No Spend Month Challenge: Update and Take away from the experiment

Now that August is here, here is a recap of our No Spend Month Challenge with its final update and lessons and take away from this No Spend experiment:

This July we did No Spend Month experiment to see if our family of four, living in Northern California can survive with only $300: For groceries, eating out, cleaning, gardening supply, entertainment (books, movies, etc), Gas for cars, Any repairs, clothing and accessories and other items.

31 days

4 people

$300

To see recap on what is No Spend month and with Monday’s weekly updates on how we did, check out the posts below for more details.

No Spend Moth Challenge: Introduction $0
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 1 Money Spent 1st week: $104.73
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 2 Money Spent 2nd week: $33.72
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 3 Money spent 3rd week: $97.15
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 4 Money spent4th week: $18.50

Last week spending update:

Gas and Groceries only.
Total for last 5 days: $45.56

Here is total breakdown for the whole month to compare where did the money go?

Our Total expenses for the No Spend month Details:

Gas for both cars: $158.79
Groceries: $82.70
Misc: Rest of the budget
Total for the month: $299.66

As you can see, we barely made with 44 cents left over from our $300. Phew!!
Edited to add: We did not pre-stock gas for the cars or groceries prior the the no spend month experiment. Also all expense from cash and little on credit card are included here (even though CC bill be due next month).

Highlights and Analysis of this month:

  1. Gas prices are highest in the nation in Northern California, cheapest unleaded gas price is around $3.20 per gallon here. Except for our long Yosemite drive, we did not drive much and walked. Gas we had to fill in every other week, our normal gas expenses are much higher. This was consciously done.
  2. We had once had guests over for dinner and once we had to bring a potluck meal for 40 people. Our groceries expense is under $100, because we mostly used up our pantry, frozen and canned food supply this month. We still have a few cans and little frozen food left but most of food supply is used up. We were also were able to donate some goods that otherwise would have expired before being used.
  3. We did not eat out except for coffee and snacks once.
  4. We did not spend any money on repairs, clothes, cleaning supply or diaper this month as we used vinegar and cleaning supply from home for it. Zenguy repaired one chair by himself. And we used gift card (from last Xmas) to buy some diapers and we supplemented with cloth diapers for little P.
  5. I did little splurging like buying used books ($1.50) or used high chair ($10, actually needed) as Little P was growing out of his bouncer which we used as a feeding chair till now. Although we did not spend much money this month, we still were able to manage life and have fun.
  6. Both kids have no idea that we were in no spend month last month or had any budget issues. They were happy as usual. Our life style is mostly simplified anyways.
  7. Knowing we did not have money to spend, we stayed out of malls, bookstores, clothing stores and un-necessary grocery trips. We visited library more often and read books and movies from our own collection.
  8. We cleaned up our yard, organized our Gazebo, took out weeds and planted some more plants and flowers in our yard. We went for walking to near by parks, caught up with neighbors, watched movies from our small collection for entertainment.
  9. My breakdown point came around day 25th of this No Spend Month. I was feeling down, blue and bit childish as I wanted freedom to spend and not count everything before we buy stuff. It is like food fasting, which is good for day or few days but if you keep doing it always, it is not good for your health. Money fasting is similar in a way, too long of it might would have created deprivation.
  10. I learned a lot about myself and my family and our strengths and weaknesses. My family always supported me, even though this was my decision, Zenguy also curbed his spending and motivated me when I was bit down last 5 days. I also kept busy with my guest posts and commenting there to keep my mind off from my budget and it worked well.
  11. I also re-learned that we do not need money to be happy, we had a lot of good times during this month as a family. I got to see my creative side to make new meals from left over food. I was able to complete the No Spend Month challenge despite giving up hope during last week.
  12. There are many people who made this happen for me. I could not have done this challenge without support of Zenguy and my kids. I learned this concept of No Spend month, from Rachel of small notebook and I was honored to be mentioned in her post about this challenge  along with others What to eat on beans and rice budget, besides beans and rice . Also I got to know other ladies who were also in same journey and Sharon mentioned my update on her post Diary of No spend Month: day 19 too. Thanks Rachel and Sharon for the shout outs and support.
  13. I am thankful to Betsy Bargain , Vaishali and Ali sharing their money savings tips during this month. And to all my readers despite coming from various background supporting my challenge and commenting on update posts, kept me going.
  14. This challenge was not about winning or losing, this challenge for me was to make a conscious spending decision. I always thought of my self very frugal but this month made me realize I have quite a way to go and things to learn. I am more appreciative of people who live on very little every month, not because of any challenge, but because they have to.
  15. I learned that simplifying life and spending less has enabled me to stay home with both the kids and survive even with zero salary as Zenguy is between projects right now. Money may give us illusion of (temporary) happiness but happiness comes always from within.

