Posts Tagged ‘No Spend Challenge’

Post No Spend Challenge Confessions

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

There was a lovely and thoughtful discussion over at Northern Cheapskate on the difficulties that people would have had with the No Spend Challenge. I want to stress that it was a completely voluntary experience and that while I committed to a no spend month, I wanted people to modify it to their lifestyle and what they felt comfortable with. If a day was what you were comfortable with, if it is a habit you are trying to break, if a week would shed light on your finances- then those were all great and wonderful ways to implement a challenge in your life.

Most of the comments said how difficult it would be to not go on a spending binge after the challenge was over. What a valid point that is! I have also received some comments and emails since the challenge was over wondering if I was having problems with spending and if it will have saved me money in the long run.

The weird thing for me is that other than my little $15 in yarn excursion for some gifts I am working on, a hair cut (which typically happens each month), a necessary birthday gift for my husband, and my $1 Diet Coke that I buy myself after grocery shopping, I had no inclination to run out and spend loads of money.

Here is the weirder part… My husband’s birthday is this week and I got him a watch for his 30th birthday (a killer deal that I scored off of eBay). I took it to the mall to get it engraved and they told me it would take an hour before it would be ready. I had all of this time to shop and instead, I took my daughter over to the play area, whipped out my knitting project, and just sat and knitted while she played for an hour.

She was so happy running around and talking to the children and counting the blocks on the floor, and reciting her 1-2-3′s at the top of her lungs and I drank all of that in and worked on my project. There was no tug to shop… although I did feel a tiny tug to get a cup of coffee.

What did change is that the challenge did shed light on some problems that I have with my spending.

I now know that there are a couple of days that are harder for me with my work and I am trying to get dinner prepared ahead of time or work on slow cooker meals for those nights to reduce our eating out.

I realized that I need to scale back on outings that cost money and so I am choosing to do one thing a week instead of a few.

I am entertaining more because, frankly, my house looks better when I know I have people coming and it breaks my day up.

And most of all, it has made me conscious of my spending habits and how I can improve them. Even a money-savvy gal like myself, needed a little wake-up call into how we could improve our financial situation.

As for the economy and the negative impact I had on it by challenging others to a No Spend Challenge… well, I won’t apologize for that and I know that might anger some people. I live in a part of the country that is particularly plagued with job loss and I am doing what I can to prepare our finances and make our situation stronger. My husband lost his job for a year and it took us five years to recover from that. I want to build a safety net for my family and not spending helped us gain perspective on how we can make that happen.

I might not have the influence of Oprah, but I still hope I made a difference on how families can improve their finances. And can I say to Oprah, I thought of the No Spend Challenge first? You know, just in case someone needs that information for historical purposes.

Are you reducing your spending to protect your family or are you increasing your spending to protect the economy? Do you believe it is an either/or philosophy?

Day 28: ‘Tis the Final Day of No Spend! Rejoice!

Saturday, February 28th, 2009


I am so proud of our family and what we have accomplished on this No Spend Challenge. I can tell you that we spent $55 overall for the month. $10 was spent on my trip to Blissdom and $45 was my recent trip to New York. I am sad that the total was not $0, but we did the best we could with some unexpected travels and expenses.

Let me share with you a little bit about what our family learned through our No Spend Challenge.

