No Spend Challenge Recap: How You can Save Thousands of Dollars in Just One Month Too!

During the month of February, I decided to take on a no-spend challenge. In case you aren't sure what that is, I laid out all of the details here. Essentially, you make a conscious effort to not spend any money on non-essential items. Every family will have different end goals and different rules for their no spend challenge, here are ours. I'm fairly budget conscious and pretty frugal and I learned a lot during this challenge that makes me think that having a no-spend challenge month at least once a year, would be a great reset for any family regardless of their financial situation. I just crunched the numbers and I'm shocked at not only how much I was able to save this month, but how much I was able to save annually, just by paying attention to a few of our reoccurring bills and making some changes. Want to see how our family did? I'm talking real numbers today. Come check it out!

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No Spend Challenge Recap: How I Saved Thousands of Dollars in just one month!

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Let me preface this to say, that I am not a numbers person. I am very good with money math but throw some percentage and fiscal year hoopla out there and I'm glossed over before you get to the details. Thankfully, my husband and I make a great team when it comes to finances. I do the money-saving, he does the investing and the monitoring. 

When we were first married, we budgeted and scrimped and saved out of necessity. We were 19 and 20 years old respectively and were a family of three as college students within months of marriage. We started some very good habits out of the gate and even living on around $14,000 a year our first few years of marriage, neither of us felt like we were destitute. 

We continued to live frugally as we graduated from college, but we were a one-income family of five for more than a decade. Thankfully, the salary has continued to increase as we've gotten older, and we've continued to live within our means never taking on consumer debt of any kind. 

I have noticed as we have gotten more comfortable in our lifestyle, we have become a little laxer in our spending habits. I'm no longer clipping coupons religiously and we are purchasing more non-essential items {think LaCroix and Starbucks}.

I used to be very aware of our family grocery budget, but I haven't really paid much attention in the past few years. Because we track every expense {my husband LOVES Quicken!}, it was easy for me to go back and run a few reports {I looked at our spending from January 1, 2019-January 1, 2020} on our spending. I was curious to see what our monthly food average was including groceries and dining out and I was kind of shocked. 

Grocery and dining out, on average for our family of 4 was $872.81/month. 

This actually still falls pretty short on the national average {remember dining out is included in that estimate}, but it's higher than I think it could be for as much time as I spend chasing loss-leaders and buying food on sale and in season. 

During the month, with my $100 grocery budget, I spent only $88 for our family. Which means, I saved $784.81 on our average grocery bill. 

I do have a grocery list waiting with foods we need to replenish, but I'm hoping that we can continue to eat out of our pantry and freezer {it's still surprisingly well-stocked!} and not hit that monthly grocery/dining average as I try to do that in the coming month.

I'm absolutely going to change how I grocery shop {less stocking up for me!} and will be using up more of the pantry and freezer items that we already have. If you have learned nothing else about my experience, at least consider doing a pantry challenge. We've saved almost $800 just by eating out of our excess for the month!

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Side hustles save the day!

I didn't try exceptionally hard at selling items as a little side hustle, but I did manage to sell a few items we had lying around to make $85 on both OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace. I usually do sell items I think have a good market value {if they won't pull in more than $15, I'll just donate them} on a monthly basis, but it was nice to see that my little side hustle for the month, essentially covered exactly what I spent on groceries, so if you're really keeping track, I ended up only spending $3 if we consider the grocery - side hustle=savings. 

Selling what you have on those types of platforms, is a great way to make a little extra money each month with very little effort. I'm going to make a point to be more intentional about this easy side hustle.

Reexamination of Monthly Bills Saved us Thousands Annually!

There are a lot of reoccurring bills we pay that we don't bat an eye at. We see increases in our water bill and cable bill and probably don't bat an eye. But there are some ways that you can go in and renegotiate and reexamine those expenses to save thousands of dollars. 

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I made a few simple changes in our bills and it saved me $917.60 a year! 

How did I do this? Well, we looked at every bill we had come in on a regular basis. I sat down and looked line by line at what we could trim from those bills and $30 a month here and $8 there, adds up fast to create quite the savings each month that result in some pretty enormous annual savings.

Here is what we cut out.

We still had a landline. It used to help us lower our internet bill since it was part of a bundle, but it's since become more of a nuisance, and there was no longer the benefit of the bundle, so we canceled it. That saved us $300 annually.

