This is both a review of “The No Spend Challenge Guide: How to Stop Spending Your Money Impulsively, Pay off Debt Fast, and Make your finances fit your Dreams” by Jen Smith; and my thoughts on why my debt got high last year and what I’m doing to get it down and paid off this year.
So this was another book that I read on personal finances during January. It was short book, making it a quick and easy read that gave you numerous ideas on how to start your own no-spend challenge. One of the nice things was the honesty of the author that there is no time line, just how if you spend less (and be sensible on what you do need to spend money on), you can get out of debt. I’m planning on taking the advice of the author and starting small with a no-spend day (or days), and then working up to a no spend week, and then up to a no-spend month.
One thing that one needs to know is what is your level of debt? How many credit cards do you owe money on? Are there recurring charges to any of the cards? If there are recurring charges are they necessary charges? What other loans do you have? Student loans? Car Loan? Mortgage?
Currently my debt is limited to a single type: credit card. I managed to get through both my undergrad and grad school careers without any student loans (mainly because I have awesome parents that allowed me to live at home during that time to save money). Having anxiety is a good thing in some ways—I don’t drive, so therefore there isn’t any type of car payment or money going towards that. I’m currently still living with my parents, so until I find a job somewhere else in the country, there isn’t rent or the thought of a mortgage.
I know that I have several recurring charges on several of my credit cards. Are they all necessary—no, they aren’t but they’re little things that once the cards are paid down enough they can be paid off monthly. I know why my credit card debt went up last year—there was the trip to London (international travel isn’t cheap), and then there were some joining a job search strategy group while I was unemployed (helped me figure out how to revamp my linkedin profile), and other personal and professional development packages that I bought. These were investments in myself, that once completed will help me in the future.
Investing in ourselves is costly, and there are many of us (myself included) who turn to the credit cards to pay for those courses hoping that they will lead to a better paying job that will allow for us to pay the cards off finally. So while I am still searching for that industry/non-academic career, I’m going to use some of the author’s advice as getting my credit card debt down is a goal and one that I know is achievable if one is sensible and determined.
As the author states, “Determine when you want to be debt free to determine what it’s going to take to get there”.
Currently I’m just trying to do no-spend days (which means bringing tea to work in the morning [and making due with it], and not grabbing any type of snack at work [including fruit cups]), and since the beginning of the year (which has been 33 working days), I think I’ve managed four to five. Not the greatest, and I know I can and should do better.
So my goal for the next six weeks is to have at least three no-spend days per week (so at least 3 out of 5 days) at work. If I need to order something, I’ll make a list and try to get several things ordered at once (to save both time and money).
My big financial goal is to have my credit card debt down to where each card is getting paid off in full monthly and to reach this goal (consistently) by September 28, 2020.
So, this is both a review of Minimalist Money Makeover by Michelle Moore, and my plan on how to start spending less on certain areas of my life and start trying to save more money.
This was a informative book that gives more ideas on how to not only start setting up a budget, but also working at getting rid of debt, and in a way declutter your life.
One of the interesting things about the book were the chapters that explained the different types of spending problems—you may be a shopaholic, a hoarder, or just have a spending problem (either retail therapy or impulse buying). Some of these problems can be handled by the individual, and some may require the assistance of a professional—knowing which could be affecting you, allows for you to determine how much outside help you may need in terms of overcoming your spending problem.
After talking about the different types of spending problems, the author went on to describe different methods of setting up a budget, and ways of getting out of debt.
One of the chapters introduced “Dave Ramsey 7 Baby Step Technique”—which basically gives you seven steps (or things) that you should do to get out of debt (and depending on where you are in life, some of the steps may not apply to you).
One of the interesting things I found was the snowball method of paying off your debt. Basically you figure out how much you can pay on all the different debts that you owe, do that but also aim at paying off the highest interest rated ones first. Once that is paid off, that money is added to the second highest until it is paid off, and so forth until you have all the debts paid off.
The book also touches again on the concept of hygge or coziness of getting the joy out of the little things in life (also can be considered mindfulness as well).
So even before reading the book, I had an idea of what type of spender I was—I’m an impulse buyer. Knowing this, I decided I’d break down the areas where I end up spending a lot of money, explain why I spend so much money there, and ways that I’m going to try to curb the spending and start saving.
