It’s been an interesting month.
And stepping out to pick up a pint of double chocolate chip ice cream was just the beginning.
If you’ve been following #TheSisterpack for a while, you know that each month, we challenge ourselves to take on a money-related goal that pushes us to address an area where we think we can improve in our collective quest to make mo’ money and mo’ progress.
The challenges range from simple actions that, once accomplished, help us in hacking through a mental block, shuffle outside of a comfort zone, or nudge us on the path to improved habits… or they could be more complex undertakings involving leaps of faith, lots of planning, and tons of research.
July was a weird mix of both for me.
When I started planning my July challenge, my goal was to go three (non-consecutive) days of absolutely no spending.
Nothing coming out of my account or my wallet, and no “pay-later” spending.
Whether it was automatic direct debit transactions, monthly bank fees, charging something to my credit card, or paying in cash with money I had withdrawn the previous day. Those were my rules, and OMGawd… in retrospect that was kind of insane.
I learned that it takes a solid understanding of not only your finances but also your habits and your schedule, which is not so easy when, like me, you typically work from home and your schedule varies wildly.
I’d had “no spend” days in the past but I realized that I’d become a complete hermit on those days. I wouldn’t really leave my house because I knew I would be tempted to compromise my mission and buy a coffee or something to top up my half-empty fridge while on a walk. This time around, I didn’t want to bend to what, on the surface, seemed like frail willpower.
So I doubled-down and got my husband on board with me. I didn’t count any day a victory unless we both didn’t spend and only if we went out.
And I blew it the first day I set my goal at 3:52 p.m. when I made an impromptu trip to the grocery store to buy a pint of ice cream that cost £1.99.
Not the best start but it did get me thinking about how the small things, like that delicious pint of double chocolate chip ice cream, can make or break your money goals.
1. Why teaming up can be one of the smartest things you do
It may be awkward to explain your goal to someone who, at first, doesn’t quite understand the logic. I had to break down what the return on investment would be for us if we both didn’t spend anything. Including on groceries… and ice cream. So that meant extra planning. Really, it didn’t take too much effort to get him on board. Though the ice cream was his idea, so…
In the end, if the goal/chore/thing you don’t always feel like doing can be transformed into fun in any way, you win. Laugh together at the ludicrous or seemingly extreme things you do to accomplish your goal and take turns being the coach, star player or benchwarmer. It makes it feel easier and more fun, so you’re more likely to succeed.
2. Understand what makes you happy
It’s amazing to think that the lightbulb came on for this big-picture concept while I was mid-scoop in the lobby of our building, sitting in the sun and sharing the pint with my husband (no one has time dish it into bowls). It is definitely important to watch where your money goes when it comes to the little things.
Finance expert David Bach even coined the term the “Latte Factor,” which is genius. It teaches us to be mindful of where our money is going because the little things add up. And I consciously decided to break my goal that first day because of the happiness it would spark.
3. Stop ignoring the small slip-ups
I’m not saying you should never cut yourself some slack and create a militant money regime. Far from it! What I am saying, is that those small slip-ups are going to happen, so plan for them. Life is fluid and unpredictable, which is why emergency funds are a (necessary) thing and why we become creatures of habit – to keep some semblance of stability in our lives.
Notice what habits you have that make you happy and those that are bad for your wallet. Seriously: make two columns on a sheet of paper and cross-reference which ones do both. Cut back on the ones that entice you to consistently (over) spend and then put more time and attention on the ones that are free! Paying attention to the small things (and then acting on them) can make you mo’ money and mo’ progress.
In total, we racked up eight days where we spent less than £5, and while of course there were days where large amounts were leaving our accounts, we managed three days of total spending blackout… we did it!
Now excuse me while I treat myself to a well-deserved scoop of double chocolate chip ice cream.