No Spend Month: Final Numbers and Reader Feedback

It’s time to come clean. It’s the big finale, the big reveal – did we make our No Spend budget or blow it? Did you make your budget?

I’m happy to say that we did stay within $250, and we saved up a ton of money this month. In addition to the casual dollars we didn’t spend, we made some concrete changes to our internet that will continue to save us bucks every month. We also used the time and money we didn’t spend in October to plan and save for a big purchase of LED lights this month.

Getting Creative

One of my favorite thing about No Spend Month is that it forces creativity. Case in point: about a week ago, our I-don’t-even-know-how-old coffee grinder started making a terrible, horrible, blood-curdling noise. It limped along, grinding beans for a day. Just when we couldn’t take it anymore, the machine – blessedly – died.

So, unwilling to get a new grinder during No Spend Month, we started grinding our beans caveman style:

Yup, every night, we would patiently smash the coffee beans for the next day with the ol’ mortar and pestle. It was actually quite a soothing activity, unless you tried to go to fast. Then beans would spurt up and hit you in the face.

We considered sticking with our caveman coffee grinder, or even purchasing a manual burr grinder, but in the end we opted to buy a new electric grinder for $30 (our first post-No Spend Month purchase). As I sit here typing and enjoying a smooth cup of decaf coffee, I am confident we made the right choice.

That caveman grind made a pretty weak-ass cup of coffee.

Final Week Spending

Groceries (milk and eggs and a $.99 bag of potato chips to buy off my very “busy” 2 year old son in the grocery store) – $8.93

Children’s Birthday Party Gift – $16.18

iTunes Movie Rental (our only entertainment expense of the month but you can tell we were starting to hit frugal fatigue: chips and a pay movie in one week?!?) – $3.29

Gas (a short fill, arguably cheating) – $10.00

______________________________________

Final Week Total – $42.39

Prior Weeks – $195.18

Monthly Total – $237.57

Remaining– $12.43

Verdict: Success! $12+ left over! That’s a new record I think. My inability to drive this month really helped us conserve gas, and by tapping into the larder our grocery spend was almost exclusively for dairy.

Reader Feedback, Please

This No Spend Challenge helped us financially, but what about you? Did you gain financially from this process? Did deliberately choosing to not spend shift your relationship to money at all? Did you learn anything in this past month that you will carry through into future, “normal spend” months?

I will admit that devising these challenges and posting with this frequency was not the lightest-weight blogging endeavor. My family can always do No Spend Month privately, so I’m looking to you for feedback, to see if enough people like reading about this kind of thing that it is worth blogging about or hosting another No Spend Challenge sometime in the future.

So, please let me know, how did you feel about this past month? Do you like the money saving tips and financial values posts? Is this stuff relevant to your life and your concerns, or is it not?

Thanks.

Now go roll around in the big pile of money you saved last month. You know you want to. (And after you roll around in it, how about going to the American Red Cross and donating some to the victims of Hurricane Sandy?)

Infographic: How to Roast A Turkey
Two Ingredient/Two Minute Cherry Ice Cream

Comments

  1. I did not do “No Spend Month” last month, but I still found a lot of value in your values posts, and humor in some of the details of how NSM was working for you. Should you choose to do another public NSM, I would be interested in reading.

  2. I enjoyed your posts, and the project. After all my lamenting about “not saving anything,” Rick discovered that for the last half of the month the bank was mistakenly doubling our weekly transfer to the savings account! So we ended up doing much better than I originally thought, even though we busted our budget.

  3. I found it very interesting even though I kept spending as usual. How much did you save? I would like to try it another time. If only to help clean out the fridges & freezers that we have so full. We could probably live off the food at my house for an entire year. Gaaack!

    • Actually, the one thing that is hard for me about this kind of challenge is the feeling that my larder is getting eaten down. Yes, that is a good thing but because I’m basically a squirrel with my pantry it makes me nervous to be fully out of beans or flour, for example. We saved about twice what we do in a “typical” month.

  4. I found myself skipping most of your posts on it this month because they were… um, sorry… slightly insulting. I know people who are going through evictions and losing everything, and to have someone who comes from such a priviledged background (white, upper-middle class) complaining about how difficult it is to not spend money when you have it was a little disheartening. The contrast was stark in my mind.

    I am forced to live very, very frugally — I chose that, kinda — but the reminder that so many have it so easy when my heart goes out to so many that do not (including myself) was painful. So I skipped most of this month’s posts. I’m not saying that you were wrong to do this — financial awareness is a beautiful and necessary thing — but I didn’t sign up for reminders that the money you were saving was probably about as much money as would have kept my best friend in his home of 32 years. He’s desperately looking for a place to live and someone to take his animals. I’ve offered him a space to crash, but I don’t know how long that can last. It’s a difficult situation, and it’s very personal… but I can see how those who do not feel a pinch, who are insulated from that, who have not needed to bother with minding their monies for months and months and sleepless months, would see your no-spend posts as a small indulgence, a diversion over morning coffee and pastry before they start their steady, well-paid jobs.

    TL DR: Good for you that you have so much you can concentrate on getting by on just a little. That alienated everyone not in your socio-economic bracket. Including myself.

    Looking forward to the resumption of regular programming. :)

    • I disagree that the No Spend posts are characterized by “complaining about how difficult it is to not spend money” but I appreciate your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to leave it.

    • I wouldn’t consider myself to be upper-middle class, and I certainly was not alienated by No Spend Month.

