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Bad habits die hard. Nothing like another spending ban to curb the ridiculous over spending
On January 1, 2017, I started a new year with a secret.
I decided to do another 100-day spending ban like the one I did last year.
This one started January 1 and will end April 11, 2017. 100 days of no spending.
I was not sure I'd be able to go through with it so I didn't set out to tell anyone. I waited a few days before coming out with it.
Here I am, writing to you. Telling you that I'm committing myself to another spending ban.
I'm happy and sad, excited and anxious.
This is a personal journey and, after a week, I'm reminded of how much I've forgotten the lessons from my first spending ban in 2016.
The first thing I'm doing to keep myself accountable is make a monetary commitment in Stickk. For every week that I break my spending ban rules, $5.00 will automatically go to an anticharity. An anticharity is a charity that I DON'T support. And so I don't get into any heated debates, I won't share which one I chose.
But you can support me here (non-affiliate):Support me on Stickk!
The second thing I'm going to do to keep myself accountable is track spending in my Mindful Budgeting Planner. The first quarter of the year should only have essentials. I've used this planner for 2016 and I can't imagine myself without it in 2017.
The third thing I'm going to do to keep myself accountable is to check into this post once a week. Instead of creating 14 different posts, I'll keep updating this post. KEEP SCROLLING DOWN to see my weekly updates.
- No spending on books or household items that do not have an immediate purpose of life-essential necessity. That's a silly way of saying if I can live without it, I don't need to buy it.
- No spending on books, new courses, or tools for my freelancing business. Everything I have works perfectly today. A new tool can wait until April.
- No new clothing.
- No new shoes - I got new ones this past winter.
- Eating out is okay but MUST be with my limited grocery budget. Case in point, this weekend I could not go shopping because I ate out and spent the rest of my weekly budget for food. I'm going to learn to love PBnJ and Top Ramen again.
- I must travel with Cash (or at least a set limit in my debit card). Travel is a requirement this year but I cannot go over my budget for each trip.
Things That Are Different in 2017
This may be overkill but I'm also doing two 52-week money challenges the same time I do this spending ban. Yes, I said TWO. So in total, I'm doing 3 challenges at one time.
First one is the 52-Week money challenge that starts with $1 and increases every week by one dollar. At the end of the year I should have $1326. The most I'll put away will be $52.
The second is also a 52-Week money saving challenge but this one starts with $20 and at the end of the year I should have $5000 saved up. This one has a scale that you follow. First week is $20, second week is $35, fourth week is $125 and it increases each week from there. The average amount is $60 and the maximum amount is $195 (that's on week 44).
That may sound like a lot of money to stash but I was overspending at least $300-$400 extra a month. I should be able to afford at least $60 each week (on average).
I was going to use Qapital to help save the money from my challenges but had trouble signing up. Instead, my smaller 52-week challenge money will be going into my Digit account, since all I have to do to transfer money is send it a text message.
The larger 52-week challenge will be put into a Betterment investment account I opened specifically for this exercise. Transfers are also easy by using their mobile app. (Betterment on mobile won't let you take screenshots for security reasons).
Every week, while reconciling my budget, I'll transfer money into each account.
I don't have immediate plans for this money but one idea I had was to see how many years I could do this. In two years I'd have $11,000. More if the stock market does well. That's a nice size emergency fund.
It all sounds like a lot but I'm doing this to keep my money occupied while I do this spending ban. If things work out well, I may extend this spending ban to the end of the year.
Let's get started!
This is harder than I thought it would be. My how the mighty have fallen. I went back to my old habits in just a few short months. It's embarrassing to see how many books I bought in 2016. Good thing I like to read.
Today I needed to buy Q-tips. My mind started planning a full-on shopping trip. I even went full autopilot and made a list since I was going to pick it up at the grocery store (fuel points add up).
It wasn't until I was driving to the store that it dawned on me. Where the heck was I going to get the money?! Transferring money and spending it was automatic for me.
Granted, I have money in the checking but I'm on a spending ban, under strict rules. I ran out of my weekly allowance after spending the last $20 on take out (healthy takeout).
Defeated, I refrained from transferring money to spend on my debit card. I walked really slowly through the store repeating to myself how important doing this ban is to me. I walked out successful, only spending $$4.00 on two boxes of Q-tips.
I messed up on my Stickk commitment. I did not select the button that says "ongoing commitment." Because of this, it won't let me check in with my progress once a week. Today I had to set up another commitment but it won't let me check in on Sundays unless I started it on the 15th. Sad faces! So it looks like I started this commitment two weeks after the new year started. NOT TRUE. I just didn't start the monetary commitment on Stickk until two weeks later. grrrr...
Here's my weekly spending report from Personal Capital. This amount is from the 52-week challenge, Digit automatic savings, and food.
Well, this week wasn't so bad.
