My Journey to Get Organized and Save Money
Over the past few months, I’ve had an influx of chaos, so I decided it was time to get organized and save money. During my research for finding the best tips and tricks for a budget, I learned 21 percent of Americans don’t have a savings account. Of the Americans that do have a savings, 62 percent don’t have over $1,000 in their savings.
I was pretty shocked by this news. With my personality I always thought it was important to save money. It was the only thing that could help me function at times, knowing I had money to fall back on. I wanted to help others get those same tools, so they too could have the security of a savings.
When I was younger, the solution for saving money was simple. Just don’t spend any. All I had to buy was gas to get to school and work. The other things such as food while I was out, entertainment with friends, clothes and gadgets were optional. For the most part I would have rather save money than spend it on that.
Adulting is Hard
Of course, saving money as an adult is a bit more difficult. You have bills for one. For two, after you spent such a large amount of money on all that boring stuff, it feels like you’ve earned it to play a bit. As an adult, I have a weakness for food. When my mom made all my meals, it was easy to make good choices because it was a no-brainer. Occasionally, I would go out with a friend or on my lunch break.
Now that I have to cook for myself all the time, I have to make good choices from beginning to end. That’s a lot more difficult. I have to decide to buy wholesome ingredients, then actually go home and cook them. That’s a huge battle, especially when it’s easier and tastier to eat out. Plus, it’s a comfort thing. My mom’s food was comfort. Cooking my own food is never comfortable, but eating that greasy mushroom swiss burger “that I earned” totally is.
When I moved out on my own, I easily spent a fourth of my paycheck on food-both to cook at home and eating out. It was the only thing I’ve really worked on curbing back. One way I did this was cut down the amount of times I go to the store. Not only is it time consuming, but the more I went, the more I spent. I was always finding something that wasn’t on the list that I just ‘needed’.
My Solution to Save Money
I joined a pre-paid local community-supported agriculture program to get all my veggies once a week. I plan all my meals around what I get there, which makes it a ton easier. Instead of making whatever catches my interest on Pinterest that might have a bunch of expensive ingredients that I only need a tiny bit of, I can use more staple ingredients. Every 2 or 3 weeks, I make a trip to the store and stock up on meat for the freezer, dairy and other staples, along with any toiletries I need. This has been the biggest change I’ve made to save money.
Now that you know a bit about my story, here are my tips to prioritize and get ready for a no-spend month.
Figure Out the Why
There are many reasons to participate in a no-spend month. For some it’s to save money, for some it’s a way to find out exactly what you’re spending money on and why. A no-spend month can help you declutter your life, mind, and organize your priorities. For me I lend toward the environmental reasons. From using up the Earth’s resources for the production process to pollution in the manufacturing process and finally the disposal process- capitalism really puts the Earth through the ringer. Not to mention the human rights war fought in each step of the process. Knowing these costs help keep me focused on what’s important and helps me decide what I need to have in my life. You have to do the same in preparation of your no-spend month.
Know Your Weaknesses
And have a plan. For me, it’s obviously food. On a bad day, I really want that ice cream shake and mushroom swiss burger. Really, really bad. So what is going to be my reward instead? Giving myself time to read a book? Taking the night off to watch a movie I already own? Making myself a special dinner out of what I already have? Finally getting to that special upcycle project I’ve been itching to do? These all are great options to replace that ‘reward’ that wasn’t really good for me, my budget or future. Knowing my weakness can help me put a plan in place to avoid a fall. Even if I do fall, it’s not the end and the rest of the month still counts, so I have to find a way to get back on track as soon as possible. Also, I try to think about the thoughts behind that action. What was the true motivation that lead me to that choice, so I can address it and avoid it in the future.
Take Back the Power
Some times social conditioning can really take a negative toll on our life. Companies capitalize on that tiredness we feel from a rough day at work and the need we feel to be rewarded. They also capitalize on that anxiety we feel when we see a SALE that we just don’t want to miss. I don’t need a special outfit for that special occasion. Just because there is a once in a life time sale, don’t mean another opportunity won’t come around. The people and cat in my life will still love me even if I don’t buy that necklace or that new pair of shoes. Those things don’t define me. Getting rid of the stuff, so that the important things can fit was an important lesson I learned in my no-spend experiences.
Practice the Pause
Before I start a non-spend month, I practice saying no. Instinct tells me to indulge as much as possible before I cutback, but I find it’s much easier to practice before, so there’s not so much whiplash. Most people tend to have problems with cold turkey approaches, it’s important to kind of get in the groove before the no-spend month. Before purchasing or even eating anything, I ask myself is this something that I really need in my life? In my body? Will it improve my quality of life?
Make a List of Necessities
What do you have to pay for? These things include rent, utilities, debts and other monthly expenses. It’s important to know exactly how much money you have coming in and going out. It will make budgeting decisions in the future much easier.
Take Stock of Food
As I mentioned earlier, this is the hardest category for me. Some no-spenders don’t buy any food at all. Instead they rely only on what they have in the pantry to cook everything from scratch. Others just buy fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy. This is a difficult category because it is considered a ‘necessity’ but there is a fine line. You have to find a strategy that works for you. Because my weakness is obviously food, I avoid the store at all cost and just use what I have. It inspires me to be creative to use what I have. Cutting down trips to the store will help cut down on buying unnecessary items and also save gas. Check out this guide for great tips to cut down your shopping trips to once a month.
7. Get rid of disposables
Rather than stocking up the week before you start a no-spend month, it should be about using what you have, instead of stocking up in preparation. It would be impossible to participate in a no-spend month with disposable items in the equation. Paper towels, napkins, paper plates, disposable cutlery is replaceable with permanent items.
8. Cut out luxuries
That latte you get every morning? It’s a luxury. That newspaper you read on the train ride? Luxury.
This will vary from family to family but, in general, recurring bills, gas and groceries would be considered necessities while lattes, restaurant meals, and new shoes would definitely be off-limits. But again, food causes a bit of a predicament because even groceries can be a luxury. Steak every night with cheesecake and bottled water would be considered a luxury. Learn how to cook a whole chicken, shred your own cheese, and cut your own vegetables. Single-serve and pre-packaged items have a higher mark-up and when there is a cheaper alternative it goes in the luxury category. Think what your parents and grandparents did. Those little things add up.
9. Get Creative
Creativity is essential in a no-spend month. Have a special event and you need something special to wear? Dig through your closet and get creative. Have a birthday coming up? What can you make out of what you already have as a gift or maybe even cook something special for that person. No-spend months are all about getting creative and using what you have. To me, that’s the part that makes it so fun. Anyone can go find a sale item, but not many people can see potential in what they already have.
Getting organized to save money is not always the easiest, but with these nine tips, you can be sure to have a successful no-spend month. Be sure to leave a comment with your best advice for a no-spend month.
Check out these other awesome posts for more tips and tricks to get organized this spring!
Ordering Seeds, Stay Organized – Little Sprouts Learning Garden
Organizing Tips for the Unorganized – Home Again, Jiggity-Jig
Free Ways to Organize your Stuff -They’re Not Our Goats
How to Organize Your Life When You Are Not – The Peculiar Treasure
For the Birds: DIY Bird Seed Container – Curbside Overhaul
Don’t forget to pin these tips for later!