Thursday, March 12, 2009

The No-Spend Experiment

Seeing as it is March I have completely missed the No Spend Experiment over at MomAdvice that took place in February. The idea was to spend the entire month not spending money on anything other then necessities like food and gas.

To be honest I don't think I could do it. I have even come across a blog of a family attempting to live on $1200 a year for food and extras. I don't believe they had any kids in diapers but either way I just don't think I could deprive myself quite that much without extreme necessity!

But it did get me to thinking how I could really save money. I mean in reality - a reality that doesn't include giving up everything I like and enjoy.

And in my thinking I've come up with a few things to help myself save money - maybe they'll help you too!

1. Cut out one big ticket item - we cut out our cell phone because it was something we could easily live without - for you it may be your cable or drycleaning. Just pick one and it will help your monthly budget - for us we saved $85 a month! That's a significant chunk. But to cut out every single "extra" just doesn't seem reasonable and would make it 1000 times more likely that you won't stick with your budget. Remember trying to diet and depriving yourself of just about every food? You're dying and you want to eat!! Budgeting is no different - when I cut out what is easy for me to live without I save money and feel no deprivation - it's a win-win. But for me to cut out my cable - well, that would be like never being allowed to eat pasta or drink coke again!!

2. Pick a no-spending day once a week or once a month or more if you can. Even plan to buy groceries at other times so that one day you spend nothing! Just making a conscious effort to spend absolutely nothing on a day will make you pay attention to your budget and it feels really good not to spend money!! I'm not sure I could build up to a month but maybe someday :)

3. BUDGET. I know this has been done to death. We all know it and we never do it. I'm terrible at it but this year I have made it a huge priority and let me tell you how every purchase I make I think about what budget category it goes in. It is constricting but ultimately I believe it will be freeing. Check out You Need a Budget for budgeting software but also a chance to sign up to receive e-mails for 10 days on budgeting - it's good stuff.

4. Use the Grocery Game or some other method of coupon matching to save money on your grocery budget. Speaking of which - MAKE a grocery budget - even good deals add up :)

5. Use coupons wherever you can. Restaurants, clothes, books - whatever you buy check to see if coupons are available before you make your purchases.

6. Use what you have to pay for what you need. Whether that's swapping or selling items at a yard sale or consignment sale. It's extra money you didn't already have and you get rid of the stuff!

7. Plan ahead! This is a big one for us. Now instead of getting caught off guard and having to run out to eat and spend money we plan ahead to what we'll need. Next Monday night is a PTF meeting at school - a night we would normally do drive-thru but instead I will plan on a simple and quick meal here at home and save ourselves $25 - a little bit of planning goes a very long way. That's pretty much what budgeting is just on a more practical level.

8. Focus on your money. Read blogs about saving money; let your friends know you're trying to save money (this can get you out of expensive and awkward situations that before you would've spent money on); read books about saving money. The more I focus on it, the more interested I get, the less I spend, the easier it is, the more on track I am.

These are just my thoughts - I'd love to hear yours! I'm not an expert and I don't claim to be - I'm just a mom trying to raise 5 kids in an ever-increasing down economy and I'd like to come out of it okay but I also don't want to live through it miserable :)

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