TRY: Pt. 3 The Month of Spending Less

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I have completed my first experiment month: The Month of Spending Less inspired by the book The Year of Less written by Cait Flanders. I had the opportunity to meet Cait when she came to Victoria as a part of her book tour. She is lovely and I can't wait for her future projects. 

I feel that I learned a lot about my spending habits during my Month of Spending Less. The month was not about spending no money, but it was about being more aware when it came to spending money. It was also about challenging myself to jump start a change in my spending and saving habits. At the beginning of the month (and following the guide in Cait's book) I outlined some approved and not approved shopping lists. As a recap, below are the lists that I made at the beginning of the month. 

APPROVED SHOPPING LIST

  • Taking my friend to tea for her birthday. 
  • I can buy things that I absolutely positively NEED to be replaced, that I can't go without, and that can't be made with something I already own. 
  • Groceries

NOT APPROVED SHOPPING LIST:

  • Takeout coffee
  • Eating out at restaurants (apart from the one birthday tea)
  • Clothing and fabric
  • Books

When it comes to my approved and not approved lists, I did pretty well. Below is a review of the areas in my life that I really wanted to work on during the Month of Spending Less. 

Takeout Coffee

I am excited to report that I didn't buy any take out coffee this month which just blows my mind because I used to spend so much money on take out coffee. Occasionally up to $100 a month. I used to buy a coffee before work because my bus would get me downtown 10 to 15 minutes before my shift started and I had time to kill. Other times I would buy a coffee if I wanted to stay in a coffee shop and do some work. This is the situation that really racked up my coffee expenses, especially through university. I had a hard time focusing at home so I felt like the only space that I could get work done was at a coffee shop. My other mistake would be buying those high priced sugary drinks.

Now I go for a little walk before work or I just go to work early and hang out there until I start my shift. I make myself one or two cups of coffee first thing in the morning when I get up, so I don't feel like I need to drink a coffee before work. When it comes to doing work in a coffee shop, I try not to. I have made a point of staying at home to do work and I have a few favourite spaces at home where I feel very productive. During my Month of Spending Less I also took to finding places that have free wifi where you don't feel pressured to spend money. My favourite place for free wifi is an indoor market downtown. There are vendors on the perimeter of the market and open seating in the centre, it can be busy but is still relatively quiet, and it is more of a community space so there is little pressure to buy something from one of the vendors. Other great places for free wifi where you don't need to spend money are the public library or a mall food court, both of which I have used. I encourage you to find a favourite space for yourself where you can do work and be productive or enjoy a good book without having to spend money to use the space. 

Eating Out

I had to buy my lunch out three times, and I went out for a drink with friends for a birthday. The total for these activities came to less than $50. I used to spend at least $150 eating out per month so I count this as a huge success. A couple times this month I either forgot my lunch at home, or stayed at my boyfriend's and then didn't have food to pack for a lunch. The place where I work doesn't have a staff room for lunch which makes it very difficult to not spend money eating out. Usually I will eat my home packed lunch at the indoor market I mentioned above because it is a welcoming community space and they have free wifi. At the indoor market, if I need to buy something to eat there is a grocer so I can buy food at grocery store prices instead of marked up take out food prices. I recommend that if you need to buy your lunch out, find a favourite grocer so that you don't need to pay premium prices. However, bringing your lunch from home is the best way to save money. Make it part of your morning or evening routine to pack yourself a nutritious lunch. It may require some more planning, but it is well worth saving some extra money.

The desire to go out for dinner or a beer can be tempting. My boyfriend and I used to be a lot less mindful when it came to eating out or going for a beer. He lives downtown so there are a lot of easy options for take out food if we don't feel like cooking, but it is so much more expensive than buying groceries and cooking at home. This month we made a lot more of our dinners at home which saved us a lot of money and we will continue to do this in the months to come. We have decided that going forward one dinner out a month is a fun date that won't break out budgets. Going out for dinner or drinks with friends can be a real money trap. Instead of always saying yes, say no once in a while. The fear of missing out is not worth breaking your budget. Instead of always going out for dinner or drinks, invite everyone to have an evening in at someone's house. This will save money and it is a fun activity to cook dishes together with friends. During my Month of Spending Less, my roommates, boyfriend and I had a curry night where we each made a dish. Super fun, super delicious, and the couch was a few steps away for us to relax with full stomachs. 

