Livin' on Less. Can I Do It?

I have a bit of a personal challenge ahead of me, friends. And it involves money. I hate figuring out budgets, and talking about money, and working with numbers in general, so this is going to be a real treat.

I think numbers and the concept of money are so foreign to me because I've always attempted to create a money budget, and it's never played out like I intended. But like I said, I have a money challenge ahead of me. Ready to hear it?

I have to make my summer teacher salary, which is roughly $7,000, last through the end of September.

Some of you might not think this is a big deal. But it is to me. You all know that I am substitute teaching next year, and I anticipate that I won't start subbing until the middle of September. I hope to sub about 3-4 days a week - enough to cover the share of bills that I am responsible for:

Cell phone - $130
Electric - around $40
Energy - around $60
Water/Trash - around $60
Student loan - $270 (the principal is $170, but I pay $100 extra each month)
Water softener 'rental' - $20

And then the other random expenses:
Lawn service (only while we are out of town) - $35 per mowing
Groceries - around $100 a month (this greatly varies depending on the season)
Gas - around $60 per month (depending on my driving habits, which have significantly decreased since I don't teach out of town anymore)

(John takes care of the mortgage, camper payment, and insurance policies, our largest financial responsibilities.)

That's roughly $775 a month that I must be able to come up with per month. 

I know I have about $7,000 left from my summer salary which, theoretically, should last about 8 months if I didn't spend a single dime on anything else, but we all know that ain't gonna happen. Sometimes we spend more on groceries, we like to spend money on entertainment and grab a beer now and then, and when I travel I clearly use more than $60 a month in gas. Plus, like I said earlier, I am not good with numbers, and I've never been able to create a budget that actually works.

My challenge to myself is to pay the bills I am responsible for, and live on as little as possible throughout September. I hope to use some of the strategies presented in The Spending Strike (which was written by my former college journalism adviser. Hey, Sarah!)

The main premise of Sarah's book is to refrain from purchasing anything for 30 days. Clearly, one must pay their bills and cover obligations, but any other spending should be avoided. Like dinners out, shopping trips (even garage sales and kick ass consignment finds!), or entertainment that requires an admission fee.

Lord have mercy, this is going to be hard.

I read Sarah's book on Sunday (while soaking up some sun in Arkansas, visiting John) and came away with a few nuggets of information that are important to transfer into my own "strike":

1. It should be very easy for me to go on a spending strike while John is working on the road. I only need to worry about feeding and caring for myself. Any projects I complete, however, should only be using materials, supplies, and tools I already own.

2. Sarah advises strikers create 4-6 rules to keep all the strikers honest and on the same page. I think I am going to hold off on setting hard-and-fast rules until John is home and we are with each other 24/7. It's too hard for us to keep each other on track while he's working in Arkansas and I'm in Iowa. When he returns in August, we'll get those rules set up and try a more legit spending strike.

3. It was clear Sarah and her family had to let go of some of their 'mainstream' ideas of how they 'should' spend their money, and time for that matter. I have a feeling that I will be explaining my new habits to my family and close friends who might notice a change in my extra-curricular activities.

At the end of September I hope I've accomplished a few things. First, I hope to have a few bucks remaining from my summer teacher salary by September 20th. Also, I hope that I can stick to the budget I've set for myself, including several weeks of a spending strike, where I do not fork out any money for unessential things or tasks. Lastly, I hope to strengthen my relationships with my family and friends by sharing my spending strike with them.

I am intending to "strike" for longer than 30 days, and I have a feeling that I might cross the picket line a time or two.

Keep me honest, friends.

Over and out.


  1. Hey Kelli! I am so excited you have decided to do the spending strike. I'll be sure to check in with you to see how it goes. Sounds like you have a solid plan!

    1. Sarah, this is tough! I've 'crossed the picket line' a few times already, but I am doing pretty well. We just built three more raised garden beds this weekend, so that was like fifty bucks, which is the most I've spent since starting. I am actually looking forwards to the end of August when John comes home so we can do a more hard-core spending strike.

  2. Hi. I really enjoyed reading your post. I made a promise to myself at the beginning of this year - to not spend ANY $$ other than for necessities. I did really well for a while...oops. Lately, I have fallen off a little but I determined to start again. After all, there are still five months left in 2013. I want to be like the other people who are able to save, something I have never really done, and I am 64 yrs. old. My reason for cutting back is that I want to retire in three years, debt free, other than my mortgage (which is on a 15 yr. mortgage). I definitely felt better NOT spending. I won't even allow myself to walk into a fabric store. I wish you the very very best with your plan. BTW, I am also a teacher but I didn't begin this career until I was 48 yrs. old so I won't get the benefits my peers will see when they retire. Bess in VA

    1. Hi Bess,
      My spending strike started out a little rocky, but now that I am in my 3rd full week, it's actually going a lot better. I am really impressed that you are tackling a 12-month strike! Good for you - please keep me posted on your progress.


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