My No Spend Year

We are older and did not handle our money like we should have.  I had to retire early due to chronic pain and my husband is getting very tired and can’t retire for at least 5 years and a few months when he gets full Social Security.   We have made every mistake in the book and then some.  Never, ever did I consider that I would not be able to work as long as I wanted.

Since “retiring” I try to do as much as I can to take responsibilities off my husband and while doing kitchen chores I like to watch You Tube videos.  Mostly I like watching frugal type videos. I came across Coffee With Kate at some point.  Last fall, 2018, I came across a vlog about a No Spend Year. In the past I did a challenge of not buying any new clothes or shoes for a full year. I did that several years ago. I thought about it for about a minute and decided I would do it. As I remember you make your own rules, but  I decided to go completely nuts and not buy ANYTHING we did not need.  The first thing I did was inventory our freezer and pantry, then I decided to do cleaning supplies and personal care products. 

The second  thing I did was talk to my husband, but any discussion about finances makes his eyes glaze over and he becomes grumpy. I evaluated our spending for 2018 and two things stood out.  Our grocery and gift categories seemed ridiculous. I had already done Christmas shopping for 2018, and I realized that my No Spend Year would be over in time for Christmas 2019!  I made gifts, including twin 3 year olds really cute aprons for their birthdays. I made my granddaughters the same thing. I have a ridiculous amount of fabric as I am a quilter.  I made baby quilts for a baby shower for former coworkers also.  I’m currently working on a quilt for my 3rd son-in-law. The other two already have theirs.  

For groceries, the plan was to cut spending down from $6500 in 2018 to a goal of $5000 for the year.  vowed to not go into a grocery store without a list. I also placed a 6 month moratorium on meat purchases. My husband has never met a meat sale he did not like. He did 99.9% of all food chores before I stopped working, for 35+ years.  We have a very full freezer and in fact have a whole turkey(20 pounder purchased at Costco after Christmas for $5, he bought 4) and several other packages of meat in my daughter’s freezer. I decided to cut back even further a few months ago when I realized we were still throwing too much food out and am attempting a Zero Waste Kitchen (can’t remember where I got that idea).  We stopped menu planning and use what needs to be eaten each day.  We have a vegetable garden and are still harvesting tomatoes from our greenhouse (I live on the coast of very northern California, Humboldt and we can’t grow tomatoes or peppers without one, well they will grow but not ripen).  

For instance, in August I made my daughter a lemon cake with lemon frosting from scratch, and then a chocolate with chocolate frosting for my husband in September.  I froze the rest of both frostings.  I pulled them out a few days ago when my 5 year old granddaughter was over and she wanted to bake cupcakes.  I used half a box mix and those frozen frostings. We eat the same thing until it’s gone or we are sick of it.  We found a New York cut roast that had been in our freezer way too long.  It fed us from Sunday-Thursday. I used it in salads and we had fajitas made out of it along with normal roast and potatoes. 

I also have done quite a bit of batch cooking this year.  My adult daughters also like me to make them the same! I have 3 dishes I mainly make that were my most used over the years.  I also freeze extra soup and chopped onions/bell peppers and anything else I can if I cannot use them before they go bad (Zero Waste Kitchen). I made jams and have frozen 3 gallons of blueberries. 

We make our dog’s food. Lila is an older rescue chihuahua.  She does not have many teeth and choked on her kibble one day.  It was so bad doing the Heimlich actually crossed my mind, but how do you do that to a dog?  She finally hacked out the kibble and that day we started buying her whole food that was so crazy expensive, we started making it ourselves.  She hit the lottery when we adopted her!

I helped a friend move and she gave me a bunch of clothes including my new favorite jeans!  She also gave me 107 hardback books!

I pick my oldest granddaughter (11) up on Tuesdays and we go to the library and pick out books.  Cheap quality time.  We also bake when the granddaughters visit.  They also love to work in the garden, harvesting, picking berries (strawberries and blueberries) and clean the chicken coop!

For meds I get my high blood pressure medication in 20 mg, but only take 10 mg, so I save money cutting them in two myself. 

Our health insurance was going up to just under $2000 in January of 2018 so we dropped it and joined one of those religious based medical sharing plans.  It is Liberty Medical. We pay $479 a month. My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2018.  Liberty Medical will pay nothing first year, $50,000 second year (which we are in) and regular coverage after the second year ends. We have been able to cover all his costs and his medication is working great!

I divided up succulents and trimmed back geraniums and have a ton of starts.  I will use those as gifts.  All three of my grown daughters want succulents.  I got a bunch of cuttings from my mom’s audiologist’s office (I asked first) and they really grew.  We have chickens for eggs.  I give the girls any half bad vegetables and throw the rest in our revolving compost bins.  

We started keeping our aluminum and CRV deposit plastic bottles and glass containers instead of just dumping them into the recycling bin that the local garbage company furnishes for bi-weekly pickup. 

I have a 5 gallon bucket in my bathtub that I put the removable head in to catch the water until it heats up.  I also dump leftover water into my plants or into that bucket.  I use it to either fill the toilet tank or to water my plants or flowers.

We did have challenges.  When we were notified our power would be off for up to a week this fall, we decided to buy a generator because there was the real possibility of losing the meat in our freezer. We had very little warning but generators were gone almost immediately.  We were lucky to get our vehicles filled with gas the night the power went out.  We found a generator 3 hours away and my husband drove up and bought it, we used it for 4 hours before the power came back on.  A week later it was out again for a few days. It felt like a real luxury having power and we shared with the family next door, alternating plugging in their refrigerator and freezer with ours. I purchased a new pair of walking shoes when both of my pairs started coming apart at the soles.  I’m old so comfortable shoes are important!

My No Spend Year is up, but it has become such a way of life that I am continuing indefinitely.  We have paid for the house we are renting for 5 days in Anaheim at Christmas for our 3 daughters, their husbands and our 3 granddaughters.  The exterior painting of our home was completed yesterday.  We also decided to rip up our carpet and refinish the hardwood that was underneath.  The floor also was completed yesterday. Those were both hired out and we used our home/car account money.  

After we arranged all that to be done, my vehicle stopped recognizing the key.  I called my son-in-law who gifted the car to me and he said that had never happened to him. Then our washer stopped draining.  The washer was fixed, but the repairman (who has been coming to our house for years) told us to start saving for a new one.  It is 10 years old to the month! Luckily the dryer is still working fine.  We have also noticed that our cooktop is emitting a strange smell so I am calling for same repairman to come and take a look.  I’m a bit concerned that what we thought was a hefty, well funded home/car savings account will be empty before too long! 

I’m working to get our spending down even more in 2020.  At the same time I am continuing to spend as much time with my family and support my husband as he continues to run our business.

About Allysgrandma
Passionate homemaker after 40 years of working and raising daughters! Finally time for my first love (other than DH who I met when I was 12)....sewing and quilting.

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