For a recall on our No Going Out, No Spending Month Project, please read this first.
Results of Our Project
No Going Out : We didn't attend parties. We declined road trips. We didn't have dinner or coffee with friends. No meet-ups with online friends. We didn't watch any movies. We only went to grocery stores to buy stuff based on a list (no more, no less). We stayed home on weekends. We didn't hung out in malls. I missed a couple of events in Sydney that could have been used for articles in my blog (I was kinda sad about this but I needed some rest from attending and covering events anyway).
During the four weeks, we made 1 exception to this rule and that was when we attended a Christening reception of my longtime friend's daughter. It was very fortunate that the reception took place at a restaurant two blocks away from our place. We sneaked out of the house for only two hours. What drove me to decide to attend even if we are going thru this project was that it is more important to be there for friends, even if only for a while.
No Spending : We didn't spend!!!! I mean, we didn't spend on things we didn't need like clothes, shoes, bags, gadgets. We didn't even spent for car petrol. We spent for the usual groceries and bills and didn't go over our budget--it was actually the opposite, we were able to save a couple of dollars because we became conscious of sticking to our budget.
Rest : We were able to rest, as in really rest. Our days spent at home were so relaxed. We didn't think much of time (or catching up with time). We were able to catch up on much needed sleep.
We Feel Healthier : We've been cooking and eating at home more since there really is no reason to eat out. We're now back to our usual meals that consists of more veggies, fish & fruits.
Other Things: We were able to de-clutter our home and we were able to catch up on our photography projects.
Challenges, Strategies and Realizations
Our strategies and realizations are based on the challenges we've gone thru during this project.
Challenge 1 : Busy, hectic long days at work. Incidentally, the Husband and I had the busiest four weeks at work that resulted to going home late. The temptation to dine out after work is so huge. Can you imagine being all tired and hungry and then going home and still prepare food?
Our strategy: We did batch cooking (cooking in bulk) every weekend so that when we arrive home during weekdays, we'd only heat up dinner. I also try to go home early every chance I get so I can cook dinner at home. Another thing we did was bring crackers to munch on while we're inside the train going home.
Realization: Batch cooking not only saves time and energy but it saves us money. It doesn't make us dependent on eating out knowing that there is food at home.
Challenge 2 : Food cravings (with an "argh!"). Whether it was because I'm hormonal or the Husband misses a certain food, this was one challenge for us.
Our strategy: We didn't linger in places that offer our "cravings of the moment". My Husband and I talked sense to each other whenever we'd have cravings. We gave each other support and pep talks in getting over one's craving especially when what we're craving for was something unhealthy.
Realization: The great thing we learned from overcoming this challenge: whatever big or small project my Husband and I get into it really helps when we work as a team---an optimistic and "sees-the-positive-effect-of-a-challenge" team.
Challenge 3 : Sales (both online and in malls). There are sales everywhere, anytime of the year. There are several good deals that come out every day. My Husband and I are members of online websites that gives big (like 70% off the original price) discounts. We receive emails of these online sales everyday. This challenge isn't as difficult but when one sees a good deal, we know that it can be very tempting.
Our strategy: Simple...whatever email about sales we received, we deleted them right away. We didn't open it anymore.
Realization: A few realizations, (1) We have no urgent need for any material thing, we have what we need inside our home and in our lives; (2) When we are determined not to spend, we don't get tempted; (3) We shouldn't spend on stuff just because it is on sale [believe me, if you missed it, it will go on sale again, probably on a much lower price].
Challenge 4 : Dinner date on a (AUS)$20.00 budget. We underestimated this challenge. We forgot to take into consideration that we don't usually eat fast food, that we also need to order drinks and that we also deserve to have dessert! Yes, we can find small restaurants or decent stalls in food courts that offer meals cheap but there are times when I would really like to be served a good meal.
Here's a summary of our cheap $20-dates ($20 x 4 weeks = $80.00):
13 Aug (Fri) = $0.00
I invited the Husband to a coffee date so we used my coffee "me time" money of $10.00, hence, we decided to go home after coffee since we're not hungry yet. We had dinner at home instead.
20 Aug (Fri, our monthsary) = $26.40
Since it was our monthsary that day, we hung out at Chinatown and had streetfood dinner.
Korean Rice Cake (small)=$5.00; Chicken & Prawn Dimsum=$5.20; 2 Pork Buns=$4.00; Pork (Shanghai) Dimsum=$5.00 and Bottled Water=$2.20(the cheapest bottled water we could find)
Total = $21.40
Total = $21.40
Then the Husband saw Japanese Cakes which said he misses already and we thought, we haven't had dessert yet. So we bought 3 pieces for $5.00
27 Aug (Fri) = $12.50
I wanted Sweet and Sour Pork for dinner so we went to the food court of Myer and had Chinese food. Food courts in Australia have the food on sale when the clock strikes 5pm (some of them earlier). Some meals are usually half price. So my Husband and I went to the food court at 5:30pm.
What we ate: Sweet and Sour Pork with rice=$4.00; Fish Fillets & Chicken with Veggies and Rice=6.00; Bottled Water=$2.50.
2 Sept (Thurs) = $28.50
I left work late and I wasn't able to have my coffee "me time". The moment I met with my Husband, I was so hungry. I wanted to just sit down and eat anything. Since I didn't use my weekly coffee allowance, I added that to our $20.00 dinner budget. Then we thought, "Pizza!". So we went to Pizza Hut and shared a large Meatlovers Pizza and Chicken Wings.
Grand Total of Dinner Expenses for 4 weeks = $67.40 (not bad huh?)
Our strategy: We just had to be creative. And we just had to find enjoyable places that serve good food in Sydney like Chinatown on a Friday night.
Realization: (1) When you're creative, things become fun! While we were looking for food in Chinatown, we felt like we were contestants in Amazing Race with a challenge and all. We really had fun! (2) It doesn't hurt to spend a bit more to get quality food. We may have saved a lot and it can be fun finding cheap eats in Sydney but in my heart, I believe we deserve a weekly treat more than $20.00 for all the hard work we did. So next year, we plan to increase our weekly dinner budget (that has yet to be decided).
In a nutshell:
We are so happy to have managed this project well. One of the best learning we've had during this period was that it is okay to say "No"--no to spending and going out especially when we think that it is not worth spending money on things we don't need or going to events that we know will happen again and again.
Some tips if you want to do a project like this:
1. Commitment and teamwork from the whole family is very important.
2. When planning this project, don't just focus on saving money. Focus also on the values that each family member can learn from this project. If you have little kids at home, this would be good practice for them.
3. Try doing this for a week. Then next time, do it for two weeks. The following year, make it three weeks. That was how my Husband and I started. That's why it wasn't too difficult when we made this project official for four weeks.
4. This project would be easier if the family members (or at least one family member) cook. When there are home-cooked meals at home, there would be less (or nothing at all) reason to dine out.
5. You don't have to take away some important things to each member of the family. For example, we never took our coffee "me times" and weekly dinner date out of the equation. Those two things are not just about loving coffee and food but those are things that keeps us sane throughout the week. There are some activities that you can still do, you just need to make the rules clear. Also, this project is meant to teach values, not deprive a person.
6. Make your own rules as each family is unique.
To end, We would like to thank everyone who supported us and wished us luck on this project of ours. I hope you learn a few things from our experience.