February = No Spend Month

Sharon at Musings from a Midlife Mom has been on a quest to “spend less and live more” and this month she is embarking on a No-Spend Month. I don’t know that I’d call it that exactly (because you DO spend just on an a very limited basis), but it’s definitely like what I did last July when I embarked on my Spending Diet. I’ve decided to join her. I think this might be pretty useful to do every six months or so and my life right now is pretty much requiring it. So, in case Ex does have money for me this month, I’ll be in a better position to manage that money. Last month, on top of bills, I spent $1,220. This includes food in all of its forms, gas, diapers, clothes, home, and miscellaneous expenses. I’ve looked and hard where that money has gone and have budgeted myself $670 this month. This is almost a 50% cut. Both kids have a field trip and a fundraiser this month, as well as Valentine’s Day. I also need to change the oil in my car.

If Ex gives me the rest of January’s child support and all of February’s, I’ll have $1,700 at the end of the month. The sad part? Not a penny of it can go towards my debt. It all needs to go into two savings– mini emergency fund and registration fees for the kids’ school. My mom helps me go to the private school she teaches at. The only requirement is I pay the annual registration fee. This year, it will be about $2,700. We were debating until just last month whether or not the kids would go back this year and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t. But, we’ve decided that yes, they will, and now I’m scrambling to put together the $2,700 registration fee.

I’m insanely frustrated, truth be told. I feel like a child being supported by my parents still. I feel like every time a plan starts to form and I can see the light at the end of a tunnel, I’m dragged ten, twenty, fifty steps back into a bigger and bigger hole. This month, one of the credit card payments I scheduled didn’t take. I don’t know why. I even wrote it in my ledger as I’d paid it. But it never went. So, I’m late now. And Ex bounced our car insurance payment. One more thing I can’t get fixed until we’re divorced– something I took way too long to get around to doing and here I am paying for it weekly it seems.

I don’t count on tax refunds. I’ve been burned by the IRS too many times to see a refund as a sure thing the way so many around me seem to do. If it does happen, it’ll go to the registration fees before anything else. This is an annual expense and wouldn’t be such a big deal if I wasn’t a year behind. At least this year, my daycare costs will disappear when the youngest starts so saving for this annual expense which will be much easier.

I know what financial independence means. I know what that looks like for me. I want it. And I work at it. And I get nowhere. Last week, I got together the paperwork on the foreclosure we had so I could list it as a contingent liability on our divorce settlement. If Ex continues on the path he’s on, the chances that, if the bank will seek retribution, it will be against me and me alone are higher ever year. Knowing that I may have to declare bankruptcy one day makes all of this seem completely pointless. All of my financial goals seem to be completely sidetracked right now and are downright endangered. This drives me wild inside.

I had to take two sick days in January– both for my son despite the fact I’ve been wrestling with a cold for over a week now and haven’t been able to take any time to get myself whole. I feel absolutely bi-polar– full of energy and momentum and motivation on my best days and ready to do nothing but sleep a thousand years on my worst days. They’re pretty equal in their occurrence.

I finished re-reading Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui this weekend. I took it out from the library again, feeling the need for a jolt. Here are some of the words that stood out to me:

“Clutter accumulates when energy stagnates, and energy stagnates when clutter accumulates.”

“When you care for your home by looking after it, you are also loving and respecting yourself.”

“Every choice you make is a right choice. What is really important is not the choice but the reason why you make it. Any choice made from fear is a disempowering choice.”

“Realize that every up-set is a set-up. What this means is that everything our lower emotion gets upset about is a situation that our Higher Self has set up to get our attention because smoething needs to change.”

There was also something along the lines of “what you resist persists and, likewise, when you stop resisting, it stops persisting” but I didn’t write that one down and can’t find it. She also talks about replacing the word “should” with “could” and “can’t” with “won’t” for more empowering and personal accountability.

These are gaps in my life. I’m working on it. It all ties together– the money, the house, the job, the kids, the friendships, the family, the everything. I complain and moan much too much and seem to have displaced a lot of confidence in myself. It is a building process, confidence. I’ve talked about it before and it still amazes me how difficult it is and how long it takes. Does it ever end, really? Maybe not. Taking care of yourself is a life-long process, and confidence is a part of that. It is overwhelming when you sit and think of your life as the truest reflection of you. What is it saying? Your physical appearance, your home, your relationships. What are you putting thought and consideration into? It’s overwhelming if you’ve neglected so much of it as I have. But, you just start. And you start over. Just because it’s easier every time you do something, doesn’t mean it’s finally just plain easy. Things progress from extremely dificult to very hard to quite difficult to somewhat painful and so on and so forth. It’s a long way to easy breezy.

