29 February 2012

No Spend Challenge - Last day - Recap

Well, we made it. And, surprisingly this month flew by! I was sure it would drag on and on, but it didn't. We ended up spending $73 of the $75 we originally had in our cash envelope to get us through the month, but I would still consider this challenge I gigantic, enormous, super duper SUCCESS. It was a success for a number of reasons. We weren't just successful at not spending money. We were successful at accountability, at improvising, at sharing, at compromise (the good kind), at being grateful for things we have been known to take for granted, at meal planning, at standing up to peer pressure, at being an example of fiscal responsibility to our kids/friends/family members, at cherishing our many blessings, at enjoying life without excess, and at not wanting to justify things we usually allow ourselves to feel entitled to.

This month, and in the months leading up to this month, I heard many people say, "There is no way we could do that." Well, of course you could! Anyone CAN do this. Most people just don't even want to try. If you didn't have any money to spend, of course you could go a month without spending anything! People do it all the time! And, I know I have been known to knock the powers of perspective, but this challenge really made me take a hard look at things that I have labeled as needs. There are people out there who do a no spend challenge EVERY month because they have no choice, and then there are people who convince themselves on a daily basis that they NEED their coffee, their pedicures, their highlights, their expensive beauty products, their satellite television...even if they accruing massive amounts of debt to get these things. I have personally been known to justify See's candies, new 4 inch heels, Gymboree clothes that wont fit my kids until they are six, fast food, and so much more as needs. I am not going to give these things up permanently, but from now on I will label them appropriately as wants or special treats...and only spend on them sparingly.

This month has made us decide to change a lot of how we are going to do things in the future. I will be cutting everyone's hair from now on. I will be making bread often. We will be using cash envelopes a la Dave Ramsey for our budget (we didn't think we needed to do that before, but are now convinced that it makes a HUGE difference).

This month also reinforced our desire to continue doing certain things that have been working well for us so far. Cloth diapers and cloth wipes are saving us a "butt" ton every day. We have also been using homemade laundry detergent for the last year and a half (and have spent a total of $6 on laundry detergent for that entire period).

I spent a significant amount of my adult life convinced that buying things could make me happy, that if I could just have THAT certain thing that all my other problems would seem insignificant. That led me to heaps of consumer debt, and unhappiness. Thank God Brad came along at the perfect time in my life to rescue me from that, and teach me some lessons I wasn't super excited to learn at the time. However, as responsible as he is about saving, I think a little bit of me has worn off on him over the years...and as a couple we were just getting into a bad place regarding the relationship we have with our money. We are both content with making certain sacrifices or compromises in order to avoid debt...like avoiding a car payment by driving older cars that we can afford to pay cash for, using cloth diapers, not really investing much in the brands of our clothing or the decor of our home, buying used electronics (woo hoo $100 laptops), and more. BUT, it seems those things have become easy to us, and once we accepted them as easy, they were no longer compromises...they were just the norm. Yet, we still convinced ourselves that since we were making an effort to save in some areas, that it was okay to spend elsewhere. That makes no sense...and nobody is going to come up to us and say, "What is the point of saving money {here}, if you are just going to turn around and waste money over [here]?" I wish people would do that! If something doesn't make sense, point it out! Even if we try to justify it, we will still have to stop and think about it, and no bad can come out of that! :)

In a world that has sadly turned into a place where accountability is unwelcome, I am just going to come out and challenge every person reading this to reevaluate their relationship with money. Consider entitlement, need vs. want, and overlooked blessings. I will go even further in challenging you to challenge someone else! It's hard because other people's finances are supposed to be none of your business. But, if it is someone who has made that information known to you (think repeatedly mentioning on facebook that they are struggling to make ends meet, while also posting photos of their new Coach boots), and you care about them...it becomes your business. Sitting idly by as they are spiraling deeper and deeper into a hole that will be very hard to get out of...is not doing them any favors. Of course it is very intimidating to try to tell people what you think they should or should not do with their money, so maybe just make changes in yourself that they will notice. Be inspiring! That is what we are hoping to do with this challenge. We wanted to hold ourselves accountable in a way that could inspire others to do the same...because, let's face it, there is just no nice way to say, "You are being stupid with money, and it is going to come back to bite you." I know, because I have tried it. :(

