I put myself on a spending freeze for February in an attempt to reset my finances. I’ve never been a budgeter because I’m generally living that frugal autopilot life, but even frugal peeps need a financial reset every once in a while.
I firmly believe in the power of short term challenges. They shake us out of ruts, they push us to learn new things, and they’re a chance to flex some creative muscles. I favor month long challenges because I think it’s long enough to really push yourself, but short enough that you don’t feel deprived or overwhelmed for too long.
Now that February is over, what the hell happened with my money? Did I rock the challenge to the end? Did I fail utterly??
Spending Freeze Recap
The freeze was designed to be an exercise in mindful spending. I’m trying to save 70% of my income this year, which means I do need to be hyper frugal for short stretches. I also am constantly striving to live a life of sustainable consumption. I want to have as small an impact on the environment as I can, and I want to support businesses and systems that jive with my values. To that end, I try to support local businesses, environmentally responsible businesses, and women-owned businesses.
Here’s a quick recap of what my spending freeze looked like.
My list of necessities:
-Internet + Phone
-Business expenses (email, hosting, etc)
Some expenses I wanted to eliminate:
All meals out
Business expenses (journals, non-essential services)
Spending Freeze Successes
If you follow along with Bravely’s Instagram, you probably noticed a few posts and stories that spoke to my spending freeze. (I shared some sweet photos of me in my bike helmet, for example.)
Became a biking queen.
I’m a big biker in general, but in February I became an even bigger one. I used my car an average of 2.5 days a week and mostly got around by bike. Huge money saver since gas prices are up, and I’m in better shape than I was a month ago!
No parking meter fees.
Normally I spend $10 a month on parking. I spent $0 in February on parking, which is a small but sweet victory.
More friend time.
Since I knew I wanted to avoid eating out and ticketed events, I made a more conscious effort to have frugal fun with friends. My partner and I hosted a friend for the Super Bowl and we made veggie chili and cookies. We’ve done a few board game nights, and I’ve gone on a few walks with friends to catch up. I consistently find that having friends over to my house or going for walks instead of meeting for coffee leads to better quality time with friends.
Spending Freeze Failures
I actually hesitate to use the word failure here. I feel really good about how my February went, but technically I did break the spending freeze.
$50 donated towards the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Depression has been on my mind a lot recently, as someone I love very much is going through a tough time. Inspired by some conversations with that person and by a belief I have that people should give back. I spontaneously donated $50 last month. Technically it was breaking the freeze, but I don’t consider this a failure at all.
$20 for a friend.
One of my oldest friends was in a pretty bad car accident two months ago. She’s in three types of therapy (speech, physical, and cognitive behavioral therapy) and has been out of work for two months. Money is tight, so I asked nine of our other friends to each give $20 so we could get her a $200 gift card to the grocery store. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing with my money- helping people I love. Now she has enough money for a month of groceries and less pressure on her budget.
$30 for dinner with my partner’s mother.
I took my boyfriend’s mother out to lunch last month. It’s the first time we’ve ever spent time one on one, and something that I felt was important. We talked about a lot of stuff and I walked away feeling really supported, inspired, and glad to know her better.
$18 for a haircut.
Ok, this is probably one that could have waited. But I get my hair cut by students at the Aveda Institute, and my favorite student graduated in February! He moved to California in late February and this was my last chance to get my hair cut by him. I love how he cuts my hair and so I broke the freeze and scheduled a cut.
Money Thoughts and Numbers
I invoiced for more money in February than I ever have before too, which means that the $118 that I technically overspent last month didn’t break my bank account. I also think that my effort to spend less lead to more time spent on work, and more time to examine how I handle my money overall.
For the last three yeas I have been hell bent on increasing my personal financial stability. I worked my butt off to pay off my debt, I’m an aggressive investor, and I’ve built an emergency fund of eight month’s living expenses.
All that work has paid off! I’ve reached the point where I feel stable. I’m definitely still in a wealth building period of my life, but I have the tools and knowledge to do that. I’m not scrambling to pay my bills, and I’m not living paycheck to paycheck.
And realizing that has been a huge mental shift for me. It’s raised questions like: If I’m not a broke hustler, who am I?? What do I do with my money if I don’t push it all to debt or to savings? How do I want to actually spend my money?
Answering these questions is going to be a longer journey than just a month. But being at the point where I can ask these questions is amazing. For so long, I felt scared by money. I felt like it was an endless battle. And now I’m in a position where I feel secure with my money, and empowered by the financial systems I’ve set up for myself.
Money is a tool for me, FINALLY. I’m using it to live the life I want to live, and that is the life where I donate money to organizations that are doing work I believe in, and friends that I love.
What do you think? Did I fail in my spending freeze? Do I get a pass for my donations? Are you thinking of doing a spending freeze yourself?