These are my take away, analysis and lessons learned for the whole No Spend month Challenge. I am glad I did this challenge openly despite being scared of failing in front of others.

Your turn: What did you think of this challenge? Do you spend money consciously, regardless of how much money you have?

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Author: This post is written by Preeti who writes under name of Zengirl on Heart and Mind Blog. She writes articles about self improvement, stress free and slow living and believes in slow blogging.

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I am stay at home with 2 kids, married to my best friend zenguy. I am in to simplifying, slow and sustainable living, I am frugal, love reading, writing and watching romantic movies. I believe in family, friendship and community.

42 comments

  1. S. Ali Myers - Soulful Body & Mind says:

    Bravo! Woohoo!! You made it!

    I love #11. You do not have to have money to have fun. This is something that people need to take to heart. Too many times we settle for doing nothing because money is “funny” but you can do many things with a creative imagination. You proved this with your challenge.

    I can see why you got antsy and “childish” towards the end. I would’ve been that way 1/3 of the way through! This was seriously a great feat, in my opinion. My better half is so high-maintenance that I know it would be a difficult task for my family. I’m not even going to try it now. But, it was great watching you and yours kill this challenge!

    BTW: Thanks for the mention(o:

  2. rob white says:

    Great Job Preeti,
    Consciously spending Money is essential for having a great relationship to money (my last blog is exactly about this :)) My consciously spending allows me to use money in ways to, conserve natural energy, help to clean the polluted environment, and to educate rather than foolishly spend.

  3. ZenGirl says:

    Ali,

    Yes, money is not essential for having fun, people and experiences are. Money sometimes adds an easier way to things to do.

    Yes, at the end, last 5 days were hard even as constant counting and barely making it was little tough but I am glad I stuck by the challenge and finished it. I am now lot happier.

    I thought you better half was good at coupon cutting, how can she be high maintainance also? You seem like a conscious spender type of guy to me with cutting your own hair and all.

    Thanks for reading my journey!

  4. ZenGirl says:

    Sharon,

    Thank you for being part of journey with me and shout out. As you can see I barely made it and it was hard last few days. You are also winner because you also saved lot of money at the end of the month right? That was the intent right? Great job.

  5. ZenGirl says:

    Rob,

    I agree, you blog and your book 180 are both great! Conscious spending saves money and earth at the same time and being out of debt feeling is priceless! Thank you for continued support here.

    Rob, I am having a problem going through your blog site, has any one has this problem or is it only me?

  6. S. Ali Myers - Soulful Body & Mind says:

    Coupon clipping is part of her high maintenance. When I say high maintenance, I mean making something simple into a chore-filled routine. This includes shopping.

    I’m frugal and spending-conscious. I just don’t need too much to satisfy myself. I’m happy with the simple things in life.

  7. RV says:

    YAY!!! Congratulations Preethi. I am so thrilled to know that you completed your challenge successfully. Kudos to the entire family though the little ones were not aware of it. I think I should imbibe some of those spending principles in to my mind and heart so that they don’t think different. Being a consultant I feel conscious spending is quintessential to lead a happy and content life.

  8. Denise says:

    Good for you! I joined The Compact back in January, in an attempt to not buy anything new for entire year. I lasted a little over a month. (My downfall? A book, of course.)

    Like you, I felt that the whole experience made me a more conscious spender, even though I fell off the wagon, so to speak. I still consider each of my purchases very carefully, so there was definitely a lasting effect. It might be good to do a no-spend month every now and then, just to keep my inner compass pointing in the right direction.

  9. Mgirl says:

    Preeti,

    I was so eager to see the final update with anticipation. Hurrah! You made it! Looks like you hardly spent anything un-necessary from the looks of it. Bravo! Spending $300 for me, with friends and outings comes easy even without kids and husband to worry about. So this is impressive.