I am so glad that I read that no-spend article four years ago, and that (even though it took 4 years) we finally decided to challenge ourselves. We will do it again, hopefully every February, as a reminder of who and how we want to be. It is effective when done once, but the lessons will probably wear off over time. I'd compare it to being affected by reading a certain bible verse and wanting to apply it to your life, or returning from a missions trip with a whole new view on the world we live in...after time passes, you go right back into your old ways and pick up your old views right where you left off, UNLESS you continue to put yourself in situations that remind you of those feelings. I am really excited to try our best to maintain the feelings we have about our money RIGHT now, by doing this again.

Whether you have $35,000 in credit card debt, or two car payments, or a $900 balance on a signature loan, or zero debt, or $135,000 in a savings account earning interest, I encourage you to ACCEPT this challenge...ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. The household income that we bring in every month is a blessing, a gift from God. How often do you ask yourself whether or not what you are about to spend money on is God honoring? I know I don't ask myself that often enough. It's sometimes hard to define need vs. want in our lives, but it is easier when the justifications to yourself disappear and are replaced with an accountability to God. It also helps to have people in your life who will help hold you accountable to God. Ask yourself if what you are about to purchase is to impress someone or to influence someone. You will often find that you like that ugly $250 purse for all the wrong reasons. :)

Okay, now getting down to the details of this month:

**I don't feel weird putting this out there, because any person could find out what me make in less than 10 seconds using Google**

February pay and entitlements (on our pay statement):
-base pay: $3976
-basic allowance for housing: $2637
-basic allowance for subsistence: $348
-cost of living allowance: $1020
TOTAL: $7981

Normal monthly outgoing $$$ (on our pay statement): $4860
-Taxes (FICA, SS, Federal, State): $804
-SGLI (life insurance for both of us): $32
-TSP (thrift savings plan/retirement account): $755
-Savings account deposit allotment: $525
-Dental insurance: $32
-allotment to cover mortgage on our rental property in Nebraska: $75
-Housing (living in base housing means they just take all of our BAH): $2637
TOTAL: $4860

So that leaves us with $3121 each month, deposited in our checking account on the 1st and 15th in the amount of $1560 each pay period.

We subtracted from our $3121 to pay for the following:
Star Card Payment: $200
Amazon card payment: $200 (I have two cards that only I have used, and I pay off the balances with my monthly allowance, making me responsible for the irresponsible decisions I made in the past, instead of just having Brad rescue me-I usually get a $200 allowance each pay day)
Jocelyn's preschool: $175
Internet: $40
Cell phone bill: $100
Menehune water delivery: $10
Netflix: $8
TOTAL: $733

That left us with $2388.

THEN, we made some extra $$$.
Sold mattress: $100
Sold futon: $75
Made/sold T-shirt quilt: $60 (plus a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper :)
Sewed patches on uniforms: $40
Total: $275 extra cash brought in

We started out the month with $75 cash(that we made with recycling cans and bottles at the end of January). We spent $73 of our $75 on the following:
Milk @ $5 x 6 = $30
Eggs @ $2 x 2 = $4
Butter @ $1 x 3 = $3
Amy went out for Sarah and Rose's going away dinner = $20
Brad went out for Jason's going away lunch = $16
TOTAL: $73. (so really +$2 saved)
We should currently be sitting on $2663 that we normally just spend on WHO KNOWS WHAT!!!

We usually spend $600+ on groceries and $200+ on gas, and this month we tithed that $800 instead.

But still, that leaves us with $1863 that normally goes where?

