What am I up to now?? In a bit of a hasty, last-minute attempt to take some control of my life, I decided not to spend any money in the month of November. This may seem crazy, even impossible, but it’s not. I think from time to time we can all fall victim to what I call “five bucking” ourselves to death. A coffee here, a quick lunch there, run to the store, grab some chewing gum, oh look a cool magazine cover, and the next thing we know, we have an empty wallet and absolutely no clue where all the money went.
And then, comes December. This is the month where our desire to spend money and bless others with gifts gets matched with the retail advertising craze. It’s a dangerous combination. I thought that if I could get into the habit of being incredibly mindful of literally every single cent that comes through my account in November it might help me make good decisions in December.
I also thought that I might not be alone in this struggle. So, I took to social media and sure enough, several others have joined me in this challenge.
I’ve done challenges before. You may remember that I did not walk into any establishment with a cash register back in 2014. In 2013 I took my wardrobe down to 100 items. I participated in “Dressember” last year and wore only dresses for the whole month of December. Each time, it’s about the same process – I decide I’m going to do a challenge, and I jump in with both feet. After about a week I am second guessing everything, trying desperately not to quit, and by the end, I feel like it was so easy that I wonder why I didn’t do it earlier or for longer.
This challenge, I have to say, has been much more difficult.
- I start the month with a completely full gas tank, one 20-ride transit pass, and $200 cash. My fridge has a fresh supply of groceries in it.
- The $200 cash can only be spent on fresh, perishable produce. No starch, meat, spices, condiments, packaged food, or anything processed. Fruits and veggies only.
- If I completely run out of fresh produce AND money, I can sell 5 of my items to purchase ONE item
- I can use any gift cards that I *currently own* as a form of currency, any gift cards that I receive during November may not be used
- No interac transactions on my debit card and no charges on my Mastercard can be made.
- Any and all preauthorized commitments (donations, bills, debt payments, insurance, etc) stand as they are, however, any non-essential subscriptions will be cancelled.
- No purchases in the categories of skin care, hair care, restaurant food, entertainment or clothing can be made.
- Any emergency medical requirements are exempt from this challenge and can be purchased as needed – prescription medications and first aid supplies.
- To track how much I *don’t* spend in November, and use that money for Christmas gifts
- To promote a habit of mindful spending
- To inspire others to do the same
- To utilize public transit, be mindful of my driving and carbon footprint, and to walk a minimum of 7,000 steps per day
- To utilize my existing inventory of canned, dry and frozen foods and perhaps try new recipes based on the foods I already have in my home
- To pare down my clothing inventory and sell or donate my gently used articles
The Journey So Far
Well, day 2 sucked. It really, really sucked and I wanted to quit. I realize this isn’t the “oh wow this is SO easy and wonderful” message that you usually hear from me. A client scheduled a 7:30 am meeting with me, clear across town. I calculated that my gas tank while full, could only afford me 15km of driving for each day of the month, so I decided to take the bus as close as I could to their office, and power walk the rest of the way.
The day started out alright – I’m a naturally early riser so I got up at 4 am, did my morning routine and began to pack up what I need to take along with me. I checked the bus schedule and made my way outside for 6:42 am.
The bus came as scheduled and google maps told me to transfer from the 3M bus to the #14 at City Hall. So, once the bus pulled in to the terminal, I grabbed a transfer pass and hopped off. In the dark. And the rain. As I was looking for the schedule, I noticed that the bus I had just gotten off had changed itself to the #14 bus and was pulling away.
Frustrated and wet, I found the Westfort bus and took it as close to the location as I could. At 7:20am, I got off and prepared for the 1.2km walk ahead of me. The rain was heavier, my nose was cold, and I was walking in the pitch black along the side of Walsh Street trying to jump over puddles and also not get killed by passing traffic. I cursed the lack of safe sidewalks, the weather and stomped into my client’s office looking like a drowned rat.
I felt discouraged, and I’m fairly certain my client thinks I’m completely insane. I thought about deleting my post from the day before, cancelling the challenge and taking a taxi home. But, then I remembered that I carpooled to a meeting with my friend Brenda the day before and we had the chance to have a great conversation on the way. I recalled that I used my transit time to catch up on emails, people watch and reflect on things that I needed to think about. And I especially thought about the fact that – at a minimum – I was saving almost two tanks of gas in my vehicle this month – nearly $170 just by doing this.
So, I washed my face, looked in the mirror and said: “we don’t quit without trying with everything we have.”
The rest of the day was absolutely amazing. I got a ride back from a friend who was headed in the same direction as I was. Rhonda picked me up that evening and we went to the hospital together, met up with two more friends and had the nicest two hours together laughing and chatting. I crawled into bed last night with over 8,000 steps tracked and fell into a restful sleep. My learning from yesterday is that this is about more than just money. It’s about health, freedom, choices, and possibilities.
So Now What?
I’m going to keep going! And you can join me anytime – even try it for a week! I promise you will see changes in your bank account and in your attitude and happiness.