Last month, we hosted a “No Spend Summer” Challenge. In other words, a no spend month. Or in other other words, a month in which we didn’t spend money. For one month, we challenged our readers to give up spending in one area of their budget where they routinely don’t do well. For us, that meant we would not be eating fast food/other restaurants for the month.
I would LOVE to tell you it was the easiest, funnest, best thing I ever did. It wasn’t. It was a little tricky getting out of the routine at stopping to grab dinner when it was convenient.
But you know what?
We didn’t die! Amazingly we didn’t die. I had my doubts about whether we could survive it. And even though it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, it really wasn’t that bad! Plus, we learned some really important lessons along the way.
Here is everything I learned from our no spend month.
Our no spend month taught me that a little preparation goes a long way.
My husband and I do a fairly good job of prepping meals for the week on Sunday. But we definitely don’t take care of every day. There are days when rolling through the drive through window of Chick-fil-A seems 100x’s easier than going home and putting a meal together. Thus, in our no spend challenge, we had to make sure we were REALLY prepared before hanger strikes, blinding us from our goal of not spending money on fast food for one month. We spend about an hour on Sundays prepping food for the week and making sure we had ideas for dinner each night of the week so that we could stick to our goal.
Our no spend month saved me $200… so far.
I estimate that we saved about $200 on eating out (roughly 9-10x’s per month). I accounted for the fact that we spent more money on groceries, and I tried to make more exciting meals so that we would be less tempted to go out to eat. If we continued our trend, we’d save $2400– roughly two beach vacations per year for our family! That’s almost enough incentive to make me never go out to eat again!
Our no spend month taught me that saving money can feel just as good as spending it.
One important thing I learned from our no spend month is that saving money really can feel just as good as spending it! When we started to realize how much money we were wasting on convenience food each month, it became kind of a game. Every night that we made our own meals or during the day at work when I’d munch on a homemade salad instead of grabbing something on the go, I felt deeply satisfied.
Our no spend month taught me that I can get by with a little help from my friends.
This no spend month probably would have been a lot harder if we didn’t have the funnest friends. A few days into our challenge, our friends, who refused to do the challenge with us, brought us over a fast food meal. It felt like manna from heaven! And bosses and coworkers treated us to breakfasts and lunches here and there over the month. We really didn’t suffer much!
Our no spend month reminded me that time spent with family and friends is what makes us happy, not spending money.
By not going out to eat, we started getting creative with our family dinners. We invited more friends over. Or, as a small family, we’d have meals on our patio with the tiki torches and other candles lit to spice things up. This no spend challenge helped me realize that going out to eat is not what makes me happy– it’s the time spent hanging with loved ones.
Our no spend month reminded me that I can do hard things.
Our son started saying “I can do hard things” to himself when we was about 18 months old. He would jump off a big rock or try to climb up something, and every time he failed, he would get frustrated but then shout “I can do hard things!” And then he would do it. Honestly, at the outset of our no spend month, I wasn’t sure we could do it. Since my husband and I both work full time and have a million different side hustles going on at any given moment, I kind of questioned whether we’d actually be able to resist the almighty drive through window. But we did! And I’m proud.
So will we ever eat out again? Probably. But I definitely know going forward our outlook on going out to eat has changed. We feel a lot more hesitant about going through that drive thru window, knowing how much it really costs. I think the most important take away from the no spend month was that it refocused us on our goal of paying off our student loans. Not even convenient delicious fast food can stand in the way of that goal.
Did you participate in our no spend month? How did it go for you? If you didn’t participate… it’s not too late! Details about how to do the free No Spend Summer challenge here.