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That time of the month

No, not that time of the month (but I got your attention, didn't I?) --

The time of the month to which I refer is that time of the month in which our mortgage check has been cashed, we've paid the preschool bill for the month, we've had a costly car maintenance appointment, we've socked extra money away into our savings account because I'm afraid my job will be gone any minute, we've purchased all the groceries and gas we need to get through...and pay day is still a week away. The balance in our checkbook is ridiculously low. I'm talking double-digits low. I've put up the Spending Embargo sign.

Anyway, this week, instead of calling Big Daddy in my usual low-balance panic on Friday morning and saying "no more spending!" I called and presented him with a challenge: Let's see if we can get through this next week without spending any money out of our joint account. This means, eat only the food we have in our house; we entertain ourselves only with the DVDs, CDs, and toys that we already have; we find things to do outside the house that are free.

This means, too, that if we run out of something, too bad. Or, buy it with cash that's in your wallet. This came up Sunday evening while Big Daddy was trying to get control over the mountain of laundry that's been building all week: He ran out of detergent. We had to make a decision -- let the laundry pile go until Friday when we get paid and can go get more detergent, or go to Rite Aid and buy the cheapest bottle you can find, just to get through. I was all for the first option, but he decided to go blow $3 of his limited cash supply on cheap detergent. (So if you smell something funny when I walk by this week, you'll understand.)

We made it through the weekend without using our debit cards at all, thanks to Netflix, the library, and free admission at the Brandywine Zoo. I'm proud of us. The real challenge still lies ahead: We each started the week with about $10 in our wallets, and that's all the money we will be able to use this week. The ultimate test! That means no lunches out, choosing wisely when Big Daddy has to stop for a soda on the way home, no trips to Target to wander around looking at toys with the Boy. I do have to purchase Valentine's cards for Sweet Boy's class party Friday; I think I can get these at the dollar store. And I believe I have a few stamps left so we can mail our valentines to Sweet Boy's grandparents.

It may come down to the wire -- but this is an interesting challenge. I wonder how long we could go without spending the here-and-there amounts that we so often do. And I wonder how much we'd end up saving! It just takes a little forethought and planning. I may just extend this Spending Embargo through the end of the month to see how we come out.


  1. i like your experiment. i read this book last year:, since i am unduly concerned over the amount of consumption that goes on across the country. it may be bad for the economy, but a year without shopping opens up a lot of interesting possibilities in terms of personal development...

  2. Liz, I think I saw this woman on CBS Sunday Morning years ago -- I recall being annoyed by her sort of bourgeois attitude (i.e., "we didn't go to any films!" yet they kept their three cars on the road), but I liked the concept. Seems to me the idea is to determine NEED over WANT. It's a hard call for most of us, just because of the world we live in. (Damn you, advertisers!)

    On a related note, everyone should go see Slumdog Millionaire -- or borrow the DVD from the library when it's available -- to regain your perspective on the need vs. want issue.

  3. I think it's a great idea, and you can totally do it. You'll probably find it's easier than you thought and will enjoy the challenge. No-spend days are actually an official monthly challenge on the Women in Red message board on's money pages so you are enacting something that makes sense to a lot of people!

  4. Good luck with your experiment! Let me know how it goes. I noticed that in the past few months when we have cut spending (but never eliminated it for a week), I noticed I had a lot more free time to spend with the kids. No more running around doing errands all weekend. However, no spending increases the pressure to cook all the time! Do you plan out monthly menus and shop once a month?

  5. I try to do a big grocery shopping every two weeks on payday, and yes, I plan out a rough menu for the two weeks. We generally have to run out for milk, bread, etc. in between, but usually we can get through the two weeks with what's in the house. But yes, it does mean cooking more...which I've had to get used to since the medical stuff is now more of a concern.

    I'm not really much of a mall-crawler, but my husband is...and he thinks it's no big deal to spend a few dollars here and there on junk. We have a house full of junk. He's agreed to try out this experiment through the end of February, though I know it's going to drive him bonkers. I mentioned that he can do what we have the Boy do, and donate a few toys here and there in order to make room for new ones. In the grown-ups' case, perhaps we can eBay or Craigslist some of our junk for spending cash...

  6. PS -- We both have our own checking accounts, btw, which are supposed to be our "fun money" accounts. So if Big Daddy is jonzing for a DVD or I can't resist a new pair of shoes, or if we are dying for a burrito at Moe's, we can use our own money. That's what I meant by giving it a little more forethought -- when the well is dry, it's dry.

  7. I just did a two-week shopping on Sunday since we'll be away this weekend, and I think it makes a lot of sense! Sure, I might miss some deals in the interim weeks, but it didn't take much longer than doing a regular one-week grocery trip and I would love to have a Sunday morning off now and then. Not to mention that it makes sense, too, to do the shopping after getting the bimonthly paycheck. :) You are a smart cookie.


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