Week One on a Spending Challenge and the Fear Of Money

Last week, in the midst of sharing about what I consider the most important rule for accelerated debt payoff I, in a whimsy of excitement, issued a “How Low Can You Go?” spending challenge to Fruclassity readers. When it later occurred to me that I couldn’t very well issue a challenge of that sorts to readers without participating myself, fear set in BIG time. 

The Love Fear Of Money Meets the Spending Challenge

After much self-diagnosis, I came to realize that I’ve always had a fear of not having enough money. This fear came in part, I suspect, from my impoverished childhood. This fear also contributed greatly to the debt load hubby and I are now working to pay off. Somehow, I figured that if I could manage to buy what I needed and wanted, that it meant that we were okay financially. If and when I felt restricted by what I could buy, fear would set in and I would start to panic that we didn’t have enough.

I talk often about how mindset is the main factor when it comes to financial success, so I knew I had to overcome this fear mindset if I was to succeed at the spending challenge. As I walked through week one, various random thoughts went through my head as I learned to navigate through the subconscious fears I had about not being able to spend. So I wrote some stuff in a journal that, at the risk of being way too TMI, I’m going to share with you today. Here goes: 🙂

Day 1 – January 18, 2016

Well, I’ve done it and it can’t be undone. Thousands of readers on both The Frugal Farmer and Fruclassity will be seeing my spending undies, so I’d better make sure I look da*n good in those undies. When the kids wake up, I’ll gingerly tell them about our challenge and pray that they’ll be on board. My biggest fear right now is having to give up our lavish Superbowl celebration meal! Luckily, I’ve already bought a few things for the event, but I’m going to have to find a way to round it out by spending very, very little.  


Day 2 – January 19, 2016

Well, we’re just about at the end of day two and I’m happy to report we spent ZERO dollars today! It was kind of, well, difficult. There are a few things we’re out of, and while in the past I would’ve simply run to the store and gotten them, I had to learn today how to analyze if something we’re out of and that I’m considering buying is truly a need or simply a want.

Then there’s the gas to get there and back. Since we live in the country, it’s a good twenty minute drive to the local Walmart, so I try not to take the drive carelessly because it costs two gallons of gas to make the run in our truck. Now I’m even more cautious about driving unnecessarily with the spending challenge at hand.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about how people lived during pioneer times and during the Great Depression. It really was a “Waste not, want not” mentality. There were no credit cards to bail you out if you went over budget, so you lived within your means. That meant if there was no cash, it didn’t matter if you were out of food or not – you weren’t buying food because you didn’t have anything to buy it with!

When my mom and dad were first married, dad was in the military and the pay was minimal. One month they had nothing but a few bucks to last them till the end of the month after the bills were paid. They needed food and needed to buy that food as cheap as possible. So they went to the market and bought a giant box of noodles and a giant brick of cheese. They ate nothing but macaroni and cheese for a month straight.

It was years before my mom would touch the stuff again, but the story stuck with me. It stuck with me because they did what had to be done, you know? They didn’t go begging for food, or asking to borrow money from family or friends. They bucked up and dealt with the situation at hand, even if it was less than optimal and less than pleasing to the palate.

We’ve SO lost that in today’s society. We demand our “rights” to live better but waste our money on SS (stupid sh*t). I’m talking to myself here too. Most all of us do it. We go out to eat when we really can’t afford it. We buy “extras” when we should be paying off debt or saving. We put things on credit that we really don’t need. We’ve become a society that accepts living beyond our means.

And I’m not sure what the solution is, really. It’s easy to say “Just stop it!” but it’s different to actually stop! It can be done, and my plan is to use this spending challenge to help prove that to myself. The difficulty is in deciding how much of a necessity things are.

For instance, every morning my breakfast consists of a half cup of sunflower nuts. Now, I’ll try not to get too TMI here, but I like this breakfast because it’s healthy, light and it keeps me regular, you know? I’m heading on 50 now, so maintaining regularity is super important to me and the GI doc confirms this by giving me an A+ at my oh-so-unpleasant colonoscopy screenings.

So, we’re out of sunflower nuts. Do I buy them or do I not? I had steamed veggies for breakfast today, and guess what, I had my morning BM right on schedule. I don’t “need” sunflower nuts to stay regular, but I sure do like them.

While this may seem like a menial discussion, I think it’s important. The five bucks I’ll spend on two 16-ounce bags of sunflower nuts may not be life-threatening, but all of those semi-need five or ten buck purchases add up. For most people, they add up to hundreds of dollars a month. 

I’m not being anal retentive here (no pun intended 🙂 ) I’m just working to be much more thoughtful about what we buy and why we buy it. About where our priorities lie. And about the types of changes we can make that will accelerate our debt payoff goals so we can be done with this bull. I know my language has been less than pleasant here, but I am so sick and tired of owing money to banks. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m sick and tired of watching hundreds of dollars in interest payments being flushed down the proverbial toilet each month. Sick and tired of it.

And it’s those little purchases that add up to a longer debt repayment schedule. Really, they do.

On some level I knew this challenge would be life-changing, but I didn’t expect it to be so thought-provoking, you know? What about you, fellow challenge participators? Any thoughts yet on the challenge, or do I just think too much?


*Photo by Douglas Muth

9 comments on “Week One on a Spending Challenge and the Fear Of Money

  1. You’re so right that one or two of those $5 purchases don’t matter a huge amount individually, but it’s the mindset that allows us to keep making them, that gets us into trouble. I’ve definitely been guilty of that!

  2. A great post Laurie and thanks for being so honest! It’s true we have fallen into a routine, a trap some might say with all of our modern conveniences that we mindlessly overspend without even knowing it. It take a challenge like this or a wake up call for us to realize how far we are off track.

  3. WOW! You even mentioned the unmentionable BM! EVERYthing is related to personal finances, I’ve discovered. Your post humbles me. I wouldn’t think twice about buying sunflower seeds (or “nuts” as you call them). They’re healthy, inexpensive . . . But are they really “needs”? No – not when you have other food on hand. Well done, Laurie! Time for me to recognize my own “needs”-that-aren’t-really-needs.

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately too. We really spend an over-the-top amount on food. We think we NEED something like soda, for instance. No one NEEDS soda. I have issues with dairy and juices, and even some waters, but there’s way cheaper ways around this minefield than continuing on the high fructose corn syrup wagon. It’s bad for the wallet. It’s bad for the front AND rear views. Your sunflower seeds story really woke me up to all of the things we think we need. Hubby used to always tell me, if we run out of bread on Wednesday and our shopping day is Friday, we should just wait until Friday. I wouldn’t hear of it. Talk about a diva, huh?

    1. Oh my gosh, Kay – I SO get it!!! Since I’ve started viewing everything next to true “need” parameters, I’m just in shock at the amount of things we buy that are wants. And, really, compared to most, it’s not much. No soda, very rarely processed foods, etc. But still, not NEEDS. Major breakthroughs here, huh?

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