    I hope zenguy gets a project soon! Good luck.

  10. ZenGirl says:

    Ali,

    Now I see, so she works hard for shopping!

    I can tell you seem like frugal and conscious spender, which is good. You both balance each other!

  11. ZenGirl says:

    Radhika,

    Thanks for coming and checking out my final updates. Yeah, kids are little too young to know much, my 5 year old knew a little but not enough to bother his lifestyle. Kids are generally simple, it is us grown up like me have to re-learn things.

    What type of consultant are you?

  12. ZenGirl says:

    Denise,

    Welcome! Yes, I have done compact before too. Books tend to be my weakness too, I have to work on that still! I bought books in no spend month (albeit used) but got some so I will not feel deprived!

    You seem like a conscious spender and that is not falling off wagon in my eye. You achieved your purpose! Good for you.

  13. ZenGirl says:

    Mgirl,

    Thanks for waiting for this final update and commenting. Yes, spending is lot easier than saving money. I can spend $300 in 30 minutes easily! You as a student probably are frugal too.

    Thanks for best wishes for Zenguy! I will pass it on to him.

  14. Marion Anderson says:

    Preeti

    Well done! You have inspired me to keep a list of my spending for the month of August – just to see where money escapes to.

    So how are you going to celebrate your achievement?

  15. Rachel says:

    Good for you Preeti! I am so impressed that you kept it under $300! Day 22 or 23 is always my hardest day when I want to be able to just buy something without having to think so much about it. I always come away from the month thinking about my friends who struggle to make ends meet like this on a regular basis. You did such a good job.

  16. Marko -- Calm Growth says:

    Oh, that was close Preeti :) I’m glad for your success, but I am even more glad that you learned a valuable lessons. On practical example, you showed us all the real process of growth. There were difficult moments and success and failure and ultimately valuable experience and lessons that you’ll use in further growth. Congratulations!

  17. Alien Ghost says:

    Hi Preeti,

    Congratulations! You made it :)

    It is just amazing how this no spend month challenge you just finished can teach so many people, not only the important thing in life are with us (family and loved ones), but also how to face a falling economy with hopes of still having a great life, even if the habits of spending too much become a thing of the past.

    In your process of learning you have taught so many! :)

    Raul

  18. ZenGirl says:

    Marion,

    Thanks. I am glad. Let me know your August expenses go. I am happy to support and gives you tips if you like.

    How am I going to celebrate? By buying much needed groceries to restock and buy my favorite junk food treat! (I know not good but I can use it :-)

  19. ZenGirl says:

    Rachel,

    You have been such a inspiration, I barely made it. It was hard last 5 days for me but I am glad I stuck to it and made it. Most important thing I feel proud of that we did not pre-stock anything and we hardly spent money in blow expenses yet we had fun!

    Thank you again for the shout outs and inspiration for me to start this challenge! I learned a lot about myself.

  20. ZenGirl says:

    Marko,

    Yes, 44 cents only, barely made it under the budget! Thank you, yes I learned a lot that we do not need money to have fun! and I am not as frugal as I thought! I am happy I did this though!

  21. ZenGirl says:

    Raul,

    Thank you, yeah I made it. Last few days looked like I might not make it as we were running short on everything but I am glad for this.

    Yes, if we have to, I realize many of us can be quite creative with cooking and having fun. With economy being down, my some friends things frugality is in thing! but it should be, no matter how economy is doing, sustainable lifestyle is always better. But you already knew that! Thanks for coming to check out my update.

  22. Jean Sarauer says:

    Yay! I finally got over here to read this post and am so happy that you met your goal. That’s amazing and I’ve really enjoyed following along on your journey. You’re an inspiration to so many, Preeti, including me. I don’t spend much these days because of not having kids at home anymore, working from home, being vegan, gardening – our lifestyle is pretty cheap :)

  23. Kait Palmer says:

    Yaaay!!! That is so awesome you kept it under $300 for EVERYTHING! It definitely is habit forming, and now that I CAN buy a latte…I don’t feel the NEED to like I did a month ago.

    I went through the same phase of wanting to get something just because I wanted ice cream or some other frivolous thing. The hubby and I splurged the last week on two large, ice cold bottles of beer that were $2 each and we felt so spoiled!