- Boot Camp $110
- Fast food $250(kind of contradictory to that first thing, huh?)
- Gymboree $50 (at least)
- movies $$
- ice cream $$
- kid toys $$
- babysitting $$
- dinner out $$
- clothes
- baby shower/kid birthday gifts
- direct sales parties (Scentsy, Pampered Chef, PartyLite, Advocare, Silpada, and way too many more)
- knick knacks and other random things that were just "too good of a deal" to pass up
- candy bars, chips and fountain sodas from the mini mart when we are feeling snacky
- a bunch of stuff that I can't even think of because it is so unnecessary

**fun fact** Brad has never once had a car payment, and had never had a credit card until he accidentally applied for one after he met me (we did it to get free beach towels at a Giants game--most expensive towels ever. I hope Stacey still has them).

Anyway, we don't have car payments, or buy designer hand bags and cologne. We aren't caught up at all in 'status' type possessions...but we might as well be, based on how much money we have been throwing away on useless crap.

We added over $1800 to savings this month, in addition to the $1200 we put away every month(between our TSP contribution and our savings account allotment). That money will help us out big time when we get to San Diego in 2 1/2 months and we need to buy a car for Brad and pay closing costs on our new home (not to mention having to buy appliances). With our tax return and our savings account, hopefully we will have enough cash to cover everything without draining our accounts.

We will be losing that $1000+ cost of living allowance when we leave Hawaii. This concerned us at first. How will we make ends meet on a $1000/month pay cut!?? Well, thanks to this challenge, we now know that we were just tossing $2000/month away on whatever...and that pay cut doesn't sound as intimidating anymore. :) I know we will be fine.

Even when we start spending again tomorrow, we are not going back to our old ways. Each time we spend it will be with full awareness of what is important to us in the big picture. We plan to save at least $750 more in March just by using what we have learned about ourselves this month.

OH, and Jocelyn saved thirteen quarters this month! I was excited about this at first, until I realized that thirteen quarters just represents that she only did what she was supposed to do less than 50% of the time. We gave her a quarter each day that she managed to eat all of her lunch, take a nap, eat all of her dinner, AND have the baby jail picked up before bedtime. Perhaps I should consider the fact that she actually did that thirteen times as a win?

Anyway, we will be doing this again next February...if you are interested in doing it with us then, let me know...and we can encourage each other, and I can help you prepare. February really is the best month to try this out...regroup from holiday spending, practice self control by not touching that tax return (as tempting as it is), don't waste any money on Valentine's Day (instead find other ways to show your love), and it is a SHORT month. :)

Thanks for following us on this journey...all three of you who actually read this far. :) I hope you have been inspired somehow.

Ooh, I forgot to mention that I lost 6 pounds! I don't own a scale, so I don't track my weight gain/loss regularly...but I had a doctor appointment yesterday, and they weighed me. I was surprised to see that I weighed 6 pounds less than the last time I weighed myself in mid January on my sister's scale. I was wearing running shoes and pants, AND I had not fed Carolyn in about 10 hours (so my milk makers were heavier than normal). When I weighed myself in January, I had just fed Carolyn, and I was in my birthday suit. So, it might have actually been more than 6 pounds. I absolutely think this weight loss is directly related to our no spend challenge and not to the measly five times I ran this month. :)


Fabulous Fitzhugh's said...

I have TOTALLY been inspired! I only know you through Stephanie but you have stirred something in me! I want to do this. No, I am going to do this next February. I have already begun my planning! LOL
Thanks for letting me into your world and seeing that it can be done.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Team Hayes! Amy, I am so impressed. Thanks for sharing your month with us. Your cheery posts are wonderful. Jill

jodi serrano said...

YAY!!!! so fun to read about your adventure in feb - maybe we will join you next time!

Rosanna said...

Well done. I'm interested in doing this next February. The goal of doing it will help me for the rest of this year with our "wants vs. Needs." Thank you for sharing; I love details and getting the full story. :)