      The tone of your response gives the impression that you are very (and quite possibly overly) sensitive.

      To me, one of the more salient points of the No Spend Month posts is to illustrate that individuals and families can benefit from intentionally doing without indulgences, no matter how small–that sacrificing material things, no matter the size–can and should be a spiritual experience that reconnects a person to one’s inner self, to their families, and to the rest of humanity.

      The fact that our fair blogger suggests giving to the victims of Hurricane Sandy substantiates that very point.

      She writes with a great humor and clever wit, the tones of both of which translates very clearly through her prose.

      • Wow eb. I actually have a draft post in queue comparing No Spend Month to the many religious traditions of physical fasting in order to get to this very idea that you’ve summed up so well: ” intentionally doing without indulgences, no matter how small–that sacrificing material things, no matter the size–can and should be a spiritual experience that reconnects a person to one’s inner self, to their families, and to the rest of humanity.”

        That is exactly what these challenges mean to us. There is a bonus – more money saved to allocate to those things that we really value – but the underlying challenge is REALLY about the values, not the money.

        Thanks, I think you out-word-smithed me with this comment and I appreciate it.

        • PT, I can feel the pain and grief coming through in your comment, and I sympathize, but I think you’ve misdirected your anger here. Criticizing someone for having a steady income won’t actually help you or others in need. Erica’s working on something that’s important to her and she’s trying to help others do something that’s important to them; I don’t see how you can take issue with that. And I actually think that things like NSM show that there’s a shift going on in this society toward working on having enough rather than more more more; learning to fulfill our real needs and live according to our real values rather than spending ourselves into oblivion will only help us all through increasing charitable donations and (hopefully) decreasing income inequality. I see NSM as a small part of a very positive social movement.

      • “So, please let me know, how did you feel about this past month? Do you like the money saving tips and financial values posts? Is this stuff relevant to your life and your concerns, or is it not?”

        This is what the blogger wrote at the end of the post. The reader merely gave her opinion, which was solicited. While many readers here are sensitive to the blogger’s feelings and are defensive to the individual posting her feelings on the subject of no spending month, I feel they are kind of ganging up on her for voicing her opinion. While, she felt it patronizing in tone and insensitive to the realities of those in poverty. Obviously, she did not think the writer aware of this effect. I’m sure she enjoys other topics this blog covers since she follows it.

    • I don’t get it – I mean, I understand if the nsm posts aren’t that interesting for your situation but how can you be insulted and alienated by things you are skipping reading? Seems like that is just assuming what the posts are about without taking the time to read them. For me, I didn’t do nsm all the way but a few posts really got me thinking – but what I really want is more recipes please! :)

    • Someone keyed my car in the parking lot of Walmart yesterday. There were no cars parked around me, no carts near my car, and I didn’t see anyone on the way into the store that I might have been able to tick off and give them a reason to do something to my car. Someone just outright keyed my car because they were probably jealous that someone had something they couldn’t have.

      I feel like you just keyed Erica’s car with this post.

    • I think this is useful information for anyone at any income range. I grew up in poverty and there are things I do now that if my family had known about could have saved us money. For those who aren’t in survival mode when it comes to finances, this information can help keep them out of a dire situation. My sister will be laid off soon and she is lucky to already live a frugal lifestyle and can get by very easily on unemployment, many of her co workers will lose their cars or houses if they don’t find work quickly. We lost over 50% of our income and the only reason we were able to keep the house was because I’d already moved toward a spend less mindset.

    • Elizabeth says:

      What is “TL DR”?? Is that pointing to another post?

      • So I’m way late to this party :) but I just found the blog and have been reading thru the archives and noticed no one answered this question:

        TL;DR is an abbreviation for Too Long; Didn’t Read. It’s sometimes used to blow off a long response on message boards or to indicate a dismissive attitude towards a long rant or rambling post.

        More recently some people will TL;DR their own posts with a summary of what they’ve posted for people who don’t want to read multiple paragraphs of text.

  5. Where are you getting the LED’s? Troy and I were looking at Costco last week and they seemed to have a good price (including instant MFR rebate). But here is the thing, our CFLs are going strong and I can’t justify new bulbs when the 4 year old ones we have are still lasting (which is why we all switched to CFL’s, in the first place, right? HA!).

    Next time a bulb goes out, we’ll replace with LED, but we’re holding strong with our current CFL.

    • Homebrew Husband says:

      Probably Costco, Sarah. Our plan is to take the most frequently used lights (kitchen and a few other rooms) and replace them with LEDs. Those should pay themselves off in a year. We’ll stash the various incandescents and halogens that are so replaced and then as various other lights that are less used burn out, we’ll replace those with the stockpile of semi-used lights. Spending the up-front cost in the places we’re going to see the return first. I’d expect LED prices are going to continue to drop and so eventually it’ll just change over to a replace-as-things-fail mode.

      • Check out http://www.toptenusa.org for LED ratings, among other products rated for energy effiency and quality. I know some of the scientists/engineers behind this effort. Light quality is as important as EE and they recognize that in the ratings.

  6. I enjoyed this month’s posts quite a bit. My husband and I have lived on a fairly small income since we got married three years ago (it averages out to under $10k annually) due to medical issues and some time finishing college, but your posts were still helpful. We may be in different income brackets, but because you’re discussing tools to gain control of spending and to match it with personal values, rather than presenting tips for trimming the budget by giving your live-in nanny a smaller Christmas bonus ;-), what you have said still applies to us. I have always found you to be sensitive toward those who find themselves in different situations than your own. Thank you for your posts, and we would love it if you keep ‘em coming!

