no-spend April update

It’s been a week on my no-spend; so far, so easy. I had a productive week: taking 4 boxes to a charity thrift shop, starting more seedlings for the garden, doing spring yard clean-up, tidying the shed, washing windows… the weather has been beautiful, and I’m in the mood to spring clean and work outside!

no spend chart

I made a tiny grid for the dashboard of my planner where I can mark off the days for this challenge. I just drew a tiny calendar for the days of the month, and mark them off each time I have a successful day. Since I refer to my planner constantly it’s a little added incentive to keep going with it. This is actually a really good, simple, tool for perfectionists and would be great for any type of daily goal you are trying to achieve. Since I love challenges so much I may try this for another one next month.

I have to laugh that the quote above is about buying (“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants and that’s pretty much the same thing.”) I feel like it’s a true statement! The only things I’m jonesing for right now are plants, but I can wait until May for that. 🙂 This is actually a good time of year to do a spending freeze; gardening season is a time it’s easy for me to justify spending money. But better planning and using what I’ve got is a much better habit to get into. Gardening should be a frugal hobby! So until May, and until I’ve fully planned and prioritized, I’m babying seedlings and studying what’s emerging in my yard from last year, to get my plant fix!

3 more weeks to go!

no-spend April


Every now and again I do a month- long spending freeze, and I’m starting another today. I actually really love doing this once or twice a year, because they inspire me to:

  1. slow down and be grateful for what I have;
  2. be more creative when solving problems (make do without, borrow, make my own, etc);
  3. tackle overdue projects I’ve already got the supplies for, explore my city, connect with friends, get rid of excess…basically just channel my energy toward the things I otherwise overlook;
  4. give a new look to old stuff (I like changing things up, and during spending freezes I just rearrange, shop the house, try some different outfit pairings, etc. to get my fix)

I always decide at the beginning, what the “rules” will be. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, a downfall of that being that when I mess up, I give up! By establishing what’s allowed, what the exceptions are, etc, I am more likely to stick with a challenge. The allowable expenses this time around are:

  • Groceries
  • Household consumables (items to clean, personal care stuff, etc – though I will make most if not all of this category)
  • Reasonable “experience” expenses. This is new; typically I also try to avoid these when doing a spending freeze. But this time I will allow a bit of spending for a night out (we have one planned mid-month), Mom’s Club activities (like admission into a museum), a family outing or two, and renewal of our Nature Center membership.

So what is NOT allowed is: décor items, office supplies, makeup, clothing (for any of us), books (for any of us), toys, and random tempting Amazon purchases. Even thrift shopping is going to be a no-go. This month I’m focusing on removing (even more) things from the house and not bringing any in. So I’ll be going through our things again and again to minimize our possessions, selling, donating, and giving away anything extraneous. I’ve already sent countless bags and boxes of things to charity shops over the last 3 months, but I am not finished yet. Though I’m not much of a retail junkie, my thrift shopping tendencies, as well as my always saying “YES!” to other people’s cast-offs has really added up.  That, and just the general epiphany that less is more – I am truly feeling more at home the more I get rid of (knowing that most everything left is useful or special).

The only physical item I will allow is new glasses – I need them pretty badly, and April is when my benefits will allow for them. I do also have two birthday gifts to factor in; I haven’t decided if I will purchase gifts or get a little creative..

This time around, I’m particularly excited to see how zero waste will affect this challenge. My spending over the last month has been mainly swapping out disposable or junky plastic stuff for good-quality, sustainable items I can use indefinitely. I’m not entirely done, but the wasteful disposables, most toxic plastics, Teflon, and vinyl (aka, the worst offenders) are out of our lives. We can absolutely make do with what we have now for a while.

I’ve got a little list of projects to do this month, but they aren’t going to keep me up at night. I just have my list in case I get the itch to do something productive and don’t want to be tempted to hit the hardware store or thrift store for a project.

Have you ever done a no-spend month? If you want to join me, let me know and we can trade tips and updates!

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.

