RECAP: 4 Things I Learned During My June No-Spend Challenge

 No spend challenges are a great way to save money and pinpoint your spending habits. it's what all the personal finance cool kids are doing.

Last month, I did a self-imposed No-Spend June Challenge. Yep, I did it right in the middle of the summer, which is full of rooftop IPAs, summer concerts and boats that need full gas tanks, because what could possibly go wrong with that plan, SC?! 

I'm not a super spendy person in general. The Purposeful Penny recently did a little Instagram post about whether you're a natural spender or a natural saver, and I fall into the latter category. She also included a wonderful reminder that saving is a HABIT — the more you do it, the easier it gets. And, it's one habit you'll always look back on and thank yourself. I've never, ever, ever — not even once — regretted putting an extra 1% in my 401(k), or starting a Roth IRA, or tucking away my tax return. 



So if I'm already a natural saver, why did I commit to the June No-Spend Challenge?

In addition to reigning in summer spending and saving some doll hairs, I was very much looking forward to what I would discover about myself and about my habits. SHO 'NUFF, I learned a thing or two. Ahead, read my spending recap, what four things I learned from the challenge, and what I'll do differently next time. If you're not into my WIN/FAIL ramble, you can skip on down to the bottom where I drop the real wisdom and list out very important life lessons. 

Day 1 of the saving money spree!

DAY 1 -- WIN

Although June 1 and June 2 went well and I didn't spend any money, I don't know if I should even count them because I didn't do anything. I went to my grandparents' farm, picked blueberries, ran circles around the yard with my dog and ate way too much watermelon. Farm life makes my soul so happy, and there's not a boutique within 15 miles — heck, there's not even a grocery store for about 15 miles. It makes spending money a whole lot harder!  

 adorable image  via

adorable image via

Day 3 of my no-spend challenge - how i'm saving money this summer!

Day 3 -- FAIL

Annnnnnd we immediately made up for that great start to the challenge on Sunday. We went on the boat with some friends, which was glorious. As we do all too frequently, we stayed out way too long, which was not so glorious. We had to rinse the boat as the sun was setting and didn't start heading home until my "hanger" and attitude were VERY present. Amateur mistake.

I hate frantic Sunday nights. Very much. I like to spend Sunday nights sleeping, and I like to spend Sunday evenings getting my clothes together for the week, packing lunches, doing a face mask, sipping tea and generally trying to lower my heart rate at the thought of going into the office the next day. Instead of calmly taking care of chores and mentally prepping for a great week, we were flying home at 8:30 p.m. still needing to go to the grocery store. Whoops. 

Rather than face my death stares and snarky comments, my husband (wisely) decided to feed me before grocery shopping. He whipped into Moe's (Welcome to Moe's!!!!!), where I proceeded to order the world's largest "homewrecker" and eat it in a most unladylike fashion. (I'll change my ways when Emily Post writes specific burrito-eating rules, SO THERE!) And, we never did make it to the grocery store ...

Lack of planning = not a great start to the no-spend month.

NoSpend Challenge Day 7 - How to Save Money this Summer

Day 7 -- WIN

Like I said, I'm not super spendy, but I can get into a good Belk sale. I was there buying my cousin a birthday present (Bobbi Brown for the win!). I'm not counting that purchase toward my No-Spend count, because it was a qualified "necessity" set ahead of time.

What WOULD have counted, however, is the shoe purchase I decided not to make. Belk has these insanely good prices on high-quality and designer shoes (and some not-so-high-quality) in their sale room, and they were all marked down an EXTRA 50%, on top of an already discounted price. If you've never been, it's one of those places where you kind of have to go in with no expectations, do a little digging and then be delightfully surprised. 

Well, I was delightfully surprised by a pair of Steve Madden booties, a pair of Vince Camuto mules and a pair of Jack Rogers leather tennis shoe things. I enjoyed trying them on, which is a rare and exotic experience, seeing as how I would typically rather put crumbled cilantro in my eyes than try things on in a store. Ultimately, I decided I wouldn't get much use out of the floral print booties. I definitely would have used the mules, and know I love and trust Vince to be comfortable and last a long time. However, I have a *kind of* similar pair at home, so I couldn't justify those, either. 

