Thursday, July 1, 2010

4 Tips on How to Have a "No Spend" Month

The 4th of July...that time when America celebrates its independence. I think many times we don't appreciate this specific holiday enough.

So in honor of appreciating freedom, we've decided to make July the No Spend Month for the year. We've already put this into practice one week a month by designating the last week as No Spend Week, but thought it would be a great idea to take it for an entire month! During this time no funds are spent, with gas and living expenses (rent, electricity, phone, etc) being the only exceptions. Food is covered due to meal planning and keeping a stocked pantry.

Some have asked, how in the world do you not spend anything for a week, much less an entire month? If anything pops up that requires money, well then, it's time to get creative (:

We usually plan ahead for times of celebration and making gifts is preferred. Plus handmade gifts give something from the heart. I'll have to talk more about the Gift Closet on another day...a great concept my Grandmother started that encourages abundant thinking.

Most of our celebrations are decorated with natural elements from outside and items collected over the years. It's so freeing to leave behind those days of running around in a tizzy to buy just the right items to create the perfect dinner party. Now our focus is more about getting together to build relationships and enjoying the company of others instead of trying to impress guests with the linens, plates, decor or food. Don't get me wrong, I love a good party! Entertaining is a passion and a great design is wonderful, but people are more important (:

This has been a great lesson on freeing ourselves from debt and materialism, which allows the gift of embracing life on a much deeper level. It's also helped to cut out impulse buying. I have a hard time with this when approaching any Lowe's, Home Depot or great antique shop (: Creativity goes into overdrive and my mind begins to flood with ideas of new project possibilities!

During our No Spend Month I'll have to lift the ban on food spending since most fresh veggies don't keep for a month, but I'm excited to see how things go. I encourage you to give it a try. Think about it...that's a savings of spending on 4 weeks, plus 11 more if you decide to eliminate spending one week within each month! How much money could you save in almost 4 months? If you'd like to give it a go, here are some tips that have helped with our No Spending times...

1. Keep a stocked pantry and freezer. Making meals ahead and freezing them encourages eating at home instead of a trip through the drive thru. Keeping canned crushed/diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, noodles, spices, beef and grain bread on hand eliminates the need for a quick run to the store if unexpected company drops by. They're the perfect staples to throw together a great impromptu dinner party in minutes. Who doesn't love spaghetti (:

2. Buy/make gifts and cards ahead of time. Jot down a list of gifts and cards to be given for the year and keep it with you at all times. When you come across something that's on the list during regular shopping trips, it can be purchased ahead of time instead of waiting to the last minute. My mother had a great idea that works for her. She keeps a birthday card file with a folder for each month. In each folder there is a list of birthdays for that specific month, addresses, stamps and the cards she's collected over the year. Then on the first of the month she pulls the current folder, addresses the cards and sends them out! So simple and ensures no one is forgotten (:

3. Keep extra cards and gifts on hand for any occasion. Having extra simple gifts and cards on hand help to cover for those times when we can't plan. Maybe a new neighbor moves in next door, a friend at work has a death in the family, you're invited to a dinner party but there's no time to get a hostess gift, an unexpected guest shows up for the holidays, your child has a birthday party the next day and the invitation arrived the night before... By having gifts on hand that fit any occasion, you're always prepared when those little surprises pop up. I'll talk more later in another post about starting a Gift Closet.

4. Focus on free entertainment. Instead of spending money on entertainment, get creative and see what's available in your community. Many museums reserve one day a week when admission is free. Rather than going to a restaurant, take a picnic lunch to the park or lake. Cities are always having free festivals, concerts and events, especially in the summer and fall. Peruse the movie section at your local library. Check out your local CSA and get your hands dirty! It's a great learning experience for the kids and makes for an all-over-body workout (: If you don't already have one, borrow a canoe or kayak and head to the river or lake. Many culinary and designs schools offer free classes to the community. Check out your local whole foods store and see what free monthly events and workshops are offered. The options are endless! Just get creative (:

So if you'd like to begin saving money or paying down debt, try the No Spend week or month. You just might be surprised at the amount of money you can save!

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