    Congrats, and glad to see how much you learned! Its definitely inspirational!

  24. ~Carla~ says:

    You did absolutely AWESOME!!! There is NO WAY I could only spend $300/month so i’m soo inspired by you! I’ve started my own no-spend month and barely scraped by the first week.. eek! Hoping to save some cash over the next 3 weeks!

  25. Sibyl-alternaview says:

    Preeti: Congrats. You made it. I was keeping my fingers crossed for you and was waiting to see if you would come in under $300. Great job. I admire how you set your goal and then just made it your reality. That is really what is all about. I can only imagine how much you learned about conscious spending. Thanks for sharing your story.

  26. ZenGirl says:

    Jean,

    It is good to see you here always, yes this challenge was very rewarding and I learned a lot about myself and family. As as avid gardener, I bet you can save lot on those organic veggies and fruits from home and eating healthy is added bonus.
    I can tell you and many other blogger I know have simple lifestyle, which is pretty neat.

  27. ZenGirl says:

    Kait,

    :-) Yes, you did well too! I have checked out your no spend month journey too and go ahead and celebrate with latte, you deserved it.

    It sure gets easier not to spend as time goes by! I am quite happy for you and thank you for sharing this journey.

  28. ZenGirl says:

    Carla,

    Thank you for kind words. I am sure you will do very well on your no spend month august! I will reading along your journey and cheer you on. If you feel low sometimes, just say hello, I am here. I know you can do it!

  29. ZenGirl says:

    Sibyl,

    Thank you, yes I made it, barely! Our life style is pretty much simple anyways but I guess I never had to count money before buying so that was harder to do but like I said, we still had lot of fun! we do not need lot of money to have fun. Thank you for reading my story and encouraging comments.

  30. Jean Sarauer says:

    Yes, we do save a lot because of our garden, plus it is such good exercise to work out there. I can and freeze some things too. I love the simple life! Just tonight we went out back, built a small fire and sat under a canopy of stars. It cost nothing yet filled me with happiness.

  31. ZenGirl says:

    Jean,

    Sounds like best way to spend evening! Added health benefit of working in garden and getting to eat home grown veggies and fruits is priceless!

  32. ayo says:

    hi preeti,
    how are you?
    it’s great to see you cross the finish the line with your head up.
    this challenge was in a class of it’s own.
    thanks for the article for the magazine. i’ve been so busy with it this week. you should get an update shortly.
    take care of yourself and enjoy the rest of the day.

  33. Betsy Bargain says:

    Zengirl,

    I’m so proud of you! I knew you would be up to the challenge and would stay within your budget. Even better, you learned many ways to have fun with your family without spending money. This should help you keep your budget under control EVERY month! Thanks for the mention in this post!

  34. Aileen says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!
    This is great “Both kids have no idea that we were in no spend month last month or had any budget issues. They were happy as usual.” That hit me in a good way.
    The other part that hit me was the feeling of deprivation and your point about fasting. Even when we choose to be frugal it is good to feel abundant – and there there’s a certain amount of frugality where we feel abundant and then there’s too much were we feel deprivation.

  35. Melinda says:

    Wow that is amazing! I’m not sure I could have held out that long. I’ve been known to clean out the freezer though while avoiding the grocery store as long as possible. Still, even if you were cleaning out the food you had already, that is an extraordinary accomplishment.

  36. ZenGirl says:

    Ayo

    Yes I crossed the finish line! I agree, it was harder than I thought, specially towards to end but I am glad I did it.

    I am looking forward to your next issue of Magazine!

  37. ZenGirl says:

    Besty,

    Thank you. I was not so sure how it would go but I worked hard to stay under it and i worked. I sure learned lot of things, some of it I knew but I re-confirmed it. Your site was quite helpful for savings ideas during this time, thank you.

  38. ZenGirl says:

    Aileen,

    Yes, most kids are generally content like my 2 kids, issue is mostly with adults with wants and desires, like I have.

    Saving money without feeling deprived is very important otherwise we could binge spend later on, which actually defeats the purpose.

  39. ZenGirl says:

    Melinda,

    Welcome! Even I was not sure I was going to last! I just one day at the time and went slowly. I am glad I used up my pantry and freezer as now I have plenty of space to put new stuff (but not too much).

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