Summer, for me, always has that trend of spending more money than I should, so when September rolls around my bank account feels a little lighter than normal.
Back when I originally started in education; I didn’t get paid in the summers (since I’m a 10-month employee), so I had to be really good at budgeting myself through the summer since I would be missing my paycheck. I did work at a camp throughout the summer in those days to supplement, but it, obviously, wasn’t nearly as much as my normal paycheck.
At my previous school, we could elect to be paid over 12 months (and still be paid as a 10-month employee), which meant our normal paychecks were a little less than a typical 10-month employee, but we still “got paid” during summers. It was essentially what I was doing early on, anyway, but they were holding it for me instead of me holding it in a separate account.
At my current school; everyone gets paid 12 months, regardless of whether you’re a 10-month or a 12-month employee (it’s also my highest paying school to date – thanks to being in the wealthiest county in Maryland). So, it’s like working the whole year, but I don’t have to be here in the summer.
It’s nice. In fact, this past summer was the first summer I’ve basically “taken off” in….ever, actually. Meaning, it was the first summer I didn’t actively work 40 hours at a summer job as I had in previous years. Like I said, it was nice. Especially with the wedding and traveling and having to be at my school a bit more than normal, anyway, not having another commitment was really helpful.
However, it wasn’t as helpful to my bank account. Added on top of that, the fact that Devon and I did a bit more traveling than normal, also didn’t really help that. And, I just have a tendency to be a bit looser on my money in the summer because I have so much more time to go out and do things (which can equal spending more money that I would normally).
Now that we are back into the swing of things with the school year back in session; it’s time to get a grip back on our finances and reign in any spending I’ve done in the past couple of months.
I’ve done a “No Spend September” the past couple of years and I really feel like it helps to get me back on track. I started it already on September 1st and I already feel a lot better and in control of what I’m doing. I usually do these sporadically throughout the year, as well, when I feel like I need a little reigning in, but I’ve done it every September for a while now.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of these before; where you don’t spend any money for a certain period of time. There are some people who do them in a very strict manner; as they ride their bike to work every day, they don’t buy groceries, etc, etc.
I’m not as strict about it because I find when I’m that stringent, I’m less likely to maintain it. I still buy essentials, like groceries and I still drive to work (I mean, come on, I live 45 minutes away by car….doing anything other than driving is just not feasible for me). It’s almost like dieting if I cut every little thing out, I’m going to get frustrated and stop a lot sooner than I should.
I also take it week by week. While, yes, the goal is to not spend at all in the month of September, I take it one week at a time and say “I won’t spend anything this week”. This way if something happens, I’m not ruining myself for the whole month. I’ll just say, “next week is a new week to try this again”, and move forward.
If you are someone who thinks they need to get their spending habits under control, this might be a good challenge for you, as well. You are welcome to be as strict with it as you need to be, like I said, though, I’m not super strict about it. I’m all about cutting out the non-essential spending.
So what is the essential spending?
Things that you need to survive, basically. And that looks a little different for most. For instance, gas in my car, for me, is essential, since I need it to go to work every day. If you can ride your bike everywhere or use public transportation, which typically costs less, go for it; it’s just not something I can do. Food/groceries are also essential for me. This does not mean ordering take-out two times a week, though. It means actually going through our pantry and our freezer, seeing what is there, and buying what we need to supplement what we already have. Our freezer and pantry are pretty full, so grocery shopping shouldn’t need to be that stressful for a while.
Medical things, I also deem essential. Like, I have my yearly check up tonight, I have a copay to pay for that from my insurance, but my health is essential, so I’m not going to put it off until the no-spend is over. The same thing with prescriptions, if I needed any kind of medications, even if they’re over the counter, I’m going to get them because my health is important.
It does, however, mean that my Nordstrom card is put away so I don’t use it, as is my MasterCard. I likely won’t be going to malls for any reason, if I “online shop” it’ll either be with a couple gift cards I have laying around or just to browse (and I really don’t need clothes, so I’m going to try to not even do that). There also won’t be little “treat” stops on the way into work in the morning; I’ll just go straight to work.
Understanding what you will spend on and what you won’t makes this so much easier to maintain for the duration you set on it.
Start it for a week.
Establish what you need to buy in order to survive and not feel discouraged and only spend on that; nothing else.
You could start even smaller and just say, “this week I won’t go to Starbucks at all”. You’d be surprised how much doing that alone can save you.
Are you trying to reign yourself in after summer spending? Join me in this challenge and see how much money you can save! I’ll do weekly updates so we can track progress and provide encouragement! YOU CAN DO THIS!!