  • I am more resourceful than I gave myself credit for. Committing to stay within our grocery budget was more difficult than I had expected. I did not realize how often I ask my husband to stop off at the store for one or two items for dinner. I found that many times I could whip up some really great cooking substitutes for the ingredients I needed or I was able to make those items I would have bought.
  • Cooking every night is harder than I thought. I love working from home, but it can be challenging to get all my work done and get dinner on the table. Often I am in conference calls or working on a project until my husband gets home. I do love to cook, but I also love the occasional break so I can just relax. I realized during this month how often we actually do eat out. Trying to be inventive in the kitchen every single day was a challenge. I discovered that a box of macaroni or sandwich night was a wonderful way to still give myself a night off without spending money. I also learned the art of stretching a meal as far as it could go, reinventing it, or even double-batching meals helped give me the nights off I needed when I was working.
  • I can still give to others. Do you ever feel like you can make very little impact on someone because you don’t have the money to do it? I can admit that I feel that way often. There are so many around me that are affected by job loss, medical problems, and depression. Many times I feel so helpless to these situations because I don’t have the financial means or connections to help someone out of these situations. It has been weighing very heavy on my heart these days. That is why I am so proud to tell you that I was able to provide five meals for others during this month and hosted countless engagements at my house caring and serving my friends and family. You don’t have to have a lot to make a positive impact on someone else. What seemed like small gestures to me means a lot more to someone than you might think. We are so hurried, so busy, so tired. I know I often feel like I have nothing to give anyone. I realize now that a woman of small means can still give with her whole heart and make a big difference to someone else.
  • My social calendar needs some revising. I never realized how many of my social engagements centered around spending money. Meeting up with friends for dinner, grabbing lunch for a play date, sharing coffee with a girlfriends are just some examples of things that are typically on my calendar. I will admit that I was a little bummed to miss some of these activities, but I was determined to approach this challenge creatively. We hit the library, we went to our friend’s houses for play dates, we packed our lunches, and I hosted my friends at my home instead. What I found was that I had a deeper connection with the people in my life when I could sit at my kitchen table and our children played at my house then I would have at a play area where I am running around after my kids and dealing with crowds.
  • I feel more grounded when I am home and not spending. Since we weren’t out spending money, we ended up spending a lot more time at home. I suddenly had the time to tackle all of those projects I didn’t think I had time to do. In fact, I had time for things that I loved to do. I haven’t read a whole book in probably a year and this month I read four entire books in one month. I baked bread. I weeded through things that needed organizing in my house. I actually got caught up with laundry a few of those days. I hung out with my children. I finally felt centered. I felt like a calendar addict who was just given permission to take four weeks off. That first week I felt the withdrawals, but by the second week it began to feel wonderful. I used my “No Spend Challenge” as my excuse to detach myself from anything and everything so I could just relax and do the things I truly enjoy.
  • The best things in life really are free. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Giggling with my friends over coffee. Playing those dusty board games. Helping others around me. Snuggles from my sweet children. Good music. Dancing with my kids. Knitting. Soaking in the tub. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.

Overall, I am really proud of how well we did with our challenge! There were two things that people wanted to know when our challenge was over…what did we do with our saved money and what was the first thing I was going to buy when I could spend again?

I am happy to tell you that with the money saved, we were able to put down a deposit to refinance the interest rate on our home and moved from a 30 year mortgage to a 15 year mortgage, saving our family $90,0000 in interest. That is an investment that was worth every penny invested.

And what is the first thing I want to buy after this challenge is over? I scheduled myself for a good haircut, I am giving myself off a night from cooking, and I’m getting a little yarn fix over at Hobby Lobby. It is the little things that I missed, but the No Spend Challenge brought us great perspective and I am so thankful for the lessons I have learned from this experience.

Please feel free to rejoice with me. Toot your own horns about what you learned from this experience. Heck, I would be honored if you just gave me a pat on the back for my resourcefulness this month- I want to celebrate, friends!!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Day 25: A Sweet Little Pick-Me-Up

Thursday, February 26th, 2009


The month is coming to a close and this last week has been dragging a bit for me. I think that is why I was so touched when I got the most wonderful package in the mail that was totally unexpected and unprompted. In it were these beautiful little felt pins and the kindest note thanking me for featuring her site in the notebook entry. It was so kind that it brought tears to my eyes and I want to publicly thank Kimba, from A Soft Place to Land, for sharing this sweet gift with me. She makes the most beautiful handmade things in the world so please, please think of her when buying your next gift and head over to her wonderful Etsy Shop to pick up a pin for someone special in your life. It will make any outfit you have special and I have somehow found how to work one of these pins in with everything I wear. Even my aprons. Or my sweat pants. Or my television appearances. Thank you, Kimba, from the bottom of my heart!

As if that wasn’t enough, I got another completely unexpected package in the mail. It is the boxed set of Anne of Green Gables. I hang my head in shame and tell you I have never read these books and I have never watched the movies. In fact, I think I was clueless that I was entering a contest on Metropolitan Mama and was just commenting on family films we had recently seen. I am horrible about entering giveaways and rarely enter them so that is why it was like a wonderful surprise when I found out I won.

