Financial Detox: January Wrap Up and Report

I really like taking the month of January to reassess my spending patterns and remind myself of what I need vs what I want.  I think this will probably become an annual tradition, and I am a-okay with that. Ok, so what I promised to do: spend money only on bills, groceries, and gas. No browsing Amazon, Etsy, or Target; no unnecessary beauty purchases (nail polish, fun eyeliner, etc); no breakfast burritos on Fridays (sob!); bulk up my savings account.

Last January when I tried this I had just moved to Arizona, which is a terrible time to banish any house spending. I kind of failed. This time, however, I did really really well! I didn’t buy any new books, I used the library and Overdrive; I didn’t spend money to go do things, I went to the gym, rode my (darling!) bike, and worked on some projects at home that I already had all the supplies for. Except for one “forgot my lunch” situation, I didn’t eat out this month either. Prior to deciding I was going to go on a financial freeze this month I had made plans for two events that would necessitate spending a few dollars, I am thrilled to announce that I spent less than I’d set aside cash for, and the total for both things was only $30 anyway, which seems extra super reasonable anyway.

Can we talk a little bit about what I did spend money on? Besides the aforementioned activities? In the 10 days since the Cheeto in Chief took office I have donated to a number of organizations, and I have ZERO guilt about that. I’ve set up monthly donations, given one-time chunks of cash, and tried to do what I can to counteract the heinous activity coming from the White House with as many dollars and cents as I can spare. Luckily, this particular month, I had more to spare than usual. Silver linings, folks.

I think I’ll do another detox this spring to help keep me in check. The thing that surprised me the most this time around was how…not hard it was. I mean, inconvenient at times, sure. But it wasn’t nearly the struggle as it has been in previous iterations. Which is a GOOD THING! That means that my day-to-day and month-to-month spending habits and patterns are becoming more in-line with my needs instead of my wants. Hooray! Adulting!


Financial Detox: January Spending Freeze

Last January I decided to go on a spending freeze, not realizing that the first month you move into a new house is a TERRIBLE time for a spending freeze. Terrible. I big fat failed it. So, I’m trying it again. My rules are that I can buy groceries and gasoline and pay all my bills, of course, but that there is no “fun” spending, no unnecessary spending, no “I’m bored and This Thing will make me un-bored!” spending, nothing. I’m still finalizing my 2017 Resolutions, but I know this will help kick-start at least two of them, one about eating healthier (and bringing those healthy things to work for lunch), and one about saving more dollars now that I’m officially debt free.

I have two events in January that will necessitate spending a little money, and my work-around is that I have already set aside the dollars for that in cash. But, for the rest of the month, my focus will be on using what I have, tucking away all the little extra dollars into a savings account, and finding ways to entertain myself that don’t cost money. The gym (ahem, resolutions), some hiking, painting, and riding my bike will be figuring in heavily, especially while the Arizona weather is so nice. I won’t be popping over to Target to “see what they have” or ignoring my healthy lunch in the fridge in favor of something else in the cafe at my office building. Mr. Blue Eyes and I are saving up for something really fabulous this spring, and hopefully that will help me keep my eye on the ball. Christmas just happened, I got spoiled a little with some lovely gifts (a shiny new bike! new books! a wonderful tote bag for work!) and I would like to enjoy those thoroughly.

How do you budget and save money? Have you ever done a financial freeze? Want to join me?



Money, money, money

You guys!

It’s official.

I am personally completely debt free.

No more credit cards.

No more student loans.

No more payments towards whatever-the-hell-that-huge-mistake-was-from-2009.

Nada. I officially have zero debt in my name.

The recession hit me particularly hard in 2008 (long sob story for another day and another post) (or maybe just let sleeping dogs lie) and it has taken years to get myself out of that hole. YEARS!! A few weeks ago the last payment went through and…and I hardly know what to do with myself! I mean, logic says I should take myself on an month-long international adventures, obviously. But boring adult responsibility and long-term planning says I should just keep living how I have been and start socking away dollars for a rainy day, or retirement, or whatever.

“How did you do it, Harriet!?”

