Our No-Spend Month That Wasn’t.

I’m just going to come right out and say it. In the month of April alone, my husband and I spent over $500 going out to eat. I know this because we’ve been using the Every Dollar budgeting app ever since we took Financial Peace University classes together in 2016.

Let me reiterate – that’s OVER FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS on restaurants, fast food and trips to various coffee shops for $5 espresso drinks. In only 30 days. This didn’t even include groceries, which we certainly didn’t spend any less on than previous months.

Hello, wake up call.

(Had there been an actual call, I’m sure it would have come from our credit card company.)

I could weep over the things that money could have bought us, and how stupid we were to choose instead the convenience of not cooking after a long day, and extra pounds around the middle that we certainly didn’t need to begin with.

So for the month of May, we decided to go cold turkey. NO lunch dates at Parkway, no guilty-pleasure drive thrus at Taco Casa, no late-night Sonic Blast runs, no post-preschool-drop-off Starbucks/Odd Duck/Frank & Joe’s to kick off the day. (The last part was the hardest for me, as $86.72 of our spending came from my morning lattes at about $5.25 a pop.)

We didn’t exactly succeed on all fronts, but we DID come under our $200 monthly budget for the first time in many months.

In the end we spent $169.46 in May:

  • $22.50 on vending machines at work and one drive-thru trip at lunch when we couldn’t get away to eat
  • $64.88 on fast food and pizza delivery
  • $24.74 on unavoidable work lunch meetings
  • $15.77 on a family trip to Jason’s Deli one exhausted evening
  • $41.57 on my espresso drinks from coffee shops (I am so weak.)

I wish we had stuck 100% to our goal, but I can say it still broke a very dangerous cycle and bad habits.

Things I learned:

“We don’t have any meat thawed” is not an excuse to order in instead of cook.

This was really so lazy of us, and one of our biggest problems. We would forget to thaw meat to cook for dinner, and decide to order Chinese instead. During our no-spend month, that wasn’t an option, so our laziness had consequences. No meat thawed? Guess you’re having sandwiches or scrambled eggs AGAIN!

One of my super-easy dinners. Sauteed spinach, pre-packaged tortellini, and meatballs made from Ina Garten’s Italian wedding soup recipe.

“We’ve had a long day” is not an excuse.

Lord knows we’ve used this one to justify just about every drive-thru purchase ever. Everyone has long days, and we can’t continue to treat ourself to the detriment of our long-term goals as a family.

Hating cooking is not an excuse.

I’m a grown-a$$ woman. I am not just at the brink, but solidly planted into my thirties. I’m gonna hate a lot of things I need to do anyways. Exercising, cooking, eating right, flossing, applying more than just basic moisturizer to my face. Reality is harsh.

We spend too much on groceries.

Even while we were going out to eat several times a week, we still didn’t save on groceries. Which was a major red flag in terms of how we shopped, and where we shopped. So we went back to meal planning, buying only what we needed, and shopping at Aldi again. (We were getting really spoiled by Market Street.) One thing can’t be overhauled successfully without the other.

Not every meal has to be a masterpiece.

This was another unnecessary mental barrier for us. We are both SUCH foodies. (The kind that love a fancy and over-the-top restaurant, and not so much the cooking it yourself part.) If we didn’t have time to cook something really exciting, we weren’t going to cook. But in order to save money, you kinda have to be okay with grilled cheese and an apple for dinner sometimes. It ain’t glamorous, but it gets the job done.

Some habits die hard, or not at all. So a Plan B is okay.

I am a mom of a two year old, with a full time job, who volunteers a lot on the side. I AM ALWAYS TIRED. And after spending the first year of Teddy’s life drinking 4-5 cups of black coffee a day, I must have done some sort of irreparable damage to my stomach from all the acid. For the last year, even a SIP of coffee makes my stomach turn and hurt and feel queasy for hours. But I NEED the caffeine, so I’ve found that espresso drinks with a lot of milk to combat the acidity seem to work for me.

This is not something you can do at home. UNTIL our Nespresso machine arrived in the mail last night!!!!! (And I am already in love.) Macy’s had a Memorial Day sale where the machine and milk frother bundle was priced down from $429 to $299 plus an extra 20% off (plus 6% cash back from Ebates). So we checked out at $269 plus tax, free shipping. (And got $16 back from Ebates.)

It’s not the cheapest solution, but when you factor in the price of the machine, it passes Starbucks as the cheaper choice after 53 uses, since pods are only 50 cents. So in about two months, our coffee/espresso monthly cost will drop from $100 a month to $10.

FEEDBACK PLEASE: What do YOU do to keep your food spending in check? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

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One thought on “Our No-Spend Month That Wasn’t.

  1. I love food too. And it sucks coming home after work and then spending an hour or more cooking eating and cleaning up.