These are things I want to remember. Focus and filter. Why do I want to reduce clutter? Because I want everything and everyone in my life to be something I love. It’s what I deserve. It’s what we all deserve. By the way, I’ve begun the classic “Your Money or Your Life” and am tearing through books this year. I’ve created a page to track their demise 🙂


18 thoughts on “February = No Spend Month

  1. we’re trying to get on a path to less spending and wasting too. it’s only been a week and quite an adjustment especially when you aren’t use to being frugal.

    • oh my goodness! but before i forget… you have a mini emergency fund? :O i dont… i should.

      but uhm… its scary, when i looked at your numbers… i actually have no idea how much i spent last month, i just saw it go down the drain real fast.

      i even freak-en bought sprinkles for my sons birthday cake for 40$$$$ 40$$$$

      why??? because i argued over them with the lady, they were more expensive than i thought, and i got them anyways, because i needed them and then! it bounced in my bank! and i got a fee and in the end! 40$ for the sprinkles!!!!

      >.< arg.

      good luck hon, i should do more like you. keep track of everything and figure out how to save a little too.

      • Re: Mini emergency fund. I read Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover. And he basically says before you start attacking debt (all of it: student loans, car loans, credit cards, etc.) you should have a mini emergency fund. it depends on your situation whether to make it $500 or $1000. In my case, it has to be $1000 (need a car to work, have three kids, high rent, etc.). So, I try and keep $1000 in an easily accessible place. If I tap it, I refill it. After I do THAT, I throw my money at my debt.

        The tracking spending is something I am the world’s biggest advocate of. I started with Mint because I realized since I used my debit card for everything, everything would be there. Except Ex usually pays me in cash. So I wasn’t tracking what amounted to more than half my income! I created a spreadsheet in Excel back in July of last year to track the spending of my self-imposed Spending Diet. I only tracked my budgeted amount. But, I found it so useful, the next two months I kept using it to track everything that wasn’t some sort of bill. It was in October I realized how much important information I was missing and decided to track absolutely EVERYTHING. Every month, I fine-tune it a bit– adding, changing, or deleting categories. But I have a very concrete idea of where my money is really going, how much of it I’ve actually used, etc. It is extremely empowering.

        I used to have a lot of problems with overdrafts, especially when I was with Ex. I’m talking hundreds of dollars a MONTH in overdraft fees. I couldn’t stand it. Since then, I made the switch to an electric orange checking account at ING and haven’t looked back.

        If you really are interested in figuring out how you can save, track every dime you spend and earn in one month (like THIS month!). Then, you’ll see where it’s all going and can start making active decisions on what you can do to scrape something together for a mini emergency fund. I highly recommend Total Money Makeover. I am reading another Personal Finance book called Your Money or Your LIfe and like it alot right now. I also have an e-book called Debt-Free for Life waiting for me. And of course, I am a religious reader of Get Rich Slowly and other personal finance blogs. Knowledge about money is very addictive 😉

    • Yeah, I’m hoping it will work out that way, but trying to not wait for it to happen either. If I can take charge of it myself, I’d rather go that route. I really like YMoYL so far. It’s much more… conceptual(?) and meaty(?) and mental (?) than Total Money Makeover but that’s good too. They’re different. Every time I read a personal finance book, I kinda expect the same stuff but always find something different.

  2. Those comments from the book really spoke to me–thank you for including them in your post. I’ve just recently discovered your blog, but I wanted to let you know that I’m rooting for you–in more ways than simply our fabulous February challenge. Hang in there and never stop believing in yourself! 🙂

  3. You know my story pretty much. My girls are approaching 12 and 17. They have been from private schools to public. We were swimming in money and now we pinch pennies. I wanted to share something in retrospect…

    As long as you provide a positive environment for your kids, they will love and learn from you. Sometimes the tough times are where you bond the most. They see your vulnerability and your strength. Don’t be afraid to share it with them.

    • Thanks for the perspective Peas! Most likely the kids will go to public high school, but if I can afford the annual registration cost, I’d like to keep them in private until then. I know private high school will likely be out of my league but I think that’ll be fine. And yes, I do understand what you mean about the positive environment. Kids are SO intuitive!

  4. I think your goals are very achievable…and I’ll be cheering you on the whole way!

    $2700 registration…ouch! I hear you on this one. My two youngest used to go to private school, until we decided we couldn’t afford it anymore. (If we had any chance of paying for their college).

    Hopefully the ex will get his act together and pay you…it will make it a bit easier!

    • Yeah it’s $2700 but that’s it. That’s my one annual expense for private school education. So, I do everything I can do to swing that. It will most definitely make things easier if the money starts to come like it used to! Thanks for the support! I’m excited to go through this with you guys!

  5. I was living next door to my parents when I divorced my husband. The idea was that we would rent their guest house to help them out but one year after the divorce I had to ask for their help. It was hard, I was an adult feeling like a child again. Chin up, it will get better.

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