No Spend January 2019 – Final Update

As I mentioned earlier this month, we implement a no spend January (or another month) at least once a year.  It’s February 1 and time to access how the month went. Spoiler: We failed but it wasn’t a complete loss.

To review, below are the “rules” we used to give us structure for the month.

We can spend money on necessities, such as:

  • gasoline
  • groceries
  • rent or mortgage
  • utilities
  • insurance (car, home, etc.)
  • childcare
  • other fixed expenses (for us this is Netflix, Roku and iTunes)
  • halfway through we had to add a car repair*

We avoid spending money on:

  • dining out (lunches or dinner)
  • clothes shopping
  • trips to the movie theater, amusement park, museums, etc.
  • coffee shops (see dining out)
  • Amazon purchases (we do make heavy use of the save for later feature)

For us, a no spend month boils down to: is this a want or a need. If it is a need, then that’s the end of it. If it is a want, then we wait and if it is something we can live without for the 31 days, we reevaluate if it is something that can wait longer.

When I wrote the first update 10 days in, we’d already spent unplanned money on an 80 percent off sale at our local craft store for $11 to make this special snowflake wreath craft during a snowstorm and surprise day off school.

We saved a golden ticket for a free meal at a restaurant and used that to celebrate a milestone event. It was fun going to a place we don’t usually go to. We did pay tip so the leftover $10 went to that but it still means aside from the necessary expenses and J’s trip, we’re meeting our goals.

But after that, it sort of went a bit downhill. Several of the expenses listed below were not necessities. In fact, if I’m being honest, only three were necessities.

  • An online game charge of $22 + $50
  • Pizza for New Year’s Day football watching with friends $30
  • McDonald’s lunch on the road $10
  • Chik FIl A when J wanted to spoil Miss A for a great night $16
  • Chik Fil A (lunch when a friend had to bail and I couldn’t get home in time to make something for myself ) $10
  • A lunch meeting $11
  • Post swimming doughnuts $11
  • One of our favorite restaurants to celebrate a birthday with our family $86
  • JoAnn’s (so my mom could knit Miss A another winter hat and me another scarf, thanks mom!)  $18
  • Special Day celebration at an indoor play place during a blizzard for Miss A $14
  • Amazon Movie (one we are certain we owned but couldn’t find, so had to purchase the digital download again) $10
  • Home Depot $292 to replace the snowblower we sold (so this really equals $0!)
  • Lowe’s (Miss A’s closet door has needed to be replaced since we moved in and we needed to replace to light fixtures that weren’t working, this would have been a LOT higher but we had gift cards to use) $285
  • Car repair (some of it was scheduled maintenance but it still made an impact on our plans to spend minimally) $275
  • Once Upon a Child (I sold a few things and Miss A grew and needed new pants) $17

Added up that was about $865. If you subtract the special day celebration, car repairs and clothes as necessities, it was $559. If we take out the closet repairs, it’s a much more palatable $274. Not our best no spend month but not the worst. Even with the unexpected expenses we still ended up spending about $250 less than our average, which is absolutely something to celebrate!

In reviewing the expenses and where we failed, our Achilles heel is dining out which accounted for $174 this month. It’s something to work on for our family. So while it wasn’t the best no spend month, it was a good reset. In fact, we’ve decided to keep it up through February 2019!

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Snow ice cream

It’s been almost non-stop snow here for the last three days. As much as I love snow, this is wet and heavy and too much for our snow blower. Which means lots is shoveling. Plus, the power went out for 17 hours which was not fun. The power is back on and we are back to enjoying the winter wonderland.

Plus it’s the perfect snow for snow ice cream!

Unlike other recipes, this one is super simple and just two ingredients: Snow and maple syrup.

Scoop the clean snow (we usually put a bowl out while it is still snowing) into a bowl, pour a few drizzles of your favorite maple syrup and stir.

That’s it. Really. Get a spoon and enjoy!