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Groceries 

In my first post about my Month of Spending Less, I mentioned that I was putting myself on a strict grocery budget. My goal was to spend $50 on groceries this month. A week in I changed that to $70. I can honestly say that I did not meet that goal. I spent $216 on groceries which is a lot more than I wanted to spend, but I have to consider that I was not eating out this month so my grocery bill would increase. I also made dinner for my boyfriend a number of times and for my brother so I was feeding more people than just myself. I had a few slip ups and bought some unnecessary chocolate and chips. But what was different this month than previous months is that I was a lot more conscious about the type of food I was spending my money on. By the end of the month I found that I was no longer buying unnecessary food from the grocery store. I was no longer buying chocolate and chips and I was sticking to only buying the items on my grocery list. Previously I used to make a list, go to the store, buy all the food on the list and some extra stuff that I didn't really need but was on sale or that looked appealing at the store. Now, I buy less with each trip and only what I need to go to the store for. For the month of April, I am going to continue to challenge myself with making more disciplined choices around grocery shopping and try to stick to a budget of $150. The thing about buying groceries and only sticking to your list is that it takes practice and discipline, so be gentle with yourself but don't give up. Also don't go to the store when you are hungry, that is a spending disaster waiting to happen! 

Clothing and Fabric

I bought no clothing or fabric this month for my personal use. I did get some hand-me-down clothing from a friend though! Second hand clothing is one of my favourite ways to change up a wardrobe. Rather than buying second hand clothing, do a clothing swap! This will refresh your wardrobe without increasing the total number of items you own. Also make sure to be discerning when it comes to swapping clothing. Same rules as when you buy, make sure it fits properly and is comfortable for you to wear. 

Books

I made a mistake and bought one book called Profit First by Mike Michalowicz for my business and personal financial habits. The trap of online shopping is that it is so easy to click a button and mindlessly spend your money, I didn't even realize I had done it until it was too late. There is no physicality to online shopping until you get the physical object on your door step. I have so many books to read, I don't need to buy more but because I feel like this book will help me with my financial growth I justified it. I plan to read it over the month of April and will let you know if it was worth the money when I finish the book. In the future I will be searching the library first to see if they have the title. I love my local library. It is easy to search for and reserve a book online or you can go and spend hours milling through the shelves for the perfect book to read. If you have a bunch of books that you no longer read, donate them to your local library! Share your knowledge with rest of your community. 

In Summary

March was a very abundant month. I was commissioned for some custom orders, started putting together a plan for others to purchase from me, and I started working on some new partnerships. I also got my tax return which was a nice bonus. 

Money, spending, and saving all boils down to habits. This past month I have made some major advances in changing my habits around money and I plan to continue to change my negative habits and practice my new positive habits. One of the things that I have found the most helpful with being aware of my money is that I sit down every Monday to look at my expenses and sort them into categories. I use Wave for this, but you could also use Mint or a trusty Excel sheet. I have tried Mint before and it is a great option for personal finance, it is free to use, and they have an app to use on your phone. I love Wave because it is easy to sort and categorize my expenses between business and personal, I can look at monthly reports for my transactions, and the application is free. I use Excel for my annual snapshot where I have each month written out on a sheet and the total for what I spent in each category. For each month I set a budget based on previous months and on future goals that I would like to achieve. When I look at my Excel sheet and compare my budget amount for groceries to the actual amount for groceries and wonder why it was a certain amount, I will go into my Wave account and find the grocery category to see every transaction that was categorized under Groceries. This method of budgeting has helped me to understand how I spend my money, how much I spend for each transaction, and how often I frequent a certain shop or vendor which has been very influential in helping me to change my spending habits. 

I never used to budget, I didn't understand how to set up a budget, I didn't want to spend the time to have a relationship with my money, and I thought it would all work out. I thought that I would magically save money or not overspend. Now I have a relationship with my money rather than ignoring my bank statements and am changing my habits around spending money. It is not scary to look at your transactions every week, instead it feels good! You don't need to stress about creating a fancy excel sheet, just start keeping track and do it routinely at least once a week. It will make a big difference in your relationship with your money. I will continue building on my financial habits and to continue having a present relationship with my money. I am going to continue thinking in the mindset of Spending Less and have a new approved and not approved shopping list for the month of April. My boyfriend is a great support system and accountability partner for me and we are going to try to spend less and save even more through the month of April. If you want to do your own Month of Spending Less, I encourage you to do it! Set up your own Approved and Not Approved shopping lists and if you would like some extra motivation I recommend reading The Year of Less. Check your library first! I know that Cait gave some to the library here in Victoria. :)

Spending less never felt so good. 

xx Cady