Having been a frugal lifestyle blogger for the past four years you would think I would be an expert on all things financial. But you would be wrong. Despite living as a debt-free family for the past several years has afforded us numerous benefits, including the ability to afford to be zero-waste minimalists, there have been plenty of challenges as well. Namely, the way in which my family has bent several financial rules in our personal frugality. Such as eating at home, buying trendy clothing, and splurging on digital media. Which, wouldn’t you know, has equated to spending thousands of dollars on completely unnecessary things?
Costs our family have been able to easily absorb into our monthly budget, but these expenditures they are anything but necessary. With these expenses essentially amounting to the difference in savings, we have long since hoped to have been put back by the start of this current year. Which is why our family has decided to commit to not spending for an entire year — having started off New Year’s day 2018.
Now despite semantics, we will still have to spend money. Of course, we will still be paying bills, dues, anticipated medical and veterinary expenses, school expenditures and uniforms, vehicle maintenance, communication and blogging expenses, and tithing, to name a few. We’ve even limited our charitable contributions and political donations this year as well. With volunteering in lieu of monetary donations being the name of the game for 2018. Because beyond the basics, that’s it.
In fact, we’ve laid out a comprehensive guideline of what we know we will have to spend on. We’re also limiting the costs we normally accrue to basic toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and the like and will swap out commercial blends will all DIY products this year. Same for detergents, cleaners, and solvents too!
We’re also setting a weekly family grocery budget of $50.00 or less per week, including fresh produce, bulk shopping, and staple goods. We will also not be gardening this year but will instead be utilizing local bartering groups on Facebook, where services, such as tutoring, piano lessons, and yard clearing services can be exchanged for huge amounts of produce, canned goods, and bulk staples in my neck of the woods.
Then comes extras. Because there’s no budget for luxuries — no cinema tickets, no date nights out, no takeaway or restaurant meals, no new clothes, no holiday trips, no gym memberships, not even a KitKat bar on Valentine’s Day, we will be thinking outside the box when it comes to the extras.
For clothing, anything needed will have to be purchased second hand. All meals are eaten at home. Coffee and teas brought in to work. Working out will be done at home in our gym room in the colder months and walks on our local high school track or a hike by our local lake when the temperatures warm up.
Some of the other workarounds for everything else will include: Utilizing minimalist experience gifts in lieu of presents. Allotting iBotta savings to pay for our 4-gift Christmas, neighborhood Halloween candy, a communal family Easter basket, and Thanksgiving spread.
For personal nights, we have scheduled free activities at home on our Google Family Calendar. Date nights will be a movie night at home or an evening around the firepit on our patio. Family nights will include board games, DIY cocoa, and Hulu at home.
We’ll continue our hobbies, too! Reading and requesting free books from the library, utilizing the OverDrive app, and utilizing free educational apps. I will also use Swagbucks and earned blogging gift cards to pay for extras around the house and will be looking to review zero-waste, ethically sources games, toys, and products this year too!
Though our family has done monthly no-spend challenges in the past, such as our every other month no-spend challenges in 2015, my husband was initially worried the challenge was too extreme. you see, he’s a spender with a big heart. If his students need someone, knows a neighbor is without, or simply wants to lavish his family with a little bit of happiness from the store, he feels less than successful not being able to do so. Which is why this challenge will hopefully prove mentally and financially beneficial for my husband this year.
As a family, I think the hurt feelings of the littles and fuzzies will be minimal. They have always adjusted quite well to every challenge our family has taken on.
As for me, I’ll be using this year as a way to push my minimalism and health goals to the next level. With biking and walking everywhere as my main mode of transit, when possible. Minimizing the use of our shared vehicle. Utilizing my capsule wardrobe staples. Relying on freebies and digital finds to carry me through.
I’ve also made a rule to unsubscribe to services, influencer, stores, and shops that promote fast fashion, overspending, and excessive for-purchases coaching, classes, and ebooks. While I support all my digital sisters and brothers, I know where my financial triggers lie. I see great sales or ebook offers from fellow bloggers and want to buy them all. Which is contradictory to this challenge.
I also would love to limit the amount of time I spend in front of a screen. So if you see me unliking or unfollowing a page, please don’t be offended. Over the past few months, I have been unfollowing all groups, podcasts, and that weren’t devoted to minimalism, zero-waste living, finances, or my businesses. With more cuts likely to come. As I can’t logically follow thousands of people. Now give their outlets the respect and time they would deserve for me to consider myself a loyal follower.
Instead, I want to devote more time to finding a tribe of folks this year and plugging into those precious few in the months to come. I’m hoping this will not only help us meet our savings goals for the year but help my disposable income as a blogger and digital influencer grow too!
I’m also hoping this year will help me to make extra contributions to my personal retirement account because as an independent woman in your 30’s you need one. To add more services to my self-funded health plans. To have time to price evaluate the existing communication services in my home. Then make switches as needed. Because there’s nothing like a spending freeze to help one to reconsider their spending patterns!
While I should have pre-posted this change in our family styling, I just wasn’t ready. I still needed a few extra days to mull over what needs and wants were for the coming year.
I know this year will prove to be a valuable lesson, especially considering how many Americans live woefully beyond their means and are in no financial position to seriously consider retiring at 65. Or ever. But I believe this smart cookie will be able to figure out how to live a fabulous, intentional life in 2018 without resorting to taking orders and joining a nunnery. With a Shih-Tzu in tow.
While this challenge will at times seem tedious and kind of austere, I’m confident we’ll be able to find a route to a little extra happiness, or dare I say, enlightenment as a result. This challenge is not a personal indictment on spending or luxury. It’s just what’s right for our family in this current season of life. And it may be for you too!
If you would like to join along with our current challenge, you can do as well too! In fact, I encourage you all to come along for the ride, even if you can only commit to a few days of non-spending every now and again. I’ll be posting several times each month about my journey and savings.
I’ll also be posting on my Instagram Stories and have created a playlist on my YouTube chronicling this year’s frugal adventures. Finally, I’ve created a Facebook 2018 No-Spend Year Challenge Accountability Group. We would love to have you join in the fun there too!
So, friends, that’s what I’ve been up to the past week and a half. Preparing. Figuring things out. Living a life of much, much less. Finding ways to ensure you won’t be seeing me slipping this year. Financial and otherwise! And I hope to find you’ll be doing the same!
Now I want to ask you, do you have any financial goals you’re working to meet this year or do you have any plans to participate in any no-spend challenges in 2018? I’d love to hear all about them below!