A Day in the Life of Spending $0

January 22, 2018

3 weeks down on the shopping ban.  Of course, that's the easy part.  There's still a lot of motivation there, and not a lot of opportunity for spending in the month of January.  Still, it's nice to mark it as a success so far.  I know some people were going to attempt their own version of less spending this month and year, so I hope you're all doing well with that too.  If not though, or if you want to start, I thought I'd give you a look at a typical week day for me and show you were some spending traps generally come up and how I successfully avoid them.  Maybe it'll help you avoid the same.


So let's start at the beginning, when I first wake up, and work through the spending traps of a typical day:

Spending Trap: Coffee and Breakfast.  I drink coffee every day, so obviously I spend money on it.  At the moment, I haven't yet - my mom got me a massive stockpile for Christmas so I've been making it at home for $0.  When I truly don't want to buy any for at home, the coffee at work is also free, which is what I'll be doing for the length of shopping ban if there's no coffee in the house (sometimes John buys it!)  Since I only drink it black, I'm not spending on sugar or cream, and I'm definitely not spending at a coffee shop because what a waste of money to get black coffee at a coffee shop.  And here's how I don't spend on breakfast: I don't eat it.  I have never liked eating breakfast, no matter what time I ate the night before or what time I'll be eating later in the day.  I could not eat for three days and you still wouldn't be able to get me to eat breakfast.  Breakfast makes me nauseous, every single time.  But for people who like breakfast, definitely make it at home instead of eating out, because it's the easiest thing to prep in advance.  Breakfast is not complicated.

Spending Trap: Exercise.  Sometimes it's a morning workout for me, sometimes after work, it all depends on John's firehouse schedule.  But either way, I don't spend money here - we have a treadmill in the house and John has all sorts of weight contraptions I don't totally understand.  My parents gifted me the treadmill for Christmas 2016, which was huge of them, but it would have been a good investment if I had bought it because over time, it's cheaper than a gym membership or constantly paying for classes, which I have tried and never show up for anyway.  Even if you don't have a treadmill, there's a ton of workouts you can do at home by running outside or following a free exercise video online.  You can get weights at a thrift shop, if necessary.

Spending Trap: Makeup.  Makeup has been a huge spending trap for me in the past because I really do enjoy it and find it fun.  But there's the thing - I clearly already have enough of it because I've been buying it, so I have to just stay off websites that encourage me to buy something new I don't need (like beauty guru YouTubers.)  Another way I've been saving money here is by using less.  I've simplified my morning makeup routine so that rather than a full face of makeup, which is totally unnecessary for my office, I just do the basics.  Concealer, eyebrows, one color eyeshadow, mascara, done!

Spending Trap: Clothing.  'I don't have anything to wear' is not real life, I promise you.  If you're able to be reading this blog, you're pretty well off, enough that you have plenty of clothes.  I like my capsule wardrobe and don't hit this particular snag myself, but a lot of people do - they get frustrated while getting dressed, which leads them to online (or in person) shopping later in the day.  Take the time to clear out your closet and get rid of stuff you don't wear so you can see what you do own and like.  And then set up outfit ideas on Sunday for the week.  You'll find yourself shopping way less often.

Spending Trap: Commuting.  Commuting to work can be a major money suck, especially if you live further away.  Assuming you can't move closer, the options are public transit, carpooling, biking, working from home one day a week, etc.  I don't have a car, so my commuting costs are minimal.  I take the bus and train, so it costs me $2.25 each way.  It's still $100 a month, but that's nothing compared to gas, insurance, registration, parking, and everything else associated with car ownership.

Spending Trap: Lunch.  I don't know about where you live, but the prices on the things you can purchase for lunch in downtown Chicago are astronomical.  You're paying for the location convenience and for having it already done, which is crazy because lunch is like breakfast in terms of how easy it is to prep something in advance to bring to work with you.  It's also much healthier for you to make it yourself.  You can easily prep salads, burrito bowls (or any simple rice and beans dish), sandwiches or pastas, which are all equally cheap.

Spending Trap: Snacks.  And Drinks.  Snacks and drinks can be sneaky budget busters because you don't realize how much you're spending in this category, since each individual purchase isn't a large amount.  But it adds up quickly, especially if you're getting a coke and a bag of chips from a vending machine every single week day.  I've only drink water (I've never had pop actually), coffee, and tea, so I know my savings are big there.  And like I mentioned, I get myself nuts or seeds each month to keep in my desk if I need a snack.

Spending Trap: Impulse Buys.  Even if you're actively avoiding shopping and not stopping at stores after work on purpose, you might find yourself at one for a legitimate reason.  I work right next to a Walgreens, so any time John is sick it's easy for me to stop in and get his medication (he has regular sinus related issues, I almost never get sick.)  Naturally what you need, the cough drops, are at the back of the store.  You pass by candy and magazines and nail polish and oh yeah we probably need another tube of toothpaste right?  Wrong.  You don't need any of it because it wasn't on your shopping list.  Turn on the tunnel vision and get only what you came for.  Send someone else in if you really think you can't handle it.

Spending Trap: Dinner.  Most of my current spending goes towards dinner, which is fine by me - because I'm buying groceries and making it myself.  Dining out or ordering in is so incredibly expensive when you compare it to what you could make at home for that price.  You could even splurge on expensive spices and fancy cuts of meat for those prices.  I already posted about meal planning and meal prep so I won't go into detail here, but definitely start cooking at home.  And also keep some 'instant' meals on hand for crazy nights, like a frozen pizza.  So you won't be tempted by takeout.

Spending Trap: Entertainment.  After dinner is when it's easy to get sidetracked by entertainment you have to pay for.  Maybe you're paying for cable, or renting a movie on iTunes all the time.  You could also be buying books or e-books, whatever it is you like to do in the evenings that could cost money.  It doesn't have to, or at least it doesn't have to cost that much.  Netflix is only $10 a month, and various websites (YouTube) are totally free.  As far as books, get yourself a library card.  It's good not only for physical books, but you can also check out movies, magazines, CDs, and listen to audiobooks or read e-books on your devices.  All totally free.

Spending Trap: Personal Care Products.  Like makeup, showering and skin care and all the related personal care items can really start to add up, but it's not all necessary every day.  Or at all!  Start with makeup removing - all you need is an oil and a reusable cloth, no wasteful wipes.  In the shower, you don't need 10 shampoos, body scrubs, shaving creams, and everything else, and you definitely don'y need them every day.  I wash my hair every 3rd or 4th day.  Once out of the shower, you could definitely streamline your skincare and lotions routine.  Also, you can likely use less of a product than what you're using now - like shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste, try cutting back on how much you use each time.

Have you ever tracked a typical day of spending (or not spending)?  What trips you up most often?


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