31 Day No Spending Challenge – Challenge Recap

Wow – what a long month! The No Spending Challenge is officially over tonight and I am so glad. I will admit now that I was so far from perfect – it wasn’t the success I’d quite hoped for. But it was definitely a good exercise nonetheless. Being hyper-aware of all those little expenses and impulse buys is a good thing for the budget, even when I justified some of them. I still could not justify many, many little things I wanted to purchase, so lots of items went back on the shelf. Also, I realized I use shopping as entertainment sometimes. I never really realized that was something I could say about myself – I think of myself as someone who dislikes shopping because I avoid malls. But this month made me realize my bargain thrift shopping scores and home improvement project purchases still add up, even though they are much easier for me to justify than dropping $100 on shoes at the mall.

Disclosure time. I spent. I mean, I actually brought quite a few items into my house (and camping trailer) this month. I already disclosed the canning jar purchase, but justified it as part of grocery expense and I FILLED THEM this month. So, totally justified. But I also made THREE separate thrift store trips, spending $39 total. What did I haul home for $39? You know I’m going to list it for you 🙂thrift

  • A really great, perfectly-sized Sakroots crossbody bag for $1 (def. in my top 10 scores ever).
  • 12-15 clothing items for Hannah for fall/winter (shirts, tunics, cardigans, hat, shoes, sunglasses).
  • A few camping and road trip toys to keep Hannah busy for our Yellowstone trip (a toy car, a new baby doll, a ball, a cookie sheet for magnets and 4 books).
  • A few divided toddler plates to keep in the trailer (so I don’t have to keep bringing Hannah’s dishes back and forth between trips- not that big of a deal but for $.25 it makes a lot of sense!).
  • A few misc. baskets and bins to organize the trailer cabinets.
  • 2 tiny pieces of pottery and one pretty plant pot I absolutely did not need, but could not leave without. (I will be planting succulents in them).
  • 2 big baskets for produce-picking in the garden (these have made life so much easier!) plus a plastic basket I can rinse veggies in right over the dirt in the garden.

potteryLooking at that list it’s pretty easy to see how I justified it, right? I mean.. the bag alone is “worth” $60. And the clothes were things Hannah will eventually need, and keeping her happy/busy on a road trip will be priceless, right? I’d have spent more than that quite easily, had I gone to Target or a department store. BUT.. nonetheless, there’s a little bit of guilt over this. I really meant to not only save money, but consume less, during this challenge. There’s much less guilt in buying used, absolutely, but I was so very conscious of the bags of things I was bringing into my house this month; things I didn’t really need. I slightly evened the score by taking a donation for drop off of at least 100 items. I felt like that counts for something. Still.

We also bought Hannah a new car seat. This was also a purchase I hemmed and hawed over, since it was the no-spending challenge month. She didn’t need a new one, yet. She technically still fits in her infant seat, and will for another 15lbs. But eventually she will need the next-sized seat and can use it now. Why the rush? Again, upcoming road trip. We are going to be spending a LOT of time driving – to and from our destinations, between our destinations, and sightseeing. And her infant seat just doesn’t seem up to snuff, comfort-wise for her. So we sprung early for a convertible car seat that can be both rear and forward-facing (she can legally face forward now, but it’s recommended to keep toddlers rear-facing until age 2.) So the plan is to have her rear-facing for the bulk of the travel – freeway and such. And while touring around Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, face her forward so she can enjoy the views! I think this will be SO much more enjoyable for her. So again – this is a purchase we’d be making anyway, but we bought it early to enjoy the benefits for our upcoming trip.

And the last disclosure is that we had to purchase some items to finally finish our basement kitchenette (my brother-in-law’s family has been making do with a makeshift cooking space since May). In May we bought some used kitchen cabinets from someone’s reno, and refinished them over the summer. There was an issue with the rebuilding of a few so it took some time to get it all finished, but they finally have them up. So we spent on a faucet (deep discount from a scratch-and-dent store), laminate to build the counter tops, and spray paint to refinish the old hinges. It was all a very budget DIY project for a kitchenette and looks GREAT. And this was all planned/budgeted for months ago, we just didn’t want to buy and store everything until it was needed. Plus waiting allowed us to find a great deal on a faucet ($60 for a $300+ faucet is a WIN!). I considered this money already spent 3 months ago, and we came in under the amount anticipated so this one is totally forgiven. Right?!

