will factor in), health expenses, transportation, work expenses, gifts, fun stuff (usually books), and miscellaneous expenses (cell minutes, home-related projects, and so on).
For November, my goal is to reduce this spending to $200, or $50 a week (a number that’s do-able, but I imagine will be a bit of a stretch). This will mean some cuts to food costs, which can probably be managed through the stockpile of food that we have here and some more judicious grocery shopping. It will also mean some cuts to other areas and trying to keep an eye on expenses, even if they seem somewhat small. Looking at where I am, I think I’m in reasonable shape. We’re well stocked with food, toilet paper, prescription medication, books, and a good lot of other things. By rights, the only things I should be buying are perishable foods and bus tickets over the next month, and I shouldn’t need to spend much, if anything, on health, transportation, work, or miscellaneous. As for fun, I I’ll be cutting down there too, but I’m trying to make sure I have a bit of time out with friends and family here and there to offset all the extra time I seem to spend working these days, so I’ll see how this goes.
In some ways, this feels a bit odd to me. I just spent a bunch of money stocking up on a bunch of different things. Holding off on purchases or relying on my stockpile to save money now doesn’t negate the fact that there will come a month where my expenses may be higher because we need more medication, or toilet paper, or to replenish the rice. But, at the same time, it’s important to start somewhere and do what I can, and I’m hoping that if I do this regularly I can not only save more money in a set month, but also get more in the habit of keeping expenses low in general, without needing a particular period of time in which to really keep an eye on things.