No Spend September

Image illustrates no spend monthly challenge concept

Could I do it? Not buy anything I didn’t “need” for an entire month? I wasn’t sure I could. However, a No Spend month seemed like a fantastic way to kickoff our new budget, designed to help us pay off our remaining debt significantly faster. Also, it’s easy to talk the Minimalism talk, but it’s important to me that I also continue to walk the walk.

The rules were fairly simple: we would keep our weekly budgeted fun money, but it wasn’t to be spent on things. Instead, we could use it towards a fun experience, or for a shared meal at a locally owned restaurant. We wouldn’t be placing any online orders, allowing impulse buys, or purchasing anything that isn’t considered food, or necessary for health, work or basic hygiene.

How did it go? Well there are a couple of days left, but so far, I’d say it’s been fantastic! I avoided going into any stores besides the grocery store and pharmacy, to make sure I didn’t get tempted with impulse buys. We went for walks and bike rides, went to a lecture at the community college planetarium, met a friend for pinball, had a fantastic meal at a new local brew pub, and otherwise focused on reading, crafting, and making meals to use up food we had in the garden, deep freeze and pantry. I also planned Christmas decor and gifts based around homespun delights, and got a start on some of those.

I kept up my new bullet journaling habit, set a daily intention, and satisfied myself with recording things I wanted to buy in my “Anti-Impulse 30 Day Waiting List” page. Surprisingly, after an entire month, there were only three entries on my list: new leather boots for fall/winter (the ones I bought at an outlet 4 years ago have worn out), essential oils for health and cleaning products I make for use around the home, and VOC-free red paint for my front door. (I’ve always dreamed of a red front door, cheery and welcoming, and believed to usher in good luck.)

My husband’s work truck was running roughly, so he went to the local auto parts store and had them run a free diagnostic. A spark plug was bad. We borrowed tools to remove the plug and discovered it was actually a frayed cable leading to the plug. He was able to purchase and replace the cable for $38. Since we get a lot of rain here in Oregon in the fall and winter, we needed to make sure our gutters were free of debris, but we don’t own a ladder tall enough to check. Luckily, our next door neighbor was happy to let us borrow theirs, and we were able to not only clean our gutters ourselves, but also prune some trees and bushes growing against the house to help prevent wind damage, more debris falling into the gutters and to keep airflow moving around the home to prevent water damage and decay.

A key part of minimalism isn’t just in owning less, but also in having the few items you do own be of high quality and something that can be repaired/maintained rather than tossed at the first sign of use or malfunction. Fostering goodwill with the neighbors by plying them with copious amounts of garden delights and canned goodies goes a long way in reducing the number of tools you need to own. If your neighbors don’t have what you need or you don’t have that type of relationship, you can always check to see if there is a tool lending library in your neighborhood or post to your local Nextdoor, Trash Nothing, or Freecycle groups.

As much as I want to celebrate what we got done this month while living frugally, I’m especially excited about what we didn’t do. I didn’t worry about finances and was more comfortable taking days off when my fibromyalgia and Sjogrens symptoms were on high. I didn’t spend my precious Saturday afternoon shopping. Instead, I napped in the waning sunshine, meditated, and read. On Sunday afternoons, instead of schlepping around the home improvement store or running other mundane errands, we sat on the deck, listened to music, and worked on a latch hook craft project reminiscent of a hobby we both shared as kids. We didn’t add a bunch of waste into the system, and we didn’t encourage corporate greed and irresponsibility.

I really enjoyed No-Spend September and plan to do it again early next year. It was a fantastic way to prioritize what’s really important to us and make sure we were spending our resources doing what we love with the people we love. If you’ve done something similar, be sure to share in the comments!

Oh, and totally unrelated, here are a couple of photos of happy, healthy frogs, snakes and other flora and fauna we’ve spotted in the yard this month. (The hubby requested a blog post on frogs, and compromise is one way to foster marital bliss.)

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