I love a little pick-me-up when I am down, don’t you?

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Day 23-24: The New York Edition

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I am back from The Mike & Juliet Show and am trying to recover from a terrible head cold that I caught on my way out there.

You can watch the segment here on Work-At-Home Scams. I am sure I don’t have to tell you that I am disappointed that I did not get to share with women what a wonderful resource MomAdvice.com could be for helping moms navigate working-from-home. My soul purpose to leave my family for two days was to be able to help educate women on work-at-home scams and showcase a true work-at-home success story. Time ran out and I am very sorry for that because I had a lot to share.

You can’t control live television, I have discovered, and sometimes the opportunities pan out and sometimes they don’t. I once did a news segment on behalf of a company and they would not agree to say my website and the company I was representing because it was too long. After hours of preparation and a sleepless night trying to get ready for it, that was my first taste of how things different things can be, particularly when you are working with a show that is not local.

As I stood backstage this week, I talked with another one of the guests about that mystery shopping scam that was highlighted in the segment. I told her that there are legitimate opportunities out there and that I would be happy to share with her real information on mystery shopping. Perhaps, that was my moment and the reason for me coming there or maybe my story will help another mom who is struggling financially and looking for work. It is desperate times like these in the economy, when people find themselves victims of these scams because they are trying to put food on the table for their families.

I spent $45 on this trip on just eating. It was one of those things that I obviously could not control, which makes me sad since I had done so well on the No Spend Challenge so far. I am bummed, but I am still proud of how well I have managed this month with three out-of-town trips.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Day 22: Showing the Snow Day Whose Boss

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

We received another foot of snow outside so it was another snow day at home. What do my boys do on a snowy day like this? They bundled up and headed outside to build the world’s largest snow fort and then record themselves with the camcorder destroying it. I would show it to you, but my little guy has a pretty shaky hand. Each time he let out a giggle, it would shake and lose focus from what they were showcasing and I am sure it was one of those things that would only be funny to us. It was so cute to watch them out there though and see Ethan laughing until he couldn’t breathe. I was spying on them through the window, loving how enraptured my kids are with my husband.

Emily & I snuggled together on the couch and watched a little Food Network. I then got busy making the cocoa, some homemade waffles, and getting the table set for a warm and yummy dinner.

Wouldn’t you know in the middle of cooking that I realized we had run out of syrup. I felt a little panicky, but then remembered that I am a resourceful girl, and pulled the ingredients out of the pantry to whip up some homemade pancake syrup. I love when I am able to make something at home instead of having to run out and buy it. We now have plenty of syrup and we didn’t even have to spend any additional money to make it.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Days 20-21: Snowy Little Days

Saturday, February 21st, 2009



Snowy day. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Snuggles from my sweet girl. Boots and footed pajamas. Dancing with my kids. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Day 19: ’70′s Bunco Style

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

I seriously cannot imagine missing a month of Bunco, but knew that I would have to sit out this month with the No Spend Challenge.

My girlfriends would not hear of it though and said that they would let me keep my money if I came to play with everyone. My concern was that everyone would feel like I was the charity case, but no one wanted me to sit out. They had all sorts of reasons to justify the spending (“Isn’t Bunco as important as paying the mortgage and phone bills?”). With everyone’s sweet insistence, I decided to throw in my $5 to play and hoped that I would win it back so no one would have to pony up my money for the games.

The disco ball for our Bunco night was something that had been gathering dust in my basement for the past five years. I brought it to a White Elephant Gift Swap for my mom’s group and soon realized that my White Elephant in my house was one of the more sought after prizes. My friend Jessica won it and put it to work for a ’70′s Bunco night.

The delicious fondue pot and dippers.



The hot ’70′s attire. Mine came courtesy of my closet, others found their great finds at Goodwill!

The utter relief that I won my money back fair and square so no one had to pay for my Bunco money. Phew!

My amazing Bunco Babes who wouldn’t think of letting me not join them for a fun night out!


Thanks to my Bunco Babes, I was still able to enjoy a fun No Spend night out with the girls!

