Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

The Story of My Journey to Debt Freedom, One Tiny Step at a Time


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No Spend Challenge 2020 JANUARY Recap

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Whew.  Anybody else feel like January lasted for like 100 days?  I don’t know why the first month of the year always feels so stinking long!

It was a crazy month indeed.  I moved to a new ambulance/station at work which is in an entirely new section of our county that I haven’t worked much in.  It’s fantastic though because it’s knocked about 30 minutes each way off my commute, 40 miles off round trip, and I’m using a lot less gas which is awesome.  Plus I pass by Costco on my way home from work, which thankfully is closed at 7am when I get off (because no one needs to spend that kind of money during a no spend challenge, lets be honest), but the gas station is open that early and gas there is super cheap!

As for sticking to my wants vs needs list, well, it was a challenge at times, I won’t lie, but I’m going to go ahead and toot my own horn and say I rocked it.

See my tracker below?

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Ya, I only had one big slip up…  A ticket to go see Kesha live with my work partner/friend in April.  Honestly, I could have technically filed it under my social category in the needs section (see my previous post to see my reasoning for needing a social budget) BUT, there are a lot cheaper social activities I could be doing than an $80 concert ticket, so making it a need is not justifiable.  That being said, do I regret buying it?  No way.  I have wanted to see Kesha in concert for years and when the opportunity popped up to see her and to have someone to go with I jumped at it, and I’m pretty excited!

(P.S. That same tracker is available in my free printables section of the blog if you need one!)

If I’m being entirely honest this month wasn’t a huge challenge with wants vs needs.  A fact I attribute to the whole concept still being so new and exciting.  There were definitely a couple things I ran into that I had to tell myself no when it came to it, but overall, differentiating between wants vs needs wasn’t to hard.  I’m sure this will change eventually so I’m not taking this honeymoon stage for granted!

Now let me talk about some successes.  Some small changes I made this month, or ideas I breathed life into that seemed to work….

  •  Actively avoiding tolls for the most part.  I still drove through a few toll plazas, because toll roads are everywhere around here and in these situations they drastically cut down in my commute time HOWEVER, I avoided tolls approx. 95% of the time, which I’m pretty proud of.
  • Starting a pantry challenge.  Halfway through January, I realized that I don’t need to be dedicating as much to groceries as I am because I am wasting so much food and I have a HUGE stockpile.  My cupboards are nowhere close to empty.  So for the second half of January as well as the full month of February, I’m doing a pantry challenge.  I’ll let you know how the rest of it goes, but so far so good!
  • Using my extra time to focus on establishing good habits.  The first I decided to focus on was a good dental care routine.  Dental work is so expensive (not to mention painful) so preventative care is paramount but I’ve always sucked at it.  I made it a goal to brush/floss/use mouth wash every night before bed and so far I’m at 100%!  The second goal/habit I chose to focus on in January was taking time to read a little bit everyday.  I will admit, I missed two days, but every other day I was successful and I finished 4 books by the end of the month!  Two books I already owned on my kindle, a physical book I owned, and a library book!
  • I finally finished up my bottle of dish soap.  Instead of throwing the bottle away I washed off the gook and refilled it using a giant bottle of dish soap I got from Costco for free last year.

Now lets get to the fun part.  The money I saved!

So January is a bit of a unique month.  I did cut categories from my budget, because of the challenge, which helped, but January was also a 3 paycheck month as well as the month where I get my PTO check (I earn 163 of bonus PTO a year since I have to work holidays as a paramedic (we get it instead of holiday pay) which cashes out down to 70 hours every January). So my income this month was abnormally high.  I won’t have this much leftover in the coming months so that’s something I’m coming to terms with.

Also, I will owe money on my taxes (approx $1000) so the first priority will be to apply what I save to that.

So what are my final numbers?

$5831.25!

I’m pretty proud indeed.  Hopefully in the next week or so I’ll know exactly how much I owe on taxes and how much I can pay to debt.

And now, one last thought on January.  I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the last week-ish of the month was actually spent on vacation visiting my family in WA, a trip that was planned before I decided to do the challenge.  I count the spending on that as seperate and a full breakdown and budget travel recap will be coming in it’s own blog soon!

And there you have it, 1 month down and at least 5 more to go!  We’ll see 😉 Anyone else out there doing a no spend challenge along with me I’d love to hear about your successes as well!