No Spend January

Sometimes it takes a little restriction to make you think about where you are spending your time and resources.

We’ve chosen to implement a no spend January to get our finances back on track after the holiday season. It works for us in the same ways Dry January and January Clean up works for others.

This is the second time officially going spending free for a month though we have gone for zero spend days and weeks in the past. There are lots of tricks and tips I’ve used to make it just as fun as our regular spending months. A new challenge this year is the four-year-old is well aware that we aren’t eating out in the same way and she’s not getting extra surprises, so we’ve had to do a lot more talking about budgets and expenses and needs and wants this time around. She’s learning about delayed gratification and we are relearning that right along with her.

The following are the “rules.” Of course, these are flexible to meet your needs.

You can spend money only on necessities:

  • gasoline
  • groceries
  • rent or mortgage
  • utilities
  • insurance (car, home, etc.)
  • childcare
  • other fixed expenses (for us this is Netflix, Roku and iTunes)

You aren’t spending money on:

  • no dining out (lunches or dinner)
  • no clothes shopping
  • no trips to the movie theater, amusement park, museums, etc.
  • no coffee shops (see dining out)
  • no Amazon purchases (we do make heavy use of the save for later feature)

For us, a no spend month boils down to: is this a want or a need. If it is a need, then that’s the end of it. If it is a want, then we wait and if it is something we can live without for the 31 days, we reevaluate if it is something that can wait longer.

We use what are now the extra funds to pay down some debt (I still see you student loans, more than 10 years later) and save for our planned activities later in the year. Knowing the extra amounts have a home makes it a little easier and a bit like a game to see how much we can add to these two buckets in a month.

Though our daughter is disappointed we aren’t having the occasional meal at her favorite play place or beloved restaurant that share a name with her favorite Disney Junior character, she is thoroughly enjoying newly created movie nights at home and making the regular dinners special by eating by candlelight.

We aren’t adding extra things to the grocery cart and are trying to stick to a decreased grocery budget. When the inevitable whining about not getting to add something to the cart or getting to go out to eat happens, we are talking with her about how we are working to save money for fun things we have planned later in the year. That we are saving and saving is as important as spending. More importantly, that sticking to a budget can be fun!

Ten days in, how are we doing?

Confession, we’ve done better in the past. J had a work trip and had to spend extra on meals while he was traveling. Some of this will be reimbursed but some of it won’t. I caved on an 80 percent off sale at our local craft store to make this special snowflake wreath craft.

BUT in this specific situation, I sold a light fixture on a local Facebook swap and am still ahead about $10, so that’s a win!

We saved a golden ticket for a free meal at a restaurant and used that to celebrate a milestone event. It was fun going to a place we don’t usually go to. We did pay tip so the leftover $10 went to that but it still means aside from the necessary expenses and J’s trip, we’re meeting our goals.

We’ve learned in the past that no spend months lead to less spending in the next months as we are all better able to articulate is this a want or a need and the art of delayed gratification.

Are you doing a detox in an area of your life? Let us know how it’s going! I’ll update on our no spend after January 31!

Master Bath Renovation

When we moved into our house in fall of 2015, we knew the bathrooms were quite “dated.” We did not know the vanity in the master bathroom had extensive water damage, mold (!!!) and the new floor the previous owner installed was done so poorly it buckled shortly after we moved in.

What started as a plan to just replace the rusted drawer slides soon turned into an entire project.

That’s rust on the back wall and both drawers didn’t slide because the particle board had swelled and molded. I thought we might just be able to buy new drawer boxes in the right size but now where in town sold them and the priced online were much more than we wanted to pay since we would someday completely replace the vanity.

After a brief try with an IKEA drawer that seemed like it should have fit (it did not) we just bought some wood boards from the local lumber yard and using the Miter Saw I got for Christmas made our own. If you are planning to buy one, you might want to check out this huge article with the basic features of a miter saw.