Being on a spending ban makes tracking your money easier. I reconciled my budget within 30 minutes.
I usually take 2 hours every week to do my budget. Making sure I got all transactions, keep on track with paying down my debt and making sure I have enough money to last upcoming bills. I usually run into missing transactions and an unbalanced ledger.
This week didn't take much time at all because I only had 4 receipts and 5 bills to track. It was really easy.
I did not have an urge to spend on anything since my week was very busy at my day job. I'm almost done qualifying on a new aviation platform. So excited!
The one thing I'm hoping for next week is that I can handle staying within my budget of $350 for a small trip I'm taking in a few days. I'll be out and about for 3 days but I don't want to lose the momentum I've built up in the last two weeks.
I'm torn between leaving my credit card at home and taking it with me. What if I get into an emergency at the airport or at the car rental. Well, the car rental needs to see a credit card anyway so I just need to stay vigilant and not use it for anything else.
We shall see how Week 3 goes.
p.s. I guestimated how much debt I paid off last year (2016) and it came out to around $9000, which included 2 credit cards and the rest of my student loans. Total student loan debt I have paid off: $12,750, in which the US Army paid about $11,000 worth in the last 8 years.
Well, it didn't take long for me to slip up.
I messed up and spent money outside of my budget and on something I didn't need.
But here's my justification for it...
I've been a fan of the envelope cash-only method for over a year. It keeps me from overspending and helps me to make better decisions on what I buy. I use the cash-only for things like grocery, gas, shopping, toiletries, and other stuff that's not on auto bill pay.
The method has worked great for me but does not help for online purchases and requires me to carry around a lot of cash.
Enter ProActive Budget. (affiliate link)
Now before you click away thinking I'm about to do a shameless plug, hear me out.
Well, okay, it is a shameless plug but it's all part of my justification for purchasing the limited-time-only lifetime access fee for this product.
ProActive Budget allows you to use the envelope method digitally. Instead of carrying around cash, you carry your ProActive debit card and the smartphone app that allows you to release money to the card to make your purchases.
I spent the better part of an hour talking with the founder, Ryan Clark on chat asking him all about this new app. He says that the iPhone version has been released and users are eating it up. A handful of Android users have also signed up even though that version does not come out until March/April. Overall, people using this one-of-a-kind app are completely satisfied.
I'm an Android user but I jumped at the chance to not have to pay a monthly fee of $7. Now until January 31st, they are offering a lifetime membership. After that, you'll have to pay monthly to use the app.
But ProActive is the first of its kind! And I'm excited to try it out.
The best part about this app is that if you share a budget with a spouse, there's no more secret spending or after-the-fact request for forgiveness.
You can set your categories up so both parties need to approve a purchase.
I purchased the limited lifetime access fee of $145 since that offer expires January 31, 2017. Thus breaking my no-spending ban!
I have to be harder on myself in the future if I'm going to make this ban work. But since I'm a long-time fan of the envelope system, I know I'm saving money by purchasing now.
Here's the problem, though. I'm banking on the hopes that this app will be around for 3+ years. Since that's how long it will take for me to save money on this product, based off the amount I paid.
Although there's a money back guarantee once the Android version comes out, if this startup company does not survive more than a year, I'm out about $72-100.
I probably should have given myself a couple of days to think about it. And I may have saved money if I just waited for the app to come out in March.
Live, pay the stupid tax, and learn. Sad face (but I'm still excited to try this app out).
In other news...
One good thing worked this week. I was able to stick to my travel budget this past weekend.
I had to take a short trip to Washington so I gave myself $300 to spend. It worked out since most of my meals were spent at a family member's house. I came back home with $80 left.
Overall, I lost this week. But, but next week will be different. I promise.
I need to stay away from internet surfing!
Here's a snapshot of my spending this week ($145 was part of that $300, the rest were bills):
Okay, so I'm out for this week. Next week will be better. I promise myself.
Better than last week but not good enough.
Due to medical issues, I had to ask a couple businesses to refund my money so I could put the extra money toward paying the dr's office, which is 100% of the cost until I reach my large deductible. Thanks AHCA.
Anyway, good news is I didn't buy anything I shouldn't have this week. I even purchased stuff from Amazon for the house but stayed within the rules. That was hard.
Bad news is I was too lazy to cook and ended up using most of my grocery money on my favorite takeout. Good thing my Hello Fresh box came in on Wednesday but I had no time to cook it until Saturday. I ate take out 3 days this week! Sad. So, obviously, I went over budget on my food bill this month.
The food budget is where I get in trouble every month. Food and shopping. The whole reason I started this ban is to get the shopping under control but the food is a bit harder to wrangle. I find it very hard to stay within my food budget when I'm starving and don't have time to make meals during the week. It's so frustrating.