My husband loves his newspaper. I noticed a Groupon deal that was nearly half of what we were paying, and when I called to see if the customer service rep at the newspaper would match the Groupon deal, I was told that rate was only for new customers. Some prodding had her putting me on hold, and within a few minutes, I got our newspaper rate down from $93.60 annually to $52 saving us $41.60 annually.

This went on and on as I looked at expenses that were going out, and was able to switch to less expensive providers for several other annual business expenses I had. It kind of became a game to see what substitutions could be made. 

While these aren't necessarily expenses run of the mill people will run into {e-mail {saved myself $216/year by trimming my service} or newsletter provider {saved $216/year by switching providers} services}, there are probably expenses you have reoccurring monthly that I don't have that could be cut out to save you hundreds of dollars. 

For example: 
  • bank fees
  • paying off a balance on a credit card
  • subscription boxes
  • cutting cable

Medical Bills 

I had a car accident about four years ago. I learned a lot as I went to more than 100 doctors' appointments in one year. 

For instance, your doctor often doesn't know how much a prescription costs you out of pocket. If a provider prescribes something for you, don't be afraid to ask if there are alternatives. Generic options are easily substituted, but if there isn't a generic option, you can usually find another medication that is far cheaper that will do the same thing. 

Services for procedures are often ordered for medical treatments and as Americans, we have no idea how much we will be charged for these until the bill comes. I always ask if the procedure is necessary and/or if there is an alternative that might offer the same solution. Often you'll find that there are a lot of options for your care, you just have to ask. 

I had an MRI ordered and it was more convenient for my doctor to have me get it done at the hospital located near his office. I found out later that we were charged more than $3,000 for that MRI. When the next MRI was ordered, I asked if I could go to a diagnostic imaging service nearby. Of course! was the answer, and it ended up being more than 60% savings. 

Know your medical options. It's easy to get caught up by what the guy in the white coat is saying and go along with them instead of asking for alternatives.

That said if you have insurance that declines charges because a provider or service is out of network, it's often a good idea to call in to state your case. We have a $200 allowance/per person for vision hardware {glasses, contacts, etc...} but the providers are expensive optical stores. My husband found that he loves Warby Parker glasses and at $95 a pair {lenses included!} it's a screaming deal. We'd use the max allowance if we went through our insurance provider.

I was able to call in this month and negotiate the out of network expense {after we already sent in a claim form}, and we got a check for $95 back. I did this same thing a few months ago for my contacts and they paid in full. 

Know your insurance provider, fill out those claim forms and don't be afraid to follow up on the phone. 

how to quit wasting money on unnecessary purchases and start putting money back into your pocket

Were we perfect during our no-spend challenge?


 I'm not sure that any family can ever participate in a no-spend challenge and not run into slip-ups. I wasn't looking at this challenge as a way to divert my spending, so because of that, I didn't hesitate to make needed appointments to get new brakes on my van {I did use a coupon!} or a trip to the dentist when I noticed some tooth pain. 

We did also have a trip planned to Whistler, BC to go skiing as a family. No month will be without its issues {my kid has a birthday, it's almost Christmas, we have a trip planned, your excuse}, this shouldn't stop you from jumping right in and making your situation work. There are no hard and fast rules, you make your own, so don't hesitate to create your own workaround. 

One of my goals on the no spend challenge checklist {it was free...did you get yours?}, was to find out what our spending "triggers" were. I found a few.

One big one for me was Value Village. My teen daughter who will be graduating and moving away from home in just a few short months will join me in my thrift shop adventures. Time with my girl, and I chalk that up as a win. She's also learning that she can save money on clothes by buying used, so double win!

I also often find myself out early in the morning walking my dog in the rain and our route takes us back home past THREE Starbucks. This was a stumbling block on only one occasion thankfully but I did have to talk myself off the ledge a few times. It just made me more aware of my Starbucks habit, so I've decided to budget in $20 a month on my Starbucks gift card in the app. Once it's gone, no more bucks for me. Don't judge. 

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Quick Look at Real Numbers

-$88 spent on groceries
Monthly average savings +$784.81

+$85 earned from selling items
+$95 vision reimbursement
+$300/annually cutting phone
+$41.60/annually renegotiated newspaper rate
+$360/annually newsletter
+$216/annually e-mail

Total savings: $1882.41

That's nearly $2000 back into our pocket from this fun little no spend challenge!

Ready to tackle your own no spend challenge to see how much you can save? Start here!

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