December is here, and while many are obsessed focused on holiday shopping and how they’re going to shower others with gifts they don’t need, gifts that are often made in China, gifts that often have a really shitty environmental footprint, gifts that drive up the credit card debt for so many and drive up the stress….here on the farm we are focused on something totally different.
We’ve kicked off a two week no-spend challenge this week. Yep, during the holiday season.
What’s inspired this? Well, a few things. First, it’s traditionally a slow season for my recruiting business, and when bag lady syndrome therefore kicks in for me. I even did a search for the term on this 10-year-old blog and found that, yep, all my mentions of it were between November and January. Go figure. I have had multiple solopreneur women friends over the year talk about having the same fears financially when their businesses are going through slow periods…and we all end up doing just fine. Hills and valleys. But for me, I try to not simply believe that it will all be just fine because in my gut it feels too complacent. I need to DO things that keep me feeling safe, and not “poke the bear” that is my past record of things turning out just fine. Yep, I just referred to a strong successful business that enabled me to pay off my student loans in the first 2 years a Bear. I guess I get the paranoia from my dad, who knows. But when a client who I’ve worked with for 6 years told me this week that their new equity partnership means that they had to hire an onsite recruiter and my business relationship with them is now over, taking away one of my key revenue sources? I knew that I needed to once again take steps to ensure my foundation stays rock solid.
Now this wasn’t my biggest source of revenue, and in 2018 the majority of my income came from two other clients, but it was still a fairly reliable thing that I had with them and it was a hiring team I had built a great relationship with over the years. So I was bummed…but motivated. Yes I know I’m going to be fine, but this helps me take ownership. “It’s important to reaffirm your ability to take care of what’s important to you,” they remind us in the article referenced earlier, and that’s SO true!
My husband and I are pretty minimalist couple – we grab a bite out maybe once a week (it’s not like Portland where the variety of kick-ass food is in abundance, so for us it’s usually just the only Thai restaurant within 10 miles), my husband bikes to work, we DIY most things in our home, I work from home, we don’t have cable or a land line, etc. So how the hell are we going to minimize the spending even more than we already do? Well if I’m going to be accountable to this challenge, I need to publish what things are being looked at and, for at least two weeks, change our ways…
Streaming – Because we don’t have regular TV (out here you need Dish to even get your basic ABC/CBS/NBC – not even an antenna will work like it did in Portland, ugh!), I had reopened my Hulu (which turns out only works on my laptop) to catch up on my Grey’s Anatomy and This is Us. Well, do I really need to subscribe for months when honestly I can just marathon watch an entire season in a week’s time (if that…haha)? Nope. So it’s on hold til January. Netflix? Reopened it to watch the final season of House of Cards and closed it again. And considering we have a SmartTV, we can still go onto YouTube and watch segments of things like Trevor Noah or Samantha Bee, take care of my husband’s Jeopardy addiction and watch documentaries and other cool things. Bam. Savings: $20/month.
Driving – Let me tell you, the amount of driving that is going on in this household since moving out here? It’s unreal. I know, I know, what did we expect moving out to the country? The surprise element, you see, was realizing that with my husband’s frequent closing shifts, mixed with the fact that there are NO streetlights for the last 5 miles of his commute (winding country roads with no bike lanes), means one of two things: I have to pick him up every night, which means 10 miles roundtrip, 4-5 days a week, and that’s ONLY at night so if I have to go into town during business hours to run other errands, double that. So this week we decided to cut that in half, and I am going to go into self-imposed “house arrest” for 3 days a week, letting my husband drive in to work. None more than that as he loves riding his bike, but this decision has two benefits: 1) The car literally doesn’t get driven more than 10 miles those days, and 2) The lure of going out and “picking up a little something we need” – that we might not truly NEED, is gone. We ain’t exactly on the bus line out here. So with that, I fend for myself – and you know what? It’s not bad. It makes me focus on developing my business, on these house projects, and – gasp! – just enjoying where we are in this beautiful spot of land. Cutting driving in half = half the gas bill. Savings: $50+/month.
