No spend March

I’m feeling like it’s once again time for me to take a bit of a spending break.  Right now, this is simultaneously a budget-thing, a time-thing, and a stuff-thing. I’m hoping that having three different concerns on my mind will make for a perfect storm of motivation for a solid month off from any extraneous shopping and spending.  The goal?  To live on less money than I currently do, free up some time, and give myself some space to declutter some stuff without bringing even more in.

The situation:

I’ve come in under budget so far this year, but I’d like to focus more on areas where I can cut back even further.  This is the time of year that I really start to remember that the summer’s coming.  Although other summers have required using some savings, this is the first year that I’ll be living off them fully – no teaching, research gigs, or contract work (for which I’m actually really grateful, since I need a solid block of time to work on my own research).  I’m always aware of this, and I always start saving early with this scenario in mind, but it’s usually around March that it really hits home and I start to consider how I can cut down our spending a bit more.

This is also one of those times in the year where I could simply use a bit more time in my days.  March is a busy month of the year for me.  February involved a lot of teaching, but March stacks a larger pile of grading, conference paper writing, meetings, and additional work on top of my regular commitments.  This isn’t a bad thing but any stretch, but it does require a solid investment of time.  My hope is that by completely eliminating the temptation for anything non-essential, I can also free up whatever time I would have allocated to shopping.

Finally, although progress is being made, I still need to get rid of things.  Unsurprisingly, continually bringing stuff home isn’t going to do anything to help with the decluttering.  Cutting out shopping should let me make a bit of headway into the overabundance of things by preventing me from sabotaging my own efforts by regularly hitting the thrift and book stores.  I had myself convinced that I didn’t really buy that much, but looking at last month’s acquisitions gave me a bit of a shock – more on this later – and I’m determined to stem the flow of stuff into the apartment.

The plan:

The plan, such as it is, is pretty simple.  I can still pay for all necessary things – rent, insurance, internet access, bus pass, and utilities.  Although I’ll be trying to cut back where possible, I can also spend money on food and necessary health related items.  What I won’t be buying is anything that isn’t a need.  This means no clothes, books, music, craft supplies, or kitchenware, which are my other semi-regular to regular purchases.

I also have a few things I want to do in conjunction with this no spending month.  As I save more, I’m planning on doing some research about what to do with that money.  This may mean looking into investment opportunities.  Or, it may mean researching a few more tangible and less traditional investment purchases, such as a pressure canner or grain mill, that could help save more money in the long term.  As I save time, I’m going to spend more time doing the research-related work that I’m hoping will make it easier for me to find a permanent position.  Finally, as I cut back on the stuff I bring home, I plan to take a closer look at the things I already own in order to clear some things out and make better use of what I already have.

Initially, I assumed this would be easy.  “No problem,” I thought.  “I don’t buy very much at all – this will be a piece of cake!”  But, looking at the numbers suggests that that’s not entirely true.  Although I don’t spend all that much, apparently I still shop and spend somewhat more than I think that I do.  Consequently, this could very well wind up being more of a challenge than I think.  I relish the opportunity, though, and I suspect that if it’s hard I’ll actually wind up learning a lot, which has a great deal of value in its own right.  So, without further ado, here goes nothing (kind of literally)!

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