What I Learned From Our Spending Challenge

Well, it’s four weeks today since I first issued a spending challenge to Fruclassity readers. Technically, we hit the 30 day mark on Wednesday, but since I post only on Mondays, I figured I’d give you my report a couple of days early.

My First Spending Challenge

This has been the first time we’ve attempted anything like this before, setting before ourselves thirty days in which we really consider what we are spending and if it’s a necessity. It’s been a powerful thirty days. We’ve had to really learn to think about our spending and what constitutes a necessity.ย 

I talked here about my at-first-glance silly debate with myself about whether or not to buy sunflower nuts. The fact of the matter is, I’ve learned, is that it’s not about whether or not I should have the nuts, but instead, about making a conscious decision to really think through your expenditures.

This learned habit of consciously analyzing your expenditures can go a LONG way in helping to accelerate a debt payoff plan, my friends.

Throughout this challenge, I found myself constantly making a plan to purchase things that felt and seemed like necessities, but when I really sat down to think about it, I realized that we could indeed make it through the month without A, B or C.

For instance, the kids overfed the horses their grain by a bit each day, so we ran out of grain a week early, before the new scheduled delivery on February 1st. The “pre-spending challenge” me would’ve simply called the grain store and had them deliver a couple of extra bags of grain to get us through the rest of the month.

The “post-spending challenge” me, when I sat down to really analyze it, figured out that the horses would be just fine until February 1st without grain. And they were. $30 saved.ย 

It was these types of decisions that I had to learn to really think about during this challenge.

Just Because it’s in the Budget……….

Another lesson I learned was that just because we had budgeted to spend “X” amount of dollars on something doesn’t mean we have to spend “X” amount of dollars on something.

For instance, our entertainment budget for each month is $60. In the past, I’d be sure to calculate carefully so that we spend no more than $60. This month, due to the challenge, I talked with the kids about seeing if we could make it without spending any of our entertainment monies. They were fine with that, and so were we! ย Until……

Learning When it’s Okay to Spend

On Day 23 of the challenge, we ended up going through $55 of our $60 entertainment monies. We hadn’t planned for this, but two things happened that made us change our minds.

The first was that my mom, who’d more or less been stuck at home due to recent cold snaps and snowstorms here, called us, missing us terribly (we usually get together once a week). She wanted to come over, but we were going seriously stir crazy too so we picked her up and we all went out to eat. $30 down.

That same night we had a scheduled meeting at the local college to check out the college options for our oldest daughter. At the meeting we ran into some friends who we hadn’t seen in forever. Normally we see these friends often, but they’ve been going through some seriously tough times this past six months and have been limiting social activities due to needing to simply be home to rest and to deal. When they suggested after the meeting that we go out to eat, we were thrilled.

Although I did have pangs of guilt for breaking the challenge, I knew that this precious time with our friends definitely had to trump any non-spending games. And since we were still in line with our monthly budgeted allowance for entertainment, it was all good to spend the $25 on dinner with our precious friends.

The Final Tally

All in all, we did GREAT! After learning to get in the habit of truly analyzing what needed to be spent, it became easy to simply not spend!!

There were no drive-thru runs, we bought only what was truly important at the grocery store, and bought a limited amount of gasoline, being sure to limit our driving as much as we could.

Whereas our normal gas expenditures in 30 days is $150, we spent only $95 in gas.

Our normal food expenditure for 30 days is $400, but we spent only $376

Our normal pet and personal expenditures for 30 days is $300 – we kept it down to $228.

We also worked hard to “super minimize” electricity usage, but we won’t get those final numbers until the end of February.

Probably the biggest challenge in the spending was how to handle our planned Superbowl and Valentine’s expenditures. We have parties at home on both days, usually spending about $40 on Super bowl food and on Valentine’s day including the gifts for the kids to share with friends, our gifts to them and our family dinner with Rick’s mom, we usually spend around $100.

We decided to go ahead with the celebrations because they were pre-planned, but to dramatically reduce our usual expenditures.

This year we cut those expenditures by a whopping 56%, spending only $27.37 for Super bowl food and $33.77 for Valentine’s Day – $4 on each of the kids, $7 on dinner (pasta rocks!) and $10 on candy for the kids to share with their friends! Shazam!

All in all, we’ll have an extra $260 to put toward debt -woohoo!!!

This, my friends, is the power of a spending challenge.

SO, did you join us on the challenge? If so, how did you do? If not, do you plan on holding your own challenge soon?


*Photo courtesy of Pictures of Money


20 comments on “What I Learned From Our Spending Challenge

  1. I’m so glad you still held your parties – and I’m sure none of the guests even noticed the 56% reduction in costs. I also spent on some extras in relation to my mom (who was sick) and a get-together with my high school friends. Hold the line, come under budget, and still invest in what you value. Great stuff!

    1. I think we’ll continue to try and really practice this type of living, Brian. We’ve got some pretty lofty goals in place, and we’re super eager to reach them, so we might as well take advantage of the motivation while it’s here. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Awesome! Thanks for sharing! It’s amazing what some mindfulness can do to spending. It was great to read about the specific moments where you did make the decision to spend some money.

    It seems to be true that the only spending we really regret is spending that we didn’t consciously decided to spend. Whether that’s something big or small.

    1. Yeah, you know, at first, there was some serious guilt going on about those expenditures, but then I reminded myself that this is the whole point of a budget, you know? Spending on what you value most.

  3. It sounds like a very successful challenge to me, Laurie!! Great work!!

    You’ve motivated me to be more intentional about my grocery spending. Every week I buy what’s needed for my meal plan, plus stock up on any fantastic deals (pasta for under $1 a box, for example). Last week pasta was $0.77 per box, which is a great deal. (The lowest I’ve seen was $0.68.) I reflexively put it on my list, but then realized (1) the under-a-dollar-a-box deals have been coming up every 6 weeks or so, and (2) we still have at least 8 boxes of pasta in the pantry. I held off on the deal, figuring I can stock up again next time.

    1. Love it, Amy! That’s exactly what I’m talking about: deciding in those moments what the real necessity is behind the potential spend. Great work on holding off on the pasta purchase!

  4. This past month has been off the charts with spending because of having to move back to NY and all. But I can truly say it’s been worth it. I like how you evaluated e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g Laurie. I look forward to attempting this challenge when things get back to normal.

  5. Congrats on all the savings!

    I didn’t know about the challenge, but we’re definitely tap dancing a bit over here when it comes to careful spending.

    Tim’s gotten back into pool, so I basically have a big chunk of the daily budget sucked up by that. On the bright side, I’m more carefully monitoring our daily spending, as opposed to ending the week a little early because too many things came up when we weren’t paying attention. Also, a great way to put off buying candy: If we’ve reached our daily spending limit, then I can’t buy it.

  6. So true – “This learned habit of consciously analyzing your expenditures can go a LONG way” It will also drive you nuts!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That’s one of the greatest benefits to budgeting IMO. If you’re doing it correctly, you look at every item in the budget with and ask “If I didn’t already have/do/etc, would I have/do/etc it this month?” That’s the sole reason we don’t have cable!

    1. Thanks, Mackenzie! I thought about not having the celebrations at all, but then I remembered how important it is to keep money in its proper perspective with life. ๐Ÿ™‚

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