    • Btw, I shared our numbers to give you some specific context about an audience that finds your posts useful. Obviously, I can’t speak about people in other situations.

    • Thank you very much, Sarah.

    • I wholeheartedly agree Sarah; I too fall into that category of low income, actually no income at all :) and still find Erica’s posts very helpful and sensitive. Thank you Erica and please keep’em coming. :)

  7. I’m fairly new to your blog, so this was the first No Spend Month I’ve read real-time. I got a lot out of it; we have a planned job loss/move coming up, so this was a lot of useful ideas to help us both short and long-term. I’ve sent a few of your posts to my husband and we did the values exercise, and I think a few of the other posts will prompt new discussion as well.

    All that to say–I enjoy your writing style, and while I’m not going to encourage you to spend more time than you want blogging, I would really enjoy occasional months like this.

    • Thanks Tanya. My husband and I find these challenges can be really good in preparing for (or recovering from) a transition time like you’ve got on the horizon. Good luck!

  8. Matt Jarvis says:

    At first I was going to jump in here and give an enthusiastic YES! to more topics/posts such as this one. I probably still will, but in a minute…

    But I’d just like to take a moment and give PT’s posting more serious thought. In my teenage years things were pretty grim around our household, but we survived (barely)… somehow I managed to get my butt off to college and pay my way through that… Later in my adult life I came oh-so-very close to being without a place to live after being out of work for about a year, but luckily something came up that saved me at the last minute. I’ve scraped blue stuff off a bowl of beans, toasted a stale and moldy piece of bread, and called that ‘dinner’.

    But when you stop and think about it, with roofs over our heads and at least something on the table, we’ve got it pretty good, at least compared to a lot of others.

    I enjoyed this months’ topic because it helps provide motivation for me to do the same thing, or at least hunker down and curtail my frivolous spending habit of going out for a bite and a beer after work. I rationalize these habits in my head because my job is really stressful and I feel I deserve it. Also, being recently divorced I don’t want to just crawl into a cave and be anti-social… but heck, doing so I’m sure would save me a lot of money!

    Perspective: it’s hard to think about buying a new $30 coffee grinder when you can’t afford to put any coffee in it…

    This is the month of Thanksgiving – perhaps each of us should take a harder look at that whole concept? I’ve got a roof, food, electricity to power a computer and enough free time to sit here and muse about things such as this.

    Wow – was going into a really dark place there… Anyhoo – I’d like to see more of this topic or similar.

    Matt J.
    Eugene, Oregon

    • “Perspective: it’s hard to think about buying a new $30 coffee grinder when you can’t afford to put any coffee in it…”

      Indeed. If you look at how many of these NSM posts talk about coffee in some form, you might even conclude that we are still coming to terms with values vs caffeine addictions in our spending. ;)

      I agree with you whole-heartedly re: gratitude. In fact I think it goes hand in hand with this challenge. Here’s why (and I’ll try to be brief): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonic_treadmill

      The theory of hedonic adaptation basically explains why there are so many miserable rich bastards. Beyond a pretty basic level (reliable food and shelter), stuff does not, in the long-run, make you happy. It gives you a buzz to acquire it but it has very little effect on providing sustaining happiness.

      Intentional activity, however, has a huge impact on sustained happiness. By turning savings into a periodic, very intentional activity we get a win-win: the act of working towards something valuable, and the “resetting” of our internal happiness meter.

      Example of “resetting the happiness meter,” while pushing the caffeine analogy further. If you go out to Starbucks 4 times a day (actually read about a guy who does this recently) then going out to Starbucks for that 5th time per day does jack-all for your happiness level. You honestly probably don’t even notice the $4 you just spent.

      If, however, you do not go out to Starbucks at all for a month you hedonically adapt to a life with no Starbucks. Then if you do decide to go there once in the following month suddenly that’s kinda a big deal. Maybe you just bought yourself a really great relaxing experience for the same $4 that 5-a-day guy didn’t even notice.

      And being aware of what you are fortunate enough to have is…gratitude. :)

      • Nicole S. says:

        Amen! We never go out for coffee anymore, due to costs, and small children. When hubby and I have gone out for a lunch date we ALWAYS go get a coffee after, before we head home. It is a wonderful, relaxing, very “adult” thing for us to do now, and we love it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. I realize that some people will find this ridiculous, but try going into a coffee shop to spend a relaxing time there, sipping a latte, with a 2 and 3 year old. . . .not fun for anybody.

        • Yeah, dinner out with my 2 year old son? I might as well just dump ketchup on my lap and burn $50 for all we’d get out of it. When we occasionally splurge on non-home-cooked food it is almost always take-out sushi from the market. At least at home I don’t have to tip extra because there is rice ground into the carpet. ;)

          • This is SUCH an interesting and well-written thread of comments–I am enjoying the commentary nearly as much as the NSM series of posts.

            Having the “kids” experience at restaurants and debt reduction (we have been debt-free except for our house for 6 years!) are the primary reasons I began learning to cook properly at home. Heck, I can buy a sack of duck legs for $8-$10 and confit them myself. Then, I can sizzle up some duck on the skillet to go along with some poached eggs and toasted homemade bread any time I want. For a fraction of the cost. In my jammies. Without putting shoes on my kids. The list goes on…

            Love love love your blog and have been experimenting with lacto-fermentation (a search of which originally brought me here.) My hubby, too, enjoys homebrewing and winemaking, so this blog speaks to me in many ways.

