I spent the Summer in a bit of an internal financial panic, while externally spending money like I was dying. Trips, dinners out, drinks, and a credit card with no limit on it gave me very little willpower. But somehow I made it work, even if there were anxiety-ridden days.
Flash-forward to the end of the Summer and two significant things happened. The first was that I got hit with a bad bout of bank fraud. It took a while to clear up, and payments bounced left and right. Returned payment fees, late fees, and overdraft fees piled up, making my already heavy load even heavier. The second was that I began to have more serious discussions of a life together with the man I've been seeing. And there is no way I want to be a financial mess for this one — I'm old enough to have it together, and it was about time I got there.
So to get myself on the right side of the financial equation, I decided to do a no-spend September. The rules were simply that I could not spend money on anything that wasn't essential. This meant no Starbucks, no pedicures, no SoulCycle, no SiriusXM — and a slew of other things I loved.
My only exception to my no-spend rule was cash I had made selling items on LetGo and the Facebook marketplace. That was my emergency "I really need a glass of wine at a gastropub" money. But even then, I was cautious about spending that.
I spent money on nothing but essentials for one month. I saved a little more than $700 in addition to my normal savings and paid all my bills exactly on time. These are some tips for anyone looking to scale back on their spending.
Be Vocal About Your Goal
When I was vocal with my friends about why I was doing this, the support I got was wonderful. And every time I wanted to go out to lunch or break the rule, they were there to slap my wrists.
Ask For Help
In the midst of all this fraud and my money being held, I called my bank. I explained the situation and what I was going through in life. I had been charged 15 overdraft fees from all of my payments bouncing — and they refunded me 11 of them. That was the difference between getting ahead and being behind. Don't be afraid to call the bank and at least ask.
I am not one to ever ask for help, which is one of my faults. And at this point, I wasn't drowning, so I didn't see a need to ask for help. However, one Sunday morning, my father offered to pay for my weekly groceries (we have a grocery store addiction; we often go together and stroll leisurely through the aisles). I accepted and told him that it made a huge difference in my bottom line that month.
Don't Forget About Rewards
One Sunday, I was absolutely fed up with looking at my disgusting feet. I almost broke and got myself a pedicure, and then I remembered that my nail place has a rewards program. I whipped out my card and luckily had just enough for that pedicure. The tip? LetGo cash! Don't forget to use your rewards cards — they may come in handy on a rainy day.
Check Out Cross-Promotions
My Stop & Shop card links up with Shell gas to give me 10 cents off per gallon. While gas was an essential item, I used the Stop & Shop rewards to take some money off my weekly gas bill. I felt like this was a double score.
Brown Bag It
I brought my lunch (usually leftovers from dinner) every single day of the month. Not only did I lose a few pounds, but it also really made a difference in my wallet. I will tell you, though — prepping is crucial. There was a day when I brought a sweet potato to work and that was my lunch. I was too bogged down trying to make deadlines to prep the night before. But I still didn't go out for lunch!
Find Out What You Really Need
Yes, my clothes are looser from recent weight loss, but I don't need to replace my whole wardrobe right now. I don't need my 2 p.m. Starbucks every day. While I am looking forward to getting my roots done and going back to SoulCycle, I definitely plan on staying scaled back through the upcoming months. The resulting savings could be a vacation with the hottest man I know, or it could mean renovations on my home — both more worth it than frivolous spending.