The two options I have are 1. take away time I have for my business or myself to plan meals, shop for groceries, and cook enough food to last me 15 meals (3 meals a day, 5x a week). That takes about 10 hours out of my week. I know because I'm a nerd like that, I've tracked it.
Or, 2. keep using my Hello Fresh account. Using Hello Fresh cuts my time spent planning, prepping, and cooking down to about 8 hours a week. I still have to shop for breakfast and snack items, and cooking for the week takes around 4-5 hours.
Not bad but sometimes I just get fricken lazy, or I had to fix something with the business, or the dog pooped on the floor, or I just feel so tired and shitty that I couldn't think straight. There goes the time I need to fix decent meals for the week. Last weekend I had zero time and zero energy to cook for the week.
So what am I going to do about it?
Keep using Hello Fresh, make sure my weekend schedule has enough time to shop and cook, shop only one day a week, and use the envelope system to stay within budget.
I'm capping my food budget at $414 for February. That gives me 4 Hello Fresh boxes at $59 - which comes with 3 meals each box (most of the time) - and $40 a week to spend at the grocery store on Saturdays. That allows for fruit, beans, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and green onions to go with the top ramen.
I'm going to try harder this week. So far I have enough meals to get me to Wednesday so I gotta get back in the kitchen to cook some beans and rice!
And a month in review.
As far as my money goes, January did not go as well as I wanted it to. I overspent on week 3 and 4. And week 3 helped me re-learn an important lesson about money habits.
If I'm not careful, I'll quickly talk myself into justifying a purchase, no matter how stupid, just so I can buy something.
"I deserve it." Or, "It's a good deal that will only be around for a limited time." Or, "if you don't get it now, it will cost more money later."
But if I sit down and do the math, I'll only be saving $20 if I buy something I don't need today, as opposed to waiting to see if I need it in the future and spend $20 more than today. It may even turn out that I don't need that thing in the future so I would save myself $60 altogether.
As confusing as that probably sounds, this spending ban is teaching me that I rarely, actually "need" something.
If the need for something is TRUE, say toilet paper, gas, puppy wipes, feminine products, I don't give it a second thought. I buy. BUT, if it's something I have to sit and justify, that's my first sign that I probably don't need it
Who said the first month would be easy...Well, I actually told myself that. I was wrong.
But, now that I understand where I can go wrong, I can recognize it and head it off at the pass. February will be much better.
I know this because Week 5 went better than any of the other weeks!
I overspent on food for January but from February 1st, I did not spend extra, on anything. Granted we are only 5 days in but today was the only day of the week that I spent money and it was for groceries.
And although I spent $16 over my weekly grocery allowance, I have enough food to last me until next Saturday (and enough meals all prepped for the week). This means I will be $16 short for next week's grocery trip, which will leave me with $26 for next week. Hello PB & J. I'm determined to make $400 work for February.
Cash envelopes will help make this happen!
Other good news for this month
I was able to carry over about $200 from January to use in February because of this spending ban.
I paid $470 extra to my debt in January. This brings my total debt down to about $18,000 (down from about $28,000 in the beginning of 2016, and nearly $30,000 in 2015 - sadly, I don't have exact numbers).
What I need to work on this week
I need to stay away from spending money on food this week and eat what I have in the house. I also need to stay away from Amazon and unsubscribe from merchandise email newsletters to remove temptation.
See you next week!
Another good week!
Amazing, I made it another 7 days without giving into temptation. And remarkably, I'm still within my food budget (my biggest concern).
Speaking of temptation, these are the things that enticed me this week:
- The new Jack Reacher movie on Amazon Prime.
- Ryan Biddulph's Amazon book, 6 Things You Absolutely Need on Your Blog (I got the free Kindle sample but it was really good, I wanted to keep reading).
- Moleskine datebooks and notebooks (I've had my eye on these for almost two months now).
I managed to get to Sunday without buying any of these!
Now that the new week is starting I feel like I'll be in the clear for at least a few days - it's going to be a busy week.
While checking into my budget today, I noticed my food budget is the hardest one to manage. I gave myself $40 a week to buy breakfast items and fruit but this past week I went over that and had to spend money from next week's allowance.
I figure I need to eat less or purchase more smartly.
Now before you go saying, eating less is just going too far, hear me out.
I'm already on a vegan/vegetarian diet so I don't buy meat. Most of my grocery items are fruit, vegetables, tubers, nuts, and grains. Things that need replenishing each week due to running out or spoilage (which is something I try not to do).
And aside from the fact that I need to stop eating so much ANYWAY, I could use to slow down my intake of food, at least for the health benefits.
What do I mean?
I'm talking about Intermittent Fasting.
It's an eating pattern (not a diet) where you only eat during an 8-hour period and fast the rest of the day.
No, I'm not crazy, I actually tried this early last year when I first started the whole foods, plant-based diet.