So knowing that I have a spending problem, these are those areas that I end up spending a lot of money:
So four of the areas that I spend quite a bit of money fall into the entertainment section (books, movies, games, and music), while the last portion are clothes. So lets go over why I spend so much money in each area, and how I’m going to start trying to dial back on the spending in those areas.
I will admit that I have bibliophilism—or love of books. I use to go to the bookstore (and even on-line) and buy several books almost weekly, and they’d be piled on my “to-be” read pile. By the time I was almost finished with college, I had two bookcases packed with books, shelves packed, and just stacks of books here and there. Now that I’ve switched to electronic books (for the most part), those books are just piling up on my kindle.
Reading is one of my guilty pleasures, and I know it is one of the areas that eat up a large amount of my paycheck (especially since I buy most of them via amazon.com). For the most part my enjoyment reading come from the romance genera (with the way the world is going, I love reading books that almost always have an happily ever after), though I do try to branch out to other genera such mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy.
So trying to branch out into other genera, usually ended up with me buying numerous books that I may or may not get around to reading them (so they’d just collect dust on a bookcase). So one of the things I’m trying to work on—for every book that I want to buy, I need to have read and reviewed at least two other books.
I’ve also bought a lot of different personal and professional development books, which I’m reading along with the “pleasure” reading. I’m also trying to follow the same routine with the development books that I’m going to do for the “pleasure” books—for every one that I want to buy from now on, requires that I’ve finished at least two others and have written and posted reviews (short for amazon [or wherever I bought the book], and then expanded for the blog).
I will admit that as an introvert, I dislike going to movie theaters to see movies when they come out (especially the price of the movie ticket, and if I feel like having a snack, the price at the concession stand). So usually I would wait for the movie to come out on DVD and then buy the DVD. Now that isn’t that bad, people do it all the time—but I’ve realized over the last few months, when I get a movie in I’d watch the movie once or twice (sometimes more depending on the movie), but for the most part it would then end up on a pile of movies that I own, but hardly ever watch.
When it comes to watching movies, I usually go with adventure/action/sci-fi genera (also at times cartoons as well). So buying movies (which is basically in cost is double [more or less] of what it would cost to going to the theater), has also taken a big bite out of the budget/money.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that since I’m hoping to move within the year to a new city for a new job—I don’t want to be adding a large number of boxes to what I already have in my storage unit. So, I’m slowly trying to par down on the movie collection, keeping the movies that I’m slightly confident that I’d probably be watching once I’ve moved to a new city (and especially if I decide to not get cable—have to have something to watch at nights or on the weekends).
Right now I’ve only gotten one or two new movies, but got them digital—that way there isn’t a physical thing to pack. I know that there are digital platforms that I can look into for watching movies/shows (Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon). But now before I buy a movie I ask myself the following questions:
How often will I really watch this?
Why am I buying this? (Do I like the plot? Actor?)
Would it be on Netflix or Hulu at a later date when I want to watch it?
But so far I’ve managed to save money, by realistically noting that I don’t watch movies all that often, and when I do it’s usually something I’ve seen numerous times and therefore can zone out and possibly listen to a podcast as I get steps in or whatever else it is I’m trying to do as I have the movie on for background noise/movement.
Playing games on the computer has been one way of relaxing in the evenings (depending on what else I have going on). I enjoy doing the hidden object or the match three games, which require a little bit of thinking and strategy.
So I have a monthly membership with a online gaming company, that charges me a flat $6.99 fee, which allows for me then to get games “at a discounted” price compared to those who don’t have a membership.
One thing I like about the membership is that for every month (or maybe two) that you hold, at the end you get a free credit that can for a game. The ones I like to play are usually the collector’s edition (mainly because they have the strategy guide with them), and these cost more than the game does by itself.
I’ve realized that the other way that I spend money on computer games, is that I have several match three games on my kindle. These games are through amazon, and therefore if you need bonuses (say extra turns, or the charms) you have to spend the money to get them. I don’t even want to think how much money I’ve spent on the “gold coins” for either of the games that I play on the kindle (which are witchy world—the magical puzzle game and bubble witch 2 saga).
So now that I know where I’m spending money on the computer games, how can I start to save money?
