Lessons Learned from No Spend January (Hint: We ended up spending money)

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While Nick and I strive to be mindful about our spending each month, we are not saints in this department. We go out to dinner and sometimes we splurge, but we always strive to make the best decisions around money. To really kick things into high gear in 2020, we kicked off the year with no spend January. 

For those unfamiliar, “no spend January” (and really you can do this any month) is when you only spend money on the essentials (i.e. food, rent, utilities, your regular bills)–you get the idea. 

Starting out the month, we didn’t want to spend a dime outside of the necessities and for the first two weeks, we followed the rules strictly. 

We got creative with hanging out with our friends and family by hosting a pizza making/game night and a ravioli making afternoon. 

ravioli making

For the game night, we spent $60 buying the ingredients which could be considered a splurge in a month of no spending, but we were aiming for an affordable way to get our friends together. The $60 went far, since it fed all 10 of our friends. We had a great night-in playing games and eating pizza, and I hope game night becomes a new tradition. 

In week 3, we both got thrown for a loop. For Hannah, that was when her friend got engaged so there was a girls-get-together to celebrate the engagement over brunch and for Nick, a friend was visiting town and wanted to go for brunch to catch-up. 

Of course, we could have declined the invitations, but long-term, that decision is likely more of a disservice to our relationships.  

And herein lies the greatest lesson we learned, it’s important to have values in your life so that you always have guidelines to make your decisions. Hard and fast rules can be great for helping you stick to a routine or reach a goal, but they’re limiting. Life isn’t predictable or linear, so it’s important to base decisions on values rather than rules: otherwise you’ll miss spontaneous opportunities and end up sacrificing unnecessarily. 

And of course one of your top values can be your relationships, and this could be taken as a reason to go out to dinner/the bars every weekend. However, we believe it’s more about balance and depending on the situation it could make sense to spend the money, and in other situations, the decision could be to not spend the money. Catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while over drinks at their hotel bar is worth the $20. The general theme is that as you choose what you spend your money on, you are choosing your values. If you don’t proactively do this, you might be surprised on what your spending habits say about your apparent values.

When we reflect back on the times we spent money outside of the necessities (going to an engagement brunch, grabbing coffee with a mentor), each of these decisions aligned with our long-term vision and were mindful decisions. We weren’t spending just to spend, but spending money to celebrate friends or further our development. So maybe January wasn’t a no spend month, but it was a month where we were mindful about each of our financial decisions and were able to save 50% of our income. 

girls brunch

And that is something we can strive for each month. 

We’re curious, what are your values? And does your spending align with your values?  What unconscious values might your current spending suggest?


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