Family Anti-Spend Committment Gets Creative

It all started out innocently enough –we were looking at our dwindling bank account. Between Christmas spending and January birthdays, it was like someone was at an all-you-can-eat buffet and our checking account was the main course.

This wasn’t particularly unusual – the same thing happens every year. It’s the circle of life, really.  But, this year, my husband and I devised a plan. I had recently heard about a family that decided not to spend any money for one month.

Just one month. To the untrained eye, this seemed easy enough. So easy, in fact, that I was sure that I could do it for six months.

The rules governing this social experiment were simple: We could only purchase food at the grocery store, medicine, gas and general necessities such as soap and shampoo.

In an effort to go full-force, we decided to even turn off our cable. That’s right, no more television.

Night one: I picked up my son and daughter. “Can we go to McDonald’s drive thru and get milkshake?” I reminded them it was day one of our no-money-spending. “The good news is that I have a pot roast waiting for us in a crock-pot and I have the ingredients to make our own milkshakes at home,” I said.

So, we ate at home, made our homemade milkshakes and created lists of recipes that we all wanted to cook. Then, out of habit, I walked over to turn on our television. When the snow showed up on the screen, I once-again felt trouble a-brewin’. It wasn’t quite 7 p.m., what in the world are we going to do for the rest of the night?

Then, my daughter saved the evening by whipping out the Yahtzee game. Our game led to hours of laughing, talking and good old-fashioned competition.

Each night, we became more ingenious finding something to do. We’ve taken walks, we’ve watched movies in our collection that we hadn’t watched in years, played games that had gathered dust. We’ve had our fair share of bumps along the road, such as when our daughter got invited to a birthday party. We became creative and made a homemade card with a coupon offering a sleepover at a future date. Am I sad that Bruce Springsteen is coming to concert and I cannot buy tickets? Yes. Yes, I am.

But, my disappointment in the things we aren’t spending money on is quickly replaced by our re-connection as a family. Together we have made muffins, homemade pizzas, homemade cookies; we’ve read books, listened to music and talked.

One month down, five more to go. Or maybe, just maybe, this social experiment will turn into our new way of life.