I think the definition of a “tradition” is after you’ve done the same thing three times in a row. So we’re not quite there yet. But the goal is to make “No Spend Month February” a tradition for me.
Last year I wrote about how I could fit the concept of No Spend Month into my word of the year. This year, I wanted to expand the parameters, while doing some extra learning and sharing about finances. And then spend time evaluating how that worked for me, or didn’t work.
When is payday? How much do I spend on groceries every month? How does money affect my mental wellness? How can I use money to support my core values?
These were all questions I started asking myself a few years ago during my first No Spend Month. They are questions that keep coming up, because No Spend Month and all the habits that come along with it only work with practice and repetition. Maybe one day I will feel fully confident around money, but this day ain’t it!
CORE VALUES AND MONEY
Core values are things like relationships and faith. Core values are also the lens through which I view my long term goals. Money is a tool I can use to support my values and achieve my goals. But not if I have a toxic relationship with it. Allowing for space and mindfulness during No Spend Month actually helps me identify and solidify those values.
Laying the Venn Diagram of Lisa over my money goals is a whole other flex, and it still feels unnatural to do so. Perhaps that is something I can work on over the course of this year. As overwhelming as that seems, it’s just another tool to use. How does my money fit into it, and how does it provide a guide to use money?
MENTAL WELLNESS AND MONEY
My mental wellness addresses both self care and my mental illness. When I am having a bad day, it is harder to do everything, including money stuff. It seems obvious, but I still feel bad about making bad money decisions when I feel mentally low, or give in to decision fatigue.
Self care can look like spending money on activities to take care of myself. But it more often looks like saving up for big items that fill my cup for even longer. All of this gets built into my budget. And because self care looks different for everyone, your self care budget will look different from mine as well.
For me, a cross-over between values and mental wellness takes the shape of spending (or not spending) on items that fuel my environmental consciousness. A No Spend Month (or week or whatever period of time works best), works to reassure myself that I’m on track, and allows me to make adjustments for stronger and more purposeful self care moving forward.
BUT LIKE, HOW?
I am not a financial advisor or planner, so my advice to you will be mostly about me! That’s the nature of the beast. Take from my steps what you will. I hope there is at least one thing in here you can use, or even to inspire further mindfulness and exploration.
I look at my budget, a task I wasn’t able to do even 5 years ago because I didn’t have one. So I guess step one is to put together some sort of budget for yourself. Getting ahead of myself! So then Step two is to look at your budget and all the categories. Is there appropriate focus enough on self care, and is that going to need to change over time? For example, I need more self care help on Mother’s Day, my birthday, and in December. Those months’ budgets may get some tweaking to reflect this self awareness.
Is there a core value missing from the budget? Or are you spending too much in places that go against your values?
Don’t be afraid to journal about this stuff, or bounce ideas off of someone you trust. I talk a lot about money with my partner. We don’t share a bank account – other than for our mortgage – but we share expenses. He is a good sounding board when I am concerned about money, or exploring budget categories. If you live or share expenses with someone, it might be helpful to loop them in on these explorations. They can often offer that sweet sweet outside perspective. But don’t expect them to have the same values as you or make the tough decisions for you.
Step three is to identify some categories that you want to hold back on during your No Spend Month. For me, this is always the “nice to haves”, like eating out and donations.
Step four happens at the end of the month, where you are going to do some more reflection and then put your saved money to good use. Maybe this heads into a high yield savings account, or gets added to the “fun stuff” next month. Check in on the categories that you highlighted, re-adjust for values and self care, and then celebrate!
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
I have written more about No Spend Month here:
No Spend Month – How to Care for $0
If you are interested in setting money-related goals, this post might have something for you: Setting Numbers Goals.
I find that so much of the current advice and information around money is outdated, wealth-focused, and not realistic to the ongoing crises of our current world. Our parents’ financial planning cannot be the same as ours! There are folks talking about this, but it can be difficult to find them. I continue to recommend We Bravely Go, and am always on the lookout for a similar educator based in Canada. Here is a cool list of 4 outdated money tips Millennials and Gen Z hate.
Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva. This book will absolutely not help you with your budgeting, but it will give you a glimpse into the bonkers world of philanthropy. It really struck a chord with me in terms of where my values intersect with how my money works for me.
Money talk seems timely right now in the midst of historic inflation, rising costs of living, and record breaking corporate profits. I know only a little about economics, so I always appreciate someone smarter than me breaking it down into concepts that make sense for my community and family. Inflation is one of those terms that really bugs me, because I know that when I read about it in mainstream media, they are leaving out some important details. Debunking right-wing myths about inflation by Adam D.K. King gave me definitions of some important terms, and placed them in the context of our unbalanced society.