Fair warning: I told you I’m not a total geek. And this is my least-geeky post yet. But I’ve had people ask me about it, so I’m going for it anyway.
Confession: I went off the rails at the end of 2011. I ate like it was my job and spent money like I was made of it. The holiday season has a way of doing that to me. So, like so many other Americans, I resolved to reign myself in on January 1st. I joined my friend Laurie in her quest for a No-Spend January, and I added some health goals to her financial fitness plan.
The plan is lofty, to be sure, but just the detox I need to re-boot my system. On the financial side, I cannot spend any money that isn’t necessary. Basically, that means I can buy groceries and gas but nothing else. No going out to eat, no bar tabs, no movies. On the health side, I am giving up alcohol (GASP!), sugar (BIGGER GASP!), soda, and fried foods, and choosing only whole grains.
The New Year didn’t exactly start as planned. January 1st brought with it the obligatory hangover and the overwhelming need for grease. So I caved and ordered Pizza Hut. Violated both my financial and health rules on Day 1. I convinced myself it was okay because it was Sunday—I would start the plan on a Monday. And I did. I’m happy to report that I’ve been (mostly) faithful to my rules since. My only violation was spending $5 to play pool with friends. And I kicked myself later that night when I remembered I can play for free at work.
It’s been one week and I’ve lost 1.5 pounds and (based on previous spending) saved about $400. I’ve also gained some valuable insights:
- I waste a lot of money on really frivolous things (Do I really need another pair of shoes? Is that Groupon really too good to pass up? Will I really listen to that song that much if I download it?).
- Eating healthy is a choice and really not a difficult one (the horrible sugar cravings only last a few days, I swear).
- Having fun doesn’t require alcohol, bad food, or lots of money. Last Saturday, a few friends and I attended a cheese and meat tasting, hosted by The Cheese Shop, and hit the downtown riverwalk to take photos and soak up the sun. Free, healthy, and a great time.
- I’m a much better chef that I realized and I actually kind of enjoy cooking.
- According to this article, my plan will help me improve professionally. It could be the placebo effect, but I think it’s working. I’ve been more energized about my work and more productive in the last week than I have been in a long time.
Time will tell, of course, whether I stick with it and create some new healthy habits. I’ll report back at the end of the month and let you know. I hope to also share some tricks/tips with you in case you want to give No-Spend February a shot.