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No-spend February, Week 3: Taming the reflex.

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It has been a quiet week in Lake Spend-be-gone*. In honor of no-spend February, this has been a week without  questionable stock-ups of Tater Tots, trips to the movies or other unnecessary expenditures.

One big-ticket item, though: a plane ticket to Phoenix* for next month, which set me back close to $600, including trip insurance. Of course, I expected to pay a lot: Right now is the high season for people wanting to get out of Anchorage.

But this trip is an essential expense: My daughter is having cataract surgery, so I’ll be driving Miss Abby. Also painting her bathroom, doing a few household chores, making some casseroles and scooping the litter box. And, yeah, taking daily walks on gloriously ice-free sidewalks.

I watched “The Walking Dead” at my niece’s home for free, rather than go to a local bar and have to spring for a soft drink and a tip. The writers group to which I belong had its monthly meeting, and I brought a spice cake made from ingredients we already had. (More on that later.)

While I’d planned to get some vanilla ice cream on the way to the meeting, to go with the cake, I forgot all about it. Turns out it wasn’t necessary (very moist cake!), and besides, the forgetting jibed with something from last week’s comments section.

A reader named mdoe37 said she’d picked up a planner to help organize her household. Soon afterward she had what she calls a “hello!” moment: Don’t I already have a couple of binders at home, and couldn’t I go online for some organizational sheets to print out?

Somehow her first impulse on seeing a planner was to buy it: Look, a thing that will help organize all those other things! Upon reflection, though, she decided to return it and save a little over $5.

“It’s all about taming the reflex,” she notes.

If people take away nothing else from the no-spend month, I hope they get this part.


Vowing not to spend – even just for a month – is a great way to help us tame the see-it-buy-it reflex. To help us say “maybe later” to a purchase that ultimately won’t make much difference in our lives. To deal with challenges in creative ways rather than just throwing money at them.


‘Making smart money choices’


Sometimes those solutions are not just creative, but fun.

To treat her three school-age grandkids for Valentine’s Day, a reader named Ann bought heart stickers from the dollar store and made cards. With the cards came a dollar’s worth of Sweet Tarts Sweet ’n’ Chewy Ropes candy: two for 50 cents each and one for free because Ann took advantage of the Kroger “Free Friday Download” coupon.

On Feb. 15, Ann bought discounted candy for two older grandkids, whom she would be seeing later on. In the meantime, she and the younger kids were to make marshmallow treats except that Ann couldn’t find her heart-shaped cookie cutter. When she asked to borrow a neighbor’s, that friend responded not only with the cookie cutter but also leftover cereal and some frosting and sprinkles. Score!

Finally, she took the kids to the movies at a theater with $3.50 tickets and “reasonable” concessions. Again, those who participate get to decide what “essential” spending is. Did they have to get cards and make treats and see a movie? Technically, no. Did she want to do these things? Then it’s essential.

“I so enjoy reading how others are making smart money choices,” Ann writes. “I like to learn and celebrate with others when they are successful.”


Letting ourselves slow down


That’s been my favorite part of the no-spend month, too: seeing people’s make-do gene rev up, or in some cases reactivate. A few examples from this week:

Cheryl’s business lunch was too big to eat. Did she leave the remainder? Of course not. Getting a doggy bag meant that night’s dinner was already prepared. (This is the same Cheryl who paid off her mortgage.)

Bad weather helped Cakester in her no-spend resolve not to go out for Chinese food, even if leftovers would have fed her for a few days. Instead, she stayed home and read free Kindle books.

Revanche had a houseguest, who luckily was “very flexible.” The household turned three potential meals out into one small takeout order plus leftovers and pantry items. (Revanche blogs at A Gai Shan Life. You should read her.)

Jenzer, a small business owner, spent part of her staycation doing fun things with the kids. But she also planned to give herself the luxury of reading and a little television: “I don’t often let myself slow down…so sacking out on the couch with the remote will be a real treat.” Also cheaper than a mani-pedi or a shopping trip.

I’m looking forward to updates on how everyone’s past week went.


About that spice cake


I didn’t tell anyone there that the recipe was actually called Sour Milk Spice Cake. In part that was because I didn’t want any of the other writers to be grossed out (sour milk? eeewww!), but it was also because I didn’t actually use sour milk. A few days earlier I’d had a batch of yogurt not set up, and I’d been looking for ways to use the too-runny-to-eat result.

Smoothies, waffles and then cake. And dang, was that cake good, with a tender crumb and a moist texture that belied the fact that there are no eggs in the recipe.

I did tinker the spice ratio, doubling the cinnamon and adding some ginger. Definitely a winner, and one that will stay in my baking repertoire. If you decide to make it, I suggest leaving out “sour milk” from the description. People are easily appalled.

*“A Prairie Home Companion” fans will see what I did there.

**If anybody in the Phoenix area is interested in a meet-up between March 14 and March 20, contact me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com and let me know what days and times might work. Usually we do this at the Wendy’s restaurant at 2640 W. Thunderbird Rd., which will give you some idea of the neighborhood where I will be.

The post No-spend February, Week 3: Taming the reflex. appeared first on Surviving and Thriving.

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