Once I figured out how to eat the right kinds of foods to nourish my body during the 8 hours - so I could go 16 hours without eating - and once my body got used to the new diet and feeding schedule, it worked quite well.
I saved money because I didn't have to eat so much, I lost some weight because I wasn't eating so much, and I actually had more energy because my body operated better without having to constantly digest food.
Trying something new this week:
I'm going to be doing some intermittent fasting. I'll see how it goes with my budget and my belly.
In the debt corner
I've been using Undebt.it (aff) since last year and it has gotten me back on the snowball debt payoff method.
I love this desktop app! I inputted all my debt and the extra money I'm able to put into paying off debt and it created a snowball payoff method for me, FOR FREE.
If I stay on my current course of paying an extra $300 toward my debt every month, I will be completely debt free by November 2018. If I cut back on more expenses and throw an extra $200 at it more a month, I can be debt free by June 2018.
For now, I'm going with November.
You feel more in control of your debt and your money when you can see where the end is. And it's excellent motivation to keep you focused on paying down debt and avoiding more debt each month.
How's the 52-week challenge
The two 52-week challenges are doing well. I'm excited.
52-week challenge #1 already has $28 saved. It's going to a normal savings account.
52-week challenge #2 already has $375 saved. This money is going into an investment account.
It's been 6 weeks and the money that I normally spend going over budget and shopping is being saved and invested.
This challenge seems easy now but later in the year, the monthly put-away is upwards of $452. I don't know how that's going to pan out.
That's all for this week. I feel accomplished! Next week I'm going to try and do the same.
We shall see...
A new direction!
Aside from going over the birthday-gift budget by $50, I didn't go over any other budget categories.
What I should have done was make my gifting budget $100 instead of $50, I knew this person deserved more than a $50 gift. So, I took it out of my savings fund for this month.
And, although I didn't go over my food budget for this week, I spent it frivolously.
With $50 left to spend for extra food this month (not including my Hello Fresh meals), I spent $26 on fruits and veggies but dropped $14 on a Papa Murphy's pizza. That only leaves me with about $12 left to last me the rest of the month.
BUT, the pizza tasted AMAZING!
In other news...
I'm taking my finances in a new direction starting March 1st!
I listen to the Dave Ramsey podcast every chance I get. While walking the dog, driving to run errands and to work, and sometimes when I'm cooking and cleaning.
This past Friday, I listened to podcast #8403 dated October 2016. It dawned on me, even after reading the Total Money Makeover and going through Financial Peace University, I was still getting it wrong with my money.
I've been one of those people making stupid choices with where I put my money. It's so engrained in me to save that I lost sight of my long-term goal of getting out of debt.
I spent at least 4 hours reviewing my budget and finances today and I tweaked my budgets for March and April, just to see what it would be like if I stopped all my savings and investing, cut out unnecessary spending (like personal and shopping), and focused that extra money toward my debt.
Turns out I found an extra $1300 in my budget!
Talk about scorched earth!
When I put that extra amount into my Undebt.it account and applied it to my snowball method, I would be out of debt by March of 2018!
P.s. I'm also sharing with you how much debt I actually have left:
So here's what I'm changing:
1. Starting March 1st, I will no longer be doing the two 52-week challenges.
2. I'm reducing the amount of money Digit will save for me. I just sent them a text telling them to stop saving if my account gets lower than $1000. My account is RARELY over that amount for long so my saving frequency will be greatly reduced. By the way, last month Digit saved me $73.99 and $214 in December, all without me realizing it.
3. I'm also going to stop saving to my Betterment Roth account.
4. And, I will reduce my regular savings for Bubba and vacations down to $100 a month. Yea, I know I shouldn't be taking vacations but I need to see my aging family.
I will continue to post about how this is working out for me.
Recapping from last week...
About intermittent fasting, I had problems two days last week while on this new feeding schedule. I attribute my problems to being on the night shift.
I think intermittent fasting works better on the day shift because you're sleeping during most of the fasting phase.
On Tuesday, I had to eat something small before bed because I couldn't get to sleep on a grumbling stomach. Wednesday, the same thing happened but I was able to sleep it off. On Friday, I had to give in again.
I really like this diet, er, eating schedule - it's not a diet.
If I can get past the hunger pangs (which only last a little while and can be quenched with water, coffee, or tea), I feel better. I feel better when I wake up, and I feel better when I go to bed because my body isn't slowed down by constant digestion.
I read something from Lindsay Nixon about intermittent fasting and she explained that if you look at hunger pangs as a sign that your body is starting the fat burning phase - and not as an indication that you're dying - it's easier to get past the hardest part of the change.
I'm guessing it will take me a few more weeks to fully get used to this new eating schedule but it is working, as I feel lighter and my work pants fit just a teeny bit better.
I do a weigh in next week to see if I've lost any weight after two weeks of intermittent fasting.
That is all for now!