In case it isn’t obvious by now, I think about finances and budgets a lot. Budgeting is a huge element of my efforts to live more simply. Having a budget keeps me spending within my means, allows me to save money, and makes it easier to figure out how to live well on relatively little. That said, I’ve been overspending a bit these last few months, with frequent trips to the thrift store and some extra meals out. It’s not the end of the world and I’m still saving a good bit of money each month, but I’m still feeling the need to hunker down and gather in as the seasons change, and sorting my finances a bit more seems as apt a place to start as any.
I’d actually planned for a no-spend month back in July, but I wound up blowing that pretty spectacularly (well, pretty spectacularly for me, I suppose, which probably amounts to what most people spend on eating out in a month). Knowing my summer break was over half over and feeling the crunch of the start of the school year, I tried to secondhand shop my stress away, and just kept on going. You can probably guess how well that worked long term, especially when the bills showed up, the stuff piled up, and my underlying stress hadn’t actually been dealt with at all. Although I bought everything used for a few dollars at most, I’ve brought home quite a lot of books, blankets, kitchen gear, and other assorted bits and pieces. Nothing was expensive on its own, but collectively these things add up.
So, this is my do-over. The same rules as always apply. I’ll be spending money on the usual suspects, of course – there’s no putting off the rent, power, insurance, internet, medication, food, or transportation – although I do plan to cut back where I can. But other than that, I simply won’t be spending – there will be no clothing, books, music, or housewares. The exceptions? I’m debating ordering the three books currently on my Amazon wishlist that I’ve been saving up gift certificates for – one is focused on self-sufficiency, one on preserving, and the other on making clothing. The last gift certificate I needed was just delivered today, but I haven’t yet decided if that feels too much like cheating to me. They might just have to wait until December.
I’m also hoping to use this month as a way to alter my habits. It’s been far too easy to stop in to the store browse when I’m out for a walk or bike ride and have shopping become a regular thing. So, rather than just swearing off shopping on its own, I’m going to try to think a bit more about these habits and consciously replace them with new, better, healthier ones. I’m planning to work in some more running, yoga, meditation, reading, writing, baking, and playing the guitar as substitutes. My inclination to shop still shows up more than I’d like, and I’m hoping that rather than trying to just ignore it for a set period of time, I can instead dial down the urge for good by shifting the focus.