Monday, February 28, 2011

What I Learned from the No-Spend Challenge

Today marks the end of the No-spend Challenge!  I ended up with 6% or my food money and 18% of my household money left over; my toy budget was blown at 49% over.  I consider it a success because I was able to pay for all the car inspections and maintenance without drawing down any of my savings.

Things I Learned From the No-Spend Challenge:

(1) Murphy is always waiting just around the corner; a financial cushion makes this an annoyance rather than a disaster.  Yeah, I knew this already, but being extra money-conscious this month definitely reinforced the message.  No sooner had I decided to spend no money from my toy budget, then my computer blew up.  Now, if I had to, I could live without a computer and do all my internet from the library.  A working computer is not a necessity like food and shelter.  But it sure was nice to have the extra cushion to just make a new computer happen painlessly.

(2) Freezers are only frugal if properly utilized.  There is way more stuff in my freezer than I had realized.  We didn't even really make a dent in the freezer this month, even though our food budget was halved.  I'm considering reworking my food budget to continue to require myself to eat from the freezer at least a couple of nights a week.  I'm really good at putting stuff up, but it's not frugal if you put it up and then it spoils before you use it.

(3) Obsessively chasing online deals is not frugal.  I buy a lot of stuff online, so I am on a ton of mailing lists.  Most of them send me an offer every day.  Before this month, I've had a list of what needs to be purchased, and every day I check the deals offered by any stores that have the items on my list until there is a really good deal on what I need.  This month, since I was buying only essentials, I deleted all of those emails without reading them and added 20 minutes of productive time to my day.  It's easy to get a good deal online; getting an excellent one is a challenge.  Spending 20 minutes a day for a week on a $1K item to save 10% might make sense; spending the same time for 10% off a $10 item does not.  I'm unsubscribing from all those deal lists and just shopping for small dollar items as I need them from now on.

Right before I started this challenge, Debt Ninja posted his belief that "[No-Spend Challenges] are just an excuse for people to pat themselves on the back."  This is the first no-spend challenge that I've ever participated in, so I didn't have an opinion at the time, but I resolved to come back to his post after this challenge was over.  I certainly didn't expect to learn anything from the challenge; I thought I'd just end up with more money at the end of the month.  This No-Spend Challenge helped me pinpoint leaks of both time and money that make my lifestyle less than optimally frugal, and I saved some money, so I'd say they can be worthwhile.


  1. I have a love/hate relationship with my freezer. When I remodeled my kitchen, I went from having a side by side to a bottom freezer and I think I lost just over 1 cubic feet of freezer space. The old one felt small but the new one feels even smaller especially with a family of 4. I would love to stock up more, but as it is I have stuff in there that doesn't get rotated nearly as often as I would like.

    The small freezer gives me one benefit. I almost never eat freezer burned food anymore. I rotate it out completely about 4-5 times a year now, which is cool. It's tough during gardening season but other than that, I'm okay with eating fresher foods more often.

  2. I like #3. Our time is necessarily limited, and analyzing the ROI on time spent noodling online is a worthy exercise.