Our “No Spend December”
Yesterday, November 30th, I went to make our house payment and realized that I was $1000.00 short! I started freaking out to say the least. It was the last day of the month and the house payment was already due (on the 15th) and now I have no way of making this huge payment that was due. But before I go on, I should give you a little history about me and my lifestyle.
History of Me!
I am a 40 year old divorced woman with two kids. I have a son who is almost 19 and lives away from home most of the week due to him working out of the area. I have another son who just turned 12. I get $500.00 a month in child support, no alimony (I did not want alimony), and I work 40 hours a week as an LVN. I make average wages for the position I hold. Oh, and I am pregnant with another baby who should probably be here within the next 16 weeks.
Prior to my divorce my house was taken out of my name and a mortgage was taken out on it. That mortgage was never paid current and was in foreclosure at the time of my divorce. This is the house that I grew up in. My safe haven from the world my mom had created that I was forced to sometimes live in. This house was my grand-parents house. The one place I could go to feel like a kid again, to get away from every day stress and tension, to feel safe and loved.
I was lucky enough to have my ex-husband help me get the house on a forbearance plan (as the house is still in his name) but this meant that my house payment would more than double for the next year. Making the actual house payment more that what I bring into the house monthly through my working income. Do you see the issues here? But, I was able to keep the house that I loved and that my oldest son has lived in since he was 5 years old.
So 1 month after my house payment went up I asked my boyfriend to help out and commit to helping me with my bills. He had already been staying there for the most part but is going through a long drug out divorce where close to half his income is going to his ex-wife. He doesn’t have much, but what he has is a great help. Luckily he doesn’t have any children (except this little pumpkin that will be appearing soon enough) to help out with but the new living situation means that his daily commute will be longer and cost more in gas.
Now, in my 40 years of life I don’t think I have ever been very money smart. I have great ideas but actually following through with those money ideas never has happened. I have no savings, no retirement (yes, I even walked away from my ex’s retirement when we divorced), no real plan. I have good intentions on keeping a check register but seen to “forget” ½ way through the month to keep it updated. I have no clue the last time I paid a certain utility bill and usually wait for the disconnect notice to appear on my front door. Yes, my financial life is a HUGE mess.
After my divorce I had great intentions. I really did. I knew that I was going to have to continue raising two boys on my own with approximately $80,000.00 less than I had with my ex-spouses income (which is a little more than double my income). I was taking all the debt that was in my name during the marriage, including all my youngest sons medical bills as I was the primarily the one who carried insurance on him during the marriage. I didn’t want their lives to change more than it already had. So, knowing this
I made a plan:
- Research money saving ideas
- Take a financial course to help me learn what I needed to do
- Keep a check register and actually use it
- Pay my bills on time and regularly
Well, for the first 3 months I did really well.
- I kept a check register and updated it daily or every other day
- Most of my bills were behind but I juggled and was paying them on a regular basis
- I did a lot of research and started using pinterest to keep all my research sites in order (and filed for easier grabbing later)
- I found a financial program I really liked and read through it, listened to it, and started making baby steps to start living it.
After the 3rd month mark I went back to work fulltime. Prior to this, when I was making all these great changes, I had been on workman’s comp for a crazy accident that had happened. I wasn’t prepared to do all the “full time” budgeting work while working a full-time job. I have never been one of those people that are a true go-getter. You know the type. The “up before the sun” people who run 5 miles every morning before getting ready for their day. The “constantly moving” people that even after a 8, 10 or 12 hour day still have energy to come home, scrub the house, do the laundry, make a wholesome dinner and dessert for their family and then go to be around 11:00pm just to wake up again at approximately 5:00am in the morning. I have friends like this, and I give them credit. I am amazed at their zest for life and all they can accomplish. I know we all have the same 24 hours a day but I am not one of those people that wisely know how to use those hours.
At the end of my work day, I am tired. I give so much at work and to my patients that I am done by the time I get home. The last thing I want to do is then sit in front of the computer, review my daily finances, pay bills, then go cook and clean up the house. What I really want to do is sit in front of the TV with my feet up and close my eyes. The TV doesn’t even have to be on! And, on the weekends I have all the household cleaning and laundry to tackle that I didn’t do during the week.
In all actuality it’s probably more than just my finances that are in a messy state. But, I digress.
So now I have to figure out how to get my life on track at the age of 40.
After I realized that I did not have enough money to pay my current, past due mortgage payment I pulled out my check register (which I had not touched since around the 13th of the month) and logged into my bank account and started updating my records.
Then I logged into the financial budgeting program that I started using during the first of the year, when I was being good about my finances, and started making a November budget (yes, on the last day of the month) and inputting my expenses during the month. This gave me a clear picture of the income I had coming in, and going out.