Continue reading “31 Day No Spending Challenge – Challenge Recap”

31 Day No Spending Challenge – Week 3 Recap

I’m a little late with the recap on week 3 of the 31 Day No Spending Challenge, because we spent the weekend in the mountains. 🙂 We are back a little more relaxed than when we left. An escape is always great!

canned goods1

Week 3 was a busybusybusy one with garden preservation! This is the first summer I’ve done any canning by myself and it’s a LOT of work! But well worth it, I think. Here’s what got done last week:

  • Canned 6 pints of pickles
  • Canned 6 pints of pickled beets
  • Froze 25 2.5 cup bags of peaches
  • Made 10 jars of peach freezer jam
  • Made a batch of kale chips
  • Made two bottles of dilly beans (fridge variety)
  • Dried lots and lots of herbs (lots more to go..)
  • Cleaned and organized the camping trailer
  • Went ATVing
  • Went to a Cooking Club
  • Went to the Aquatic Center (ok – this cost money, but it was el cheapo)
  • Went camping
  • Did a lot of cooking!

I have to confess I did spend some money this week at a thrift store. I went to pick up a couple of produce baskets for picking veggies in the garden, and ended up also getting a few clothing items and toys for Hannah. I also bought canning jars (new), but those were a grocery necessity. All in all, still a good week. Unnecessary impulse buys were at least at a fraction of the retail price, right? :/

The next update will be a recap of the month, as there are only 8 days remaining. In the next 8, I would like to accomplish the following:

  • Get 18 month pictures of Hannah (my sister-in-law is on board to help me, so assuming she can help this week it should get done!)
  • Take yard/garden pictures
  • Can another batch of pickles
  • Dry more herbs
  • Put together our Yellowstone trip plan
  • Clean the trailer and start getting it ready for trip
  • Finish throw pillows


less.stuff.more.happinessWe are so far from minimalists. I’m usually happy with my status as frugal and generally-conscientious-consumer.

But this post solidified my desire to do more (by doing less): 7 Common Problems Solved by Owning Less. Such a succinct reminder of all the ways consuming less sets you free.

Image is from here: links to another good post on the topic of downsizing).

31 Day No Spending Challenge – Week 1 Recap

random week stuff Week 1 of the 31 Day No Spending Challenge is coming to an end, and I thought I’d recap. It wasn’t a perfect week, but I know we saved ourselves a bit this week by being conscious of our spending, and not running out to pick up some little thing here and there (especially as it always leads to picking up a few other things “while we are there.”)

A few interesting observations:

  1. I think (more) about how much I already have (in a gratitude way and a stifled-by-stuff way, depending on the moment). This is an entire post for another day.:)
  2. I notice my thoughts and energy directed more toward the things that make me truly happy, the simpler things. It’s cliche, I know. But so true. I tend to spend more time outdoors and dreaming about travel (yeah, that costs money, but it’s not about *stuff* so it’s different.) More time actually reading, than adding books to my Amazon wishlist. More time sitting on the deck, burning incense and watching the hummingbirds with my family. It doesn’t take a spending challenge to enjoy these things – but it feels less like carving out time for it and more like there is already plenty of time for it. It’s hard to explain!
  3. I always want to downsize. When I think about my real, true values, it goes back to this every.single.time. I want less: a smaller home, a smaller yard, fewer things, a tiny garden. It’s a weird world we live in when so many people have so little – not enough – and yet many of us have so much – too much. How did that happen and how can we change it? It’s become so needlessly complex. It’s something on my mind a lot, amplified by my latest no-spending challenge.
  4. Also interesting is there’s guilt associated with wanting less, because it means I have so much. It seems ungrateful. But I am not. Sometimes I forget I’m lucky, but overall, I know how fortunate I am. But I also feel guilty for the excess. Excess is completely relative – in the Western World we are all comparatively better off that much of the world. But I’m even better off than many (MANY) people right here in my own community. We don’t have debt and we work for all we have, so it’s easy to feel we deserve it. There are days, though, that it feels like having less would be less of a burden. There’s a happy balance, and it’s having enough, whatever that is. For us, I know that it’s far less than we have. It’s something I need to formulate into real action.