The hardest decision was actually the tennis shoes. We are going on an international journey in a few months (more details coming soon!) and I am in the market for some new walking shoes. The problem is, I think I need walking shoes for traveling/walking around casually without looking like I have tourist stamped on my face, plus more sturdy shoes for bigger hiking excursions. I've done about 198 hours of research and looked for ways to combine these two needs, but haven't found any shoe that solves for both. (For goodness' sake, if you have any ideas, let me know in the comments!). 

ANYWAY, I strongly considered these tennis shoes since they were such a great price and all of my other Jack Rogers shoes have lasted long after I should've retired them. In the end, I put them back though, because I didn't think they were quite practical enough. Also, I knew I'd have to blog about it (#accountability) and I wasn't in love with them enough to fess up to the spend.

 I'm saving money this summer by not spending money with a No-SPend challenge. How will you save money this season? You can do the no-spend summer with me.

DAY 14 -- FAIL 

At my workplace, we frequently do happy hours to celebrate new employees, birthdays, engagements and things of that nature. Really, we just look for any excuse to leave work a half-hour early in order to head to the Blind Tiger.

This month, we had a new employee and a new intern join us, as well as a birthday to celebrate. So, the crew headed to Palmetto Brewery on the peninsula to toast our newbies and our oldie. (Sorry, I think "veteran" is a more PC word there, but oldie just *works*.) Not wanting to appear like the office Grinch, I joined everyone and decided to stick to one drink. I went out on a limb and ordered PB's Mango IPA. An aside for beer lovers: I love IPA, but typically like my beer to taste like beer with no overt fruitiness. This one was nice though! 

Although I technically have to chalk this day up to a loss, I don't regret going. You gotta live a little, friends. 

 No-spend challenge day 17 was not great. How can you save more money than me? Try this.

DAY 17 -- WIN 

Ahh, pizza, you beautiful beast. Why do you tempt me like this?! 

I ALMOST cave to a strong desire for a slice of DeRoma's pizza, but stand strong. I had a lovely, healthy, completely unsatisfactory meal-prepped dinner of Greek chicken with roasted veggies instead. First world problems, huh? 

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image via

 NoSpend Challenge Day 20 - how to save money this summer. I earned more money and saved more this summer and you can too!

DAY 20 -- Ehhhh?

Food is listed out in my pre-approved list of No-Spend necessities. Ya girl's gotta eat. 

What I haven't mentioned thus far in this post is that I simultaneously was doing the Whole30 approach to eating for the month of June because I caved to peer pressure from my best friend. If you're unfamiliar with the program, it is very similar to the paleo approach in that you only eat real, unprocessed, whole foods for 30 days. That means no dairy, grains, legumes (which means no chickpeas!!!), sugar, alcohol, peanuts and a host of other considerations. The idea is not to restrict or starve yourself, but to give your gut time to heal by putting less unnatural (forgive me, Mom) crap in your system. That's Whole30 in a nutshell (a walnut though, not a peanut shell).

And it's relevant to this blog post for a few reasons. 

1.)  I have never shied away from buying healthy foods. But I bought so much MORE while doing Whole30. The key for me was lots of PREPARATION and having healthy, whole foods right on hand to reach for when I got hungry. If I didn't have an apple to throw in my bag for a snack at work, I was way more likely to reach for the office's snack stash. I just bought a larger quantity of produce than usual, so I had a higher grocery bill this month.

2.) I totally overcompensated for my inability to spend money on "stuff." Since I was doing these two "restrictive" things at once, I had no problem justifying a significantly more expensive food buy as a treat. Pre-made juice from Whole Foods? Yep. $7 "clean" ranch? You betcha. Overpriced, pre-spiralized zoodles? Sign me up. I made the conscious decision to make my life a little easier and save a little more time by spending more on food that was Whole30-compliant, and I'm OK with it. But I do recognize there was an emotional trigger of, "I DESERVE this."

Anyway, not really calling this a fail because I was spending money to eat healthy, and that's not money wasted. Not really calling it a win, either, because I could have tried a lot harder to find less expensive, less pre-made options many times. 

 NoSpend Challenge Day 23 - how to save money this summer. I earned more money and saved more this summer and you can too!

DAY 23 -- WHOAAAAAAAA FAIL

We bought round-trip international plane tickets. And they were not cheap. They weren't travel hacked, a good deal or even the cheapest of all of our options. But a lot of thought and research went into these particular tickets, and I plan on doing a full post later on why we went with the more expensive airfare. 

