Everything I Learned From Surviving #NoSpendNovember

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It’s December, which means my #NoSpendNovember challenge has officially come to an end. This isn’t the first time I’ve participated in this challenge, and I spent $21 last year during my no-spend month. I was aiming to beat this, by spending even less in November 2015, and am sad to report that I fell short. This November threw me for a loop. At final count, I spent $88 in November 2015. While this is exactly $88 more than I intended to spend, I would hardly call my 30-day no-spend challenge a failure.

I succeeded in avoiding coffee shops, and superfluous spending on liquor at bars. One of my biggest personal victories was that I went the entire 30 days without buying myself coffee or alcohol out at a restaurant, cafe, or bar. I was also pleased that I didn’t become a financial burden on my boyfriend. As I’ve told friends, and told myself, I don’t want my spending challenge to affect people around me. So, if I had not spent money on coffee, but let me boyfriend buy me coffee for a month, I wouldn’t consider that a success.

In terms of what we did for fun, my boyfriend and I weren’t overly affected by the challenge. Money was never a primary part of our relationship — we’re both saving for goals, so we find alternate ways to hang out, instead of constantly going out to eat. We build forts in the living room, visit public parks, up-cycle things we find around the apartment into new crafts, doodle, and spend a lot of time drinking leftover wine on my back balcony. The challenge didn’t hinder our ability to go out and have fun, as much as it encouraged us, even more so, to take advantage of what we already have around the house.

Though I did spend money on friends, and that may technically constitute a “slip up” in #NoSpendNovember, I was happy that when I did spend, it was on others, as opposed to myself. I took on this challenge mainly to see where my money goes, and at the end of the month, I’d spent $56 of my $88 on other people. Being kind, spreading happiness, and treating my friends when they are having a shitty day is my favorite thing to do. When I feel like someone is down, and I can do something small for them, I follow through, and I see that as a good use of my money. Some of that $56 also went to tipping, which is also something I didn’t want to skimp on. I didn’t expect the pianist to accompany me without a tip. And I made sure every bartender that served me a soda water was tipped, because why should my frugal challenge change what they take home at the end of the night?

The one purchase I made for myself, and the thing that brought me from $56 to $88, was a $32 pair of pants. I use a gym close to my workplace, and one day, post workout and shower, I realized I’d forgotten my pants! It was too late to run home before work, and working in gym shorts wasn’t an option. So, I ran to a store around the corner, and tried to find an inexpensive pair of pants. (I did skip the belt though.)

While I want to participate in this every year, and I generally think it’s a great exercise in budgeting, and an ideal way to learn what you truly don’t need to be spending money on, I am also currently working toward a savings goal, which fueled my desire for success in this challenge. For months, I’ve been meticulously tracking my spending as I save up to accomplish my goal of buying a house/condo by my 26th birthday. This month proved to be the most exciting yet, because I watched my savings account grow. I’m one step closer to having enough for a down payment on a house next year, and that feels pretty damn good.

If you are preparing to attempt a 30-day no-spend challenge, here are my final takeaways, that you might find helpful:

1. CousCous is an amazingly versatile and filling food. It was a life-saver to have around, because when you’re trying not to shop, you need to eat what you have on hand.

2. If you have good friends, they’ll respect your personal challenge and avoid tempting situations. Last time I did #NoSpendNovember, I went to a potluck Thanksgiving, and it was immensely helpful because I could cook what I had around, and people let me take leftovers home.

3. When fresh fruit isn’t an option, you realize how sucky it is to have a low fiber diet. I think stocking up on frozen fruit and vegetables before the challenge could have really helped, and I’m happy to be back on a diet that includes fresh produce.

4. When you can’t buy classes at a yoga studio, or a gym, working out around the apartment is doable. Personally, I found cardio in a studio apartment to be a bit of a challenge, but yoga and strength training were perfect at-home exercise options.

5. Karaoke is free at home. Trust me, that’s a valuable lesson.

I’ll be continuing the challenge next year, and would love to have more people doing it along with me. You’ll never know if you can do it until you try.

Chris is on Instagram and Twitter

Image via Pexels

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