As mentioned before, 2020 has been a year for the record books. We started 2020 with our hospital hanging up cute little ‘Year of the Nurse’ signs. Little did we know, we’d be rewarded with a good ole’ 1800’s pandemic complete with a lack of PPE. Thank god the liquor stores didn’t close because I’m only *slightly* ashamed to admit I made my own hand sanitizer with Everclear [not the band]and coconut oil.
Pandemic Panic Purchases and Pandemic Pounds
Toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, and Clorox wipes were among the first causalities of the pandemic. Supply chains were particularly overrun. Even towards the end of 2020, paper products still have their days of playing hide and seek. Then everything–except hospital, grocery stores, and home improvement stores– closed. I sit smugly on the prairie with my large stash of paper products, Clorox wipes, and multiple cans of soup.
People have gained weight from closed gyms, social distancing, too much time at home, and wearing stretchy pants 24/7. And while me and my healthcare siblings have continued reporting for duty as
sacrificial essential workers, I noticed a different kind of creep in my daily life. I haven’t put on noticeable weight, but I have noticed an appreciable difference in my debt column. I came back from Rwanda with exactly $0 in consumer debt, and as of today I have considerably more.
As a person who generally hates shopping, nothing has surprised me more than shopping has become my primary pandemic coping skill. Not the traditional kind of shopping where one drives to a store and wanders around looking for things to buy. But the oh-so-easy process of add-to-cart and buy-now on-line shopping enabled by the proliferation of curbside pickup. Over the last nine months, if you can name it, I’ve bought it. On-line. I’ve even bought a new car on-line. To be fair the old one was a 2006, had more than 150,000 miles on it and I’ve been looking for a while. So how am I going to reign in this out of control spending since unlike the government, I still have to pay my bills and can’t raise taxes to fund my addiction. Enter a No-Spend Challenge.
Step 1: Know Thyself
Between today and December 15, I will inventory the entire 1800 square foot of space I own. And the extra 250ish square feet of space called the storage building. I honestly believe I can go months without buying anything other than food for me, the kitties, and the car. Apparently, I’ve been planning for a pandemic before there was even talk of a pandemic.
The last time I cleaned out my closet a mere year and a half ago I think I had *17* pairs of khaki pants. 17 pairs! Only Khaki. Not including black, gray, jeans, or other types of pants. I currently have 3 drawers of nothing but socks!!! And during the last purge, I got rid of more than 30 pairs. And god help me, when it comes to pens. I probably have–I’m not kidding–close to 1000 pens. Of all types and colors. And toiletries–I’m embarrassed. I have a minimum of 6 months worth if not more of toothpaste, hair conditioner, deodorant, and soap. And finally– I have enough medical supplies to run the Prairie Medical Center (for felines and their companions). I do not need. to. add. to. cart. for any reason.
Step 2: Create Rules
I’m not a huge fan of rules, to be honest. In fact, one of the only rules I follow regularly is to question everything (including the rules). Still, when it came to the challenge, I wanted to set up guidelines and parameters. Plus, I’m a stickler for semantics. And I love to find loopholes to exploit. So these are the no spend challenge rules I decided to follow:
Food Is Fair Game
Hey–ya gotta eat, and I’ve just pulled up my 2020 garden. Food is a realistic expense with the caveat that shop the pantry first and never enter a store without a list. Realistically this means I’ gotta cook. A lot. Thankfully, cooking is my second surprise pandemic coping skill. I still hate the clean up process though.
Caveat 2: Sit down restaurants are allowed for *special occasions*. Special occasions do not include me being lazy and forgetting or deciding not to cook.
Everyday Consumables Are Allowed
Consumable products are a necessity, but thanks to my hoarding tendencies, I *should not* have to buy any.
Medical Items Are Allowed
If I need a prescription or an emergency surgery, I can get it. I have enough supplies and medicines to run a small field hospital. I should use these before getting cute new band-aids.
Obviously I will take care of the kitties, but they have their own savings account separate from my emergency fund. Hopefully, they won’t need it, but the safety net is there if they need it
Only Buy What You Need, When You Need It
Probably the hardest ‘rule’ on the list. I like to buy things when they are ‘on sale’. Especially if they are on clearance. This includes clothing, beauty products, and soon-to expire produce. I do not need 17 tubes of toothpaste. No one does. Use them up, then buy a couple–not 500. When an above-ment
Fix First, Replace Second
I’m decently handy so I *should* be able to fix or mend some things. I do not mess with electrical things. But do I really need a new Keuring if mine were to die–especially since I don’t even drink coffee.
No Books Except Textbooks
My favorite Christmas tradition that as of yet I’ve gotten exactly 0 people on board with is Jolabokaflod. Which literally means Christmas book flood. To take part you give and receive physical books from family and friends and spend Christmas Eve reading a book, and drinking a warm beverage. How has this not caught on in the US is beyond me but every year, I buy a bunch of books throughout the year, wrap them up, and re-discover them on Christmas Eve. [That is if I am not working]. I have enough physical books to get me through Jolabokaflod 2020 and possibly 2021.
As a grad student, textbooks are a given, and I already search Amazon for used ones or rentable ones. I’ve already been warned that Summer 2021 book list is heavy, but it will cover the entire year. I’ve already started that fund.
I have a Kindle e-reader that I haven’t used much. So I need to either start using it or trade it in or give it away.
Gifts For Other People
In some situations, it’s necessary to get gifts for other people. Post-pandemic, I want to re-focus on giving experiences instead of stuff. Pre-pandemic I’ve taken my mom to Paris and London and my nieces to Broadway shows off Broadway. My gift giving circle is small enough that post-pandemic, I should reconsider experiences as gifts. Bonus points, if I get to participate in the experience too.
Textbooks–I am exactly half way between my grad program having completed 4 semesters. However, textbooks are a required element of said program and I’m not willing pause the program just to avoid buying a textbook. Also, as I’ve discovered, digital textbooks aren’t’ significantly cheaper than their rental/purchased counterparts. And I much prefer a physical copy for studying. For books that are required reading, but aren’t textbooks, I’ll use my accrued Amazon credits to purchase or if possible, check it out from the library.
Home Improvement Projects–I currently have three projects in various stages of completion. For at least two of them, I still need to gather supplies to finish them. One project is inside and two are outside. These need to be finished ASAP. As soon as I submit my final assignment for the semester, I’m going to get then done. It will be great to finally finish a couple of things that I started pre-pandemic.
Laptop replacement— I currently own 2 laptops. One purchased in 2014 with an i7 processor and one purchased in 2017 with i3 processor. On any given day, it’s a guess as to which one will work. The 2017 laptop was bought on Prime Day 2017 and it served its sole purpose. It provided entertainment while I was in the Peace Corps. They are at the end of their useful lifespan and I’m playing Russian Roulette every day I delay purchasing a new one. However, I am saving up cash to buy the laptop outright. When the funds are there, I’m buying a new laptop.
Cell phone replacement [possible]–I currently own a iPhone 8 without a functional back camera. Additionally, I still have my iPhone 5, Kyocera hydro, HTC [with a cracked screen], and my Techno [African phone]. All of them, except the Techno, could theoretically be used if I switch the SIM out. I tried putting my current SIM in the Techno, and no luck–which sucks, because it’s the newest and most advanced phone I have.