Now that I’ve disclosed the “failures” and hopefully justified them enough that you aren’t judging me completely ;), here’s how the challenge was a success: having a frugal mindset was motivating to me to go into “scarcity” mode or something, because I was really pretty productive at reusing things, preserving food from the garden, and just kind of appreciating what I already have. I recapped what I did each week, but here’s a better, more organized overview. (All of these things were either free, or cost very little. Better still, a few will save us money.)cannedgoods2

  1. Canned pickled beets, bread and butter pickles, & pickled zucchini.
  2. Put up 25 freezer bags of peaches and 10 jars of peach freezer jam.
  3. Dried a batch of kale chips and some oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil.
  4. Made refrigerator dilly beans and pickles.
  5. Made up an herbal tincture for a friend (it’s steeping in the windowsill for another couple of weeks).
  6. Baked a peach pie and make a chocolate zucchini cake (baking is worth mentioning because I never do it!)
  7. Cleaned up and rearranged the deck.
  8. Cleaned up the garden along back of house/patio.
  9. Did a lot of garden cleanup (sooo much more to do).
  10. Took backyard photos.
  11. Finished a tea towel I gifted to a friend.herbs
  12. Started, but have not quite finished, 4 sewing projects (to be completed in September). The Dresden plate pillows, another pillow for myself, and two for gifts. Can’t wait to share – they are so fun!
  13. Scrapbooked about 80% of 2011 photos.
  14. Painted the little bathroom and organized under the sink.
  15. Cleaned and organized Jonathan’s dresser and his side of the closet.
  16. Sorted, organized and labeled my dresser drawers.
  17. Cleaned up the pantry (TBH I already need to do this again!)
  18. Dejunked, sorted and organized the kitchen drawers.
  19. Cleaned and organized the garage landing.
  20. Cleaned out my car glove box and trunk.
  21. Cleaned and organized the camping trailer (this necessitated one of the thrift store trips).
  22. Donated at least 100 items.
  23. Wrote and mailed an actual letter to my cousin.
  24. Visited Jonathan’s grandparents.
  25. Went to a cooking club.
  26. Went camping.
  27. Went ATVing.
  28. Toddler summer fun: went swimming at a friends house, to water park, to the park near our house, nature center, on a picnic, farmer’s market, on lots of walks on the River trail, and to the library a few times. Plus she had a fun day with Grandma and Grandpa while I was taking it easy with some back pain over the weekend)
  29. Worked on planning and organizing Yellowstone trip: packing lists, menu, itinerary, route, printing/organizing everything, putting together a “busy basket” for Hannah, etc.
  30. Started Infinite Jest (I’ll be on this one a while..) and almost finished Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (I’ve been making my way through the HP series again and watching each movie after finishing each book.)
  31. Caught up on Pretty Little Liars and Witches of East End this weekend while I rested my sore back. (Guilty pleasures!)

I could list lots of other little things if I really thought about it, but I like having a 31 item list for a 31 Day challenge, so I’m leaving it as is. Not bad for a month, eh?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have it SO good. I’m grateful for my home, and that not buying anything extra is a fun challenge instead of a day-to-day necessary reality. With all my bargain-hunting, repurposing, and frugal household habits it’s easy to forget that while those things are important for our budget and quality of life, we still are fortunate enough that we don’t have to really worry.

kitchen2ATVingThat’s why I believe in sharing the food I grow and preserve, making time to make “just because” gifts for friends who do so much for us, donating items someone can use more than us, etc. While I spent a lot of time this month being a homebody, I also thought a lot about my place in our little community. We took in trails, parks, farmers market, aquatic center, libraries. Played in the mountains. Dug in the dirt. Supported local charities through donation and thrift shopping. Shifted a good chunk of our grocery budget to a local dairy. Shared my garden. I didn’t put it together until late in the month, that making an effort to create more than I consume keeps me mindful. Not just of our budget, but where the dollars we spend are really going. Are they contributing to our happiness and our community, or being mindlessly shelled out for the sake of convenience or boredom? It made me think about each dollar, and what we were getting out of it. For example, I hadn’t planned to spend money on family entertainment, but we ended up spending $9 at an Aquatic Center. I was therefore SO mindful of what we were gaining: much needed family-fun time. A break from the heat and monotony of August. Hannah’s first experience with anything of the sort – total sensory exploration. Enjoying a new place in the community. And I got to go down a few crazy water slides.. and for a few minutes felt like a kid again. Then it seemed like a bargain.

I actually want to do this again in 6 months or so, and hopefully will fare a little better. Believe it or not it was actually fun. Maybe a springtime one would be good – the garden keeps me busy then, too. If you made it through the whole recap, thanks for reading!

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