Financial Challenge: No Money May

My name is Erica and I’m addicted to sushi, Arctic Zero and popchips

Hi, Erica.

It sounds innocent enough, but make 2-3 trips to the store each week to pick up said items and that’s an extra $80-$120 a month! Add that to meeting friends out for dinner once a week, or catching up downtown over a glass or two of wine, and your looking at more like $200-300 a month.

2014-01-24 12.55.22

Oh goodbye $10! Get in my belly.

With two trips this month (New Orleans and Nashville) and some major trips coming up late this year it’s time I reign in unnecessary spending. This may be the first time in years I’m not able to pay my credit card off at the end of the month. No bueno! I purchase all things on the card to get points, but pay it off so I never have to pay interest. I’ll be able to pay it off by next month but that is a verrrry slippery slope that I don’t want to fall down.

Of course, all this travel coincides with the Summer term which means I’ll be teaching a bit less than usual. I normally teach 4-5 classes a term, and this Summer I’m only teaching 3. I do receive income from writing and this blog but it’s so unpredictable that I try not to factor it into my monthly income. According to my budget below my teaching course load will cover everything but leave zero left over for travel, savings, and race/tri fees. I’m looking into getting a part-time job over the Summer and if I do all of that money will go toward a tri bike and travel.

So, my goal isn’t to spend any money (that would be virtually impossible) but to become much more vigilant about all these little ‘quick trips’ and going out with friends. No Money May just sounds better than ‘financially restrictive May’.

Goal: Limit grocery & discretionary spending to $50 a week

Monthly Budget: 1600

  • Rent  700
  • Student Loan  400
  • Food/Fun  200
  • Power  120
  • Insurance/Cell  100
  • Cable/Netflix    40
  • Salem     40

If I want to pick up Sushi on the weekend, it’s coming out of that $50. If I want to take a yoga class with a friend, it’s coming out of that $50. As such my goal will be to spend $30 a week on groceries to leave some leftover for fun stuff. It will be a challenge but I have so much food in my pantry/freezer that’s been there for months that I need to use up and this is the perfect opportunity. I see lots of frozen veggies and dry beans/lentils in my future!

I do have one race I want to do this month, the Gate to Gate Memorial Run, and I’ll be paying for that with my Paypal account (whenever I get paid via paypal for freelance work I just let the money sit there to pay taxes at the end of the year with.) Dad and I will run the race together and I ran it last year and it’s a really incredible run. I may also use money from that account to take 3 months of swim lessons for $80.

Gate to gate

Aside from that I don’t see any reason I can’t stick to my goal of $50 a week. Since I’m all out of groceries from not restocking after Nashville I’m going to start week 1 today, and I’ll try to keep everyone posted on how it’s going on the blog each week. I ran to the store and tried to be vigilant about getting whatever brand was on sale, looking for BOGO’s, and keeping produce to a minimum. I still spent $40! Ugh.

2014-04-29 16.08.11In a perfect world I’d have an orange with greek yogurt & oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and a sliced apple with cinnamon at night. One of each a day is $14 a week – crazy! I’ve also been getting the 5 oz individual greek yogurt’s and went with the larger tub since it’s cheaper (but no fun flavor variety.) My plan for this week is to have this delicious Indian Korma for lunch, and a Boca burger with steamed veggies & 1/2 a sweet potato for dinner. I also ‘splurged’ and spent $5 on popcorn as I always get the munchies after dinner and my air popper just died.

What is one area of spending you could cut back on?

If you could save more $ what would you spend it on?


  1. says

    Groceries really eat up our budget! I eat a ton of fruit and then need everything gluten and dairy free which adds up quick. I find making a meal plan fir the following week before I go shopping including all meals and snacks and making a list based on that helps. It’s still tough. Good luck!

    • Erica House says

      I also eat about 90% GF and dairy free. I find that really helps with my dietary issues and I just feel better not doing gluten.

  2. says

    I actually posted on this topic today on FB. My sticky areas–late fines. Don’t get me started. I’m the WORST, worst–4 kids who all want their own library books, CDs, & movies, managing due dates & library items has gotten out of control. I’m thinking we’re going to have to limit our checkout items to like 10 (which is lame, but I don’t know what else to do). That & redbox late fines…ouch!!

    And way to go for setting a realistic/doable goal. I’m sure you can do it!

    • Erica House says

      If it makes you feel any better I’m pretty bad with late fees and it’s just me!

      I am so looking forward to my life getting back to normal again soon and catching up on your blog!

  3. says

    Its time for me to cut back too, I have a Chicago race coming up this month so no need to extra spend! I am also glad to see I am not the only adult thinking of swim lessions ( ;

    • Erica House says

      What race are you doing in Chicago? If I had the money I’d be there this summer for the Rock N Roll marathon!

      • says

        I am going to do the Spring 1/2 & the Chicago 1/2 because its part of a series, gotta love the extra bling! Plus we love Chicago so any excuse to head that way…..

  4. Annie says

    Great topic, we are cutting back too. Our biggest challenge is limiting our use of AC, but we already broke down yesterday because it was 96 degrees out and we work at home. It was more for the animals though. Another big cutback is eating out, which is hard because cooking at home within sweltering weather (even w/the ac) isn’t the most fun thing in the world. Oh well, I just need to remind myself that money is good! And keep eating cold things like cereal at night, ha.

    • Erica House says

      AC is one thing I will absolutely ‘splurge’ on. I also work from home and I just can’t stand it being hot in the house. I’m with you on the not using the stove. Once it hits 80 out that thing won’t come on again util Fall!

