Friday, June 17, 2016

No Spend Month - Week 3 and 4 Update

If you missed early posts in this series: Getting Ready, Week 1, and Week 2

During week 2 we learned Nate received the promotion he applied for with his company to Moorhead, MN, meaning we were going to be relocating to Fargo, ND on a short timeline. This obviously made for some no spend exceptions that I will outline below. The great news is our house went under contract, within days, with multiple offers, over asking price.

Week 3 and 4: Craziness
Have you ever moved across the country? Relocated on short notice? We have before and it is always a stressful process but this is our first time as homeowners and getting our home ready to sell on short notice was both stressful and expensive. I also was out of state for a work conference the last week of April. Needless to say when we planned our no spend month we never thought things would get so crazy but we pushed through.

Eating Out
This is the area where we did the best! It was a huge eye opener how much we truly were spending both at restaurants and fast food. Going out to dinner as a family is something we enjoy but with 6 people it is never less than $35 and often is $80-$90 with a tip. Our money is better spent on other things. We will reserve eating out for special occasions and really strive to plan our meals and be prepared. A lot of our eating out is due to our crazy schedule with 4 kids and 2 working parents and not planning things in advance. With our move I won't immediately start working so I am going to work to become better organized in this area and limit this spending going forward.

Our cheats were at the very end of the month. Nate spent $6.44 at his work cafeteria 4/27 so I bought myself a drink at dinner at Bahama Breeze $10.45 with tip. 4/30 I had a moment of weakness and exhaustion and got Nate a soda (and myself one too) instead of going into King Soopers $6.86.

$23.75 for the whole month with no spending all month until 4/27.

Entertainment wasn't hard to find during the last two weeks of April. We had a busy calendar with bible study, JOY team party for the kids at church, Great Cloth Diaper Change, and I had a work conference in Atlanta. On top of all that we were under a time crunch to get our house on the market so every free moment was spent doing repair projects. It wasn't glamorous or exciting but we kept busy.

Grocery Shopping
We managed to stay right at budget those last two weeks. It was a good reminder that if I set a budget and calculate out costs while I shop or use grocery delivery I can stay on budget even with cleaning supplies, toiletry items, and household goods.

Clothing and Shoes
No temptations in this area. The no spend month just affirmed that this area is one I don't overspend in.

Household Items
We didn't have specific items we purchased to use in the home but we had a number of expenses to get the home ready to sell. I will detail them below under a new category "moving expenses".

No Cosmetics or Luxury Toiletries
No temptations in this area. The no spend month reaffirmed that my overall spending in this category is on track.

Car Maintenance
No maintenance needed this month. My next oil change wasn't due until early June. Nate ended up selling his car and purchasing a new car in early May with cash. He did buy $49.99 Carfax subscription to assist with his search.

Medical Expenses
This category of our budget always takes up a much larger part than it should. I was able to defer these expenses until May with no problem. Overall we need to increase our budget in this area as it seems most months we have at least $200-$300 in medical expenses with some months as much as $500 or more. I think a good exercise would be to total up medical expenses the past 3 years, get an average, divide it by 12 months and add that into our budget. Going forward $3000-$5000 per year in medical expenses will likely be our norm so we just need to embrace it.

Moving Expenses
This was our biggest deviation from our no spend month. We had a number of large expenses to get the house ready to sell. 
$141 Home Depot
$29.77 Home Depot
$74.83 Walmart
$15.36 Ace Hardware
$73.41 Home Depot
$138 Walmart
$13.37 Home Depot
$3.75 Lowe's
$19.95 Lowe's
$49.69 Target
$19.99 Ace Hardware
$58.82 Walmart
Total $637.94 in the month of April. Including May these expenses totaled closer to $3000 with a brand new water heater the day before the house listed an $300 washing machine repair right when it went under contract.

Even with the best of planning you can come across unexpected expenses. Brennan got asked to prom and since we were moving we decided to let him go and cover his tux rental of $110. Brennan's birthday ended up getting moved one weekend early into April due to our house being listed for sale. The expense for his party was $195 including food for 7 and cards for the game they played during the party. Once again more than I typically spend but since he wouldn't be seeing these friends for awhile I let him invite more people. $305 spent in the miscellaneous category on two events: birthday party that was moved from April to May and prom that Brennan wasn't invited to until April.

Bottom Line:
No spend month was a huge exercise in self control and discipline. Lack of self control and discipline is a big reason we've failed at budgeting and failed financially. American culture says get what you want when you want it, you deserve it, and pay for it later. Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University along with YNAB budgeting software really have turned my attitude about money around. We'll never finance a car again. If we want to make a big purchase like a vacation, we save cash first, then go on the trip. Totally life changing. Bringing these other spending habits into line will only help us in the long run. 

Our biggest wins were eating out and entertainment. These are huge drains on our monthly budget. In the month of June, admist our big move I have gotten lazy but in July I am going to work to keep this category as close to zero as possible again. Eating at home is healthier and saves money. It just takes a little time and planning. Entertainment is something that can't always be at zero but it pays to be thoughtful about how much we spend in this category, balancing free things with affordable, fun things.

Other things that were easy to not spend money on were toiletries and luxury cosemtics, clothing, household items, and car maintenance. These are all things that I need to spend money on annually but not every month. Going forward I plan to budget these items out for the year so I get a good picture of what we spend each year in these category even if I only purchase these items once every 4-6 months.

Our biggest challenge was finding out we were relocating on short notice. Throughout the months of April and May we spent $3000 getting our house ready to sell. Another challenge was unexpected kid expenses. The biggest one was prom, 2nd biggest one was moving Brennan's party to an earlier date, 3rd was an unplanned field trip. The first two were influenced by our move as well. In a month without a major life change I think we could stay much closer to zero. We plan to try this again soon. Probably in September once our summer travel is done and the kids start school.

Could you do it?
Yes! Anyone can do it. I found our no spend month a great exercise in self control and an eye opening experience to what we truly spend money on. Give it a try. Let me know how you do. Some other great resources I've found on budgeting and finance are Dave Ramsey's book Total Money Makeover and his class Financial Peace University (totally life changing for us). I also really like the budgeting software YNAB and like following their posts and updates on Facebook as they have a similar philosophy of living within your means, saving, and planning for purchases. We're excited to be debt free except our house (good riddance student loans) and to have a fully funded emergency fund after our move. I plan to write more about our journey in the coming months so stay tuned!


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