What it's all about

Posted February 4th, 2008 by Penny Wise

We're baaack! Back from the most relaxing – and definitely the cheapest – holiday we have ever had! I couldn't believe how easy it was NOT to spend money on holiday. Mind you, when you've got sunshine, sea and sand, who needs anything else? This holiday was a great reminder to our family, especially the kids, as to what is really important in life. Writing the last two blogs left me feeling pretty low and angry with all of us for throwing away so much money. I think we just got complacent – there we were doing what we thought was a wonderful job, growing our own food, recycling everything from plastic bags to junk mail and all the time we were still spending more than we were saving on our own individual vices. Duh! I was feeling pretty stupid about the whole thing – I could hardly sleep that night for stewing about it, but a new day dawned the next day and I gave myself a good talking to. Best of all, our family meeting had really brought everyone together. We were now all on the same wavelength and felt we could tackle anything!

So keen were we to make a change that we started our No Spend Month early. It wasn't hard as even the holiday home we were staying in was a Simple Savings style house! Energy saving lightbulbs, eco-friendly cleaners and minimal clutter; it really helped everyone get in the right frame of mind. Another bonus which has really got us thinking was that there was no satellite TV. With nothing appealing to watch, the boys were in bed early every night reading in companionable silence! It was lovely to see and we are really thinking seriously about getting rid of satellite TV at home now. Wouldn't mind the extra $1200 a year getting rid of it would save either. Besides, there's now way television could compete with all the other cool, free stuff we were doing. The boys are at such a fun age and we spent many hilarious hours boogie boarding together in the surf. The highlight for me however was a delightful dolphin display in the middle of the ocean while on a fishing trip. There were scores of them making a beeline for our boat, they really do love to play. After being treated to a spectacle like that, we didn't even mind that we didn't catch any fish!

We brought as much food as we possibly could with us and enjoyed wonderful barbecue feasts every night, accompanied with our own fresh homegrown veges. We went fishing a couple of times hoping to catch our dinner but it was slim pickings unfortunately. We were hoping to catch a marlin which would have given us enough fish to eat every day through the whole No Spend Month but ended up catching an enormous Mako shark instead. Needless to say, we let it go pretty smartly! All in all, we ate so well for free that the night before No Spend Month started, we went to our favourite restaurant for dinner and walked out again! It was supposed to be our treat before our month of 'going without' but after studying the menu at length we decided we would much rather eat at home and save $100, so that's what we did and it felt great!

Of course, I don't really see No Spend Month as 'going without', more 'getting with it'! I've lost count of the number of people who have protested loudly and insisted 'yes, but we all need some enjoyment in life'. Absolutely, I agree! Everything in moderation as they say, but I think we will all appreciate those things more as a treat rather than a daily occurrence. I have every intention of enjoying the odd glass of wine when the mood takes me but I'm no longer willing for it to be part of my staple diet – look at the cost of it in my previous blog for a start! It's just not worth it, heck – it's not as if I enjoy it THAT much! Talking of staple diet, no further progress while I was on holiday with the weight-loss. I didn't really expect there to be but I don't care if I don't eat bread or potatoes for quite some time after a whole week of them!

The kids are doing absolutely brilliantly at this No Spend lark, I'm really proud of them. Even before February 1st Liam said to me 'Since we've not been buying anything Mum, I can see we really don't need much stuff at all. After all, it's just stuff, isn't it?' By the time we reached the end of our holiday our favourite game was 'Spot the Sad Sally'. We'd cruise through Whangamata taking it in turns to shout 'Sad Sally's in the cafe!' or 'Sad Sally's in the gift shop!' and so on. I reckon everyone should try it, it's very empowering! Seriously though, the whole No Spend month has brought around a huge change of mindset. Nobody even thinks about buying anything non-essential, because we know that we can't. Noel has strict instructions to bring home all his receipts every day for the rest of us to scrutinise. The kids are REALLY giving him a hard time about being the biggest spender. I was disgusted on the first day of No Spend Month when he and Ali decided to go fishing early in the morning and instead of packing some snacks from home they spent $10 on lunch from the bakery. He's supposed to be giving up smoking today (ha!) - I don't know how he's going with that yet, he was going to give up while he was on holiday, then it became yesterday but Monday got put off to Tuesday as Monday was his first day back at work and that would just be too stressful! He also informed me he was going for a haircut today. I was a bit perturbed about that as technically it's a non-essential but if I made him wait until March to get it cut he would look like Albert Einstein so I didn't argue.

Honestly though, I am finding spending money nothing less than painful at the moment. I had to buy three birthday presents yesterday and it was just awful. I was actually tempted to write to them and say, 'Look, I'm not spending any money this month, can I send you something in a few weeks?' but as one of them was my four-year-old niece I didn't think that would go down too well. Even so, I was determined to be as miserly as I possibly could and ended up with some great buys by thinking outside the square. I bought a book and a DVD, both heavily reduced, saving me almost $20 and instead of the usual extravagant dolls and girly things I usually buy my niece I made up a Simple Savings style art and craft set that I think she'll love. Still, by the time I walked out of the Warehouse I had a good mind to right to Helen Clark the PM and call for a national birthday ban. I'm serious! And as for my coffee splurge, I could have cried. There was my poor mum, stuck in hospital for days. I have never known anyone who loves coffee as much as that woman but it can't be just any old coffee, she's a real coffee snob and hated the hospital coffee so asked me to bring her in a jar of Moccona. I don't drink the stuff myself so I went dutifully into Mr Patel's and almost fainted to see I was going to have to fork out $11.70 for a tiny jar! Normally I wouldn't have dreamed of letting her pay me back, especially with her being in hospital but she knew it was No Spend Month so she insisted and I'm embarrassed to admit I accepted with much relief!

So onwards we go. I have to admit I haven't been good about filling in my Savings Diary yet. I didn't have much Internet access while away and have been doing my best to catch up with Mum in hospital but I will definitely get round to it. I haven't even had a chance to check my grocery account and see if I managed to make any savings in there over the last week. I'll have a look right now – woah! I have over $400 in there! That's a huge improvement – all through the summer holidays I was constantly close to the limit of my $200 weekly household allowance. Instead, I've spent just $39.55 since the end of January. Wow – just goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it doesn't it. And it's so easy! And it's only five days in to No Spend Month! We should have to buy hardly any food this week either. Our freezer has enough meat in it to last us all year and we came back to an avalance of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and Noel's first capsicum, which he's extremely proud of, having no luck growing them last year. The kids went back to school yesterday so things can only get easier on the savings front. Liam started college yesterday and absolutely loved it. He looks smashing in his new uniform (so he should, for $300) and has morphed overnight into a super grown-up and independent stranger. Best of all, Ali is also following his brother's example. Long may it last with both of them!

PS: Must tell you about the exciting month of No Spend Month TV coverage coming up here in NZ! This Thursday morning (7th) I am being interviewed on the Breakfast show on TV One – just after 8am apparently. I was really excited until Liam reminded me it was live television, now I'm terrified! Also, have a look out for Campbell Live on Thursday or Friday of this week – the 7th or 8th. We found a wonderful family who have thrown themselves enthusiastically into No Spend Month and are showing others how it's done. They will be filmed throughout February so I'll keep you posted!

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