  5. says

    Youc an do this girlie! We’ve limited our lunches at work and dinners during the week for at-home made lunches and shakeology and in turn have lost fat – can’t lose with that LOL

  6. Sarah says

    I’d really like to cut back on my spending too. I’ve been spending way too much money on things I don’t really need. And we could probably eat out of our freezer and pantry for a month, lol. Thanks for this post, it’s some extra motivation to buckle down and start sticking to a budget.

    • Erica House says

      I’ve been able to reign in spending on ‘stuff’ over the years. It’s rare I buy anything for the house or new clothes, but books/food are my weak spots!

    • Erica House says

      Awesome! I think it’s much easier to save when there is a specific goal. We can do this!

  7. says

    I’m in the same boat as you, girl! I sometimes tend to spend more than desired on groceries because I want to try a new recipe or I want to ensure I have healthy things to make for meals/snack on. My husband is gone until the end of May and I want to try and spend only $20 a week on food for myself to save a bit. I froze a few portions of healthy meals I made over the past couple of months, and I’ve come up with cheap and simple meals I can make for myself in addition (fritatta (made an awesome one today!), eggs scrambles & toast with avocado, egg salad on toast, tuna salad on toast, sweet potato hash with plain greek yogurt, etc.). Obviously a bunch of eggs, haha. Looking forward to see how you do- let’s keep each other in check!

    • Erica House says

      Good luck on $20 a week! I don’t think I could do that. Well, I could if I absolutely *had* to, but I like food to much to give up some things. All of the meals you are having sound wonderful though!

  8. says

    Loving the thought of No Money May. Might have to join in since I have some financial changes coming soon – so in need of the job I applied for!

  9. Danielle says

    I’m embarrassed to even say how much my fiance and I spend each month on food. We don’t even have a Whole Foods around here to take all of our money. Our income has changed recently, so I need to re-evaluate. This is a great reminder! I’ve seen a few other bloggers post similar things and it’s good inspiration. I might do a post too just to hold myself accountable :-) Thanks for sharing!

    • Erica House says

      I think $50 a week is definitely reasonable for me (I’ve seen some people able to stick to $20-30 a week!) I just love fresh produce so much it’s hard to give that up.

      • Danielle says

        Ugh, I have no idea what those people are doing or how they stay sane on that much. I have such a weakness for health food stores. I agree that $50 a week is a good goal. I’m hoping to start at $125 a week for my fiance and I, then work down to $100. The 2 $9 Suja juices I bought this week aren’t helping :-/

        • Erica House says

          I was totally eyeballing the Suja juices myself last week and had it not been for this self-imposed $50 limit I would have purchased one!

  10. says

    Can graduate school be an option? They just upped tuition to $775/credit. REALLY. There are times where I wish I could figure out if we can truly cut anything. I appreciate that I have reduced my smoking, which is a money sucker, but otherwise, we don’t eat out, make coffee/lunches/snacks at home, cook at home most nights, etc. My salary goes toward grad school tuition, car insurance, bus fare, and gas. There are times where I wish I could have someone else look over our budget to see if there are things to squeeze, but at this point, there’s just no wiggle room. I just had to take money out of savings in order to buy us groceries because my partner didn’t realize how tight we would be for the mortgage. I wish I could save money again. I used to have multiple savings accounts: holidays, car (still keeping this one), vacation, even a wedding one (for all of my friends). The only one that consistently getting paid is the car because we need upkeep.

    I am amazed that I have such awesome friends; they’ve delivered groceries to my house, a heater when the heat broke at my job, and a slew of Goodwill clothes because I’m losing weight too quickly and (now can’t afford) need clothing. I am REALLY glad that our farmer’s market is starting again on Sunday because haggling for peppers is something I can always get down on, and can be cheaper to eat in season and from local farms.

    In short, I have nothing that I could save on except for smoking. If I could save money, I would put it into savings first to give us more fluff, then might put up some decorations in my new house that I can’t do anything with because my tax refund was essentially eaten since I work for a slum company. Just sayin’. :( /end rant

    • Erica House says

      Girl – you have no idea how much I empathize. When I was in grad school I had 3 TAs/GAs that I lived off of (parents paid rent/utilities) and, I hate to say this now, but I often chose cigarettes over food. I’d have a sugar free redbull for breakfast and maybe a protein/granola bar for lunch and gorge on a 1,000 calorie dinner I was so hungry by the time I got home. I would read all those articles on ‘how to save money’ and they offered tips like ‘make coffee at home instead of going to starbucks every day’ or, ‘bring your lunch to work a few times a week to save money on eating out.” Please. Like I had the money to do any of that to begin with!

      I was so miserable when I was at that point. Even before that I lived with my bf for a year and he was in construction so his income fluctuated greatly and I wasn’t working (I was taking 7 classes at the time.) We had no money, ever, for anything. We looked into food stamps but didn’t qualify because I was a student. It was beyond frustrating. I finally realized one day it was just impossible to try and save anymore, and my only option was to try to make more. I think that’s when I first opened my etsy shop.

      So, I feel you. It sounds like you are doing everything you can. I know the one thing I missed most not having money was being able to just do fun stuff. In grad school you certainly don’t have a lot of free time but it helped me to go through the local news and put on my calendar all the free events taking place in the coming weeks. Even though I hardly ever went it was nice to think I had options in case I wanted to get out.

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