On to the recap:bathroom before and after


  1. I signed up for milk delivery from a local dairy. Once a week we will have our milk (and other dairy we need) delivered to the doorstep for only a $5/month delivery fee. It’s good quality, a small, local business, and will save me from little trips to the store that add up in gas and impulse buys. This is a step to help our grocery budget in the long run. My goal is to go to Costco at the beginning of each month for the staple items needed and have milk delivered weekly. The rest of the grocery budget will be divided between two additional shopping trips to a regular grocery store each month for fresh items and non-bulk items. This may be easier now through October while the garden is producing lots of good stuff, but I plan to make the that goal from here on out.
  2. I must be putting out “cheapskate” vibes into the universe because I swear people keep offering me free things. People who don’t read my blog as well as my family who does. 🙂 My mom dejunked her massive (to me) fabric stash and gifted to me a whole bunch of fat quarters in a weird and random assortment of patterns and colors I can’t WAIT to sort through and make things with!
  3. I got a LOT done for one week!
  • Went to a BBQ/pool party (Hannah’s first time in a pool – she loved it!)
  • Wrote a legit snail-mail letter to my cousin.
  • Painted the little bathroom (formerly green, now painted pale grey with leftover paint from the basement finishing project.)
  • Hit the Farmer’s Market
  • Dejunked and sorted the master bedroom closet.
  • Dejunked, sorted and labeled my dresser drawers (to help keep it nice and organized..)
  • Cleaned out the glove box in my car.
  • Cleaned out the stack of mail/ads in the kitchen.
  • Filled 2 decent-sized boxes of items to donate (they remain on the kitchen table as I’m adding to the pile daily. I’m about to start a third box, actually.)
  • Tidied up and rearranged the deck.
  • Removed some spent plants from the back yard pots. (Trying to decide if I should fill them for the remainder of the season or put them away. There are at least 2 more months to enjoy them, but it would require buying something…)
  • Tidied up the garden a bit (weeded, dug up spent plants, pruned the grape vine).
  • Made a batch of refrigerator pickles from garden cucumbers (This is my favorite easy recipe!)
  • Dejunked and sorted the kitchen utensil drawers.
  • Cleaned up the landing of the garage and made a *tiny* dent in cleaning up the rest of the garage (needs a lot more work this fall)
  • Began reading Infinite Jest (it’s my foremost “bucketlist” book. It felt so indulgent to get up early the other day and read out on the deck with my coffee. I might just make it a once a week thing! – I already get up early to work while Hannah’s sleeping so I will just take a morning for myself instead of being a slave to email from the wee hours.)
  • Almost finished scrapbooking all the 2011 photos I printed in August. (Using the Project Life system, so “scrapbooking” entails shoving the photos into pockets and journaling a bit on each page). PS my ultimate goal is to be caught up by the end of the year…

The “BAD” (or just.. the less than perfect):

  • Whenever I tell myself I can’t spend money I *always* want to make an exception for plants. I don’t know why! I think in my mind they symbolize something opposite of consumption and should be exempt, but it’s still spending, right? I have to tell myself I can wait until September for succulents and potted mums.
  • Yesterday morning was rough – I got very little sleep and was dealing with cramps and some anxiety issues. I just felt like I needed a little pampering. So I took my little mini out for a breakfast. We shared a grilled veggie sandwich at a local bakery and ate outside at a little bistro table on the sidewalk. It was indulgent to go out for breakfast at all – especially during a no spending challenge- but it was a pick-me-up I needed. And Hannah loved the cookie they gave her, and watching/grinning at people passing by our table. Sorrynotsorry for this little cheat:))

Goals for this weekend/next week:

  • Take yard/garden photos.
  • Take Hannah’s 18 month photos.
  • Put together Yellowstone trip plan (rough itinerary).
  • Dry some herbs from the garden.
  • Finish 2011 Project Life album (possible blog post on the progress..)
  • Make something.
  • Possible hike?

