Most of you know that I am in the thick of a pretty severe bout of depression. Among the numerous side effects of this, for me, is spending money on nonsense. Mostly things like nail polish and books and $.99 iced teas from Dunkin Donuts; nothing that’s going to break the bank or drive my family into debt, but enough that I’m frittering away my spending money on nothing important (I should note here that I’m trying to save my money for FinCon12 and a few other events I have coming up). So I decided to do something about it.
I’ve implemented a no spend May.
No spend challenges are pretty common in the personal finance blogosphere. In fact, I spent about 4 years participating a no spend/controlled spend challenge and it worked wonders for me. I learned how to control my purchases, keep track of my money and learned the difference between a need and a want (in fact, more than once, I’d be in a store about to make a purchase and I could hear the voices of the other no spend ladies in my head asking “do you really need that”). But as my financial situation improved and I got more comfortable with controlling my spending, I started to get a little lazy. Compound that with the depression and I found my old habits starting to crop up. Which is making me feel even more out of control and that’s making the depression even worse. It’s a pretty vicious ride that I’m pretty desperate to get off of.
That’s why I’ve decided to re-up the no spend challenge for myself. It’s taking a small piece of my life that I can control and working with that. I’m hoping it’ll have a chain reaction effect, allowing me to regain control over other parts of my life as well. In order to achieve the desired effect, I have implemented a set of rules to keep me on track. Here they are:
- It is acceptable to purchase things with my Amazon gift card or the credit in my iTunes account. This is not money coming out of my pocket (since they were gifts) and is intended to be spent on things I enjoy. I feel no guilt about using that money during this month (although I shouldn’t need to. I have about 18 books waiting to be read and I have no idea what music or apps to buy anymore).
- Anything planned does not count against my no spend days. For instance, I scheduled a haircut last month for the end of this month. It is a planned, budgeted expense and although it’s not entirely necessary, I’m not counting it (this also applies to the pedicure I have budgeted). This also applies to my library fines.
- This includes anything unplanned for my daughter. I have been buying her a lot of stuff lately, almost as a way to compensate for stuff I can’t buy for myself. She is a line item in our budget and for one month, I have to watch what I spend on her. She has enough stuff and what needs to be replaced has already been budgeted.
- If there is a way to do something for free, I have to use that option. If I’m working at the library instead of at home, I’ll have to remember to pack lunch instead of going to one of the restaurants on Main Street (seriously, that’s the name of the road that our library is on). If I can watch something from Netflix or using our Groupon to Blockbuster Express, I have to do that first. And so on and so on for the entire month.
- Stay away from places that cause me to overspend and only stick to my lists. Not only will this prevent me from going over budget but it will help me relearn to control myself in places like Target.
I know this seems like common sense, especially for a personal finance writer, but for me, it’s necessary. I feel like this is the first (well, technically, third) step in getting myself back together. I’ll let you know at the end of the month how I did (I don’t want to bore you with all the updates. Plus, I have lots of other good stuff planned to write about).
Wish me luck!