Related Links:

Kentucky Derby Bunco

Retro Housewife Bunco

Wedding Bunco

Day 18: A Little American Idol With Your Homemade Enchilada?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

It has been a busy week and I really need to unwind. I decided to whip up some chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce, Mexican rice (will share recipe later), and lemonade for an evening on the couch with my family. We needed this. I needed this. A little quiet, a lot of good food, and some Simon.

I am pretty proud of how we are doing so far with the No Spend Challenge. I will not say there hasn’t been temptations, but I have been doing my best to ignore them as much as I can.

How are you all doing with your own challenges? I hope it is going well! I think of all of you that are doing the same thing as me and wishing we all lived close so we could have coffee at my house.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Day 17: Play Date Heaven

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I packed my coffee and a lunch for two. Emily and I headed over to my friend Jessica’s house for a fun play date and visit with our friends. Emily was pretty tired when she got home, but we made it home in time for…


Another play date with another great friend. I actually met my friend Renee (@ReneeCrabtree) through Twitter, if you can believe it. She was my first friend that I made virtually that I met up with in real life. She saw me tweeting about knitting and said she wanted to learn. I offered to have her over and teach her and we have been friends ever since. And her knitting? Amazing! She has been doing lace patterns and whipping up things I haven’t even dreamed of trying.

Best of all, she is a work-from-home momma and has two kids around the same age as my children. It is so good to have a friend who can understand the trials of working from home and juggling the children. I am very thankful for my friendship with her and look forward to our knitting dates more than I can say.

Good friends. Good coffee. Good yarn. What more can a girl ask for?

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Pretzels Like Auntie Anne’s?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Experiment: Can I make pretzels like Auntie Anne’s?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 01.29.09

Materials Needed: Please see maya made for the full instructions.

Results: Remember when I mentioned that I totally failed on a notebook experiment? Well, this is the experiment that I did not end up doing well.

I thought it would be fun (my husband would say ambitious) to make my hubby some heart-shaped pretzels for a special Valentine’s Day treat. One of his favorite things in the world is soft pretzels and I thought this would be a wonderful way to show him how much I loved him, particularly during our No Spend Challenge month. I mean, what says I love you more than baking for someone?

The first mistake I made was not using the recipe that maya made had used. I actually used this recipe and used my bread machine to make the dough instead of the stand mixer. The dough was difficult to roll out and kept balling back up together.

After finally maneuvering it into a heart shape, I then had to try and put them in the baking soda solution. My mistake, throwing in too many and leaving them in far too long. When I took them out, I started to wonder if it would have been better not to have put them in the solution.

I’m all like, what in the hay happened to these pretzels?
At this point, I keep pressing on. After mixing dough, shaping dough, dipping dough in baking soda solution, letting dough rise, and getting ready to bake them again there is no way in heck I was going to do that again. And my kitchen was the biggest disaster you have ever seen-flour everywhere, dirty pots and pans, baking soda spilled all over my stove. I was worried, but I was going to wrap up this horrible idea of a project.

Delicious? This picture might be deceiving!

I took the hot pretzels out of the oven. The bottoms were brown, the tops were still doughy. I stuck them back in for two more minutes and melted butter. Yup, another pan! I brushed the butter on top and ran one down to take a picture of it. It actually looked yummy! I gave my husband the first one and he devoured it. He ate a second. Maybe I was a success.

Then I took a bite and I literally spit it on my plate. It tasted like baking soda through and through. Meanwhile, Emily has happily ate almost the entire pretzel and then suddenly looks at me with utter disgust and hands her pretzel back to me. “I no like this, mommy.” I think the cinnamon and sugar threw her off from the disgusting taste.

I didn’t cry as I surveyed the damage in my kitchen and hurled the poor excuse for pretzels in my trash can. It is the thought that counts, perhaps, but I shall never think this thought again.

Conclusion: I will never ever make pretzels again. I will leave this task to the highly trained people at the mall and I will pay six dollars (or whatever outrageous amount is charged) to have someone else do this for me.

Call me lazy, but some things are better left to the professionals and this is one of those tasks I can’t see myself repeating.

If you have made pretzels before, please feel free to share your tips! What has been your biggest cooking disaster?

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!
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I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Wednesday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster’s blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can’t wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!