My no spend October

It’s been about 18 months since I started to restructure and reorganize my finances using YNAB (You Need A Budget) and it’s honestly been such a God send. You can read more about my thoughts on YNAB in a previous post here.

To date, I’ve seen my net worth grow by just under $3500, which may sound significant (and it is!), but that’s mostly in the paying off debt department and not the saving department. But I do now have regular savings, saving goals, and finally my credit card balance is $0.


I’m doing the hallelujah dance.

It’s a real struggle. I’m not anti-credit cards. I believe you need them for the kind of economy we have and they help build healthy credit. But too often I use them to use future money. Like, instead of money that I have in my bank account, already saved for an item, I’ll use my credit card banking on the fact that when I get paid next, I’ll pay it off. But it becomes a system where there’s always a balance on my card, and the debt can grow so quickly. The next month when I use my extra money to pay off my credit card, I’m not able to use that money for an area that’s come up that I didn’t expect. So I have to use my credit card for that…. It’s not a great cycle.

It’s a lifestyle of always living dependant on the next pay check. And living pay check to pay check is stressful.

When I live pay check to pay check my mind is too obsessed with my bottom financial line and the status of my bank account. I do need to be accountable to those very real numbers. But my mind becomes consumed with money, and my heart starts to find it’s hope, not in God and trust in his provision, but in the pay check that’s coming that week.

I know there’s a variety of budgeting and credit card strategies - many of my friends do different things. There’s also good debt and bad debt. But the way I was living wasn’t working for me. I still use YNAB as a tool (and I LOVE their system), but it wasn’t helping me break the paycheck to paycheck cycle because I needed to chance my spending habits. A tool is only a tool, real change comes when my habits and practices change.

So when I finally got my credit card down the zero, I just felt like I needed to keep it there for a while.

So I ditched my credit card.

Well, not really. I gave it to a friend to hold onto for me. I decided to have a “no spend October” - a personal challenge where the ONLY money I spent was money I budgeted in my YNAB categories, basically regular monthly expenses that I can already afford. But nothing extra. Basically only on things like rent, groceries, and ongoing bills.  

No plants. No clothes. No watch repairs. No manicures. No eating out (except the one dinner I already budgeted for).

Is it hard? Yes.

I’m halfway in and this is what I’m learning:

Focus on facing emotional struggles versus “treating myself” financially

It’s easy to cover up emotional struggles with “treats” of food or buying things. For some reason when I buy new clothes, or home decor, or get a manicure I feel better about myself. There’s a self esteem boost. Or when I indulge in ice cream or crackers. (Carbs and sugar never let you down right?).

When I have a bad day, what brings true rest and refreshment is actually facing and addressing the emotions behind it. Either in counselling, with a friend, journalling, or in prayer. Buying things and eating my favourite foods is okay - but they aren’t supposed to be a band aid solution to my emotional struggles.

Getting new clothes may feel good, but being lodged with the debt weeks and months later feels really, really, crappy.

Having a zero credit balance feels amazing

It really does. I feel like I have better control over my money. I’m not chasing that next pay check. I have enough for my needs for the month. And I’m trying to use any extra to go toward saving for future known expenses instead of spending it all on coffee shops and dinners out.

To be honest, this may extend longer than just October. I’m travelling in January to Asia and I will for sure need my credit card then. But until then, I need to save and not overspend. I need to critically think through purchases before I make them. I need to only spend money I actually have, and not hurt my future self over selfish indulgence today.

I need to minimize my exposure to shopping

I love minimalism. Purging. Clean spaces. White walls. Everything minimalism, except with books. I own a lot of books.

Minimizing spending, I’m learning, starts with minimizing my exposure to spending.

So I unsubscribed from all my shopping emails. All except one (Beautycounter).

And I stopped watching so much shopping bloggers on Instagram.

It’s really helped me just be present in the my current life, and helped shift my focus onto relationships, and my faith. It also helped me rethink my spending. Instead of my thoughts being consumed with which new fall coat I really want, I’m thinking ahead to saving up for Christmas gifts. I’m thinking ahead to save for things I know I will need, or want to spend money on later.

So here it is.

My no spend October. Which may turn into a no spend November. And a lean December. I’ll return to more shopping in the future, but hopefully only when I’ve really save up any extra so that I can spend it wisely.