Thursday, March 30, 2017

No spend April

Inspired by the book/blog "Living Well and Spending Less," I first participated in their 31-day "Living Well and Spending Zero" challenge in March 2014. It raised some eyebrows and concerns from those who thought we must have been on the brink of financial ruin to participate in such a challenge.

Quite the opposite was true. I found that we already had so much stuff in the house that we could not use or even keep track of it all, which caused us to go out and buy more rather than use what we already had. The one-month challenge worked wonders as a 'reboot', not to mention shaved a couple thousand dollars off that month's spending. In spite of Boaz' pregnancy at that time having racked up tens of thousands of dollars by the time I was 6 months pregnant, we were able to pay off every last medical bill by the time he was born. Cutting back on spending and using what we already had played a huge role in that. 

Besides saving a boatload of money, spending zero for a month also reduces clutter (by taking inventory of and using up what we have), stress (no running around, more time), and generally shakes things up for the better.

Since that first challenge, I have done this about once per year, usually in the spring. Well, it's time again! April is a short month, there are no birthdays in it, and our freezers are full to the gills and need a good depleting before summer and all its bounty of inexpensive produce need to be put away for leaner times. 

My ground rules will pretty much be the same as in the past: 

- No groceries except for fresh milk and dairy products, and minimal fresh produce. My goal is to use up what we have in the (four!stuffed!) freezers and the pantry. We have several month's worth of food in storage.

- Only essential goods (like TP, diapers, etc.) and services (doctor, mechanical breakdown, etc.) can be purchased.

- Things I will not be spending money on: entertainment, dates, dining out, field trips, books, toys, clothes, hobbies, gifts, household items, furniture, etc. Many of these same things can be enjoyed for free by using the library, gift cards we have, looking for free alternatives, etc.

- For gas, my goal is to drive less so I can make one tank last two weeks instead of one.

- I will attempt to pay for most of the permissible spending mentioned above by selling off stuff we no longer use and need. I don't have time to do a yard sale, but I do have a handful of larger items I will list on Craigslist and OfferUp. This will help declutter by turning unwanted stuff into cash.

- Obviously we will still be paying all of our regular bills like mortgage, utilities, etc.

- This challenge is for me, not my husband. I do about 90% of the spending for our family so that will cover most, plus I don't want to start policing his spending. 

If you have never done anything like this, I encourage you to give it a try. Your wallet and your sanity will thank you.

For tons of helpful resources, go to the Living Well Spending Zero resources page or go through them day by day starting with Day 1.


  1. How are you able to stock up your freezer throughout the year? Does it cost you extra to do so? I ask because I could go about a week before we would pretty much be down to nothing. So I like the idea of having some ready made freezer meals. It's an interesting challenge and I can see the benefits of doing it but I don't feel that I could when it comes to the grocery side of it. Everything else is doable! Thanks for the post!

  2. When I find an item on sale for 50% or more off, I stock up for 6-12 months worth, depending on how soon I anticipate finding another deal like it. For example, in our area I can often score organic produce very inexpensively. Strawberries are a common find in the summer for as little as 50 cents/lb.

    I also buy many items in bulk, such as a beef share. It brings down the overall unit price, though it is an initial investment.

    When I first started doing this, it did add extra cost each month. After a decade of doing it, I am mostly down to only buying things on sale or in bulk so it is saving me money at this point, as well as making it possible to take long stretches of time off from buying any groceries.

  3. I would think that your husband would be happy to be encouraged by you to save money by participating in this challenge with you.

    1. I'm sure he will be fully on board when he finds out, I'm just saying I am not making him get on board if he doesn't want to.

      He is a very minimalist spender as it is. Telling him to cut back spending is like telling a skinny person to watch how much they eat. It's just not an issue at all.

  4. This is awesome and something I was just thinking about! Just recently I had to delay my family's grocery shopping trip by a week and realized we had plenty of food to last us through those 7 days and more. I couldn't believe it! It was a good reminder for all of us to pause, take notice of what we have, and learn contentment. I hope I can do the challenge in the future if my husband is on board.

    1. So true! Sometimes, due to illness or a busy schedule, I cannot go to the store for food for an entire week or even two, and yet it seems like we still never put a dent in the food at home.

  5. My daughter-in-law is super organized and does a version of this. My son has always been a saver ($) and they are living proof of success by being frugal, generous, and wise! Interesting post!

  6. Living alone I got so tired of throwing out expensive food. I would buy an organic head of cauliflower, cook up one serving and throw the rest away a month later because I would forget about it or I just didn't want it. I now ferment it with chopped onions and a hot pepper. Nummy! Lasts for 9 months in the fridge. I now have a stash of veggies, raw, uncooked and naturally fermented without vinegar. Dehydrated Dino Kale keeps for years in a mason jar, thrown into soups it tastes just like it came from my garden. I had 52 plants last year, the rabbits really enjoyed their share. Remove main vein, blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes (destroys the enzyme that turns it brown). Place in dehydrator until Krispy, punch tightly into mason and seal. Great stash.

  7. Four freezers!! Wow! And I was so impressed because I thought you had two!! Go, you! I can barely keep up with my one and a half!

    This is awesome. I love the encouragement to use what we have. Even if we do store a lot of food, it can go bad (or stale, or whatever) if we don't work through it regularly.

    I can't do this plan with most of my groceries, because I'm a "use one, buy one" kind of shopper at the moment. But my freezers definitely need a clean-out, and I'm going to work on that this month!!

    Love your homemaking posts!! :)

  8. Why didn't you mention that you signed up for Obamacare when all this was happening? No pre-existing conditions. No wonder you could afford to pay off all the medical bills, with the help of health insurance. You and your closeted husband are such hypocrites.

    1. You are wrong. Over 90% of the medical costs were incurred before I had insurance (Nov. and Dec. 2013) and we paid for all of them ourselves.

      I had insurance from Jan - May 2014 which cost more in premium each month than paying for the visits in cash would have been, which is why I cancelled the insurance again and we switched to Samaritan Ministries instead.

      If you think Obamacare is wonderful, why do you chide those who by law are mandated (or else fined) to sing up for it?

  9. I'm currently trying to be more organized. If you know what you have there is less chance you will buy stuff you don't need.


Your KINDLY WORDED, constructive comments are welcome, whether or not they express a differing opinion. All others will be deleted without second thought.