Lessons from #NoSpendFeb

As a result of some uncontrolled spending in January, I put myself on a strict financial diet for February. I tracked my daily spending to the last cent and resolved to not make purchases unless I really needed to. My strategy looked like this:

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I wasn’t always perfect. Concert tickets for the summer all seem to go on sale in February and there were some opportunities I couldn’t miss. But I learned so much about myself and my habits in the last month.

1) I’m very impulsive with money. On the night of the Super Bowl, I tried to buy a case of Tastykakes while drunk. Luckily my card wouldn’t go through and I (also luckily) didn’t have my credit with me because I hid it from myself (also while drunk) and I can’t find it.

2) Wishlists work. I created two lists – Wants and Needs. Needs are obviously prioritized and include things like new sheets. The Wants are things I’d typically buy myself in the moment, and maybe regret later. By adding it to the list, I can let some time pass and see if it’s still something important to me. Maybe someone needs a gift idea for me? Maybe I don’t want that thing anymore? Do I want this $300 water bottle filled with diamonds? Yup. Do I need it right now? Probably not.

3) Make your wallet inconvenient to access. This was so simple and SO unexpectedly effective! I switched from a messenger bag to a backpack recently. To access my wallet, I need to take the backpack off, unzip the compartments, and dig it out. It’s kind of a pain. When my wallet was easy to access in a side pocket, I could whip it out all too often. Now when I stroll through The Strand, I have to really think about if I want to hold up the line to excavate my wallet to buy a new book. I keep daily essentials like my work badge and MTA card on the back of my phone, but not my debit card.

4) Don’t autosave card numbers into websites. One-click purchases are just too convenient… and often thoughtless! I took my numbers off Amazon. Seamless. Paypal. Modcloth. Pretty much everywhere. Ticketmaster got to keep my card info. That’s it.

4a) DO automate saving! I had an ambitious savings goal of $1,000 for the month. Granted, tax returns helped with that quite a bit, but my bank also lets me set goals based on timing and then automatically moves money into those goals every day.

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5) There’s a lot of free stuff to do around the city. I kind of knew this already. But I rededicated myself to finding free or cheap things to do. There’s lots of free music. Free tastings. Cheap performances at the PIT. One of the reasons I LOVE living in NYC is that i consider my crazy rent part of my membership

6) I appreciated my paid activities more. Like lunch with Tony. And Galentine’s Day festivities. Likewise I felt bad about money events I can’t control – like a “team lunch” that we had to pay for ourselves where I ended up with a $21 appetizer-sized crab cake after splitting the bill 😑 It was really a lesson in value over cost and how to balance the two.

7) Rethinking gift giving. I tend to throw money at spoiling the people I love. It’s a Taurus thing reinforced by my Dad’s specific way of expressing love. For Valentine’s day, instead of a fancy night out and big gifts, I got Ryan a Movie Pass subscription and a poem I wrote about him when I was SIXTEEN. So now we can have a cheap date night at the movies whenever we want!

8) I didn’t check my bank account as much. Because I wasn’t worried about money! Usually in the week leading up to payday, I’m anxious about my account. I check it at least once a day. I always pay all the bills first, but when I’m frivolous with money I don’t feel secure. Since I was very closely tracking my spending, I always knew what was in my account without even having to check. It was a much better feeling!

9) My friends are awesome. Not a new lesson, but it really helped to have friends who understood my experiment and were supportive of the mission. No one was offended if I said no to a spendy hang out. I really appreciated their company instead of worrying about how to keep everyone entertained.

10) I have a mild shopping addiction. It gives me a RUSH to pull out my credit card and punch in the numbers… and then guilt. I feel out of control when I buy things sometimes. I don’t want to feel like that. I channeled that energy into working out or discovering an amazing piece at one of the museums I have memberships with.

I highly recommend trying a No Spend month! The daily spending tracking habits I’ve developed will continue forward, help me save more than I ever imagined, and force me to prioritize my needs over impulsive wants. If you try this experiment, let me know how it goes!

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Sunday Stats

Sunday Stats

*Since my family first got an NES, I’ve had a controller in my hands. Exploring new worlds, meeting new characters and experiencing stories… in some ways, I’ve just connected better with the world through games. However, it’s also very important to me to be present in my life, to improve myself, to go out and MEET the people I’ve connected with online and to expand my knowledge. I spend hours in games; how do I level myself up?

In this weekly series, I’ll chronicle how I’ve improved my “stats” with completely arbitrary scoring.*

-1 Intelligence – How did I make myself a little smarter? What did I learn?
Tequila is a bad idea. This was a lesson I learned the hard way. Oof.

+3 Charisma – How was I less awkward or more beautiful?
In this month’s Goddess Provisions box, I got this new highlighter. It’s like wearing liquid crystals on your eyelids. The photo barely does it justice. It’s so subtly bright and amplifying. I’m not a huge makeup wearer so I love simple things I can apply quickly to give myself a confident glow.

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+1 Strength – New workouts, breakthroughs, challenges.
I beat my max wattage in Spin on Tuesday! This week was a good step towards getting into a regular schedule. Changing the sound of my alarm DEFINITELY helped a lot!

