For the month of May, I have decided to take on a "No Spend Month" challenge.
The goal is to buy nothing that is not a necessity for 31 days. I've heard of variations of this challenge before. I read a book about a woman in England with massive consumer debt who stopped shopping for a year. I read about a blogger from www.gourmet.com who stocked up his pantry and survived with his kitchen garden for a month. But these examples had slipped my mind until recently.
A couple weeks ago I went to visit my brother and a few friends in Toronto. While there I spent quite a lot of money. Because of brother's generous hospitality I didn't need a hotel, but we ate out every meal, I bought expensive cosmetics and bath stuff that isn't available in Newoundland, and I picked up 23 used books. (Funny story, just after I got home there was a massive used book store at the library where I was able to pick up 15 books for $6.50, then found a cookbook I wanted at Chapters for 75% off, bringing the total number of books purchased in April to 39!)
I got home slightly reeling from my credit card total, especially considering the looming layoff from work. I knew my job was up in July, and although there are several other opportunities there, nothing is certain. I needed to save.
When I got home I did the usual things, I bought groceries, did the laundry. But there was no room in the freezer or pantry for the new items, they were already stocked. I put the clothes away and discovered that if all the clothes are washed, there's no room for them. The closet and bureau were stuffed to overflowing, I wound up piling my jeans on the floor to make room. I have too much stuff.
That day, idly surfing the internet, I came upon www.smallnotebook.com. It's a simple living blog, and the blogger does a yearly No Spend Month, in which the family attempts to curb all spending. It seemed like the perfect solution.
You pay your bills, obviously, and set aside a very tight budget for groceries, then spend nothing else. For example, you can buy fruit and milk, but not that oh-so-tempting wheel of camembert. The idea is to force yourself to really think about whether something is a need or a want.
Having never done this before, I'm not really sure how much my necessities will cost. I usually spend a lot on groceries, but that's because I like to cook and I'm always buying fancy ingredients. That's why the cupboards and freezer are in the state they are. I've decided to go with $100, because it's a nice round figure. I don't have a car, so I won't need gas. I have no dependents, but the budget will include the food I feed to Boyfriend and any guests. (Since there's no money for going out, I imagine I'll be having people in more often) That's necessary because the point is not to punish you by forcing you to end all social contact or subsist on Mr. Noodle. It's to make you think about what you really need to be spending.
I was pretty pleased with my plan. I didn't stock up, per se (I didn't really need to) but I did pick up a gift I knew I'd need. Then I had a meeting with my boss and received my two weeks notice. It turns out he can't make the changes to my position while I'm still in it. He hopes to find another place for me soon but, or course, no guarantees. So now, with credit card debt and unemployment bearing down on me with shocking speed, my little personal challenge has become much, much more important.