Well there are several ways:
I can delete the apps (witchy world and bubble witch 2) off of my kindle. If they aren’t present, I can’t play them. If I can’t play them, I’m not tempted to buy the gold coins to help get through the various levels. Also since they’re free apps—I can go into my kindle account and delete them there (that way there is nothing to download from the cloud).
With the other computer games—I need to try to do just the normal version. I really don’t think that the strategy guide should be worth almost seven dollars.
Also I need to finish playing at least two games for everyone that I want to buy.
If I wait long enough, I should have enough free credits to potentially buy a collector’s edition for free.
Worse comes to worse, I can cancel my membership (after I re-download games that I may want to go back and try playing again).
I’m going to delete some of the apps off the kindle, and then keep track of the other costs. I’m sure that my amazon bill will be much lower, if there aren’t the game gold pieces being bought every other day.
Music is something else that I use to spend a lot of money on (I know that I have a lot of CDs in the storage unit that can be sold somewhere for money; though I know I will keep some of them that I don’t have on my iPod). So before iPods became really popular, I use to buy CDs quite frequently (though not at the frequency that I would be buying books), and my love of music is quite eclectic—I like everything from classical, to country, to rock, to pop, to rap, to alternative.
Buying music now is usually as simple as logging into iTunes, adding a couple of CDs to my cart and hitting purchase. Though looking back over the last couple of months, I realize that I haven’t bought that many CDs lately. The reason—you can only have iTunes registered to five different computers. I realized that besides my numerous laptops, I’d registered at least one of my parents’ computers with my iTunes account. We’ve gotten rid of those computers, and therefore I can’t deregister my iTunes account on those computers. Once I move into my new apartment, I think I can locate my first laptop and deregister that one, so that I can register on my new laptop and hopefully make use that.
One way of trying to save money on music is to look into seeing how it costs to have a Pandora or Spotify account for music (since I know you have a free account on Pandora, but you get the commercials), and see if that in the long run could be potentially cheaper than downloading music off of iTunes.
So on to the final category where I spend quite a bit of money: Clothes.
Truth be told, I’m not a real big clothes horse—I don’t have to have the latest trends or fashions, but when I look at my closet (knowing that is only a fraction of my total wardrobe, I’m seeing way to many clothes.
I have this habit of buying a lot of different tops (t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, and I also try to have a small collection of business professional tops for interviews).
I also have the habit of buying a lot of nice tops from greatergood.com (which takes a part of the money and puts its to a good cause—feeding animals in shelters, protecting the rainforest, things like that). So I know that I spend quite a bit of money on that site.
But now I’m thinking—do I really need the forty plus different t-shirts? The dozen or so different long sleeve shirts, the numerous sweaters and sweatshirts? I know why I have them—when I was in Boston, it was pricy to do laundry (we’re talking a minimum of four dollars a load (two dollars to wash, and two to dry)—so yeah, I’d order some shirts here and there so I wouldn’t have to do laundry as often.
Moving home, I bought the shirts, because as winter turned into spring and summer, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be moving and instead of going to my storage unit to unpack some spring and summer shirts—I just bought some new ones.
I’d recently donated a lot of the clothes to a local donation drive (each house was given a big red garbage bag to fill up and then place at the curb)—I filled our up, and it was only a fraction of the clothes in my closet.
One of the topics covered in the book was the 333-challenge. This challenge is a way of trying to declutter your wardrobe. Basically what you do, is that you decide on a three-month period (say you want to try this in summer so June through August), and then you go through your summer wardrobe and pick out the 33 pieces of clothes that you will wear for those three months. Basically, it is a challenge to show you that you mix and match different things to keep your wardrobe cycling.
I’m actually going to be giving this a try in the near future (I’m not sure if it will be done before or after moving for a new job), and will be aiming to try to do it seasonally, and therefore should end up with no more than 132 articles of clothing (not counting undergarments or clothes for job interviews and things like that).
Overall, I learned quite a bit from the book—mainly being able to say that yes I’m an impulse buyer. Knowing that I’m an impulse buyer, is actually helping me now slowly quit buying things on a whim (also it helps to know that I’m going to be moving and I don’t want to deal with a mountain of boxes again—if I can help it).
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious to know about combining minimalism with a budget and getting out of debt.
Follow along as I slowly start to implement some of these suggestions (and others) to get out of debt, and to realize that at times having less is actually having more.