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No Spend Challenge 2020: My Wants vs. Needs List

Hello all!  Quick catch up in case you’re new to this space or didn’t read my previous post (which you can find here).  Starting on January 1, 2020 I would be completing a no-spend challenge.  My plan is to do the challenge for 6 months and then reevaluate.  At that point I’ll either continue for the rest of the year, downgrade to more of a “spending diet,” or I’ll stop completely (which honestly I don’t anticipate).

The basic framework of a no spend challenge is spending money only on needs, no wants, for the 6 months (or more).  The definition of a need is honestly different for everyone, barring some obvious line items such as rent or food.  So, these past few weeks I’ve really marinated on the concept of wants vs needs and thoroughly debated what I can truly consider a need and what I can give up (aka wants) for the duration of the challenge.  Y’all I got really specific when it came to some things on my list.  Some were super easy to give up, but others I had to really consider.  Lots of needs, lots of wants, and lots of items falling into the situational gray area in between.

So, without further ado, and for the sake of accountability, I’m going to share that list with you all today!

Here we go!

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(Note: An asterisk * indicates a gray area and it will be further explained at the bottom of the list)

Needs

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Car maintenance and repairs (plus savings for registration)
  • Cell Phone Service
  • Health: Doctor, Dentist, Optometrist, medications, vitamins
  • Continuing Educations (for Paramedic License)
  • Chiropractor & Massage (because of tension and headache issues)
  • Gym Membership
  • Hair Dye
  • Hulu/Netflix*
  • Amazon Music
  • Tolls*
  • Art supplies for paintings (but only as I need it)
  • Social Budget*

Needs will also include any item I use frequently if I run out of it, but only if I run out.  ie. Shampoo, Toilet Paper, Bubble Bath (aromatherapy to help with headaches and much cheaper than bath bombs), etc.

Wants

  • New clothes
  • Alcohol
  • Candles
  • Bath Bombs
  • Costco (membership ends 8/2020)
  • Disney + & Prime*
  • Redbox*
  • New Makeup
  • things because they’re on clearance
  • Craft Supplies
  • Almost everything on my amazon wishlist
  • Eating Out
  • Travel*

The Gray Areas

  • Tolls:  Austin is littered with toll roads.  I live just east of the city and it’s seriously difficult to get anywhere, especially on the north side, without hitting tolls.  I’m going to be further challenging myself to avoid tolls and find creative backroads to get where I need to go.  That being said I will occasionally allow myself to go through a toll if a time crunch or situation requires it.
  • Hulu:  I have access to the Xfinity app through my parents and can watch most network shows available on Hulu using that.  Currently some of the Hulu original content, as well as Letterkenny, are keeping me from pulling the plug though, we’ll see…I have to weigh this one further.
  • Disney Plus and Prime:  I haven’t been to impressed with Disney Plus so far and haven’t found it to be worth it (yet).  I’m going to let my subscription go through January so I can finish the Mandalorian then I’ll cancel.  Then as far as Prime, my plan lasts through July 2020 and I that time I don’t plan to renew it.
  • Social Budget:  This is something many cut out but I find that my current life situation calls for more of a cutting back than cutting out.  I’m dating currently and want to be able to contribute to the costs of dates occasionally (because honestly, no one wants to be with a mooch).  I’m also living in a new city and therefore give myself a small budget for social activities so I can hopefully make friends and build a support system. Life is far too lonely without close friends nearby.  Also under this heading is a small budget for eating out.  I have a traditional monthly goal setting session at Panera that I’m not willing to give up, and I also want to give myself the freedom to buy into a meal with the firefighters I work with (usually $5) a couple times a month.
  • Redbox:  I have a bunch of redbox codes I’ll allow myself to use because they’re already paid for, I just won’t be buying new ones.
  • Travel:  As I mentioned in my last post, I have one definite trip to Washington planned during the challenge as well as a possible trip to Alaska to visit friends (using airmiles) and a possible roadtrip to Dallas to visit my cousin.  If all these occur I will just be approaching them from a super frugal perspective and incorporating as many parts of the no spend challenge into the trips as I feasibly can.

So there you have it.  I realize I have a lot of gray areas but really, as we all know life isn’t always black and white.  I’m laying these all out here today so, like I said, I can keep myself accountable and y’all can too.  I’m also putting this on here as a reminder that some spaces in my wants vs needs are flexible, but even that flexibility has limits and I need to stick to the bounds I set for myself.

T-minus 10 days and counting.  Then the fun really begins!

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