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My ‘No nonsense-spending’ challenge results

Sienna Kossman

My “No nonsense-spending November” challenge has officially ended and while the results aren’t as outstanding as I’d hoped, I managed to save money and learn a lot about my spending habits.

I started this 30-day challenge to cut out the small, nonessential purchases in hopes of boosting my savings account balance and learning where my spending weaknesses lie.

Overall, I think my self-imposed challenge went OK. It wasn’t perfect, but I did a pretty good job following the five-point plan. I put nearly all my expenses on my cash-back credit card to help me earn rewards, made notes about what I bought — and what I was tempted to buy but resisted — and moved $267.72 into my savings account on Dec. 1.

However, I slipped up and made a few purchases that, under my own rules, qualify as “nonsense” expenses. Two purchases in particular — an impulsive pre-order of Adele’s new CD and another bag of rawhide bones for my dog — were completely unnecessary and I realized as much right after making the transactions, which totaled about $30. I actually recall saying, “Noooooo!” shortly after clicking “submit order” for the CD on Target.com. Fail.

The remaining “nonsense purchases” were a combination of to-go coffees, meals eaten out while visiting my hometown for Thanksgiving, and Christmas presents I found on sale. Overall, my November “nonsense” purchases totaled $277.73.

Now, I know I “failed” the challenge by almost $300, but I want to point out that I actually did a much better job cutting unnecessary expenses than it might seem — especially during a month of higher-than-normal expenses due to holiday travel.

Here’s a brief summary of my spending in October and November:

Month Total $ spent on essential purchases* Total $ spent on “nonsense” purchases $ moved to savings at end of month
October $2,265.13 $617.73 $105
November $2,682.34 $277.23 $267.72

*Essential purchases include bills (rent, utilities, cellphone and loan payments) and living expenses (groceries, health care and pet care).

When first comparing the two months, the challenge results don’t seem particularly great. In fact, I was initially really disappointed with my results. After all, I created this challenge and I should’ve done a better job completing it — or so I told myself.

However, after looking more closely at the purchases, I noticed how much my “nonsense” spending actually decreased in November. In October it accounted for 27.27 percent of my total spending but in November it dropped to only 10.34 percent. That’s a pretty solid improvement!

Then, after reviewing my spending journal notes, I realized this challenge also taught me three really useful financial lessons.

1. I should avoid Target.
Not only was one of the two material “nonsense” purchases I made last month from Target, but my spending journal shows most of my desired “nonsense” purchases would have come from Target if I hadn’t practiced self-control. Based on my notes, my Target vices seem to be home goods, pet supplies and candles. And the lure only gets stronger if I have a coupon.

The more I stay away from Target, the better off my bank account will be.

2. My “nonsense” purchases aren’t totally “nonsense.”
With the exception of the two aforementioned impulse purchases, the majority of my “nonsense” purchases weren’t totally unnecessary. For example, I paid for a couple social dinners out while visiting friends and family in Wisconsin last week who I only see a few times a year. Those purchases accounted for a little under $100.

The remaining $150-ish spent on “nonsense” goods went to Christmas presents that I had on my shopping list but just happened to find for a good price in November. I scored one particular $60 item for only $27 using an email coupon. The holiday expenses may have warped my challenge results but I would have made the purchases in December anyway. I just made them early to save money.

My “nonsense” spending balance may not have reached zero in November, but it’s not like I bought frivolous items left and right. I don’t need to feel quite so guilty about such expenses.

3. Closely tracking spending is annoying but helpful.
The red marks and frowny faces in my spending journal indicate I wasn’t always too happy nitpicking my spending. It wasn’t easy to keep such a close eye on my purchases. In fact, I’m almost a little embarrassed at how annoyed I got that I “couldn’t” put a candle in my shopping cart or buy extra shampoo because it was on sale.

But now I have a really good perspective on my spending habits and know how I could improve in the future. I’m really glad I gave myself this challenge, even though it wasn’t perfect. It helped me be more mindful even when I was traveling and bombarded by all sorts of shopping deal emails.

I’m still trying to keep a spending journal and I may also try another “no-nonsense” spending month after the holidays wrap up when I have fewer oddball expenses to worry about.

Did you participate in “No-nonsense spending November”? If so, how did it go? I’d love to read about your stories and lessons learned in the comments below.

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  • I didn’t participate, but I only bumped into the idea today. It seems like a great challenge and considering that November is such a hard month for it, you seem to have done well. I have mixed feelings about doing it in November with gifts to get and give coming up. But it is a good month to focus on being thankful for what you have instead of getting new stuff. Other months to try could be Just Necessary January, Frugal February, Money Mandatory March, Austere April, etc.

    As for those sneaky impulse bargain buys I find it helpful to remember that no matter how deeply discounted, if the item won’t end up being used there isn’t any savings to be had.

    • Sienna M. Kossman

      Thanks for the feedback! Good point about the impulse buys. November was definitely a tough month to do the challenge–but I didn’t really think about that until I after I’d started haha. I really like your name suggestions for the other months! Always a fan of alliteration. If you end up doing a spending challenge like this be sure to circle back and let me know how it went! -Sienna