Let’s find out if we’re closing the month of our 30-Day No-Spend Challenge with more in our pockets.
Here’s a recap of the month and final thoughts from our Stnce team:
Marie has been meal prepping all throughout the Challenge. Not only has it helped her save money, it’s also given her a fresh perspective on her spending habits and environmental footprint. It’s also motivated her to find budget-friendly ways to spend quality time with her family.
“Thank goodness the Challenge is coming to an end! (breathes a sigh of relief) Although it was difficult at times, it made me realize that I wasted a lot of money without thinking twice. I found that I could easily save a lot just by planning my week in advance and investing a little bit of time.
Before the Challenge started, I really indulged through December and January and it got out of control. I’m a busy mom and even though spending more was a twisted way to reward myself for hard work, I rationalized that convenience was well-deserved even if it was costing me. But now I realize that I just need to put certain systems in place and change small habits. Once I’m organized, I can build in efficiencies and save time on a daily basis (and we all know time is money), making it easier to be able to meal prep.
So, that’s what I did. I started meal prepping a little earlier in January, so I could be prepared for the Challenge in February. I’ve been doing it for about five weeks now. I’ve been making big batches of recipes on Sundays and cutting raw vegetables for snacks. When I do my groceries, I plan my meals from Monday to Friday. That way, I have everything prepared for the work week. My lunches could be anything from soup in the freezer, salad or leftover lasagna. Everything is portioned my fridge and all I have to do is put some cut veggies in my reusable bags, group some fruits and for lunch, just add a bagel or muffin to it and we’re ready to go. I did this for my husband and myself. I don’t pack lunches for our toddler yet. Between the two of us, it’s saved us around $30 a day, so it really adds up. What I found the most useful is going home in the evenings and knowing what’s on the dinner menu. Because it only takes about 20 to 25 minutes to cook, when I get home around 5:30, dinner can be on the table by 6:00. During the Challenge, Fridays were my treat day. It was a nice way to end the week, I ate out and sometimes ordered in. Allowing myself to indulge also kept me going and inspired to meal prep for the coming Monday.
I probably mentioned this every week, but one of the most startling things I discovered throughout the Challenge was how much waste occurs when you buy your meals every day. It felt good packing my lunches in my own containers and reusing my bags and knowing that my small efforts were making a big environmental impact.
Health wise, there was a lot less processed food in my diet, so I knew exactly what was going into my body. I’m convinced that our consumption of sodium, refined sugars and unhealthy fats was significantly reduced because of our homemade meals. Not only did we save money, we also gained incredible health benefits.
Oh, and the extra time I gained from doing all this? That was huge! It changed the dynamic of my evenings knowing that my dinners were in the fridge. I didn’t have to start thinking about what I was going to make for dinner at lunchtime and it also saved me from dropping in at the grocery store on my way home to pick up some items.
It took the guessing game out because all my decisions had been made ahead of time.
There was also a lot more time to spend with the family. In keeping with the spirit of the Challenge, we found ways to spend quality time together without having to spend money. It turned out that there were quite a lot of options in the city. We attended free activities, used coupons, dined where kids ate for free and in general, made more conscious decisions that resulted in the same amount of fun.
The only tedious thing throughout this entire Challenge was the labor-intensive Sundays which usually involved about 2 to 3 hours of cooking from beginning to end. But, other than that, my takeaway was very rewarding even though it was a very trying Challenge. Moving forward, I have to keep trying to figure out how to find a balance between the cost of convenience and the money-saving benefits of no spending.”
When Yana first started the challenge, it made her realize that she wasn’t great at committing to the cause. Because several people at the office took part in it, it felt like she was being told she couldn’t spend money, which made her want to spend even more. And, it didn’t help that she sat beside Marie who brought her packed lunches to work and made Yana wonder why she can’t be more organized with her time like Marie. (Less Netflix, Yana. Just sayin’ …)
“This whole Challenge made me realize that I should just stop being lazy and start bringing food to work more often. It also didn’t help that a grocery store near my house closed down. But, other than that, I did try to cut down and live on a budget. I didn’t go out often, but when I did, I started opting for pool rides instead of taking cab rides alone. And, if I did go out, I tried to keep things minimal in terms of the spending. I tried a new restaurant with my friends and we wanted to order everything on the menu, but instead of doing that, we shared some dishes and got to try a little bit of everything without going overboard.
I think there’s a certain pressure you feel when you’re out with friends. You don’t want to be the odd one out or accused of being no fun if you don’t spend. Like one of my friends. He doesn’t have data on his phone, so he’s automatically taken out of the pool situation because he can’t help us with ride-sharing.
I wasn’t really open about being on this Challenge with friends. I was kind of private about it because I felt like if I shared what I was doing, I would be more tempted to not go through with it. But, one of my friends is really good at not spending. She brings her own lunch and stuff like that. I think a lot of it comes down to where you work. If you’re surrounded by factories, you’re more likely to bring lunch.
I did refuse a trip to Mexico for a friend’s wedding because I just realized that it’s not really in my budget for the year and while it’s tempting, I have to be realistic about the costs. Plus, I’ve been there before, and I can use that money for more beneficial things. I could invest it or save it for a different trip to someplace I’ve never been before.
Overall, it feels good that I succeeded in trying to spend less. I’m going to try bringing my lunch to work more often because if I’m spending $10 a day, that’s $50 extra dollars I could have in my pocket. And, with that, I could buy a nice shirt, treat myself to a dinner or go see a movie with friends. It really is the little things you do every day that make a big difference when you add it all up in the end.”
So, there you have it! Whether you came along with us on this journey or have been inspired to try a no-spend day, week, month or dare we say, year, I think we can all agree that incorporating a spending freeze into our busy schedules can be quite healthy for our finances and many other aspects of our lives.
Come along with us on our next Challenge! Details coming soon. Until then, spend less, and live more!