Spending Fast Update: Month 1

April 28-May 26 (cut short because of my vacation!)

So, this whole no-spending-money-on-anything thing is a lot easier and a lot harder than I expected! Finding creative ways to save has been really fun!

I started bringing coupons to the grocery store and I saved $9 the first week and $16 the second. I also actually brought the cans to the redemption center. It was only La Croixs, but I made $5. Better than nothing!

Au revoir, fancy takeout crêpes. (@ The Skinny Pancake in Montpelier, VT)

It’s so hard not to spend on clothes and accessories (my weaknesses). I think the best feeling so far has been my newfound ability to add to cart without checking out. I still get the online shopping rush, without actually spending money.

About halfway through the month, I found myself begin to online window-shop again, so I decided to send a payment to my student loans every time I “added to cart.” It worked brilliantly! One day I sent a random $228 to my loans, instead of spending unneccessary money on Rebecca Minkoff bags or on Asos. When I completed my student loan exit counseling, I sent another $120 towards my loans just for fun.

Of course, throughout the first month, I screwed up. I’m a human being with needs! All of these amounts are rounded up:

The Shame List

drinks at the theatre, $17

drinks at the M.Ward concert, $22

NAF merch button, $3

dinner out, $27

drinks at the La Sera concert, $13

craft supplies, $24

Home Depot (plants & woodworking supplies), $57

treated Dad to dinner, $50

dry-brush, $13

doughnuts & treats with bae, $19

*weak moment* Asos, $26

treated Dad to drinks, $23

clothes, $32

total: $326

Ugh, this list makes me look like a total alcoholic! The first month taught me that (though I don’t drink at home) I’m weak when it comes to indulging when I go out. Hopefully, that will only improve from here! It’s a bummer to think that $326 went to something other than my debt, but it’s such an immense improvement from last month that I’m not letting it discourage me! Basically, it amounts to one wasted paycheck. I think the easiest plan for me is to slowly taper off (3/4, 1/2, 1/4 a paycheck…)

Without starting the Spending Fast, that extra money that I sent to my student loans would have been wasted! Hopefully I can knock a couple thousand dollars off the top before I start owing payments in 6 months. This month, my savings/emergency fund reached $1,500, which is a major milestone for me. I can pay cash to finish my degree, which is something I never thought I’d achieve. I might start auto-depositing $100/week instead of $50/week into my savings, so that come student loan time, I’ll barely even feel my monthly payments.

I went to Montréal this past weekend, so I had 4 days of a “Spending Vacation.” Luckily, the tenets of Spending-Fasting influenced my financial decision-making while abroad. We kept expenses really low, and availed ourselves of free activities. We were lucky enough to be there during Free Museum Day! Also, dat Canadian $$ exchange rate…

On a scale of 1-10, I’d consider May to be about a 4. I saved money and learned about my own spending habits, but I also spent way more than I had originally intended to.

Here’s to June being a much more massive success!


Budget (Della)Bites

I did it. I finally started The Spending Fast.

If you haven’t heard of the Spending Fast, it’s the creation of blogger and photographer Anna Newell Jones. I’ve been following her blog And Then We Saved for years, and after reading her new book and forcing myself to confront the truth about my spending, I officially began my Spending Fast.

I finally went through my personal bank and credit card statements and not counting a lot of spending while on my vacation in Tallahassee, I managed to blow through $2,000 in 2 months! Holy. Shit.

Not all of it was completely reckless spending, but, let’s be honest: did I need to buy a Rebecca Minkoff handbag just because it was on sale? Is it actively improving my life? No. Is it hella cute and am I glad I have it? Of course. But c’mon: the fact that splurging on designer handbags had become so commonplace in my life should have been a red flag that I noticed a long time ago.

bag/Rebecca Minkoff, glasses/Skunkboy for Bonlook, faux furball/Topshop, bag charm/Michael Kors

Here’s what $2,000 could have been spent on:

  • paying off one of my student loans in full
  • paying for my summer course in cash
  • paying off almost half of my car loan
  • paying off 100% of my credit card debt

But nope. It went to dinners & drinks out, home décor trinkets, and clothes. When I went through my finances, I noticed that I make plenty of money to pay my bills, including my future student loan payments. The problem isn’t my job—it’s me being an absolute maniac with my money. I’m so done with that life.

I’m blogging about this publicly in the hopes that it will keep me accountable. I’m going to admit every time I screw up (so far, $27 total on Chardonnay, water bottles, and breakfast/coffee at school), so I can’t deny it or hide it.

The typical Fast period is a year long, so I’ll aim for that. However, because of the unique circumstances of my 2016-2017 (a planned vacation, a wedding, and a honeymoon), the Fast year will have to include a few Fast vacations, which, in the lingo of And Then We Saved, I’ll call Spending Diets.

Here’s how it works:

You have to split all of your spending into two black & white categories, “Wants” and “Needs.”

My Needs:

  • cell phone bill
  • groceries
  • car loan payments
  • summer class & textbook
  • student loan payments (current & impending)
  • gas
  • medical co-pays (not that I ever go to the doctor)
  • Netflix & Hulu (reducing to one service soon)
  • wedding expenses (be as frugal as possible and pay cash for everything)

My Wants:

  • new clothes, accessories, & shoes
  • dining out
  • tech gear & accessories
  • cosmetics
  • haircuts (going to try to barter with my cousin/hairdresser for trims)
  • misc. online shopping, i.e. Etsy
  • home décor (will talk over all changes with my fiancé and work together to finance genuine improvements to the house)
  • music & concert tickets (we are huge music people, so this is going to be VERY tough)
  • premade & convenience food items

My Goals:

  • freedom from debt (duh!)
  • to eventually quit my job and blog/pursue passions full-time
  • to stay at home if/when I become a mother
  • to learn lasting money management skills

Some “Needs,” like groceries, can be wide open in terms of interpretation and actual dollar amount spent, so I’m narrowing it even further to exclude junk food and convenience items. My concentration will be on fresh produce and bulk grains/beans. It will require an added investment of time, but I’ll have a lot more free time once I stop internet window-shopping!

There is another component to the Spending Fast that is NOT fun to think about, but it’s an aspect that can’t be ignored: the Spending Fast and sobriety go hand-in-hand. I’m not talking about total teetotaling, but alcohol 100% of the time falls into the “Wants” rather than “Needs” category. There is never a time when one needs to drink. Therefore, apart from the bar of Chels (aka the liquor I acquired prior to the Fast, which I have to make last an entire year), no more drinking for me.

The Bar of Chels (bottle opener/Modcloth)

This is definitely a first-world problem, but I am naturally a very shy person who is easily overcome in noisy crowds (think: big family holidays), so being able to have a couple of drinks has been my emotional band-aid for years. Not great, Bob. I also suffer from depression, so it will be interesting to see if my mood lifts as a result of this major cutback. I’m hoping that this alleged sacrifice will actually turn out to be one of the most life-affirming and positive parts of the Fast.

So, wish me luck! I’m on day 5…only 360 more to go!


*all photos taken with an iPhone 6 and edited with A Color Story