I was amazed. I knew we went out to eat a lot during the month but I was shocked to see that we ate out 38 times at a total of close to a $1000.00. This did not take into consideration the amount of money spent on going out that came out of my boyfriend’s bank account. Just the joint account! So, this is our major area to focus on.
Plus spending the time to input our expenses brought to attention that my utilities are some times higher than I imagined they were.
After I seen this written down, graphed out, and in bold print, I called my boyfriend and had a heart to heart with him. We both agreed that we needed a re-set of our lifestyle and needed to plan a new way of living.
We decided that moment that we needed to do our first ever “No Spend Month”. But, without planning we had to tweak what the standard “No Spend Month” plans usually looks like. We had to make it work for us.
- December 1st (the next morning- less than 16 hours away) we would start a 31 day no spending month.
- We do have to be able to purchase groceries though since my pantry isn’t as stocked as it normally is….but first we will use what we have and out of the emergency kit (as most of that supply should be rotated by now anyway)
- We will still need to purchase gas to get us to work. The boyfriend drives at least an hour a day to work and sometimes more for work. Luckily for me, I work 15 minutes from my house and will be going on maternity leave any moment now so that will cut down on my share.
- We will have to pay household bills.
- Nothing more, nothing less.
- All meals must be made at home. No last minute rushed calls for pizza because it is late and we are starving.
- No going out for lunches. Leftovers or sandwiches will have to be made and taken with us. (We throw out so much food that this is actually a good thing.)
- No running through a fast food restaurant or gas station in the mornings for breakfast or coffee. We can make food at home that morning or the night before and we already have travel cups that we can use with our Keurig before leaving the house. As for Starbucks, I have a Keurig that makes those too.
- No soda/tea runs during the day while at work (or night while we are watching a movie).
- All food shopping needs to be done on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule, with a shopping list, for what we need for the following week(s).
Okay, I get it; but December, really?
I know what you must be thinking…. “I get the whole needing to re-set thing but you are crazy choosing December! What about Christmas?”
Well, luckily for me, this is not an issue. Years ago I made myself a small promise. I would never go gift shopping anytime after Thanksgiving. This includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. I did this because crowded malls and parking lots stress me out and usually put me in a bad mood so then the day is wasted; and, all in the name of saving a few dollars? It never made sense to me.
Instead I have been purchasing stuff throughout the year. I still have some gifts to make, but even all the supplies have been purchased. This plan has saved me so many times when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties, graduation parties, ECT. I usually will always have something on hand that I can wrap and give.
I usually store everything in individual “shoe box” storage containers in a closet in the house. When I purchase something for someone it goes in the box that has their name on it. If it is something I purchased because it was on sale or it would make a great gift but I had no intension on who it was actually for, it goes in a separate container. If it is a gift that I received but don’t like or is something I already have I will stick a note on it saying who gave it to me, and it goes in the community box for re-gifting. Same goes for the boys gifts also.
This is a big joke with my family and friends but it works. And I’m usually not the one stressing out around the holidays.
So, to say the least, my part of the Christmas shopping is done! My boyfriend is not that organized; but, if we can do this for the next 31 days that will be a great present for me. I will have less stress during this month and I will know that my bills are being paid.
Any other plans?
Yes, of course. Here they are:
- Balance the checkbook every day or every other day. And, keep up the color coding for easier figuring of where the money is going.
- Use the budgeting program after balancing the check book to make sure we are staying on track and getting a real picture of where our money is going.
- Clean out the garage and have a yard sale. (Idea here is that my bills have been behind since before my divorce, it would be nice to purge my life of crap and be able to get caught up)
- Realize that I/we might fail and be okay with this. You can always re-start immediately right after a mistake instead of scrapping the whole month.
- Re-evaluate during the month. Write down challenges and successes so that we can learn from this.
- Play more at home…after all, we own games, cards, and video games. Why not use them?
And, the biggest one: IF THIS WORKS OUT, PLAN TO REPEAT IT IN A FEW MONTHS!
My promise to you
During the month I am going to be checking in a reporting on our failures (I am sure there will be a couple) and our successes. I will keep this updated and give a real time picture of what a no spend month looks like for a family of 4, soon to be 5.
I will also share tips I have on making this work. Like I said earlier, I am not a go getter personality so not having the convince of going out to eat will be a challenge to me. Plus, I am on doctors orders to not be up cooking and cleaning much as it is.
I want to make a lifestyle change here. Something my family and I can live with. Life is a journey and seriously my life is half way over. I want the second ½ to be better than the first half.