Starting next Tuesday, October 1st, my household will not be buying any stuff. For the following thirty-one days, we won’t be purchasing a single, non-consumable item. It’s not really a budgeting exercise, though we will be saving what we don’t spend on stuff and putting it into our savings account towards buying a home. It’s more like a spending fast: an intentional break from consumerism.
See, I like October. I think it’s probably my favorite month of the year. And with all the work and personal projects both my wife and I’ve been working on over the summer, we’re currently living too fast. Too much… of everything. It’s a seasonal thing – we knew that going into it, and we’re ready for that season to end. We want a chance to transition, to rest, and to work on a few things that we’d like to accomplish before the holidays hit. And, of course, we have enough stuff. More than enough. Way more. I have books on my shelf I’ve been wanting to read for years. A Netflix queue full of films I’ve been trying to get to. I hope this can be a time to experience them.
The goal, of course, isn’t to not spend any money whatsoever. We’ll need to eat, and we’re not comfortable with eating only processed foods after the vegetables run out in the first week. And we have bills to pay. The point is, rather, no stuff. No things.
Here are the rules we’ve outlined for ourselves:
- We won’t spend money on any goods that can’t be bought at the grocery store; so, food and personal/health care items only. Everything bought must be consumable. So, shampoo? Okay. A new vegetable peeler? No way.
- Only two large grocery shopping trips: One on Sunday, September 29, and a refill trip on Sunday October 13. We have set budgets for both. Once weekly, we can spend no more than $10 on milk, eggs, and other perishable and high use items.
- We will continue to pay for services, including our bills and utilities. Internet and Netflix subscriptions will not be disrupted.
- My wife can buy gasoline to commute to her job as needed. I will try to live a whole month on a single tank in my car and one gallon in my scooter. (I work from home, and will opt to bike as much as possible.)
- We can attend one $2.00/ticket movie at our local second run theater each weekend, if desired. No snacks or treats.
So, what will we do, while we’re not spending money? My list of goals:
- Use the public library more often. We go regularly, but its right across the street, and I’ve been wanting to read books much more (I often relax with magazines and journals) and watch more films (as opposed to all these seasons of “prestige” T.V. I’ve been catching up on).
- Ride my bike at least three times a week for exercise (in addition to transportation). Goal: 150 miles/week. (I’ve been too busy this season.)
- Use up pantry and freezer items and assess what we’ve got heading into winter.
- Travel out of the city and hike among the autumn leaves.
- Do some deep cleaning – things like the back of the fridge (it’s gross), the spice cabinet, and our closets. Reduce our total household stuff by 25% through donations.
- Play more board and card games
- Spend (no cost) time with family and friends
Look, I know this is a pretty bourgeois thing to do, and a commitment we’re able to make because we’re not struggling financially. And honestly, we actually don’t buy all that much stuff in the first place. Neither of us really have unhealthy spending habits or buy things emotionally.
But, since we got married and merged our finances and are aggressively getting rid of all debt and saving for a house and considering a cross country move and trying to set up retirement goals and obsessively monitoring Mint.com, I feel like I’ve been spending too much time thinking about money. Not because money is necessarily bad, but because it’s been on my mind more than I want it to be. It’s okay to do that for a while, but I’m ready for that “while” to be over. I want to think about other things.
So, I’m not buying anything in October. Hopefully, there will be less than twenty transactions on our next bank statement, and those will be for fixed costs and food only. That’s the plan, anyway.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Update: With the month completed, I wrote up some thoughts and reflections on the experience. You can read them here: That One Time Where I Tried Not to Spend Money for a Month… and Failed.