K, so today’s post is a little different than usual. Today we are going to talk about money.
Money is kind of a funny thing to me. I have always enjoyed learning ways to make money, but I have a huge interest in ways to save money. It is actually one of my hobbies. (Duh, it’s called FREE Stylin’ after all!) I love watching shows like Suze Orman, or listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show. When Oprah had money diet episodes I’d DVR them. Both The Hubs and I have read numerous books about money saving tips, getting out of debt tips, and tips on becoming millionaires. (Yeah, we aren’t there yet. Don’t worry.) To me, slashing my own bills, watching my bank account number go up, and actually physically counting the money I have saved is seriously The Best. I have always loved it.
I have not always been good at it.
We won’t go into the long version of our money story today. Maybe someday I will blog about it. But I will give you just a tiny bit of background. We have been Dave Ramsey people for 5 years now. Friends of ours recommended his book, and I happened to read it during one of the absolute worst WORST financial times of our lives. I didn’t know that it was going to be our worst time when I started the book, but reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover while we watched our lives crumble financially was the only thing that kept us going. We had something to look forward to. It gave me hope at a time when we were about to choke. “I highly recommend it” is a complete understatement. Please read it if you haven’t.
Anyway, things have improved for us since then, and we continue to follow The Dave Ramsey Plan for the most part. Sometimes we don’t, and it only takes a little slip up, a rough month, or…you know…adding a new member to the family…to make us check ourselves.
Back in July I came across a fascinating blog post by Rachel at Small Notebook. Her family has taken a “No Spend Month” Challenge almost every July for the past 4 years or so. They don’t spend “no money.” The challenge is to only spend a little money on necessities. (More on that in a minute.)
I read every single post that lady wrote (all four years of their Challenges!) and couldn’t get enough. I mentioned it to The Hubs but couldn’t stop thinking about it. We talked about it. A lot. We had a few weeks before August 1st and decided to “hypothetically” plan what we would do if we took on the Challenge. We hashed out all the issues and “what ifs,” and, by the end of July, we knew we wanted to have a Money Fast during the month of August.
$50 a week. Yep. That’s what we did. We chose an amount that was challenging yet doable to spend on
It DID NOT include rent, utilities, health care, or insurance.
Here are the two questions I got asked the most: How do you honestly live on that? How did you pay for gas and groceries?
First and foremost, we took our children into consideration when we began the challenge. They did not eat any less than they usually did. They did not starve. I would have gone without food myself, if I had to, before they did. That was never an issue. All of their needs were met. All of the time.
The most important thing we did in this challenge: PLAN
We planned everything together. Beforehand. Not after the fact or during a really rough part. (That’s when it would be the easiest for us to give up.) The Hubs and I discussed pros and cons at length. We talked about what-ifs and worked them out. We communicated with each other the whole month – checking in to see how we both felt about things. I don’t think this would have worked for us if we weren’t on the same page.
So, how did we pay for gas?
We started off with a full car. We refilled while the needle was still above the halfway mark. (Why is it that cars get better gas mileage when they stay above the halfway mark?). The Hubs and I also made it a point to take the least gas guzzling car when we had to go farther distances. We didn’t drive extra places during the month. And we utilized the cruise control. Call me a granny, but I drove 55 mph whenever I could. Yes, it was slow. At first it was a little annoying. But then it became a game. My car tells me how many miles to the gallon I am getting, and I started to challenge it to see if I could get better gas mileage. I enjoy watching the numbers go up. And guess what else? Even though I thought people would care, no one actually cared how slow I was going. Sure, no one wanted to be behind me, but I stayed in the slow lane, and people just drove around me. No big deal. We still got everywhere on time. And…I noticed that when you aren’t eating out a lot, you don’t drive as much.
What in the world did we eat?
We ate a lot of vegetarian meals: beans, eggs, grilled cheese, peanut butter, tuna, canned salmon.
We ate breakfast for dinner – pancakes and eggs and milk. I pureed beans into our spaghetti sauce or used them as a white sauce with frozen broccoli. (Go HERE for the recipe.)
I made sure we always had seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal. So, the boys had a banana with their cereal or peanut butter toast. The Hubs added protein powder to his oatmeal. I used our leftover veggies and protein powder in my veggie shakes. We pureed carrots or squash into the mac and cheese.
NOTHING was wasted. We ate leftovers. All the time. Until they were totally gone.
I made it a point to plan my grocery list and menu BEFORE we went to the store. I remember that on my best day at the store I spent $21 for a week’s worth of food. The most we spent at the store in one trip (for one week) during this challenge was $37.
But what about meat? Well, we used what was in our freezer and pantry, too. But instead of making something with a pound of ground meat, we stretched it out by only using half a pound for that meal. We also had a bunch of canned chicken from Costco, so I went on Pinterest to find recipes.
