No Spend September: What it’s really like

No Spend September just ended. I spent very little money this last month, and so did my sister. She also did this in 2012 and 2011 and 2009 and  2009. I think I have enough to last one more week without doing much shopping.

What was it like to not go shopping?

  • Freeing. I said this earlier: Planning puts my mind at ease. No daily, last minute struggle of what to make for dinner was my biggest struggle before the spending freeze.
  • Disciplined. This month put me on the path of planning my meals and grocery shopping. This feeds the freeing result above.
  • Bummed out, yet acceptable, at times. When I wouldn’t be buying a nice deal on highly perishable berries to replenish my freezer and when I thought it would be nice to take 40 minutes out of my day for a hair cut come to mind. These are not urgent matters. Deals and timing will come and go all year long. Not a big deal.

Because of where I live, grocers and retail stores are abundant and convenient. I did not find myself with a lot of time on my hands because I wasn’t shopping. I can see how it could happen — some folks who place a spending freeze on themselves do find extra time on their hands if they’re living in a place where it’s a commitment to spend time traveling to and from shopping (and actually shopping).

Did I save money? I want to say yes, but I haven’t compared monthly expenses. I suppose I could check my bank records to verify.

Did I buy any groceries? Yes. I visited the grocer for perishables only, done sporadically during the month as our meal plan dictated. My memory wants to say that receipt totals were under $15 per visit. We plan our meals for the week ahead on Sunday nights.

I have a small stockpile of various foods. After a month of not spending money on non-perishables, I did not make my cupboards bare. I’m not sure if this should be an embarrassing fact or a point of pride, but if I had a financial tragedy occur instead of opting into a no-spend situation, I might be OK for food.

My cupboards were not bare, so how old was the oldest food item I used during No Spend September? I practice first in, first out, and have for years. Everything used this month was purchased, frozen, or preserved in 2016. If we opened a home-preserved, canned good, I am sure it was dated 2015. Canning is a yearly, seasonal activity and I match our supply and consumption needs fairly well. If we opened a frozen item, it was frozen in 2016.

Did I change my eating habits? No. I still snacked between meals. I kept the same portion sizes that I used before September. I stuck with my regular recipes. My oldest child tried a few new recipes, and we had non-perishable ingredients and frozen meats on hand. I may have decreased the amount of food I ate if I were truly running out of food and had no money to replenish my supply, but this did not happen. If I had run out of ground coffee, I would have used the coffee at my office in the mornings or rationed what I had.

Did I make a stock pile in preparation for No Spend September? No. I had a stock pile for frozen meats as a result of preparing my son for college life. We did his grocery shopping at Costco before he left, and we split larges packages of meat between his place and ours.

Will I immediately refill my pantry when October arrives? For ground coffee, yes. Other stuff, no. I will refill when I am presented with low-priced opportunities.

Will I celebrate by spending money? I just went out to eat with my neighbor, and next week, I’ll get a hair cut. That is all.

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