Well…the long, hard, painfully slow way. Buy too many things on credit, hit a financial crisis (looking at you, Recession), don’t stop buying things, then get completely buried in payments you can no longer afford, so pretend the payments don’t exist. That’s how you get into the mess; getting out is harder. But finally you have to admit your problems about 37 different ways to people to whom you never planned on detailing your financial woes. Then you set up a payment plan, and you stick to it. It’s easier if you have payments automatically deducted from your paycheck so you don’t risk making a late payment or skipping it, so you truly learn how to live on less. Considerably less. Maybe you’re the kind of person who always had good financial sense and you can remember to make each payment on its due date…I used to be like that, but when I started digging myself out of this mess I didn’t trust myself not to fall into my other habits. So, direct from paychecks it was. For years.

I got my first no-payment-deduction paycheck last week, and my eyes nearly boggled out of my head. I mean, technically I knew how big my paychecks were supposed to be, but seeing it all at once in my bank account? Uh, it was kind of surreal. And awesome. And, again, made me want to go buy a plane ticket to somewhere far, far away. Just because I could. See? For now it’s probably best that I keep those dollars in a savings account until I can come up with a more responsible way of spending them.

BUT! I am debt free. I AM DEBT FREE!

Nope, it still hasn’t sunk in yet.


Financial Detox: August Wrap Up and Report

At the beginning of August I set out to go an entire month without any additional spending, hoping to reset my spending habits and kick start a financial detox. Now, I tried this in January as well with pretty mixed results (free tip: don’t try this kind of budget experiment two weeks after moving into a new house), I was hoping for a better grade this time around. I still bought groceries, including lots of fresh produce, and I still bought gas for my car and paid my bills, I wanted to reduce frivolous impulse buys and curb unnecessary, spontaneous spending. Here’s the somewhat ambitious plan I committed to:

For the month of August I will not buy new, unnecessary incidentals. I won’t buy any house things, no matter how perfect that side stool or storage bin would be for that one little spot. It will wait. I won’t buy nail polish, heaven knows I have more than I could use in half my lifetime. I won’t buy any books and I won’t do any online shopping. No clothes, no shoes, no office supplies, nothing.

Ok, so, how did I do? Well, overall, I think pretty well.

I started a new job mid-August and that necessitated some very minor office supply purchases, specifically, a little desk fan because my new office just does not have very good air circulation and I was battling major claustrophobia without the relief of a little cross-breeze (turns out, circulating air is essential for my sanity). Even with the major transition from working from home to working in an office, I still did not take myself out to lunch; I brought lunch every day my first two weeks…and that was sometimes a lot more difficult task than I really wanted to think about at 7:00 in the morning trying to get out the door. HOWEVER! I did it.

I did not buy any books, I actually have been utilizing the library more in the last month than I have in, probably, the rest of my life combined. Now, most of that utilization has been for audiobooks which I listen to on my commute, but I feel it very important to point out that before this little financial detox I was *buying* audiobooks via iTunes, not borrowing them for free from the library or using (and LOVING!) Overdrive. Definitely a big step in the right direction for me.

I didn’t buy clothes or shoes or new running socks or nail polish or replace slightly dried up makeup or used up perfume or anything! In the spirit of full disclosure, I did buy a tiny silver mountain-y necklace….and I know I should feel some sense of, I don’t know, remorse? guilt? failing student-itis? because a delicate mountain silhouette to hang around my neck was NOT part of my financial detox plan; but I’ve worn it every day since it arrived and it reminds me so much of the mountains that hold my heart. Saying goodbye to my Salt Lake-based job and that direct and consistent link to my Utah roots necessitated a mountain charm to wear next to my heart. Zero regrets. Zero apologies.