We did not got to the store on July 31st and stock up on everything. We just ate from our freezer and pantry. I made a list of the things I could make with pantry staples like pancakes, homemade rolls, and freezer jam.
I also tweaked a few of our regular recipes, so I will share those with you in another post.
As far as our sweet little baby goes, no, I am not nursing anymore. So he does require formula. As part of our planning, we decided to use gift cards and coupons for his formula this month before we added his formula to our grocery list, and that saved us a considerable chunk of change. On the day I went in to get his formula, the store where we had the gift card just happened to be having a sale on his formula. There were only three boxes left, and that was the amount we had on the card. It was just meant to be.
What did we do for fun?
Well, first of all, we took advantage of our YMCA membership. We already paid for it – why not use it? The kids and I went swimming. They played in the kids’ playscape while I worked out. I took some classes I had been wanting to try. (Oh my gosh – I freaking love Aqua Zumba!!) We went once to the dollar movie. The boys also loved going to the local splash pad and swimming at my grandparents’ house. A friend and I traded babysitting so our boys could play one day a week at their house and one day a week at ours. Before the challenge, we ate at Chick-fil-A A LOT and used their playscape to get out of this Texas heat. But you know what? They let you use the playscape even if you just buy a soda. Sometimes the boys would get water or share a sprite. One day I got a coupon from them for a free sandwich, so The Hubs was able to use it later in the month. I had also accumulated a free meal from one of our other favorite restaurants, and I saved it for a day that I had plans for lunch. We stayed home a lot in August, but we played with the moon dough, jumped on the tramp, and read lots of books from the library. We even rented a few movies from the library that we hadn’t seen yet. Free!!
As far as blogging projects go, doesn’t it sometimes seem easier to buy supplies for a new project than to finish an old one? But I’m so glad I did. I finished a lot of things I already had all of the supplies for but had been putting off. Our painted entry table, and the little table in our room, are two of the projects I’ve already showed you. There is also some artwork in our room (post coming soon!) that didn’t cost anything extra. I just used what I already had. It was fun, too, because the boys wanted to join in in the creating. They painted while I painted, or drew pictures, and built huge race tracks and created YouTube videos with the camera. (They haven’t talked me into letting them post them, though. I don’t think that’ll happen any time soon.)
Now, I’m not going to say that our house is sparkling clean from top to bottom, because that would be a flat out lie. But I did notice that we kept things cleaner during no spend month. When you can’t focus on what you don’t have, what you do have is glaringly obvious – sometimes in your face. (Dirt and clutter included.) I found myself wanting to keep what we do have nicer and neater than I had been. And because I was home more, I straightened and vacuumed more. The Hubs swept more. We washed counters and weeded out papers more. It’s easy to count your current blessings when you aren’t planning for your next ones.
We also tried to find ways to serve other people,
which wasn’t easy at first. Usually, I would take someone a meal or buy them a treat. Now I needed to do it without my pocketbook. I had to get creative, but I found it is possible. My parents, for example, moved about 45 minutes south of us while we were doing this Money Fast. During the move I insisted they come use our washer and dryer instead of going to the laundry mat. I wasn’t able to offer a huge sprawling dinner while they were over here, but we did have a great time visiting and the kids loved hanging out with Grandma and Papa. On a different day, I was able to go help clean someone’s home as a surprise. They were totally not expecting it, and we sent her pictures of us with our cleaning supplies right as we finished up. It didn’t cost any of us a dime – only time. But time is what was needed anyway. I did realize, though, that when it comes to serving or helping others, it is great to have some money freed up so you can do that. When you are burdened with debt and money issues, you are not as free to help others. At first I felt like I couldn’t give, and that really bugged me. Yes, in the end I realized that I could give in different ways, but it also makes me want to be in a position that I can give monetarily, too, if I needed to.
Not only did we try to spend less, we also found a few ways to bring in money.
We were home, and we decluttered. We pulled out things we no longer needed and set them aside. I put a ton of things on Craigslist. We held a huge garage sale with my parents and siblings. And I did a few crazy things, too. I started saving water in our house – showering with a bucket next to me. It collects the extra shower water, and we use it to water the lawn. We also collect our water while we’re waiting for it to go from cold to hot. This goes on the lawn, too. Our water bill is down $50. Not too shabby.
What else did we learn?
It’s amazing what you can do with what you already have. We have been so blessed with a car, with food on our table, with a home, with possessions. Sometimes we act like they are such a burden. Sometimes we ask for more than we need. Sometimes we are too picky with our blessings. It’s amazing what you can do with what you already have.
Would you be up for a Money Fast? Have you ever tried a No Spend Challenge? I tried to think of everything you would want to know about our experience, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section, and I am happy to answer them.Pin It