February is going to be a no-spend month for us.
First, here are some handy sites to visit if you're not familiar with the concept. I wasn't until I started visiting a lot of blogs where people post pictures of things they've made and their babies and their babies in slings that they've made. They talk about penny-pinching and raising children and making quick meals that involve lentils. For some reason, I'm practically addicted to that sort of thing.
So, if you need to, look at these these to get a basic idea of how this will work. I'll wait.
Small Notebook's no-spend
Happily Frugal's no-spend
One-Month Spending Crash Diet
Second, here's why we're doing this.
1. We're a little broke. We still owe over $12,000 on my car and the day when we need to replace Cody's beloved pile of awful is looming on the horizon. We could possibly handle two car payments a month, but I really don't want to try it and then fail. Being broke means we barely have enough money squirreled away to cover a month's expenses if one of us were to lose a job--and that's with regular contributions to our savings. Some friends of ours planned a relatively low-key trip to Dallas in a couple of weekends. But even with plenty of advance warning, it was not financially feasible for us. So basically, we'd like to be a little less broke. We're fine with being somewhat poor, but we're not fans of being terrified.
2. We spend too much on stuff that's not important enough. Dinner with friends is important. Christmas presents for family are important. Getting Cody new shoes was important (and we planned for it). Getting pictures developed is important. Shopping at Barnes & Noble because we're bored is not important. Even if we stick to the bargain sections. Even if we didn't spend that much. Even if it might make a good gift idea. Come on.
3. We spend too much. Period. We probably make less than you think (a W-2 arrived last weekend. We apparently make less than I think!), but it's still enough for us to live well. But we've gotten too accustomed to spending money since Christmas and living just beyond our means is just enough to get us in trouble. And this really hurts the image we have of ourselves as sensible people who are good with our money. We love this inaccurate image of ourselves and we like being prepared so that we're not completely destroyed by every eyeball misadventure, car repair, dentist appointment.......just a little tarnished.
This is the part where I could say that living is expensive and my arts and crafts supplies will save me money in the long run when it comes to gift-giving, but you know what? I probably have about $300 worth of yarn in my living room. Seriously. And there are vast quantities of it. I'm set for at least the next 6 months.
I could also say that eating a lot of our from-scratch meals at home is saving us money, but sometimes it does not. Yes, we need to eat to live. But y'all, we have 4 different kinds of flour in our cabinet. 4 different types of salt. 5 types of noodles. For the love of Mike, Cody sometimes buys fancy chunks of cheese!
We are foodies. It's taken me a while to come to terms with this, but we are foodies and as much fun as it is to try new things, we may be slightly out of control. There is an unopened bag of potato starch in our kitchen. It's for pumpernickel bread. We've got to stop this madness....or at least scale back on it. And finally:
4. There's not a lot going on in February, it's a short month, and we like adventures. It could be nice to just not spend money for a while. We're always saying we need to cut back, and then we don't. But this way, we'll have a time limit, an allowance, and a goal. Doing something because it's part of a project is a lot more fun than doing it out of necessity.
So. Here is the plan:
We will be living off of $200 for the whole month. And that's strictly cash.
This will (or should) pay for food, gas, entertainment, and any incidentals that come along.
Medical necessities (Cody has another eye appointment and a dentist appointment [possibly 2 fillings!]); and
Surprises or emergencies.
I'm kind of excited. I'm trying to keep from hoarding things (like Tide! Holy smokes, it is not cheap.) and I'm trying to get Cody to go to the Andy Warhol exhibit on Saturday instead of Sunday, but still. This could be a good thing. And if it's not, we'll have learned something.
What I didn't think about when I first suggested this was February is the month of Valentine's Day. Oops. I don't know what we'll do about gifts yet, but I have informed Cody that his present to me will be thoughtful, heartfelt, and meaningful, and will require a great deal of creativity and effort on his part. I'll let you know how that goes.
Wish us luck!