Making the drawer boxes ended up being slightly more challenging than we thought it would be. We measured several times, cut once and built the boxes. We added the plywood to the bottom and added the new drawer slides. One drawer fit perfectly, the other one just didn’t. After a few trials and errors and stripped screws, we took the whole thing apart and made some additional adjustments. Only then did it work!

 

At the same time, we were building the drawer boxes, I tested a stain we’ve used several times before with good luck on the drawer fronts.

I knew we would need to stain the vertical surfaces as well and tried the spray version of the Minwax Polyshade.

It worked but the overspray was going to be too much to use in the bathroom and I needed to find an alternative for the vertical surfaces. That’s when I tested the Minwax Gel.

I didn’t exactly follow the directions. Instead of staining it, letting it sit and wiping it off, I let the gel cure onto the wood instead of wiping it off. The wood grain does still show which is also what I wanted!

The next step was to stain the jetted tub apron. Since the floor was already bubbled and coming up, I took up the parts around where I would be staining. We knew the original linoleum was underneath, but we did not know the previous owner didn’t even clean the floor before putting the floating floor down. It was so gross and covered in sequins. I tried to ignore that part.

Even with keeping the gel stain on and letting it cure, we still had to use two coats.

The next step was to paint the trim and the window trim white. For this we used the Sherwin Williams snap dry white semi-gloss because it dries in an hour (or less). Of note, you might think the blue tape is as good as FrogTape but it is not. Spend a little more on the FrogTape, it is worth it, I promise.  There are a few techniques that are really important for painting a window you don’t want to paint shut (as the previous owner did to every other window in our house). First, cover the lock with FrogTape very carefully. Second, paint a little at a time. Third, after you add a coat, let it dry enough to open and slide the window. Repeat many times opening and closing as you paint. Then once you’ve added the last coat, open and close the window several more times. You may also want to get an alcohol-soaked cotton swab and clean the tracks.

With the new light fixture, drawer pulls and faucets installed the bathroom looks amazing. A far cry from the mistreated builder oak we moved into.

While we could have easily completed this project in a weekend, it ultimately took us about 15 days from start to finish. I can’t wait to get the mirror frame up, the floor done and the new shower glass installed.

Here are the side by side comparisons.

Pixie Dust and Mickey Mail

We recently spent five days and four nights on the Disney Dream and it was just as magically memorable as you can imagine. Though we planned our trip about a month before we set sail, we were too late to join a Fish Extender group. You can read more about Fish Extenders in the post I wrote for the DCL Blog but a quick summary is these are small gifts from family to family that people put in a bag or tiered hanging box outside of your stateroom on the fish (hence Fish Extender) or seahorse depending on which side of the ship you are on.

Here’s ours:

(Somehow I forgot to take a picture of it outside our stateroom.)

Even though we were too late to join an official Fish Extender Group, we found about 16 families to Pixie Dust. Pixie Dust is just like a Fish Extender only surprise and with less obligation. I liked the ability to add some surprises and not feel like I needed to have something specific to each family member.

We ended up creating some ship cheat sheets, personalized postcards and small items for the children like silly face glow sticks, coloring books and silly bands.

These are the ship cheat sheets:
These are the postcards:

The first day we arrived on the ship we spent about an hour delivering our gifts, which our daughter affectionately named Mickey Mail. It was a great way to begin learning our way around and see the ship.

For the next four days, our daughter checked every time we came back to our room and before we left to see if she had received any Mickey Mail of her own. She was thrilled with everything she received and particularly appreciated a Princess Sophia playdoh set and an Elena of Avalor hooded towel.

I highly recommend participating in a Fish Extender or at least finding a Pixie Dust group if you’re planning on a Disney Cruise.

We also made some really fun magnets for the second cruise we took. Including some personalized ones for those in our Fish Extender group with their favorite characters.


p.s. If you’d like to purchase the Dream Cheat Sheet or the personalized postcards, let us know!