            The content is wonderful, and you have even inspired me to get into the dirt–sort of. I have some shiso and some miyazuna growing in containers on the deck. Perhaps next season, I will join the spouse out in the garden, if I can get over my “worm aversion.”

  9. I definitely enjoyed the no spend month posts. We didn’t take on the whole challenge, but I made a goal of cutting our grocery spending by 2/3 rds this month… and we succeeded! We are a one income family, with an ‘other abled’ child who functions best on restricted diet, so our food bill tends get a little too high for our budget. I bought a $10 bread machine at our local second hand store and saved quite a bit on bread. We ate the end of garden harvest, bought in bulk and cut down on our meat consumption to once a week. And we gathered creative, low cost recipes. We now have quite a few healthy but inexpensive recipes to use every month (adding more weekly) so I see no reason why we can’t keep the costs down to around half of what we’ve been spending in the past. This challenge gave us a needed kick in the butt!

    PT describes a very real situation in NA these days. Although some may consider it a luxury to be able to choose to spend less, I believe it’s imperative that we all do. Many of us may be on our way to being in a similar situation, especially if we don’t cut out our ‘need’ for more stuff. Consider it training for what may be coming. And we may just get out of that hole we’re in by doing it.

    Loved it and looking forward to more.

    • Congratulations on finding some less expensive meal options that still fit the bill for your family! Glad to hear you can carry some of the benefits of the challenge forward.

  10. As someone who has lived in desperate financial times, and now lives in much more comfortable circumstances, I really appreciated No Spend Month. Although it was not a good time to participate this month, I really am considering doing it, probably in January. My boyfriend and I recently moved from the NW to AZ and also just bought our first home. So, basically it has been a non stop hemorrhage of money for the past six months. For most of my life I have lived on the edge financially, lucky if I had five dollars in my pocket and able to feed myself for $20 a week. Now that there is more money and the financial desperation is gone, it is very hard for me to manage money. I almost feel a defiance, like I should get to spend money after all those years of deprivation. I really like your take on values, and what our values are. I think this is a really important experiment, no matter what financial situation you are in. That being said, I do understand PTs frustration, although I think it is misdirected here.
    So, I would love to see another NSM challenge.

    • Thanks Meghan. January can be a great month to do a NSM Challenge. It’s usually a time of hunkering down and eating stew and the holidays usually drain the money down a bit. Of course, things might be different in AZ, with warmer winter weather! :) If you are interested in budgeting tools to help stem the financial bleeding (been there), I really like Mint.com (free) and other readers swear by YNAB (pay) to help track and see where every dollar is going.

      • Thanks Erica. We are using mint right now, and last night wrote out a budget that I am going to try reallyreally hard to stick to this month. It will be my first winter in AZ, so not sure what it will be like. But I hope it will get cool enough to make stew at least once or twice this winter. :)

    • “Now that there is more money and the financial desperation is gone, it is very hard for me to manage money. I almost feel a defiance, like I should get to spend money after all those years of deprivation.”

      This — this is such a perfect way of describing what I struggle with. Thank you.

      • Angela – glad to know I’m not the only one :)

        • I agree with Angela: Well said, Meghan. I, too, had my years of struggle and am now better off financially. In many ways, I still feel that sense of desparation and familiarity with having ” less” even with the extra income and assets and I think that is why I spend more than I should, on things that really aren’t necessary, with little planning.
          Also, I used to live in AZ and, if you are willing to bundle up, be a bit cold and eat a little stew, you can get by with no heat!

  11. I think STH hit the nail on the head, PT is REALLY misdirecting his anger. I enjoyed the no spend month very much and hope you do it again. I’m probably older than many of your readers. My mother (who can squeeze a penny until it bleeds, and regularly does so) remembers the great depression very clearly. So did my father, as well as the family home in Ireland, the one with dirt floors and no running water.) We all have some way of knowing about bad times. Frankly, one of the best reasons to save, no matter how well you do, is to be able to help family when they need it. I look at my kids, who are supporting themselves (barely) and wonder if they’ll ever get a decent job, so, yeah, keep making suggestions.

    • Thanks KC. Dirt floors and no running water has a way of putting all other frugality into perspective, huh? Good luck to you and your kids!

  12. I discovered this blog right before NSM. Didn’t do all the challenges, but they all made me think and that’s always a plus with anything you read on a blog! I really enjoy your writing style, and the connection you constantly made between values and money. Sure, there are a lot of people right now in tough, tough, tough situations, but I think everyone can find some value in learning about their own particular values and taking a good look inside.. after all, what you spend your money (and time) on should reflect what you truly find important.. it’s tough to have to decide between the mortgage and food on the table, but it all comes down to lessons learned.. and that’s the whole point isn’t it!

  13. I read all month, but didn’t follow along. Mentally going through some of the exercises, and things like the “how much does your latte cost you” calculator helped reinforce to me that our household spending is not out of control, and that we don’t need a crash diet to help us reboot our spending. But then, most of my life, I’ve had to learn to loosen up a bit and be ok with buying crrrazy things like spaghetti sauce in a jar (as opposed to making it myself), so maybe I have the opposite problem of most Americans. :)

    I also didn’t get defensive this time around about why I wasn’t participating. I’ve had these mental arguments with bloggers before, who do no-spend or similar, angrily defending myself against what I perceived as someone telling me “Yer life: yer doin it wrong.” I *didn’t* do that this time, which I think signals some growth within myself. After all, you are offering a resource to people who find themselves in a similar position – not commenting on me, personally. So I’m glad to see that, apparently, I’ve become more comfortable with my own choices about spending.