Also, in the spirit of full disclosure…I bought a rug. A big one. One that I have been looking at and lusting after for months and months and months. Now, pay attention because this is very important: it was suddenly on sale for 90% off. NINETY PERCENT OFF! It’s huge, a 9 x 11 footer, and made of 100% wool, and NINETY PERCENT OFF!! They were practically GIVING it away! I had the money for a rug set aside for months, waiting to find one in the right price range that I loved, this one was a perfect pattern/color/size, but I’d only ever seen it 30% off, and I couldn’t afford it at that price. But, at NINETY PERCENT OFF! I pounced on that thing and plunked down my debit card (ok, my Paypal password) before even thinking that “oh, hey, no giant rugs this month! Hope it’s still on sale in 3.5 weeks!” (It’s not; it’s sold out completely.) I couldn’t NOT buy that rug. It is huge and soft and covers up so much of the not-my-favorite beige-y tile in the dining room. And, again, NINETY PERCENT OFF!!! With free shipping! Yes, that rug was practically free. And practically free is mostly in-line with a month of no spending…right? Right. Ahem.

Ok, so let’s recap: one tiny office fan (aqua! so cute!); one sentimental-but-inexpensive necklace; one practically free rug. I’d give myself a solid A- grade, all things considered.

Want to know something else that made this whole financial detox particularly difficult and the timing especially poignant? When I switched jobs I got paid out for all my unused vacation time from my Utah company…and it was a significant payout, I had more than two full weeks of unused vacation time accrued. Having all those extra dollars sitting in my bank account, mocking me and daring me to go on a little shopping spree…it was rough, yo. To be completely honest, had I not been in this self-imposed financial detox I absolutely would have splurged on a few fun things for myself. Or maybe more than a few fun things. Instead, I forced myself to hold off on any purchases and see this financial detox thing through, and I transferred those dollars in my savings account. I do have a few little things that I will most likely buy in the next week, things I’d been “saving” for the end of this detox (running socks, and I really want to replace my empty perfume bottle), but it’s a lot less of a list than what I would have spent had I not forced myself to hold off. And that little experience, all by itself, has been a really great lesson for me, a way to identify my “natural” spending habits vs what I’d like them to be. If I can wait two weeks I will either a) no longer be interested in x, y, or z item; or b) be absolutely positive that it will be a necessary and welcome addition to my life.

Have you ever done a month of no spending? How did it go? If you were to try it, what kind of rules or parameters would you set? Do you like your current budgeting style? Do you stick to it? Do you know where all your money goes, down to the pennies? Or is it all vaguely loosey-goosey?

Harriet sig

Financial Detox: August Spending Freeze

Every so often I like to give myself a little kick-start towards more responsible budgeting by instituting a one-month spending freeze. Now, I know a lot of people who have done various versions of this financial detox, and everyone has their own set of rules. Some don’t spend anything other than mortgage and bills; some give themselves a set budget for groceries and other sundries, with rules on what kind of discretionary purchases are allowed; and a few allow a few dollars a week for gasoline and milk and everything else must come from the pantry/freezer.

My rules have been almost the same over the last few years of this detox. I give myself a grocery budget to allow for fresh veggies and meats but not for three new bottles of nail polish or a new set of kitchen towels. No trips to Target for new t-shirts. No Amazon Prime click-bait purchases. No picture frames or throw pillows or house plants. For me, a financial detox has a lot to do with figuring out how to live with less, figuring out how to re-purpose, to consolidate, and to give any purchases–major or minor–more thought and more impulse control.

In January I had marginal success in my financial detox, but I should never have tried to go 31 days without spending any money just three weeks after moving into a new home. That was a very very bad idea, and while I managed to curb my spending considerably in other areas I went hog-wild in house spending. All were pretty necessary, and still regularly used, but definitely not part of a financial detox plan. Ahem.

And so, we try again. For the month of August I will not buy new, unnecessary incidentals. I won’t buy any house things, no matter how perfect that side stool or storage bin would be for that one little spot. It will wait. I won’t buy nail polish, heaven knows I have more than I could use in half my lifetime. I won’t buy any books and I won’t do any online shopping. No clothes, no shoes, no office supplies (sob!), nothing. I will use up or make do with what I have, and I will learn to live without immediately replenishing non-essentials, I will figure out a runner up option where I can and put all the saved dollars into my piggy bank for…well, to be honest, for what I haven’t quite decided yet. Part of me thinks a little shopping spree September 1 would be a great idea, but most of me knows that the whole point of a financial detox is to re-teach yourself better financial habits, not to just put a temporary hiatus on unchecked spending.

Harriet sig