Groceries: So y’all, a lot of these “no-spend challenges” usually say you can still spend money on categories like “food and gas”, as if these are completely uncontrollable areas where we must spend the same amount. Aw hell no. By letting my husband use my only car, it cut our gas bill in half. By not being able to go run errands, it keeps grocery spending in check and from little “fun foods” from making it into our mouths. Remember, NOT ALL FOOD IS NECESSARY! Sounds so basic when I say it like that right? But it’s true. Buy all your staples all at once, in advance, and make yourself live with what you bought. Now, we are fortunate in that my husband’s job means we occasionally get ‘scratch & dent’ goods so I always have him keep a close eye out on the fresh produce – ain’t nothing wrong with a browning banana for a great smoothie or b-bread, or a dented can of organic tomatoes if you didn’t have a garden this year like us! Because we were smart and bought 20 chickens from our neighbor and butchered a half pig, we have plenty of meat. Because we buy in the bulk aisle and fill up canisters, we have plenty of dry goods like flour and rice and brown sugar. If the ducks don’t lay eggs, we have steel cut oats for brekkie instead. If I look in the full refrigerator and cabinets and claim “there’s nothing to eat” then we either pull out a cookbook (or foodnetwork.com to do an ingredient search) and deal with it…because the truth is, we’re just being too picky. Husband always reminds me that America is the “Land of Condiments” and with that, there are many ways to use up those last veggies with the rice or polenta or making a quickbread. And oh yeah, if I’m desperately in need of chocolate? Homemade hot chocolate or a banana smoothie with a spoonful of cocoa does the trick. Savings: $100+/month.
Utilities/Phone/Internet: Our house is bigger than the old one, so the shock of the bill confused the hell out of me, and with that, we came to an agreement: our bedrooms are upstairs, and heat rises, so we have blankets over our legs when we watch TV and when we go to bed, the 62 we have the house at is no big deal because we’ve got our down comforter, each other, and yep, heat rises from the main floor. The max we now go in the house is 67 degrees and only if it’s frosty in the morning – and just for a bit as we are fortunate to have lots of windows to let the sunshine in! This time next year we should have a wood stove in place and that’ll help even more. As far as internet? Our cell data plan is unlimited so my husband uses his internet on that for music, his iPad, etc. And upon further examination of our internet bill? I found that CenturyLink had been A) charging us for modem lease even though we owned ours outright, and B) charging us for “long distance service” even though we don’t have a land-line-phone! It took 90 minutes on the phone to get this resolved and 3 months’ worth of charges removed, but it also cut our internet bill in half. PS – We already get garbage delivery every other week which keeps that a non-issue. Savings: $55/mo on internet, $20/mo on electricity.
Home Improvement Projects: This one is the hardest, because as blog readers know, we’ve been working our asses off for the past 4 months getting this house renovated, and cutting off the expenditures on the DIYs in progress is HARD, but essential. We’ve got a two-page list of projects, however, and just like with the food in the pantry, just because we WANT it doesn’t mean we NEED it. All the projects we now are focused on are things we can do with existing tools/materials. So when I ran out of olive green paint doing the stairwell walls? Oh well – we’ll get more next month to finish it, and instead I’ve moved on to building my home office console table from scrap wood, repurposed from deconstruction in our master bedroom. When our shop vac finally kicked the bucket? Borrow one from a neighbor. It may look a little haphazard around here, but we’re staying productive AND not spending. Kinda cool.
Oh yeah – and my husband’s work holiday party is tonight at the bowling alley. I can’t bowl because of my back, but we’re going to still make an appearance. Why? Free pizza and beer. Yep, we’ll snag free food and make an appearance. Never say no to free food when you’re on a no-spend challenge 🙂
By the way, what especially helps me remember to minimize? Counting my fuck bucks. Huh? Watch this video…it’s by the writer of a book I saw in my esthetician’s office in Portland a few weeks ago. You’ll dig it. I’m thinking Texas Cindy will especially like it…