  14. I came across your blog just in time for NSM, and I was thrilled to be able to do it. The first week went really well…then it became a slippery slope after that. My husband and I started to fall back into some automatic ways of spending, but even with that, we cut our total spending in half!!! We are so excited! We plan to do this for November too, and hope we can keep some form of it going, because this is actually how we need to be spending, or lack thereof, all the time. We only have a finite amount of money while my husband finishes grad school (and I work a little while being a SAHM). Plus, we are borrowing money to live. Every penny we spend essentially costs us more.

    Some things I learned this month: 1) it takes a lot of effort to change our habits. 2) I spend when I’m stressed. This contributed to some of our downfall. Not big spending, but a coffee here and there, and treating ourselves to eating out. 3) eating out is the hardest thing to stop spending on. 4) It feels really good not to buy shit you don’t need. 5) It feels even better when you buy the shit you actually do need.

    Another thing that was hard for me (and Erica, if you have some advice on this, I’d welcome it) was that I felt we couldn’t be particularly generous with others while we were doing this. What I mean by this is: a couple times a month, we like to have our friends over for Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) for dinner. They might bring a side dish or some wine, but for the most part, I would make the bulk of the meal. We didn’t do this in October because our grocery budget was so small. Also, my parents and in-laws babysit our daughter a couple times a week each. I wanted to make them all dinner as a way to say thank you, but didn’t because of the same reason. So, I found myself holding back from what I would normally do as a gesture of gratitude for my friends and family. I guess being creative is the way to deal with this…maybe making a homemade gift for the parents instead of buying dinner. But I’m not good at homemade gifts.

    So, that’s my take on it all. :-)

    • Well, I have two takes, and they are a little at odds so you have to take what makes sense for you at the moment. :)

      The first thought is, your family and friends love you and do not want you to go (further) into debt to demonstrate your generosity. Since you are borrowing every penny you spend, your gestures of gratitude are given at a premium right now. This will not always be the case so you may opt to give more time and less money-stuff for now.

      The second thought is, as someone who shows my love of people by cooking for them, I totally, totally understand your frustration in this area, and I think you have just nailed one of your core values: generosity / hospitality. I also think that since you are bringing people together for Shabbat there is community, tradition and faith all bound up in that act of hospitality, and it would be a damned shame to squelch all those beautiful things.

      Honestly, I think you just have to figure out how to prioritize your budget so that you can occasionally keep hosting your dinners. I think that is the values-based-answer. But that might mean cutting back elsewhere. As it is, cooking a home-cooked meal is one of the most lovely (and frugal!) ways to say thank you, especially if they bring the wine. ;)

      How I deal with the cost involved in being the host is, basically, stockpiling and from-scratch cooking. Stockpiling: I have a big freezer full of meat and fruit and a pantry full of staples. This means that I *can* cook meals for people without having to go to the grocery store. However, it takes time and money to build a deep larder, so if I were you I would focus on those ingredients that are flexible and appropriate for Shabbat…not sure what your particular culinary traditions are, but I’m thinking maybe flour for challah (usually goes on sale around the holidays); chickens and chicken liver when the prices dip – you can freeze them until needed and then make broth with the carcass that in turn can be made into next weeks chicken soup; brisket and the other relatively inexpensive cuts of meat slowly braise into yumminess – perfect for Sabbath meals. By the way, if you can find this book at the library it’s one of my favorites.

      If you feel like you need to buy the “high end” stuff when you are entertaining, but I can say for certain that the ingredients don’t have to be the most expensive if the cook’s technique and care is excellent. Which brings me to from scratch cooking: think about the more spendy store-bought components of the meals you host: can you get that cost down by making more yourself?

      Finally – No one wants to come empty handed – honor your guest’s desire to contribute by saying “yes!” when someone asks what they can bring. I think you can honor your hospitality values and stay within a frugal food budget. Good luck!

  15. I can say that, for myself, my husband and I are trying to scrape ourselves into the middle class. (We’re young and employment can be troublesome in our state.) We’ve had a good run over the summer, but my husband’s job is ending once again and our budget is going to be quite tight over the winter. Again. We didn’t participate in NSM, mostly because there were things we wanted to spend money on (plane tickets to see family for Christmas, which were already hideously expensive and would have been even worse later on) and because there’s not really much fat to be cut out of our budget. We’ve lived on my small salary for so long now that it’s second nature to not buy things, or to go out to dinner or the movies.
    However, these posts did help me to get more in touch with what I’m striving for and to help me at the grocery store. I didn’t find them alienating at all, just because I don’t make as much money as others. In fact, knowing that others are doing the same kinds of things really helps.
    Pretty much the only place we splurge is on our groceries and this month I went to the store far less because I was focused on what I could make out of what we already have. I also concentrated more on what we would actually get around to eating before it went bad.
    Also, without this NSM you might not have introduced me to the Mr. Money Mustache blog and that would have been a shame, since it’s one of my new favorites! (Other than NWEL, of course.)

    • Thank you! The eat-down-the-larder component of NSM is a huge win, in a couple of ways, I think. You save money and you are forced to get creative with food and you cut down on potential waste.