We are going on our official honeymoon soon, and so these tickets were actually bought with money specifically allocated for this purpose. In fact, the money is coming out of our leftover wedding fund, so we aren't even really counting this as a real budget hit. But still, I thought it was funny that I didn't pull the trigger and buy the tickets until it was No-Spend June and I would have to report this massive expense online. 

Win, because HONEYMOON! WHOOHOO! But fail because, wowzers, what a spend. 

 NoSpend Challenge Day 24 - Saving money is hard, especially in the summer. But if I can save more money by doing the no-spend challenge, you can too.

DAY 24 -- WIN

As I said on Day 7, I've been in the market for some hiking boots to take abroad. But so far, they are all either horribly impractical or disgusting. 

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I did find some reasonable Merrell boots online, but ultimately decided that since it was No-Spend June, I'd just let them sit in the cart and I'd think about them. This is risky, because hiking boots need to be worn in and our trip is only a few months away. BUT, I am so glad I didn't make the purchase because at the time I am writing this post, my cousin offered me her nearly-like-new hiking boots and they fit perfectly! So there's $200 I won't have to spend :) Shout-out to cousins, AKA life-long obligatory friends with cool shoes. 

 NoSpend Challenge Day 20 - Want to know how to save money this summer? I earned more money and saved more this summer and you can too!

DAY 29 -- FAIL

I bought approximately $1 million worth of Trader Joe's cheese. If you really need another reason to buy cheese other than that it's delicious, I was entertaining friends for a game night at my house and wanted to show off my gorgeous new wooden cheese platter I received as a wedding gift. Cheese is the only way. They tell you that in the newlywed handbook.

Yes, it's food (necessary), but I went way overboard and got way too much. On the bright side, I had a GREAT excuse for breaking the Whole30 no-cheese rule for weeks afterward because of all of the leftovers. Waste not, want not, friends.

Whew.

So.

A whole month of a financial fast (mostly). What did I learn?

4 things I learned during our No-Spend June experiment: 

  1. I'm not super spendy. I'm just not. I think my biggest "weak spots" revolve around food, e.g. impromptu food/drinks out. A lot of those instances occur due to lack of planning. Taking time to plan my meals and snacks ahead of time helps save money and the ability to justify burritos.
  2. I definitely compensated with food. I already mentioned this, but in case you skipped all of that ^ and are just joining ... I found myself justifying my food spending this June, even though it was much more than I normally spend on groceries. There are worse things to spend money on, but let's just say I've never in my life before bought cashew milk cheese. And I never will again, because it is the single most obnoxious thing I've ever done. I have never hated myself so much as I did during the moment that I forked over upwards of $4 to a Whole Foods cashier for a bag of nut cheese. My cheeks burned with shame. I couldn't make eye contact. Traces of bile lined my throat. Anyway, I guess I wasn't exercising my spendy muscle enough in my regular life, so I did it in an "approved" category. 
  3. I have emotional spend triggers. This didn't actually surprise me. Bad day at work? I deserve a meal from the hot bar at Whole Foods. Super proud of myself for a new goal I reached during Pure Barre class? I deserve a new workout top. Sometimes, these feelings are valid and the prize warranted. YOU HEARD ME, FRUGAL FRANNIES. Sometimes, when you have a bad day, you should go rogue and *gasp* forget your budget for a minute and buy yourself a glass of wine or a new pair of leggings. But not always. This month, I did a good job of keeping myself in check — but it certainly did point out how many times I make a purchase because of my feeeeeeelings. 
  4. I should definitely tell my husband next time. Whoops. I forgot until we were like, 3 days in (Moe's night. #neverforget) before I remembered to mention that oh, hey, we shouldn't spend money on this burrito because I'm doing a no-spend challenge and will have to report back to the personal finance blogger world that I cheated. Don't be like me. This kind of decision should be discussed and agreed upon by both parties before the ban takes place. What! I'm a newlywed! Sometimes I forget that there's another human living here now. (Although it is very hard to forget, as he's giant.)  

What do you think — would you be able to do a No-Spend Challenge? I think it's well worth it, if only to point out where you typically spend unplanned dollars or justify unnecessary purchases. In fact, I'd like to do it again. It won't be soon, as we are making many purchases for our upcoming trip, but maybe we will do it around October? It will be a nice reset after traveling and a good way to save up before the holidays. Who wants to join me? Let me know in the comments below! 

Oh. Heads up, husband. In case I forget to mention it again, we're doing a No-Spend month in October :) 

Now THAT is communication, my friends. 

SC