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Say No to the No Spend Challenge

By now, we've all heard of the No Spend Challenge, a grueling year long battle against your impulses with the goal of spending exactly zero cents on anything you don't absolutely need. It might even be one of your 2022 New Year's resolutions. Sure, you'll save some money, suspend some bad habits, and avoid buying the too-good-to-be-true curling iron from the Facebook ads, but at what cost? The global Coronavirus pandemic has taught us that we cannot count on favorite activities being open next year and we cannot predict which food or beauty supply or household item will be the next victim of supply chain issues. And even if all the small pleasures you deny yourself now are available in the future, there's no guarantee that you'll be around to enjoy them. Sure, we've traded movie nights at the theater for binging popcorn in our pajamas streaming new releases from home, but those experiences with our loved ones are what makes life worthwhile. Taco nights with your friends or frappuccinos with your mini-me or getting a new throw pillow can be a vital defense against misery and depression. Striking a middle ground by spending money intentionally allows you to harvest all the benefits of the No Spend Challenge, like minimizing or eliminating impulse buying, without the intense struggle against your own mental health or the debilitating sense of failure when you eventually cave. And let's be honest, sometimes a shopping trip or a meal out is exactly what we need to lift our spirits or reset our mental health.

A year of intentional spending means challenging yourself to purchase with a purpose. Before breaking out your wallet, ask yourself the following six questions:

1. Do I already own something that could work for this?

As my anxious dog grew older she started licking the couch whenever I left home, so I was in the market for a couch cover. But then I realized I had a thick gray quilt sitting in a closet next to a deflated air mattress, unused except on the extremely rare occasion that I had too many house guests for my spare room. No need to buy a canopy for my kid's stuffed animal's wedding when I can use a sheer panel from her bedroom curtains instead. Flipping my fall porch sign over and stenciling a Christmas design on it allowed my porch sign to pull double duty. Get creative! Using something you already have on hand saves both money and precious storage space in your home.

2. Can I make this instead?

I accidentally hung a cheap metal art thing a smidge too high, but the nail was stuck in the bracket and it was a real pain in the rear to move it down. So I hit Amazon looking for a cute, whimsical, organic looking garland to hang below it, but everything I liked was wildly outside of my budget. Using broken crayons, waxed paper, and a couple things around the house, my daughter and I made a pretty leaf garland instead. Bonus: it makes me smile every time I look at it, thinking of the wonderful time we had making it together!

With a little ingenuity, there's no limit to what you can make with what you already have around your home.

3. Do any of my friends or neighbors already have this?

From ladders tall enough to clean your gutters to pretty dresses you can wear to a wedding, the wide variety of things you can borrow instead of buy might surprise you! Instead of dropping half a paycheck at the book store, see if your local library has a copy you can check out. Instead of buying a chainsaw to eradicate an invasive tree in your yard, see if your neighbor has one first. Bonus: they likely know how to use it safely and you won't chance having a hook for a hand like a pirate.

4. Can I get it second hand?

Places like thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace are great when buying second hand things, but never underestimate the power of simply asking your community if anyone has one they no longer need. It seems that we're all stuck in an endless purchase and purge cycle, buying things only to donate them a few months later. The thing your cousin is discarding might be just the thing you need. The shirt that is too big for your friend might fit you perfectly. When spring cleaning season hits, I remind my friends with little girls that we'll provide a loving home for any kid's clothes they no longer want. And when it comes to gift giving, the best present might be something from your own basement storage shelves or toy closet.

5. Is this something I can buy local?

This isn't a no spending challenge, so you should do the activities or buy the things that will enrich your life. Buying local instead of shopping online helps lower carbon emissions, reduce shipping and packaging waste, and it supports your community. And while shopping local, skip the big box and chain stores. Sure you can get a delicious vanilla soy latte at Starbucks, but the one at Java Corner tastes great too, and they sponsor the local youth soccer team. The seed blends at the local wild bird store are a few dollars more than the packs at Walmart, but the mix is tailored to best feed the birds native to your specific area.

6. Does it already have a place to live in my home?

I'd be a pretty rubbish minimalist if I failed to ask myself where the new thing would be placed or stored in my home before I bought it. I'm a sucker for nice wall art, cute throw pillows, and pretty decks of tarot cards, but I don't have the space or desire for excess. Knowing exactly how and where an item will be stored, used, or displayed before bringing it home helps keep your counters clear, storage organized, and spending intentional.

Join me for a year of intentional spending! Challenge yourself to improve your life, release some financial stress, and enrich your community in 2022. And do it all while living your best life without the soul crushing struggle of denying everything that makes life worth living!


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