      MMM: I know, I love that blog too! I think there is a decent overlap in the values of many NWEL readers and many MMM readers. Plus he has a strong, aggressive writing style that is fun to read.

      • I also would like to thank you for sending me over to MMM, this really has changed my life and the way I think about work and money. Thank you, thank you. I, as always, did appreciate your posts throughout NSM. I adore your gardening posts and am now planning my next summer garden here in Sweden. We have alot of rain, but also colder temps but the benefit of 20 hours of daylight in the summer. Growing food for the first time will be interesting!

  16. I really enjoyed the NSM, and your tips and articles about ways to track spending, create workable budgets, and to figure out what your priorities are in terms of your core values and your spending. While I didn’t stay within the budget I’d set myself, setting that budget definitely caused me to think more about my purchases, even if I was thinking “well I want it, so I’m going to get it”.

  17. What symptoms did your coffee grinder have before it died? I grew up with a father who would fix
    EVERYTHING himself. That coffee grinder would have been dissected on the kitchen table. Some of that handiness rubbed off on me. It’s a blessing and a curse.

    I didn’t participate in NSM but I was more conscious of my spending choices and found a lot of value in the spirit of the thing.

    • Homebrew Husband says:

      The sound and vibration spoke of a bearing going South in a bad way. I think that to get the housing apart to a degree that’d let me get that far into the motor would probably have killed the thing (snap-together plastic housing, not screw-together), even if I could have gotten a replacement part. New model looks at least a LITTLE more user servicable.

      One of the things I love about living in the Internet age (even though it means that coffee grinders aren’t built to be taken apart and put back together) is that you can get the service manual for almost anything online…someone’s posted the thing as a PDF, and if you look hard enough, all the “factory service only” codes, troubleshooting steps, diagrams, etc, are out there!

  18. Nicole S. says:

    No Spend Month has greatly inspired me to get back on the budgeting horse. I am a newly devoted fan of MMMustache, and although we did not fully participate in the months activities, I totally applied some of the lessons, etc. I redid our budget, made plans to sell some furniture, will be canceling our cable tv, am working on an emergency kit, and am implementing ways to conserve water in our home (our biggest utility expense right now). I love your writing style, and enjoy blog series like this, and others. I also love new recipes, and if you do another financial challenge like this, I am IN.

    • One big & easy way that we save water is to collect it in the bathtub when we are running it to get the right temperature. Put a bucket (or two) under the faucet while its running. You can use this for soaking dishes, watering plants/garden, even flushing the toilet. It’s amazing how much water just goes straight down the drain without ever being used. :) good luck!

  19. I want to thank you for the challenge. It’s not that I needed help with controlling my spending, but that my husband and I have been working very hard to change our attitudes about money. We live in a culture ruled by money. We’re all so dependent and so entrenched in this money-economy that when we don’t have an extra dollar or two we feel deprived. I’ve actually been in that situation, and it’s a horrible place to be – always fearful of the next day’s potential disaster, which could simply be that I have to drive 20 miles and I only have enough gas to go five.

    So, we started several years ago trying to reduce our dependence and cultivate a lifestyle and an attitude of independence. I love challenges, like this one, for getting fresh, new ideas for solutions to things that, a few years ago, I would have just gone to the store in search of. Perhaps it’s a little indulgent and silly, but the fact is that at any point in time my personal socio-economic status could change – it has in the past – both up and down – and the more independent, the more self-reliant, I am, the less those little financial hiccups affect me and my family.

    And I’m not talking about having a huge savings account, either. I am talking about building skills so that, if for some reason, I can’t afford to buy soap, I can make it. If we can’t afford to buy food, we know how to grow it and/or forage it. If I can’t buy new socks, I know how to fix my old ones so they last longer. For me, these challenges are not about saving money, but rather about building resiliency in the face of a changing world.

    So, thank you. Every little thing I can do for myself saves money, but better than saving money, it empowers me with the knowledge that I don’t have to struggle to make a living, because I’m learning to make a life.

  20. I enjoyed your “NSM” very much and have started keeping a record of our expenditures for the month of November. We are seniors I am 72 and my DH is 75. We live on a fixed income and as prices escalate there is less and less money left at the end of the month. Our savings are dwindling faster than we anticipated. We live a good (not elaborate) lifestyle and are happy with what we have. Our home is paid for and we share utility expenses with our children who live upstairs. Recent unexpected expenses (dental & automotive) requied us to dip into our savings, which is why we have it, but that doesn’t make it any easier. My goal is to eliminate some of our monthly”other” expenses and build up our savings again. We have not been able to put any extra into savings in the past four years. I found a recent log of our food expenses for the month of April, 2009 and spent a total of $367.04 for the two of us which included $54.70 in coupons. I am anxious to see how that will compare with this current month.

  21. I really appreciated the NSM posts. My husband and I both came from very poor beginnings and as we’ve been blessed to find ourselves with a steady income, we’ve found that we were never trained in what to do with it. Unfortunately, for those of us who have managed to work our way out of poverty, there’s very little information out there about how to make sensible decisions on a daily basis. Most advice is too specific and has nothing to do with our reality (“To save money, stop getting your nails done at a salon and do them at home”). The NSM posts were more about values and really thinking about how we spend money. We’re trying some new ideas now and in a few months are planning on re-reading all the posts and trying again. Thanks so much Erica!

