It’s the end of April! So I guess that means its time to give an update on “No Spend April!”
I’m going to come right out and say it…watching your budget and not spending money is REALLY, REALLY hard. If I wanted to stop at McDonalds before, I just did. If I wanted to purchase a piece of clothing before, I did that too. I purchased without ever really thinking about how it affected my checkbook or future plans.
A a few of the things I mentioned in my “No Spend April” post that we were trying to save to purchase were: purchase/build a home, purchase a new camper and get new cell phones. We were able to do one of those things right at the end of March, so some expenses carried over into April that weren’t planned for. We had been searching for a year or so to upgrade our 1979 pop-up to a 5th wheel or travel trailer. We were able to purchase a used, 2002 Jayco 5th wheel for a pretty good deal! We are really excited to get camping this summer! Title transfers, 5th wheel hitch installation, and insurance were some unexpected expenses.
But back, to what I learned this month.
- We spend way more on gas in one month then we initially thought. We always thought we were around $500 a month in gas, not really paying much attention to how much we spend. It’s gas, we have to get where we’re going (Mark commutes to his job, and I commute twice a week to school) so we just spent it. I think we were both surprised to find out we spend closer to the $800-$900 range. I decided to take advantage of the Hy-Vee Fuel Savers card for next month, since we purchase most of our groceries there anyways. It might not help a lot, but a little bit goes a long ways sometimes!
- Learning to stretch your money can be fun and rewarding!! My new favorite thing: Buy 1 Get 1 coupons!! These are especially awesome when going out to eat! We budgeted $50 for eating out so I don’t think we ate anywhere without a coupon, except for when we went to Iowa. My favorite was we had a buy 1 get 1 6 inch sub at Subway, and then a buy 1 get 1 DQ Blizzard. We ate for about $12 bucks that day for the both of us when we normally would have for around $25. I also used these when shopping for personal care items. I had a buy 1 get 1 on razor blades so I bought the blades which I needed anyways and got a shaving cream for free. It literally is getting what you already need or were going to buy for free! Awesome! My recommendation Look up your favorite restaurants online and see if they have a “fan club”. Most are free to join and they send you coupons periodically, even on your birthday! Sweet!
- Use Mint.com to help you keep track of your expenses. I literally am in love with this website. You can plug in your monthly budget and it will automatically track where your expenses go in what category. It will even send you alerts when you are over budget! It allowed us to really see where we are spending our money.
- Money may not buy happiness, but it buys convenience which can be the same thing when you are busy! I’m running all over, literally between work, school and other activities. It was really hard to plan ahead with lunches or snacks instead of just stopping somewhere for them. I can imagine that a busy mom would opt for the stopping because it is convenient, and you have to be really organized to make sure you are thinking ahead for lunches and snacks to bring from home. Some days I’m barely out of the door on time, much less thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch. I ate a lot of PB&J’s this month needless to say.
- Not spending money, allows you to focus on other things, like relationships. One thing Mark & I both agreed upon was that we felt closer after this month. We cooked, played board games, went for walks and runs, and really talked about some of our future plans. We weren’t out shopping as an activity (Trips to Cabela’s in my world= date night!) or going out to eat, we were cooking at home together. We started a few new traditions that I found on other Pinterest blogs and played more than a few games of Battleship :) We also had one night were all we did was watch seasons of NCIS and ate different flavors of popcorn! We found cheap or free ways to spend time instead of spending a ton of money.
So the real question is…Would I do “No Spend April” again? In truth, probably not. I’m ready to admit that if convenience can make my life a little easier when I’m busy, I’m all for it. I’ll probably make more of my coffee at home now, instead of Caribou since I got pretty good at that! I am ready to stick to a budget where things like entertainment, restaurants and clothing are concerned. I am going to be more aware of where my money goes and stick to a budget that I think is realistic for us. I’m also never going to go grocery shopping again without a coupon! There are small changes you can make to help make your money work for you.