My no-spending challenge was not only a way to save a little extra money from my spending plan, but seeing how easy or difficult it was to spend less, especially in categories like eating out, miscellaneous (yes, I have such a category), personal care and clothing. Right now, I am looking at how much more I can save because I do have a job with a steady flow of money coming in. However, if the situation changes and money is no longer coming in, I know which categories are easier to target for elimination or immediate reduction, and how much lower my living expense can be. Shaving another $75 or $125 from living expenses will stretch my savings that much further. Limited finances are extra incentive to turn down the thermostat in winter, turn up the air conditioning in summer or see how long you go without turning on said appliances.
This month really challenged my thinking about what I needed to buy and what I could make for myself. Touting self-sufficiency and practicing are two different things. While many times it takes hearing a comment or reading a blog to open my mind to possibility of doing something differently, this challenge had a few self-generated moments of thinking creatively (e.g., making a catnip-stuffed toy for the cats).
In the end, I had $226 leftover in my spending plan. For many of the categories, the money was carried over to the next month (e.g., car insurance and cat care). The car insurance and registration is a known, regular expense while cat care is sporatic but necessary when the cats need supplies or to visit the vets.
Some of the leftover money was used to finance future goals. This included:
$53 to regular savings (some remaining from gas category for future hedge against gasoline prices and from unspent eating out category)
$23 to car savings (other half of leftover gas category plus some from miscellaneous allocation)
$8.26 to found money (from phone/DSL and miscellaneous allocations)
$4.78 to farm (change from gas category and grocery leftovers)
The total leftover money was $73 more than in January. Other than a lunch out with a friend I had not seen in months, I managed to keep expenses in necessary categories rather than fulfilling wants this past week. Furthermore, I did not overspend into the next month for any category so I start off March on a a good note. Still, I am looking forward to going to the thrift and hardware stores in the near future. The former I miss and the latter has a few things I need to buy (bolts, washers, nuts and furnace filters).