No Spend January

No Spend January

In Mid December, my wife and I were looking over our budget and realized that we had gotten a little spend-happy during the second half of the year. Our tax refund didn’t arrive until July, (despite filing in February) so by then we had a number of things we wanted to purchase. We used a sizable amount of it for projects, books, (my weakness, I confess) supplies and some back up items such as a propane water heater, extra propane and other preps.

While we hadn’t accrued any debt, we didn’t have as much cash stowed away as either of us would prefer. So as usual, I suggested something some people would see as extreme: No Spend January.

I proposed that we would live off of our current supplies (including food) and avoid all spending with the exception of insurance, one medication refill and fuel (though we were going to be as wise as possible about fuel consumption.) I would only spend money from the business account if it was an item/material I would absolutely require to complete a job. If we encountered some kind of dire emergency, of course we could do what was necessary, but the objective was to be strict and wise.

Naturally, on the first day of January, the pond pump quit working. I went through multiple videos and my spare parts kit trying to get the impeller to behave itself but I wasn’t successful. I can borrow a pump if needed, but with the weather getting colder, the fish (20 goldfish and two small perch) are nearly dormant. So I hooked up my bicycle pump to some tubing and set it up as a manual aerator. Since I walk past that stock tank multiple times a day, I just pump it a few times to push fresh oxygen into the water. The fish seem to be fine. There’s a lot of surface area for the number of fish in the tank, so they’ll be fine this time of year. In fact, they’re not even eating right now, so I assume they’ve hunkered down for winter.

The next item to take a dump, of course, was my laptop. It quit charging last month and the replacement cord and new battery didn’t fix the problem. It probably needs a new charging port but I only use it to monitor the battery management system for our solar storage batteries. It’s nice to have but not necessary. I’ll tackle that next month or perhaps find a way to barter with someone for diagnosis and repair.

The snowfall and all of the work dedicated to clearing snow off the solar array made me wish I had more tarps to cover them so that I could just pull them away after the snow had finished falling. I could probably move a few things around and free up tarps that are currently covering yet-to-be-processed firewood. That’s on the to-do list.

As I mentioned above, I have a weakness for books. I love to learn and be able to expand my library. But I’ve got around ten books I’ve barely touched, so I’ve got them in a reading order and when I’m caught up, I’ll allow myself a couple of new ones by spring. I also visit the library weekly if there’s something I want to research via hardcopy.

I’m also in a position to make do with what I have on hand for entertainment/hobbies and games. I have targets for the air rifle, a Star Wars puzzle and several comics for making collages. I have the world’s most beautiful guitar, a Martin D-15 and a great app for learning new songs.

Last week on a warm day, I stopped at the lake on my way back from a job and picked up several pieces of small driftwood that I’ll woodburn and carve into various designs, simply for the experience. I’ll keep some and ultimately may make a few pieces for selling or giving away.

This whole exercise is intended to help us (and especially me) think and react outside of the box instead of just logging into Amazon and ordering a replacement. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon is great when something needs to be fixed fast, but it certainly can lead to excessive spending when discipline isn’t being exercised. I’m just as vulnerable to that habit as anyone. In fact, my patience needs to be cultivated and this is a good way of going about it.

The main push here is to be comfortable with what I have on hand and to rediscover the patience and head space for being creative along multiple avenues. I don’t see this experiment as an attempt to “do without” but to “do with and overcome.”

We’re seven days into January. I’ll update mid month and at the first of February.