For the month of November, some of The Hungry Housewives are doing a "Spending Freeze". It's based on the theory that if you do something for 30 days, it becomes a habit which in this case means that if you don't frivolously spend for a month, you will be "cured" from excessive spending. Which will -over the long term- improve your budget.
When I've told people what we are doing, comments range from "I ALREADY DO THAT!" (though I'm sure they don't to the extent they think they do) to "my husband would NEVER agree to it!". So I challenge you to this: IF you feel like you "already do this", keep the Freeze in the back of your mind and maybe you'll make even smarter decisions. And if you're partner doesn't want to participate...that doesn't mean that YOU can't!
Here's how we're going to do this:
First of all, NO spending except groceries and bills. Any other exceptions to this are up to you...it's your money!
Kids: My youngest just started pre-kindergarten. If he is invited to a birthday party, OF COURSE I want to help him make new friends so I'll let him buy a present so he can attend. On the other hand, I have a 12 & 16 year old who understand what we're doing so I won't extend as much leeway.
Black Friday: For you die-hard-fanatics out there...DON'T MAKE THIS ONE DAY AN EXCUSE TO NOT PARTICIPATE! Do what's best for you (though I MUST say that the sales are not all that wonderful- there will be more in December!). This is the day my daughter and I traditionally buy our designer purses so if she wants to go (she has a job), I'll take her around but since I have a couple of bags still with the tags on them, I'm sure I'll survive....at least until the after-Christmas-sales.
Friends: This is the time for invitations to start rolling in. When you're invited to a candle or other home-based party- ATTEND. The hostess would rather you show up as a warm body instead of not going...but I'm sure her and the consultant won't appreciate you pushing the spending freeze to others so keep it on the down lo' ;)
When invited to a get-together, you probably have an unopened something around the house to use for a hostess gift, and most people have ingredients in the cupboards to cook without buying a prepared dish so take the time to make something.
Also, if you and your girlfriends chat over coffee at Starbucks, invite her over to your house for some home brew, or go for a walk together instead. You'll be saving money and burning calories!
Thanksgiving Company: If you have family coming to visit, give yourself a pass on those days BUT don't forget all the free/low cost things to do out there. Laughing over a board game is more fun then sitting silently at the movies and it doesn't cost a thing. Plus, Thanksgiving dinner IS considered part of groceries.
Unexpected Events/Entertainment: Most of us go to things we really don't want to go to. IF something pops up, really, really think hard about how important going is to you before you make your decision. Is it something that will wait a couple weeks?
If you have something planned already- GO. My friend and I purchased theater tickets months ago and there is NO way we are skipping out on dinner beforehand (plus the parking fee) so we are planning this now. Also, my hubby works hard and doesn't get to hang out with the guys often. I wouldn't think of asking him to give up his once-a-month poker night!
Eating Out: Some of you may consider dining out as part of your grocery budget but be honest...you know that's not true! If you are running around and need to eat, eat. It's like being on a diet- just because you have a candy bar doesn't mean you'll stuff your face the rest of the month so eat out, then get back on the spending freeze horse. On the other hand, if you are on your way home, I'm sure you'll be fine a little while longer. To be on the safe side, carry a granola bar and water bottle in your purse/car.
Groceries: Though we said that buying groceries is one of your allotted spending items, why don't you try to see what's the lowest you can spend? Go through your checkbook/online banking and see how many grocery stops, Costco trips, etc you did last month and make it a goal to cut that amount. This is the perfect chance to get into the habit of using coupons (Queen Bee Coupons is a great web-site to get you started). Plus, clipping coupons is FREE entertainment LOL.
If the Spending Freeze is something you're unsure about, or you don't really NEED to do (you're a rare person indeed), give it a try! At the very least, you'll have stockpiled some cash to go Christmas shopping in December :) I'll keep you posted on our journey. Here's hoping it's a breeze! (knock on wood).