  22. Matt Jarvis says:

    I’ve been thinking that maybe a more severe action might be required to jolt me into being more of a saver… If I’m not going to quit doing beers/food 3-4 times a week after work, fine… but for every dollar I spend going out, I put the same amount into savings…

    I still get my wasteful and sinful pleasures, but at least my savings account should grow a heckuva lot faster…

    M Jarvis
    Eugene, Oregon

  23. I loved the posts this month, even though I wasn’t prepared to participate. Mostly because it’s been a very busy month and I didn’t see your challenge until a week into October. It did get me thinking about doing my own in November but I’m afraid I haven’t been very organized and I feel like I need to be before pitching it to my husband.

    It also made me realize how well we spend our money based on our own values. We are really rather frugal already but do tend to spend big on things we value, such as horses (ok, that one’s all me) and food – both our own gardening and preserving, as well as purchasing from local farmers for produce and meat.

    I definitely want to do one of these to see how we can push the envelope. I’ve enjoyed the perspectives of the commenters too and hope to use the cumulative experience to draw on when thinking of my own challenge. The great thing about having everyone comment is being able to take what applies to your life and compile those bits and pieces into your own strategy with the benefit of the experience of others.

  24. We totally followed along, and we definitely noticed considerable savings. Also, best of all in my book, I don’t feel like we really ‘missed’ out on much. We’re working at living well with less, and noticing all the things that aren’t important anymore. Getting out of debt has become a main priority. That and soup. Lots and lots of soup :)

  25. I am loving your blog- found my way to it by looking for hugelkultur. I didn’t do the NSM, although I read every post with enjoyment. Odd though, thinking back I realize NSM had a subliminal effect. I’ve cut the lunches out, repaired a bunch of small stuff, and done almost no impulse spending this month. I think NSM helped the old habits of frugality I learned from my Depression era parents, who were 1940s back-to-the-land types, to resurface in the glitzy spendy world of South Florida. Thanks!

  26. I appreciate this month, all the blogs, the links to others blogs and the readers comments. As someone who was barely scrapping by, then to having it very comfortable to back to basics it’s a good reminder that how you spend your money can affect so much of your life. We are back to having some breathing room in our budget again and I was starting to really let expenses get away from me. I didn’t follow all of the steps as described, but will be working some of them in more detail over the coming months. We did save money, but I don’t really have a number to put on it. We definately are moving in the right direction toward managing my worst expense which is food, we still ate outside the home, but dramatically less than a normal month and we will be continuing on that path. I’m hoping by the end of the year I’ll have a real budget and actually know what we spend of everything. We don’t shop for many things outside of food, or at least I didn’t think we did, with having spending on my mind, I definately didn’t buy a few things that I most likely would have. I’m thrilled to have found Mr. Money Mustache, I will be looking into the low cost smart phone plans as we near the end of our current contracts.

  27. While I didn’t participate in the no-spend month, I absolutely loved reading about your adventures and how you did it. I’m always looking for ways to cut back on our spending, and taking on challenges like yours is one thing that tempts me. So yes please! I’d love to see more about this type of challenge and tips of living frugally. This is definitely valid information for my life. And just to reminisce… I used to always grind my coffee beans by hand with an old-fashioned coffee mill. It was wonderful, and probably worked better than a mortar and pestle. There was also something so fun about pulling it down from the shelf when we had company over. It only took about 30 seconds to grind enough for my 2-cup French press, which was certainly workable when I’m the only coffee-drinker in the house.

    Thanks for hosting No Spend Month!

  28. I really appreciated your NSM posts and would love to join the next time around. I don’t know if you’ve blogged on this particular topic before (recent follower), but the next time you do NSM, I’d love a blog post or two in advance to better understand how to prep yourself for it, the conversations you need to have in advance, getting the pantry ready, etc. If you’ve already done this – I’d love a link to those posts. I started to do a detox twice a year and this seems like it would be a nice addition/complement. Thanks for sharing your experience and for the inspiration!

  29. Alexandra says:

    I am a dedicated NW Edible fan and will read anything you care to write about. That said, I really enjoy your gardening, harvesting, food prep content most. NSM posts are of less interest to me.

  30. I followed along, although I went over budget. That said, it was expected, and I think I spent less than I would have if I hadn’t had not spending on my mind, so that’s something. I’ve actually decided to use this month as my no spending month instead to see how things go, and I’m always pleased to read about things like budgeting – it’s pretty foundational to a lot of things that I do, so related ideas are always appreciated.

  31. I enjoyed the posts. I didn’t do NSM this month, but I’d like to try it in the future.

  32. Thanks for your effort. I enjoyed the NSM posts. I think it’s important to be conscious of our discretionary spending. It helps us to be thankful for what we have, and it leads to fun “outside the box” thinking like grinding your coffee by hand.

    But it’s a little artificial to stock up your pantry in prior months and use that during NSM in order to say you didn’t spend. And you didn’t really save the price of the coffee grinder — you just deferred the purchase until an arbitrary day came up on the calendar.

    It seems to me there are different types of spending. Truly discretionary spending like Starbucks and pastry are one type. Another type might be somewhat discretionary. You need to heat the house and buy gas for the car, but maybe you can walk and bike more, and turn down the thermostat to save money. Other things like a broken appliance, 6 months worth of chicken feed, or a new set of tires for the car (or stocking up the pantry) are not discretionary. And they’re long term assets that shouldn’t be charged against any 1 calendar month.

    I’d be interested in a longer term look, and/or more realistic accounting for long term expenses. For example, even if you bought 6 months worth of chicken feed in September, 1/6 of the expense gets charged to October.

