*This is the 1st day of the One Month Spending Freeze Challenge. Please click here to see all of the posts in this series.*
Welcome to the One Month Spending Freeze Challenge! This month will be a time to slow down and realize just how blessed you really are. You will have many opportunities to sacrifice and test your limits. I hope you will follow along and take the daily challenges! Let’s get started!
The day my husband came home from work and told me that he quit his only job was when I decided to become more serious about our money. It’s been over a year since that summer day, and we are still continuing with the spending freeze we implemented then. The spending freeze hasn’t necessarily changed my life, but it honest-to-goodness has helped me distinguish between needs and wants. This lifestyle has helped me focus on what is most important, and I feel all the happier for it.
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What Is a Spending Freeze?
Since today is the first day of our month long spending freeze challenge, let’s get on the same page and learn what happens during a spending freeze.
While a spending freeze can take on different meanings depending on who you are and where you are at in life, it basically comes down to this: it’s a certain period of time when you decide to stop spending money. You decide how long you want it to last, and you also decide exactly what purchases you will stop making.
I’ve heard of people doing spending freezes for a day, a month, or a year at a time.
Our spending freeze has been much longer than a year, but it is out of necessity rather than by choice. I think if it were a choice we were making, it would be a bit easier to occasionally buy something we really didn’t need just because we had the money.
Assessing Needs vs. Wants
A lot of people these days have no idea what needs are. Most people group needs and wants into the same category, which helps them justify their spending.
When you start to separate your needs and wants you will clearly see the areas where you can stop spending money and allocate the money you do have towards your needs. Anything left can be used more wisely, and on things that really matter.
Before you can decide what you won’t be spending money on this month, you have to know what your needs are and what your wants are. Here are a few steps to take to get there:
Write out all your expenses. Refer to your budget if you have one. Number your expenses by importance. So if you have 22 expenses, number 1 might be your mortgage, number 2 might be food, and so on until number 22 might be entertainment. Now rewrite your expenses starting with 1.
Look at your numbered list of expenses, and circle all the expenses that are clearly needs. These are things you must have to survive or to ensure your family is safe. These are all the potential needs you might circle:
Insurance (health, car, and life)
Clothes (only if you don’t have any, and especially for children who need a coat or something)
Utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewer, trash, etc.)
A car doesn’t ensure survival or safety, but without a working car, you cannot go to the store and buy food or even drive to work (that’s assuming that you don’t have access to public transportation).
Take a look at the remaining expenses and cross out anything on your list that is clearly a want. These are things that make your life enjoyable and comfortable, but you can do without them for any given amount of time, maybe even indefinitely.
Clothes (unless of course you need them)
Entertainment (including cable)
Anything in the dollar bins at Target
You might have more or less things than I do, but these are all the things you will be giving up this month. No ifs, ands, or buts about it!
For any expense that you did not circle or cross out, you will want to come up with how you want to deal with it during the spending freeze. If there is a wedding coming up, you might want to set a limit on how much you can spend or try to be creative and spend very little. Here’s how you might handle these expenses:
Gifts – $15
Car maintenance – $50
Gym/rec center membership – $10
Now, make a list of all the expenses you are giving up this month. These will be anything you crossed out in step 3, and possibly whatever was left in step 4. If you know you might fail by listing something here, set a limit for how much you can spend. It’s better to have a little bit of wiggle room than none at all and then not continue just because you failed.
This month, while you are doing your spending freeze, refer back to your list of wants and needs often. It will help you remember that you actually don’t need those boots that you found on sale and that those extra drinks for your Halloween party might be pushing it.
Good luck! Be sure to return to the blog each day for a new challenge during the month.
Are you surprised how few needs you actually have?
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