If you have any exposure to the personal finance community, you’ll be familiar with the concept of a “no-spend weekend.” And as she’s not one of shy away from a challenge, The Lady in the Black tried her first no-spend weekend. How’d she do? Read on, my friends, read on.
Disclaimer: In my continuing attempt at full transparency, I need to preface this whole blog post with the fun little disclaimer. You see, when you are a “mature” adult female with a full-time gig, a boyfriend, and a kid starting back to school, it’s best practice to write a blog post in a timely manner when you write time-sensitive content. While I’ve done my best to recollect all the details of my no-spend Labor Day weekend, the fact is that is was 10 whole days ago. That’s like 70 days in old Lady days! I forgot some details. Sue me.
The Big Idea and The Reason Why
August 2018 was a tough month on this Lady’s cash flow situation.
I was on vacation until August 7. And as a freelance employee, vacation equals “no income.” Then, when I returned to work, a large project of mine was canceled and I was left scrambling for hours to bill to. In short, my August income was significantly lower than my average income..and it seriously hijacked my ability to pay rent on September 1.
On August 30th (2 days before rent is due), I had $240 in my checking account. My rent is $2,440.
You see a problem? Ya. So did I.
I did what I had to. I pulled savings from various accounts (designated for vacation, tax savings, emergency, etc.) and sold off some of my STASH portfolio. The next day, August 31, I had bolstered my account balance to $2,240.
I was also staring down Labor Day weekend being broke.
While I was amazed by the fact that I could pull together that much money that quickly, I was defeated that I had no money to make it through a weekend that was suppose to be fun and relaxing. Honoring all the “labor” in America was tough on me when I felt all my labor was going to squat.
Yet if The Lady in Black has learned one thing in this crazy financial journey, it’s that any success is due to a positive attitude and perseverance.
So, instead of crawling into bed and being depressed, I decided to make being broke as fun as I could.
“Hey, let’s do our first no-spend weekend. It’ll be fun,” I convinced myself. “I’ve got food in the cupboards, the freezer, and the fridge. I can totally do this.”
Then, I had to sell my uber-frugal idea to The Man in the Black (my boyfriend) and The Kid in the Black (my 10 year-old daughter.) Fortunately, they were both understanding. They weren’t thrilled but I was honest about why it was necessary. Then I sold the crap out of the idea as the best thing since cheap white bread.
The Lady’s 1st No-Spend Weekend
Friday, August 31: $0
This is where the hazy memory kicks in.
While I can verify via my bank accounts that I didn’t spend a dime, I also can’t exactly remember what I did Friday night. Based on what I know about my life, I can assume that The Kid and I probably just chilled at home. Seems like I probably even made dinner, which is a win in my book even if I can’t remember what I cooked.
Is it gingko biloba that is supposed to help enhance memory? I forget.
Anyway, I didn’t spend any money. ‘Nuf said.
Saturday, September 1: $12
Now this I do remember!
Saturday I had planned for my gang to go to the Orange International Street Fair. (Picture the cutest of historic towns closing their downtown circle intersection and filling all the streets with interesting vendors.) It’s a long-standing Labor Day event and I hadn’t been in decades.
While I reminded them of our no-spending challenge on the drive to the event and they were “in”, the instant I stepped foot inside the fair, I knew I fucked up.
In fact, it may have been one of the stupidest ideas I’ve had in a long time. The WHOLE DEAL about the fair is the dozens of food booths, beer trucks, and trendy arts and crafts available for sale. Sure, I brought snacks and waters for everyone (I’m a mom after all) but the event felt like one big-ass culinary tease. It was like bringing a Lunchable to a 5-star restaurant.
Realizing my immediate mistake, I had to come up with something to distract The Kid…and fast. Fortunately, I’d just passed down my old phone (a sweet-ass iPhone 4s thank you very much) and suggested we both take photos and then “compete” for the best photography later when we got home. (The Kid is the best kid in the world so she was down with the idea.)
Art as distraction. Score one for The Lady.
Anyway, blah, blah, blah. Click-click-click.
All was going well until we arrived to the Norway section of the international street fair. And there they were. Ableskiver. (Google it.)
I caved on a dish of ableskiver. Price $6. Now, I rationalized this treat was for my daughter and technically I owed her $25 so really it was her buying the treat, not me. (Rationalization is a bitch but I still counted the expense because I’m honest.)
Next, I just couldn’t say no to a $4 root beer float in Ireland. (Is root beer Irish? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter, I guess.)
Then, I got busted by an event authority guy for not having a wristband. The Man in the Black graciously bought me a beer but I had to fork over the $2 for the wristband. (I should also disclose that I met up with a co-worker at the event and she bought me a beer, too. Thanks, JB!)
All in all, I escaped the street fair only spending $12 of my own money! Not bad.
In fact, I challenge anyone to do better. Go ahead. Make my day, punk.
Sunday, September 2: $12
By Sunday, I knew the money in bank account wasn’t sufficient to cover my rent. I had bounced yet another rent payment.
I was angry. I was stressed. I was desperate. I bought a bottle of $12 chardonnay…and drank it. All. By. Myself.
Beyond that one indulgence, it turns out moping around feeling sorry for yourself is 100% free. Yay.
Monday, September 3: $0
With the kids transferred to their other parents, The Man and I had Monday to ourselves.
One of the huge benefits of living in southern California is the beach. It’s right there…everyday and is surprisingly easy to take for granted. However, that was not the story for this year’s Labor Day Monday.
Monday we took full advantage of an out-of-the-way beach equipped with our sunscreen and cooler packed with goodies. Full disclosure: The Man did shell out $13 at the local grocery store to supplement the snacks I had packed.
In short, it was AWESOME. It was the perfect no-spend day.
We swam, snoozed, explored, snacked, and swam some more. We were like Sandy and Danny frolicking around in our own version of a Summer Lovin’ flashback scene.
And it was all free…and once I stripped off my bathing suit in the ocean for a few minutes of nudie swimming….freeing as well. Don’t judge.
No-Spend Weekend Lessons
My official spend of $24 on a 3-day, no-spend weekend seems like a decent first attempt.
Am I disappointed that I can’t say “I did it! I spent $0”?
No, because I think I did great.
To analyze my expenditures, I spent half my money feeding my kid and the other half drowning my sorrows. And for those of you moms out there struggling with making ends meet, that might sound familiar.
So what did The Lady in The Black learn from her first no-spend weekend?
First, meal planning is a “thing.” The better you can plan out your meals in advance, the better off you are–nutritionally AND financially. Honestly, I’m not great at meal planning and most of my “cheat” expenses involve eating out. This is not news to me but not go out once over the span of a long weekend was pretty awesome for me.
Next, don’t be an idiot. Choose your activities well. Avoid situations where you will tempted to spend your hard-earned money. Select places where you aren’t bombarded by retail temptation. The street fair was stupid. The beach was genius.
Lastly, make sure your partner, kids, friends, etc. are mentally, physically, and fiscally prepared for a no-spend challenge. Sure, I spent some money on treats for my child but she didn’t beg or whine for anything all day. She knew the situation and didn’t push. My boyfriend understood my predicament and respected it by choosing an activity for the two of us that wouldn’t cost me money or my dignity for being broke.
I see no-spend challenges as a type of cleanse. They can help reset your financial metabolism and put your personal finances on a healthier path.
The Lady in The Black enjoyed her no-spend weekend, even if it was involuntary. In fact, I look forward to trying it again soon, under better circumstances.
In summary, there’s no doubt that being broke is trying–but it doesn’t mean you can’t try to make the most of it.
Like one of my good friends says, life is short. Live long.