How and why we’re doing a no-spend month.

I’ve casually mentioned the fact that we are doing a no-spend month on Instagram and gotten some questions about it. I planned to write a recap before the end of the year but thought I could tackle some of the FAQ’s here before the end of the month, while I’m still in the thick of it.

So, What exactly is a no-spend month?

To be overly simple, it’s a month with no extra spending. Keeping the lights on and food in our bellies isn’t part of the “No-November” for us. If we have a bill, we pay it. If we need groceries, we pick them up. If there was a pre-planned event, we attend. It’s not saying no to having fun or being social, it’s just taking a month to recalibrate and evaluate where the funds are going by stopping the flow of all the extra’s.

No coffee’s from Starbucks, no lunch dates or dinners out, no last minute “I’m bored” spending on the weekends. Just, not this month. Not right now. No.

I’ve read about something similar before, doing a spending-ban for a period of time and then Young House Love did a shopping ban for a month on home-related stuff and talked about it on their podcast this summer (or within the last year, I maybe just finally listened to them in the last few months). And that was definitely in the back of my head when coming up with the how’s and why’s for us, too.

Why November? Why now?

For us, it’s when we needed it. We had a couple home updates happen quicker than we anticipated them coming due, even though we were planning ahead for them and we knew the next few months there would be higher-than-normal spending in a few different areas. So, it was basically “can we do this” and “now seems like a good time to try.”

How are you getting your kids on-board with the idea? Are they participating?

The first couple weeks there was a lot of reminding them that this was No-November. As in, they would have ideas for things to do as a family (or even with a friend) and we would have to offer up alternatives because this month, we would remind them, we weren’t spending money on those kinds of things (We wouldn’t be paying for the trampoline park, bowling, going to movies, family dinner out or snacks from the gas station …). Which didn’t mean we couldn’t have any fun or go out or have a social life. It just meant we had to be a little more creative with how we did those things.

With our kids at ages 13 and 10, they get to decide whether or not their personal finances are something they’re limiting this month, as well. So, no, we aren’t making them do it. If they want to get fro-yo with a friend, they absolutely can … if they have the money to pay for it themselves.

This weekend we ventured out to a winter market downtown where we live – most of us just looked and enjoyed being out without buying anything or spending money, but our daughter wanted to purchase some small items, and she did. She was very pleased with her purchases and it was fun to watch her make those decisions with her money.

What are you doing, instead of what you normally would, to save money?

We are having so much fun! Instead of grabbing coffee at a coffee shop (save for Aaron, more on that soon) I’m inviting friends over or meeting up at a park with coffee from home and it’s been SO RICH. Instead of an annual shopping trip with my mom, this year, we did a game-day and baking-day at her house, with my daughter in tow. Instead of restaurant meals we hosted a game night with family & friends. Instead of buying holiday-themed items to decorate, I’m making what I can with what we have, like this wreath. I made it out of what we had laying around in the yard. All of it.

Wreath made from what we have laying around in the yard

Our daughter did a “Chopped Challenge” with a friend one weekend with items we had in our pantry or freezer that needed to be used instead of renting a movie. We are definitely going out on the weekends – we just go to look, if it’s a market or craft show, we go for hikes, we go for drives.

I mentioned earlier that Aaron is still getting his coffee at the coffee shop, here’s why: Monday-Friday this is a business expense but the weekends he still makes his daily stop at the coffee shop and I will never not let him do this. It’s one of the small joys that just doesn’t cost enough to say “we need to do without this” and the whole “No-November” isn’t really a challenge for him. He says no to himself and his wants almost exclusively.

How do you think you’ve done so far? Have you noticed a difference?

Honestly, it’s been fun and not that hard. Now – with that said, I think we probably will end the month spending more in groceries than normal because every. single. meal. is being made at home (maybe the hardest part for me). My kids eat hot lunch at school about 50% of the time between the two of them.

We’ve “messed up” a couple times, too. The very first day of November I went to lunch with a friend and the morning of our son’s 5K this month was a cold and blustery morning and we stopped for to-go coffees for my daughter and I to stay warm. The “whoopsies” totaled less than $30 all together.

