What 7 Days of No Spending Taught Me

Ok first, if you’re a WFMY viewer that caught the story on tv & don’t know me personally, here’s a few things about me:

I own a home so I have a mortgage. My car is paid for. I have basic cable. I own a dog. I don’t budget as well as I should.   Sometimes I use a credit card. My spending habits are not horrible, but there is definitely room for improvement. I could spend less & give more, & I could save more.

I did this experiment because Tanya asked me to. Plus, I love a challenge. I also thought it would be a good way to evaluate what spending habits need alterations since I have a little debt that I need to get rid of before I get into financial trouble…again. I’ve been there before, & I’d like to not go down that road again.

That was a long time ago. In my early 20’s I was in a situation that ultimately led to a really crappy credit score. I couldn’t even rent an apartment on my own. I got out of the situation, found some people that needed a roommate, got a second job, and started climbing out of the hole. It took a long time. One of my jobs was as a waitress at a fish restaurant (i hate fish) and they would let us take home the leftover baked potatos when they overprepared…and many nights that kept me fed.

I don’t eat a lot of baked potatos these days.

So now you know that I know what it’s like to be crazy broke. I also know that it’s possible to climb out of that debt hole, and that it’s possible to do it without filing for bankruptcy. I’m a firm believer that if you borrow it, ya gotta pay it back. No matter how long it takes or how much interest it costs. I made the bad choices, I had to pay for them. It’s called accepting responsibility.

Bad habits are hard to change. Yes, I fixed my credit. I went from not being able to rent a studio apartment to being able to buy a home. I finally got almost completely out of debt (except for the mortgage) and stayed out of debt for a few months…but I didn’t completely fix my spending habits apparently, and I now carry a little bit of debt again. Blast that credit card.

So. That’s why I did this experiment…that, and like I said, Tanya asked me to.

Here’s what I learned:

1) I have more than I need.

2) I waste a lot of money on frivolous things.

3) I need to be more thankful for the things I’ve got, even what we Americans consider basic needs. Globally there are people that don’t have electricity or running water. I heart air conditioning.

Here’s what I plan to do going forward:

1) Spend less & save more (duh!)

2) Bring my lunch to work more often.

3) Find more free activities to do.

4) Give more, cuz my needs are more than covered.

5) Not use my credit card.

Here’s how to cut spending (which you probably already know but may be a good reminder.)

1) Evaluate. Evaluate where you’re spending your money right now.

2) Plan. Plan. Plan. Plan your meals, your trips, your activities.

3) Shop wisely. Use coupons, make a list before you go to the store. Comparison shop for everything. Everything. Get the best deal out there. It takes extra time but will save you money.

4) Learn to cook. Seriously. Everyone needs a break from cooking, but if you eat out more than you eat in, then you need to learn to cook. There are PLENTY of websites that will give you recipes & directions. It’s not rocket science, people, and you can save TONS. If you plan your meals in advance & use similar ingredients nothing goes to waste & your taste buds won’t get bored. Tomatos can be used MANY different ways. & if you know how to cook you can eat healthy. It really doesn’t cost more to eat healthy. Eating healthy will save you money in doctor bills. Just sayin’.

5) Don’t get a gym membership (or any other membership) unless you plan on using it at least 3 times a week. If you’re not using it that often, your hard earned money is essentially going into some other dude’s pocket & he’s getting rich off your slackness. You can walk & run & do pushups for free.

6) Buy only the plan you need. This goes for your phone, internet, insurance and cable. If you’re paying a ton of money for channels you never watch or are finding yourself in front of the tv more than doing more useful activities, then cut it. Your hard earned money is once again going into some already rich dude’s pocket while you’re sitting on the sofa. You can watch WFMY on basic cable. You’re welcome, WFMY. 😉

7) Budget. I probably should have put this more towards the top of the list, but I didn’t. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program. Following his advice got me out of debt last year…and though I’ve faltered a little I know if I get back on it, I’ll be out of debt again in no time. Make your money work for you. Budget.

8) Drop your bad habits. I’m just sayin’. I’m talkin’ about the stuff that’ll kill ya in the end, not coffee. Just buy cheaper coffee. If it’s an addiction, pay the money to get the help you need. You’ll save more than just money, you’ll save your life.  I smoked for 16 years, so I know it’s tough. I will always be an addict, I will always struggle with my desire for nicotine.  So I know. It’s hard, but you have to do it. That is all.

9) Give. Give & you will get. Trust me on this. Be generous. Volunteer. Take a meal to a friend. Buy someone a coffee. Whatever. Just give. You will make someone smile, and that’s worth more than money.

10) Realize that you really cannot buy happiness. Happiness is free, and is not found in food, clothing, or anything else inanimate you bring into your house.

11) Find free stuff to do. Check out Smitty’s Notes, Digtriad, YesWeekly, GoTriad, and any other handy website you can find. Use social media to your advantage.

12) Barter. You have skills that your friends do not, and vice versa. Trade out those skills. I paint some walls for my electrician. He’s going to add some outlets for me.

13) Forget about everything I just said & get a sugardaddy. That’ll work, too. (I kid, of course, though kudos to you if you find one. Ha)

If you just use common sense you’ll be all right. You already know most of this stuff anyway. Just apply it.

OOH! If you’re struggling financially right now, above all the other stuff I said, remember this. You’re not alone. You can fix it. Hold on to your hope, your faith, and your sense of humor, cuz you’re gonna need ’em…way more than you will ever need money.

This officially ends the NoSpend blogfest. It’s been fun, but I’m ready to write about other topics. Like zombies. Money isn’t really important during a zombie apocalypse. Perspective. You’re welcome.


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