No-Spend April

April 2nd marks the beginning of my first spending fast (which is probably the first of many). I've never done anything like this, but after seeing this lady and her story I was extremely inspired and just had to challenge myself as well! As I still live with my parents, my financial responsibilities consist of gas, insurance, and anything extra I find along the way, so I figured that this would be a good time in my life for me to try this idea out.

My first step was having the will-power to discern between necessities and non-necessities. Although I cannot tell you how many times I have NEEDED the new pair of shoes, now I have to kick myself in the butt and not listen to my inner rich girl whine for things. Although I'd love to be able to listen to her, inner rich girl doesn't pay the bills. So for me, my needs consist of gas and insurance. Nothing more, nothing less. For other people it will be different, but the main concept is still the same. So even though I want to spend my afternoon browsing through Target clearance while I sip my macchiato, I do not. And believe me, that is not easy for me to give up.

Secondly, making it known to people has been a big help in keeping me from straying. I am as stubborn as they come and the thought of failing at something that everybody knew about is appalling to me. Not only do you have "accountability partners" this way, but people also know to not invite you out to girls' night dinner or to head to the mall with them.

Third, and hardest, is pushing through the beginners hump. I never felt like I spent a lot of time shopping, but now that I'm not I've realized that it was my go-to whenever I had a few hours to kill. But the upside is that I can put that time into something even more productive, like scholarship applications and finally making time to update my day planner.

I know that by April 30th I will be so happy with the balance on my savings account that all of this will be worth it, and when I don't have to take out thousands of dollars in student loan debts I will want to travel back in time to give myself a giant hug. You just can't let the small picture get in the way of the big one, because that will get you into trouble every time. I keep trying to remind myself that even though I may want these things in the moment, most of them are not worth the financial burden they will pile on me in the future. That is the mantra of April :)

Savings Without Budgeting.

I know, I know, it sounds way too good to be true! There are many people out there who do a wonderful job at budgeting, and that's great for them. However, I'm not one of those people. The thought of categories, documentation, and set rules is way too overwhelming for me so I just can't stick with it. So I do things a little differently.

(Before I continue, let me say that I did budget religiously for about 2 months. While I did save tons of money, all I did was obsess about it. It did put in perspective where money is going for me, but I still couldn't stick with it.)

1. Figure out Priorities
I will be the first to admit, I am the absolute worst about impulse buys. I cannot begin to count the amount of times I have walked out of Target with an armload of clearance items I swore I would use (my 3 dry erase boards will lay testament to this). I know a lot of women have this habit, and you are not alone. But I've learned if you put things in perspective, it is a lot easier to combat this impulse spending. First, I think about how many hours of work I would have to do just to pay for that item. If it isn't worth 3 hours of scanning groceries to me, I do not buy it. Second, I keep inventory of items I have at home, think if I do legitimately need it, and how often I would use it if I did buy it. This helps keep myself in check.

2. Save Things You Won't Miss
If you do not have a piggy bank, invest in one. I religiously empty my change, and when my piggy gets full I usually have between sixty and ninety dollars. This is change that I wasn't missing. Yes, I do keep a few pennies for emergencies, but how often do we really take the time to count out exact change anyways? Also, this one is harder, but I have made myself an envelope for one dollar bills. I am not as rigorous about this one, but I started in December and already have about seventy dollars. Guess what? I haven't even missed having them.

3. Free Bonus Rewards
Lots of places have a rewards program now, and I know that it is annoying to keep up with all of them. But if it's free to sign up for, and it's for a place you go frequently, then you might as well do it. I have a gas card to Mapco, which saves me three cents a gallon and builds points for free items such as snacks and drinks. It adds up. I have one for Orange Leaf, so for every ten dollars I spend there, I get a dollar off. It adds up. And I have one for Starbucks, so for every 12 drinks I buy I get a free one (and they have an iPhone app, so you don't even have to keep up with that one!). These are a way to save money without even having to think about it.

4. Discount Stores
Lastly, TJMaxx, Ross, and Goodwill. These can be very dangerous if you are not self-disciplined, but if you feel like you can control yourself and are going for a specific item, these stores are wonderful. Especially for house ware, decorative items, and bedding. And if you're going to splurge on yourself, these are the best places to do it. Name brand prices for a discount is right up my alley!

Even if you only use one of these things, or use all of them, remember the old saying: "Pennies make dollars." Three cents a gallon or a 10% discount may not seem like much, but if you really put it into perspective they add up very quickly!