31 Day No Spending Challenge List // & 50 things to do instead of spending money

happinessThis August we are attempting a 31 Day No Spending Challenge. This means all month long we aren’t spending on non-essentials, but we are of course still allowed:

  • Our bills/utilities
  • Groceries
  • Household essentials like diapers, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc..
  • Gas/Car-related maintenance
  • And though this isn’t essential, I’m allowing for a couple of instances of eating out. J brings a lunch to work almost daily, but occasionally it’s not practical for him. And an occasional $5 pizza for dinner will be allowed. I have to be realistic here because I don’t want to throw in the towel at the first lapse.)
  • Also allowed is the possible extra grocery/gas expense associated with camping. We still plan to actually have fun this summer! 🙂

Here’s what’s not allowed:

  • Hobby supplies
  • House/Garden/Personal items that aren’t essential
  • Anything for Hannah that isn’t necessary (she’s got plenty of everything she needs right now)
  • Clothes
  • Media: books, mags, downloads, rentals, etc. unless they are free
  • Gifts. We have one birthday to celebrate in August (my niece who lives with us) and I’ve already got her gift, so we are good to go!)
  • Entertainment like going to movies or events
  • Anything else that’s not essential

To keep me motivated/distracted/busy, I came up with 50 things I can do that will cost me nothing (except some groceries/gas money here and there) to refer to throughout the month, in case I need reminded there are plenty of things I can be doing with my time that won’t cost money. It really wasn’t that difficult: I just put down in one place some of the seasonal to-do items I need to accomplish, some free things I want to take advantage of for the remaining days of summer, and listed some general ways I like to spend my time that cost me nothing. I also put down lots of projects I’ve been procrastinating on that I have the supplies for. Maybe this will be the month I get around to them. 🙂

To Do List (items in orange are the things I definitely want/need to accomplish)
1. Get caught up on the little work projects I’ve been putting off, and get more organized
2. Plan and research Yellowstone/Jackson Hole trip (Sept.)
3. Take 18 month photos of Hannah
4. Go on an anniversary date (with a gift card we have stashed away)
5. Go on a free date (Frisbee in the park and a picnic, maybe?)
6. Paint the little bathroom (extra paint from basement)
7. Paint the kitchen chairs (extra paint from bookcases)
8. Begin Christmas gift planning: budget, idea list, and gifts-to-make list
9. Get rid of 100 things
10. Clean up the garage
11. Cut out pieces for the triangle quilt I bought fabric for (might not have enough fabric, but I can start, and see what else is needed)
12. Finish garden stool project (have supplies)
13. Finish scrapbooking 2011 photos (already printed photos and have the supplies)
14. Make Christmas gifts / cards (if I have the supplies)
15. Paint the raised garden beds (extra paint to use up in garage)
16. Tidy up the landscaping in the front yard (prune and move things as needed)
17. Divide up the Hostas (if weather cools down)
18. Food preservation and garden journal/plan update for 2015
19. Can pickles with garden cucumbers
20. Harvest, dry and save seeds from cucumbers and peppers
21. Dry herbs from the garden
22. Make some herbal remedies for wintertime
23. Take some pictures of the yard (for blogging and scrapbooking purposes)

Summer Family Fun:
1. Utilize “free days” in my community (Ours has free Saturday admission to swimming pools, Dinosaur Park, Aerospace Museum, Children’s Museum, depending on the date)
2. Splash pad at the park
3. Farmer’s Market (groceries are an acceptable expense, and they have great deals)
4. Nature Center (already have membership!)
5. Pack a picnic for the park or rec area
6. Backyard kiddie pool
7. Help Hannah play with bubbles, sidewalk chalk, water the plants, etc.
8. Roast marshmallows and sit around the fire pit
9. Eat some meals on the deck
10. Bike ride our nearby trail (borrow bike trailer for Hannah)
11. Farmer’s Market (because groceries are an allowable expense)
12. Plan our Fall Bucket List

Boredom Killers:
1. Manicure/pedicure
2. Write in my journal
3. Read a book I already own
4. Go for a walk
5. Do some yoga
6. Bake cookies
7. Blog post
8. Organize a closet, drawer, etc.
9. Make a new jogging playlist
10. Try some new at-home workouts (YouTube, videos I have already..)
11. Go to the gym on base for fitness classes (if Jonathan’s ever home to watch Hannah for an hour…)
12. Go to the library for books, music and movies
13. Make a project with fabric scraps
14. Practice shooting photos with my camera
15. Take a nap (haha! riiight)