March 31, 2020
START TRACKING YOUR SPEND
Get to know where you spend, how it makes you feel and what really matters when it comes to your money!
Let's stop pretending that being good at money means you need to be good at math. Instead, let's listen to our body and our mind.
It’s a difficult time. Right now, a lot of us are struggling financially, and without knowing what the next few months have in store, a lot of us are looking to cut costs and beef up our emergency fund to prepare for the unknown.
For the entire month of March, I attempted a no-spend challenge. In this challenge, I made a promise to myself not to spend any money on non-essentials.
I was allowed to spend money on housing, groceries, transportation, emergencies, and health – because, duh. I was not allowed to spend money on coffee, dining out or takeaway, impulse buys, and anything that isn’t a need.
For me, a no-spend challenge didn’t seem like too cumbersome of a task. I’d done a lot of them in the past, including the year I didn’t spend any money on new clothes or makeup.
That was, until, a global pandemic decided to join in on the party. This challenge ended up teaching me some important lessons that I didn’t realize I’d need, and I want to share them with you in the hopes that they might help reduce your financial stress during this difficult time.
I’m now on my last day of the challenge, and I did manage to pull through with a pretty big win, only spending on non-essentials three out of 31 days. Let’s talk about the experience, and whether or not it’s worth it for you.
At first, I wasn’t particularly mentally prepared for the journey. The day before the month began, I pulled out all of my old gift cards so that I was still able to do some “fun” things throughout the month. Although, that didn’t matter by mid-month.
Overall, the challenge was great. The timing was convenient, considering everything in my entire city closed down, thanks to COVID-19. That’s what a lot of the messages I was getting from readers would say.
“Wow, you picked an easy month for this challenge.”
“I bet it’s becoming easier and easier to save money.”
And, sure. It was. But it was also a lot harder than I’d thought.
In a month where a no-spend challenge didn’t restrict me, I’d be spending money on puzzles, and new toys for my daughter, given the fact that we’d be stuck indoors for an undetermined amount of time. I’d also be spending money to support our local businesses that unfortunately had to close their doors, and not know if they’d reopen them once all is said and done.
In an emergency, it’s hard to balance the desire to support others in their time of need or protect yourself, just in case you are in their shoes a month or two down the line. My emotions throughout this no-spend challenge have been an attempt to balance guilt and feeling grateful.
In March, I had slip-ups on the 5th, 12th, and 18th. Every single week had a minor mistake, until the last week and a half when I pinky-promised myself I could get through the rest of the month without another slip-up.
My slip-ups were nothing major. The first was my forgetfulness when we picked my parents up from the airport and forgot to bring my child’s dinner along for the ride. She was starving by the time we arrived, so I ended up having to buy her a baby burger from A&W to hold her off until we got home.
The second slip-up was a dinner with my girlfriends before our city went into complete lockdown. At that time, we were none the wiser to what was happening and were meeting to discuss our upcoming 30th birthday trip to Mexico. Unfortunately, we’ll have to postpone. I’m so grateful I got to see my friends for that dinner, and today, I would spend that money again and again if it meant things were back to normal.
The third slip-up was a birthday package that I had shipped directly to my best friends’ house for her 30th birthday that we wouldn’t be fortunate enough to celebrate in-person. Although it wasn’t essential, it felt like an essential to me.
Each time I slipped up, I reminded myself that these financial flubs are precisely what this lesson is for. Non-essential spending is inevitable. The takeaway is to manage these expenses, so you don’t inflate your lifestyle and allow these habits to become a regular part of your daily spend.
I overcame these slip-ups by acknowledging the fact that they were a mistake, asking myself if it was worth the expense, confirming whether or not I could afford the loss, and moving on. It wouldn’t help anyone if I beat myself up for the three days I spent money when I managed to avoid spending for 28 days throughout the month!
You can argue that a no-spend challenge isn’t fun, or that you don’t want to restrict yourself from enjoying your money. But, the lessons you learn, and the habits you build come to fruition a lot quicker than if you were to moderately cut back over time.
I learned a few fundamental lessons throughout this no-spend challenge that I’d like to share:
Sometimes you need to spend money on non-essentials, and you can’t prepare to avoid these costs. They’re unknown, and they often surprise even the best of savers.
You do save a lot of money! Like, more than you realize. Typically, I spend around $100 alone on takeout coffee (do not gasp; this is my one fun thing). To have an extra $100 in your bank account at the end of the month is a pretty cool feeling.
Learning what you value becomes a more natural discovery. Rather than wonder if your spending habits align with your financial goals, this no-spend challenge can confirm exactly where you spend your money, and show you what you miss.
You can recreate your budget by the end of the month. Speaking of what you miss, like, my coffee, for example, once you complete the challenge, you can gain a clear picture of what is feasible to put into your budget for regular spending.
If you want to learn any of the lessons I learned first-hand, a no-spend challenge is perfect for you. A no-spend challenge is a great financial practice for a few reasons. If you want to save money for a short-term goal, the cutbacks for one month can help you achieve that money goal much quicker.
If you already have a handle on your financial situation but want to give yourself a new challenge, now is the time. With all of the craziness in the world, most people are doing what they can to recession-proof their finances. For me, that means accepting a more conservative lifestyle with less luxury spending and more of a focus on beefing up our emergency fund.
It’s not always easy to tell yourself not to buy something, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the attempt. If you’re interested in tackling a no-spend month yourself, comment below, and I’ll post some Instagram templates for you to hold yourself accountable!
The Financial Diet and Wealthsimple sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I’m so thankful to have partnered with two of my favourite financial platforms, and I am thrilled to invite you to start investing with Wealthsimple today if you have not done so already.
If you’re doing okay financially through this pandemic, now is a great time to invest in your future. Learn more at the link below!
Oh no, you missed the live webinar! But, good news: Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a resource for anyone planning for a future child or family.
Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a free resource for anyone looking to cut back on non-essential spending. My most-requested product is these monthly calendars to share on your Instagram story, use as a phone background, or print off to track your spending habits.