My family is testing "spending blackouts" to save more money in 2023

My family is testing “spending blackouts” to save more money in 2023

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    • Although my husband and I have little debt, we try to grow our savings and reduce our expenses.
    • My husband hopes to retire in two years, so we are adjusting our spending habits now.
    • Instead of a total purchase ban, we decided to start with smaller spending restrictions.

My husband and I are both retired from the military, so we have substantial pension income. My husband works full time and I am a full time freelance writer and content creator. We have two children in college. In addition to my husband’s retirement, our goal is to move within three years.

To reduce impulse spending, set realistic budgets for groceries and entertainment, and better plan purchases instead of spending based on “see it, want it” or “I forgot we we were going to need it,” we spent November, December, and January unspent — with a few pre-agreed exceptions.

For us, not spending did not mean not spending anything. There are different approaches to no-spend and no-shop times, but for us, that meant no extras and streamlined our grocery budget. For our spending breakdowns, that meant no extras already, but to balance our finances for a fixed period to work towards our objectives.

Purging our closets and unsubscribing from emails helped impulse buying

Although my husband is sometimes guilty of impulse buying, most of our family’s frivolous spending is on me. I will spend money on clothes (for me and my family) and personal care items, such as high-end cosmetics, more often than I should. I looked at my Amazon purchases alone and spent an average of $400 per month on things I could have done without in 2022.

Part of the inspiration for pocketing time without spending comes from the fact that we seem to have a lot of excess after a huge closet purge. I had also caught myself buying things similar to what I already had.

Besides being disciplined and telling me no, one of the things that has held back my spending is getting me off mailing lists. Spending time scrolling through my inbox to unsubscribe from store emails has (mostly) eliminated the temptation to buy things that aren’t part of my plan.

I also re-evaluated how I respond to the things I think I need. Instead of going directly to buy, I think of other solutions. A recent example is finding out that I had no cold weather running tops. I’ve purged most of my winter training clothes, but the cooler temperatures and renewed interest in running have made me wish I had thrown away all my tops. I found a shirt in my husband’s drawer that works for now.

I’m trying to establish a new muscle memory that doesn’t equate “Wouldn’t that be fun to have” with “Buy it now”.

We avoid restaurants

Right now, our weekly grocery spend is around $50 for perishables and essential toiletries. We are currently planning our meals based on what is in the freezer and the pantry. This is both a money-saving initiative and an effort to ensure that our available food is rotated and utilized.

We bought Walmart+ just before our no-spend period started. We did this strategically to save money on gas and to get a free streaming service network. I spend less when I have my groceries delivered (free with Walmart+) than when I go to the store.

At this time, we have decided not to offer restaurants, including pizza delivery, or movies, arcades, or other entertainment. We have several movie streaming services, though a few might be on the chopping block, and Six Flags season passes were given to us last year.

We started taking advantage of free community events and free museum days. We got to grips with our local outdoor spaces at the start of the pandemic, so we’re far from dealing with “There’s nothing to do.” The goal is not permanent deprivation, but greater awareness of our spending.

We are looking for ways to save money

After years of instant gratification spending, it’s hard to get into the habit of planning smaller purchases. Although we are aware of the savings made in college and need to buy a new car, things like replacing sports equipment or seasonal equipment always sneak up on us. We hope that more communication on expenses will help us in the end.

Here are some additional things we’re planning to help us save money and get through future cost-free periods:

  • Look more often at thrift stores and garage sale sites.
  • Borrow rather than buy, especially for items you rarely use, like snow pants or a carpet cleaner.
  • Get everyone on board. Our children understand what we don’t buy for a set period. They are old enough to understand the reasons for not spending and they have become more attentive to what they asked for.
  • Carefully review subscriptions and auto-renewals. We’ve cut several things we don’t need or could do without before starting our no-spend periods, like a wine club and apps with monthly fees.

We will reassess at the end of January, but hopefully our frugality will be the start of better financial habits to help us achieve our goals and live a simpler, less cluttered lifestyle.

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