    Thanks for your blog.

  33. Hi, I just recently became aware of and subscribed to your blog. I entirely missed September’s save-a-thon. I think everyone can look at their budget and figure out ways to tweak it. I know when it seems like things are tight, I do a thorough examination of our spending and make changes and let the other family members know, things are tight and they should adjust their perceived needs accordingly. Anyway, I would be interested in seeing and participating in this, perhaps in February which always seems to be my tough month (maybe because it’s the shortest, darkest and coldest and I tend to pony up for my taxes then?)

  34. I am single woman in my later 20s. I work full time and take home about $1000 monthly. I live in an RV to help ease the strain on my budget. Between paying off debt, saving for further education, and sinking money in to groceries, I generally have $50 or so ‘fun’ money a month.

    Although I didn’t participate in no spend month due to vacation and dietary changes, I followed your posts and enjoyed them. In fact, I focused on eating out of my cabinets (the few tiny ones that I have) and instead of indulging in my weekly trip to the video store, I set aside money and was able to help my sister out when she found herself desperately needing gas to take her daughter to a specialist 3 hours away.

    If I hadn’t been applying some of your thoughts to my very different lifestyle, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. Thank you for sharing YOUR perspective! It takes all kinds.

  35. Thanks for the articles with new ideas to help us save money in October and in future months. I found them helpful and insightful.
    Here is how No Spend Month went for us: http://wp.me/p2n9Z3-54

  36. I found your suggestions and progress very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  37. I admit to not doing all the exercises, though I want to come back and try them when I feel ready. I did appreciate the internet bill suggestion–I was able to cut mine in half from $42 to $21/month for the next 12 months.

    The values post was the most helpful. One of my big personal expenditures is eating out. I’m making a bigger effort to eat breakfast at home on weekdays and bring lunch to work, but most of my eating out is because that is how I get together with my friends. And because I value friendship, that is going to stay in my budget.

    I do need to figure out how to get a better handle on grocery spending though… between grocery stores and our weekly farm box (which I just canceled as it wasn’t a good value) I spent $500 on groceries in October for a family of 3 (plus one cat). Way too much!

  38. I did not partake wholly in NSM, but I did enjoy the posts! And they did force me to think a little more about the purchases I make. In today’s world the tv, retailers and even other people push you towards feeling like you need more and more stuff (hence the tv show Hoarders!) and all we end up with is a house full of stuff, taking up space and not getting used. When I was laid off, I was panicking over the fact that we wouldn’t have a surplus of food in the house – hubs calmed me saying we could probably eat for MONTHS of of what I had stored and he was right. We could, and we did live off my food stores for the 2 months I was laid off. We purchased only essential items that would obviously run out – milk, eggs (we didn’t have chickens at that time) bread. And we ate really well. I am having an end of year resolution where I rid my home of clutter – getting rid of the things we don’t use, don’t need, are broken, etc. Somewhere out there someone needs them more than we do. Thank you for sharing your frugal no spend journey!!

  39. I have to tell you- hubby and I are 2 weeks into this challenge and saving money like crazy. I have not had to touch my paycheck from last week for anything. It’s going to be sweet to have a full paycheck to save at the end of the month.

    And I want to point out something- after a few days of not spending money, my brain has stopped saying “we need….I want….buy this…. “. I guess it got the point when I would respond….no, we’re not spending money this month. :)

    Cheers! Here’s to a little extra padding in the savings account.

    Oh, and I love using up what’s in the freezer and cupboards. I’m making space for this year’s harvest.

  40. Yes, please, to No-Spending-Month-type postings. I’m reading this series almost 8 months after the fact and think it still has value. I really enjoyed the series as it inspires positive action. Note to self:
    • Revisit the budget
    • Pare down the extra expenses
    • Remember the difference between a want and a need
    • Question ‘needs’ further
    • Reinvest savings from not spending into stuff that MATTERS
    • Repeat often
    Haven’t been this jazzed about cutting back on stuff that doesn’t matter since I read “Throw Out Fifty Things” by Gail Blanke.
    Cheers!

    • Day one of my Spend Practically Nothing month – did a bit-o-research and found out the bus that wanders through our neighborhood every morning actually goes to the train station. Bought my first bus pass ($17.50) and hopped a ride this morning – leaving my car with the $4.40 / gallon habit in the drive. The bus was clean, roomy, and got me to the train station early.

      I’d love to eventually not feel like I need a car at all. Car payment, gas, insurance, registration, parking, maintenance. What a racket.

      I figure if I get the monthly pass – it will save me $30 a month in parking alone – not to mention gas and wear/tear. Plus, if I have a car waiting for me at the train station on the way home – it’s too easy to think of 3 stores I “need” to hit on my way back.

      Looking forward to this!

  41. Katherine Diefendorf says:

    Will you be doing another NSM this October? I sure hope so! I would love to participate and feel that I would be more successful if I had an informal “support group” via this blog. :) Thanks for your consideration.

  42. Hi, Erica,
    Can you write more about “Frugality Fatigue”?
    It sounds familiar, but I’m having a hard time disentangling it – as a specific thing – from things like “scarcity thinking” (fear of not having enough ever again, having to pinch every penny, actual hunger of the body) and stuff that’s tied into “consumer culture” and, I dunno, “retail therapy” or something.
    Can you elaborate? :-)

    Thanks,
    Meliad.

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