No Spend Month, Year 2

Last July, we did a No Spend Month, where we pushed pause on recreational spending for 31 days.  (We also failed at it in October…)  We are revisiting this practice again for August, and I’m excited about it.

I learned a lot from our first experiments, about how to maximize this month of restraint.  Because the point is not really to just spend less money. The point is to recognize the ways recreational spending might be distancing me from God’s best in my life or to see where I’ve been especially prone to excess or to simply be prompted to pray and be grateful when I want to spend on something I don’t need, recognizing that I really don’t live in material want.

So I’ve learned to plan ahead.  I don’t decide ‘Let’s do this!’ on the 1st of the month, because by the 3rd I’ll be done.  Instead, I take at least a week to think it over.   When I do I consider:

How I’d like to approach the month logistically.  We find it’s best to do this by category– necessity categories are a yes, recreational categories are a no.  So groceries, insurance, and gas are a go.  Movie tickets, oreos, and pedicures are out.

But the woman who inspired the idea actually sets a dollar amount for the month to cover all variably priced necessities. And if she had extra, then fun things were totally fair game.

If there are any events already on the calendar that will require us to make an exception.  August is actually not a perfect month for this adventure, because our anniversary is smack in the middle.  But, knowing that, we just planned for our celebration, as well as a short trip to see a good friend.  Knowing when we’ll celebrate and what we’ll do keeps those events contained, so the don’t spill over and create unplanned spending.

How we’d like to practice Sabbath.  Both my husband and I go in waves of being very intentional about Sabbath versus just make a subtle shift away from work on the weekend.  Right now is an intentional season.  We worship on Sunday morning, then head to a favorite restaurant and sit in the sun for lunch.  Our lives have been tense and tough these past months, and we are just starting to feel that ease off.  We aren’t willing to give up a rhythm that is helping us, so lunch stays.  It’s not unlike the practice of breaking Lent on Sundays.

There is always next month.  I keep a list of things I want to buy the month after No Spend Month.  Currently the list has a no-slip bath mat for the baby, a pedicure, running shoes for Curtis, and some books.  I figure that if I still think they’d be useful in a month, then fine.  But I don’t need them now, and that bit of delayed gratification is good for me.

So we’re a couple weeks in, and other than a single rouge carton of Trader Joe’s French Vanilla Ice Cream, we are on track.

Maybe next time we’ll do it when it’s not ice cream weather.  What month is that?

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