Lessons Learned from the No Money Challenge

When I started this challenge, I had some preconceived notions. I thought I would push myself further creatively, adventure more, force myself to hang out with friends, and live a ridiculously beautiful life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely satisfied with the results of this challenge. However, during past week I wasn’t able to create margin. I’m in a season of trying to balance all the tasks I manage and working ahead as I go back to school in a few days.

Keep reading for the lessons I learned from the No Money Challenge!

Planning is everything.
After this week, I discovered my lack of planning when it comes to eating is my greatest financial weakness. I’m notorious for going through phases where I have no desire to cook. It’s a problem. It has caused a bad habit of eating out. In two days, I’ll be returning to school. With this added element, I know planning ahead will be essential. I’m thinking I need to find some salad recipes that sound exciting and some simple staples to have for dinner during the week (far better than a salad or pasta).

You limit your creativity. Sometimes your wallet is just a resource.
You already own the camera, have the book with trails to hike, a kayak in the garage, and the camping items. You might have a closet full of art supplies and cook books flagged with recipes to try. What is stopping you? What is limiting your creativity? It isn’t that you can’t make and produce great content. You might not have time for it in your life at the moment. Throughout this challenge, there were so many things I was teeming to do. I wanted to make wallhangings for my room. I wanted to paint and revamp some furniture. I found myself looking at other’s work on Instagram and was  inspired. Ironically, on the week I thought I wouldn’t have anything to photograph, capture, or write about, I’ve written and captured more than I have in the three weeks. I’m really proud of the content that’s come from this week. In some ways it’s freeing. You don’t go buy the extra lens or the latest trend. You create and innovate with your best resource, your creative voice and self within. Go revisit and find the things you love. Most likely it won’t cost you anything.

I know for many this challenge seems ridiculous or cheap. Is she broke?
Money is always a weird topic where I live. It’s kind of like politics. Most would just choose not to talk about it or make assumptions. I promise you I’m not broke and there’s money in the bank account. More than anything, with the No Money challenge, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I like challenges and am super competitive. I wanted to prove that I could live simply again and enjoy life. I didn’t want to count down the days and find myself limited by the challenge, but rather embrace the creativity and freedom that came within the parameters. Every time my pay has increased, my expenses have increased as well. Usually when we have more, we spend more. I thought it was time to curb these ideas, spending habits, and see if I could do it. I found I became super excited about food, free things, and ways to enjoy others. Life in many ways, while full and busy, became a lot more about choice. Was I going to choose contentment in what I had and how my days looked? Could I find just as much joy in the cold brew at home rather than the fancy espresso drink at the coffee shop?

Routine sometimes brings fullness and depth of meaning to life. Other times it needs to be broken.
I used to be the girl that ran 3 miles a day. I used to spend an hour in prayer and journaling every morning. I would finish that hour and a half with a protein packed mixed berry smoothie. Then going out the door, I would have a homemade latte macchiato in hand. These were the routines that would fill my days. They were things I knew my heart needed and when I took care of myself, I had a lot more to give to others. This summer has been so full, I’ve neglected basic needs. I’ve had to remind myself to eat and sleep. It has been interesting to see it unfold. With this week, came a new structure on my wallet, and implicit levels of structure reentered into my life. It has been a welcome change and probably my outcome of the challenge. Bottom line. Self-care is super important.

Community will always be a choice. Don’t let money limit it.
In college, I loved my experience. I remember the moments of queso parties on my dorm room floor, dance parties, and going to free concerts. There were also Friday night dinners for 20, that we somehow only spent $70 to food everyone. Yes, the food was phenomenal. There were always people to do something with, a house party to go to, and people to run with. Enjoying people and your days were simple and somehow money didn’t limit you. When did things become more complex? Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely dreams I have where money is an object. I want to go explore Alaska. I would love a (new-to-me) car. I can’t wait for the moment when I get to explore Europe again. (It’s been two years, which is far, far too long.) But for most things, invite a friend over for dinner, to look at the sunset over the mountains, to float and swim in the lake under the stars. Find the adventures and the people you want to go with. Reality is….you can completely have intentional relationships even if you don’t have loads in your wallet.

A $4 cup of coffee isn’t a necessity. It’s a luxury.
As I type this I’m aware that this sounds super direct. Know I’m talking to myself in this moment. There are a lot of things our parents do or did that gave us the childhood we know and love. For most of us, we aren’t married yet and don’t have a spouse. Because of this, we have loads of expendable income in comparison. (If you don’t believe me, add up how much you spend eating out, buying coffee, and entertainment. You might just be shocked. Last month, it was more than my rent.) There are certain things I will always enjoy. Good coffee is one of them. I love pour overs, gibraltars, lattes, and coffee tastings. You name it and I’ll probably be there. However, I think to my parents. They both made their coffees at home every morning. They made every meal at home as well. They took their lunch to work 5 days a week. They didn’t bail on the lunch plan when it didn’t sound appealing either. We went out for one meal a week as a family, often with a coupon in hand. That was it. There are a lot of things as millenials, we expect, dare I say we think we’re entitled to. Coffee, amazing clothes, $800 phones, etc. You name it, they’re things we think we must have. I learned that I’m not entitled to a brand new iPhone or a cup of espresso everyday. Honestly, my bad spending habits in the past have got me into a lot of trouble. This challenge has given me an different perspective on things. I’m mindful of how much I’m spending, regardless of what it is.

You can do more with less. It’s a choice.
During this whole challenge, I’m transitioning a house. It means finding new furniture, reorganizing, cleaning, and hitting the restart button. In some ways, this challenge has functioned as the same. You really can do more with less. I still have food in my fridge and next weekend is full. There is always something to do and people to do it with. Simplicity and contentment are mindsets far more than they are digits your bank account or the amount you spend.

The Results
With this challenge I saved $246.47. Instead I kayaked under the stars with friends, wrote, and started a few more passion projects. This challenge generated 4 blog posts and I was able to shoot 2 additional food posts during the week.

It’s one thing to say your a minimal millennial. It’s a whole other thing to do it.

Think the challenge is over? Just wait…it’s coming back in December.

Missed the series? Find all the previous posts here!

Introducing the No Money Challenge
Are You In? The No Money Challenge Continues
The No Money Challenge: My 7-Day Journey

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