+1 Defense – Where did I consciously avoid or deflect negative energy?
There’s a special card in Oliver Hibert’s Secret Arcana that has no defined meaning. The idea is that if you meditate with this card, sleep with it under your pillow, whisper sweet nothings to it and take it to a grand ball, it will reveal its meaning to you and only you. And it’s not to be shared. I started investing a lot of spiritual energy into this card this week. It hasn’t revealed itself yet, but I can’t wait until it does!

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+5 Luck – Something good that happened this week
I reached peak father-daughter relationship! My pride is swelling out of my chest. My dad is re-branding his company and working on a new logo. There were 3 choices. He and all of his C-Suite just could not decide. The engineer uttered the words every designer dreads: “Just combine the two designs!”  Then, my dad asked for MY opinion! He didn’t tell me which one he was leaning toward. I sat with the three designs for a night, making notes and listening to the stories in each design- much like reading tarot cards. One design carried so much symbolism and reflected the values and products of the company incredibly brightly. I shot my dad and email with how I interpreted that logo as well as what the other ones said to me and why they were inferior choices. Not only did Dad agree, he shared my email with his whole team! The email I got from him afterwards (below) will forever be saved in my inbox! I’m so honored that he included me in such an important process and piece of his business. I feel like he finally respects me as a marketer and values my input on important matters. I could not be more thrilled!

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+5 Wealth – How did I save towards my goals?
This was the first full week of #NoSpendFeb and I did REALLY well! I’ve actually already learned a TON about my spending habits and view of money. I’ll share a full report after this experiment ends next month. In the meantime, I highly encourage you to join me! This week I only spent $37.42 on non-essentials. Unbelievable!

Sunday Stats

Sunday Stats

*Since my family first got an NES, I’ve had a controller in my hands. Exploring new worlds, meeting new characters and experiencing stories… in some ways, I’ve just connected better with the world through games. However, it’s also very important to me to be present in my life, to improve myself, to go out and MEET the people I’ve connected with online and to expand my knowledge. I spend hours in games; how do I level myself up?

In this weekly series, I’ll chronicle how I’ve improved my “stats” with completely arbitrary scoring.*

+1 Intelligence – How did I make myself a little smarter? What did I learn?
Did you know that IBM developed the UPC bar code? This display at HQ drew me in because I can’t look at a can of Campbell’s tomato soup and not think of Andy Warhol. An IBMer invented the first UPC code, which looked like a bullseye and then evolved it into the bar code we’re used to. Bar codes are vertical bars so that in case of extra ink, the bar code gets taller, but is still readable. In 1974, a pack of Wrigley’s gum became the first item to be scanned with a UPC bar code, which became the standard method for inventory tracking. It’s awesome to know I work for a company that has revolutionized the retail industry, and so many others- and will continue to revolutionize the world.

Campbell's Tomato Soup Cans with IBM UPC Bar Codes

+1 Charisma – How was I less awkward or more beautiful?
I found a new way to embrace my awkwardness! When I used to get picked on in school and called “weird,” I’d respond with “at least I’m not boring.” I’ve evolved that mantra for my adult awkwardness. Whenever I do something embarrassing or say something nonsensical, I shrug and say, “it’s all part of my charm.”

-2 Strength – New workouts, breakthroughs, challenges.
I was sick the first half of the week and then threw my back out Tuesday night. So healing has taken precedence. I noticed a pattern in my gym behaviour where if I skip on Monday, I go to spin class on Tuesday and maybe Friday, but I don’t make it any other weekday mornings. I’m rectifying this next week by forcing myself to go on Monday morning. I have GOT to get myself into a steady routine.

+3 Defense – Where did I consciously avoid or deflect negative energy?
I’ve been working on a big project for work this week that will be shared with very important people. I got some feedback that I wasn’t putting enough of my own originality into my work and seemed to just be dictating the words of my managers. Because that’s exactly what I was doing. Because, I realized, in my previous role, if I didn’t do the work EXACTLY like the manager wanted, it would be my ass. I’d have to do entire projects and decks over and over again, working late and weekends, just hoping to get it “right.” I recognized this in the moment and told my current managers that Yes! I realize that’s what I’m doing and that I know I need to work on it. AND that I appreciate them calling it out because now I feel liberated to be the smart, creative, talented strategist I am.

+1 Luck – Something good that happened this week
I renewed my Beer Freak membership at Coney Island Brewery and the wonderful staff there let me keep my 2017 stamps! I signed up late last year, but I really want to earn the exclusive growler. Now I’m only 8 stamps away and already have a February event on the calendar!

+1 Wealth – How did I save towards my goals?
This week was exceptionally hard. I was initially panicking that my spending was out of control because I did buy some books, tickets to a couple shows and events, subscription boxes, a gift for Ryan since his Eagles won the NFC Championship for the first time in 13 years, and preordered two of every dinosaur from the upcoming Funko Jurassic Park line. Ok that does sound a little out of control…
BUT! Because of my company’s pay schedule, I haven’t been paid since the 12th. So I’ve been trying to stretch this check over almost 3 weeks instead of 2. Still, my bad habits lately haven’t been helping.

I’m still on track with my savings. AND to help create better spending habits, I’m creating No Spend February (#nospendfeb). The challenge is to (obviously) not spend ANY money, except on essentials (again, obviously- I can’t just NOT pay my rent and bills…). So next week, I’ll have an update on that. I will probably be in tears because this is going to be really fucking hard.