No Spending Month: Week 1

So, we’re one week into our No Spending January, and can I be honest? So far, we’re pretty much loving it.  When I first started blogging about budgeting back in January 2009, we had so much fun with our budget. We started the envelope system of budgeting out of fear – I had been laid off from my job in the internet sector in November 2008. I was thankfully employed again within two weeks, but as soon as January 2009 rolled around, they were restructuring Mr. B’s department at work and we were acutely aware of how volatile the economy was. We were awesome about our budget – our goal was to live on one income so that we could roll with the punches of the economy 5 years ago, and we took so much pride – and had fun – cutting numbers in certain categories, being thrifty about going out, and even having to say, “It’s not in the budget” when we were asked to do something. B made it through the restructuring and has continued to work his way up in the company. Finally in October we made the decision that we’re financially in a place where we are comfortable on just one income and that at this time, the most important thing for our family is for one of us to be at home with our kids full-time. With that decision, and the impending arrival of Baby #3, I gave notice at my job and have transitioned from work at home mom into stay at home mom. (Please note, this has been a hot topic at imperfect over the years from some lovely anonymous readers. Everyone has to do what’s right for their family, and what is right for our family will change with time and continue to evolve. But right now, this is what works. Those of you who’ve been reading for a long time know that there’s a long long history of the crap that has led us to never trust anyone ever with our children, but that honestly doesn’t even matter. This is about respect, every woman should be entitled to decide how she wants to do the mom and work thing without judgment and with nothing but loving support from other moms and women. End of story.)


Okay, so with that back story behind us, a little after Thomas was born – about two years into envelope budgeting – budgeting became less fun. We were still living on our restricted budget despite income increases, and sometimes, it was just dull. We’d give ourselves some leeway, and then get annoyed when we didn’t transfer as much money to savings every month as we were used to. Having a second child, and then moving, didn’t help what was becoming laziness about the budget. We were living on our budget because we knew we should, not because we had to or wanted to. And that led to budget resentment.


Which is why, entering 2014, we needed to refresh the way we look at our budget. We weren’t good about coming home to get cash anymore before running an errand. We were so used to having a certain amount to spend every month that we spent it quickly, and then as the month rolled on we’d either resent the budget or just buy something anyway. But, as we look ahead, we need to prioritize savings. The kids aren’t going to get less expensive as activities and school start. Mr. B’s car will likely be replaced in the next two years or so. We’ve got some trips planned and some weddings committed to. We’d like to continue to prioritize saving for the kids’ college educations. And those goals required us to cut spending and really focus on savings. And so, I cut out all non-necessities in our budget this month as a way for us to refocus our energy on living frugally. We have cash for food, for our bills and utilities, for gas, and for diapers. We’re still giving our friends and family with January birthdays gifts. I’m still taking meals to our friends who have just had babies. But otherwise, we’re saying no:

In the first week, we’ve said no a lot. I’ve turned down dinner with a friend and just honestly said, “We’re doing ‘No spending January’, so I can’t go out tonight”. We always go out to breakfast with our friends after church on Sundays, and last week we told our group that we’d be opting out this month – but that we’d love to have everyone over for bagels and juice at our house instead of in a restaurant one week. The kids and I have hit up the rec center to play while it’s been cold, and we’ll be doing a lot more parks and the zoo (where we have an annual membership – my birthday gift from my parents. Memberships are some of my very favorite gifts to receive!) when the weather warms up. I wanted to refresh the pillows on my couch to get anything Christmas-y out of rotation, so I went through my fabric stash and found some good options for new covers.  B was given tickets to a CU Basketball game and while I’d normally opt-out of basketball – the only thing I ever liked about that sport was the way the shoes squeak on the court – I said yes for the free activity. And we just went to the game – parked on the street, didn’t buy food – and had a blast.\

From a grocery shopping perspective, we went to the store for the first time last night. We didn’t run out and stock up before January started (that would be cheating), but we had a good amount of stuff we’ve just not used in our pantry and freezer because we didn’t want to. We spent the first week of January using what we had on hand. It was bleak at times, but it was really good to clean out.

The first week itself has been enlightening. I realize how often I spend money just because it’s allocated for something in the budget, and not because we need it. Our normal budget allows a good amount of money to be spent on the kids each month. And while sometimes – like the months both kids need new shoes – we use it quickly, other months I just spend it because the cash is in the envelope labeled “Toys and Clothes” and I can. I haven’t set foot in Target since January began, the only stop I’ve made at the mall was to return a sweater I’d bought for Nell to wear to Christmas Mass…her Christmas Eve illness kept us home instead. And I’ve been loving it.

So far, one week in, we’re energized. I will say, that despite our “No Spending” choice, we won’t actually save much money this month. B’s car needed to be repaired on day 4 (Murphy’s Law!) and his tuition for his final semester of grad school – and books for those classes – is due this month, too. I was annoyed when I realized these would fall in our No Spending month, but then I realized it’s a really good thing. This is how we SHOULD handle months with these bigger one off expenses – cutting all other spending to account for them. We’ve always just justified one off expenses saying we save so that we can handle them, but this has been an invigorating way to approach them instead. I’m almost looking forward to writing that tuition check this month.


So that’s our very long budget back story and check-in on week one of our no spending January. I’ve talked to a few friends who are doing a similar thing this month, so let me know how your progress is going – and as always, if you have questions, ask away!


  1. Oh man, I needed this post right now!

    When we first started budgeting to zero, we were kind of in the same boat–we’d have “funds” for different categories, but I’d take JOY in rolling over as much as possible into those funds. Now, I’m finding myself saying “I have $50 in the toiletries fund this month? Great! Buy ALL the nail polish!” Ugh. Not ideal. At all. I think a no-spend February might be in order for us.

    Also? Can I just say that I love reading these posts from you? It’s so nice to know that there are other people out there who say “no” and “it’s not in the budget” a lot, and don’t feel bad about it. I’ve gotten slammed every time I’ve mentioned us saying that on my blog, but I don’t think it is a bad thing at all, and it is just nice to know there are others out there who have the same outlook.

  2. I love this post and totally relate to losing momentum with budgeting. It’s just hard when it feels like it’s not for anything specific. I need a “reason” for everything, I think it’s just my personality. I’m happy that you are feeling energized and excited for this month. And you, as always, inspire me to be better with the budget.

  3. I love this post and I can SO relate. Thank you so much for being so transparent and open about this. I honestly refer back to your budget posts all of the time, whether I need motivation or when we’re thinking of reorganizing things, I find it so so helpful to hear of other families trying to live this way. I have to remind myself all the time about why we budget/save/etc… like, daily, if I’m being honest. It’s hard! But so worth it.

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