I definitely think about what I’m buying, or about to buy, every time I’m standing in a check out lane. Grocery stores sell more than just groceries, which has been a weird loop-hole I keep finding myself in. Somehow I think I can justify extra’s if they end up on the grocery bill … but I think I’ve talked myself out of every one so far. Except for the special trips for the ingredients to queso. I don’t know what to tell you there. It’s probably filling the need I have for a trip through a drive-through or convenient food-grab.

What do you miss the most?

Clearly, I miss convenience. About once a week I would run through Jimmy Johns for an un-wich for lunch, and now I stare into my fridge hoping an arm will just extend with a ready-made option for me. I’m tired of making everything. And it’s been interesting to realize how often we would spend money before we’d think about other, possibly free, options.

However, I’m glad Aaron is usually up for my hair-brained ideas and there wasn’t any arm-twisting involved in setting this month up for success. If a month is too long for you to consider, try one weekend, one week or even something like Monday-Thursday of no spending at all.

If you try it, let me know how it goes for you! I’ll update this post at the end of the month with my final thoughts (and conclusion).

Highway 1 // California Coast

Our adventure’s continue in California, when we left off we had just explored Tilden Regional Park and before that we had our first Airbnb Experience in a Vintage VW van through Napa. California just keeps getting better.

We turned off “highways” on our gps system and took the backroads to another winery called The Russian River.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

We actually thought we would be able to get dinner at this winery from everything we had read, but we missed the part about needing a dinner ticket for their supper club. They were wonderful, offered to get us in that evening with their ticket holders but we decided on a shared plate, a glass of something white and to enjoy the quiet view of their farm for a while before continuing our backroads tour of the region … looking for highway 1.

I couldn’t tell you at which part we finally connected with highway 1, there were amazing little towns we went through and all kinds of winding roads and then our view just broke open. Just like that.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

I mean, it was stunning. I probably wrote poetry about it. We just meandering through this weird and beautiful outcropping of water and rock and the salty air, and the little beach towns, and the dive hotdog bars, and the succulents! You guys. The weather-worn shacks and cottages with million dollar views, the surf boards. It was just as I’d imagined it would be: breathtakingly beautiful, a little haunting, but in a good way. A day I’ll never forget.

Tilden Regional Park // Berkeley, CA

While we were in California last month we explored a lot of the local area where we stayed, which was right in Berkeley. The hills in Berkeley are just nuts, driving was an adventure.

One of the places I had researched ahead of time was Tilden Regional Park, from what I could tell there was great hiking, a fun steam train (for the kids, but honestly – it was so much fun), gardens and much more.

Our favorite way to travel is to just get lost. Know enough, but then just go, and this trip was without kids so we had a lot more freedom to spend time day-tripping and getting lost without people losing their marbles.

Tilden Regional Park

I remember places by their public spaces. The parks, the gardens, the greenhouses. Detroit? Belle Isle. Holland, Mi? Windmill Island and the greenhouse in the middle of the city. Oregon? The International Test Rose Garden.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

So Tilden was a must-do on my list, her Botanical Gardens a prize winning first place for me.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

We spent the most time “forest bathing” as we walked around the Botanical Gardens from habitat to habitat. Desert, to hillside, to giant sequoia grove, to forest, to bridges and lawn, to pond life and prairie.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

It was magical, what can I say? I loved it so hard. The parking was free and there was no admission to get in to the park. After we spent a couple hours at the garden we went to the Steam Train for a ride. Tickets were $3 each – the ride was a good ten minutes through the trees and little tunnels. It was like riding on the set of Thomas the Train with miniature buildings and working water towers for the train. You could buy 5 or 6 rides for cheaper, like a “pass”, which multiple parties did because once you ride the train you just don’t want it to ever stop. Many people got off and right back on again.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Every so often the conductor would ring the bell and blow the steam and we’d see this beautiful smoke stack rise through the trees.

Magic, I tell you.

Don’t miss it 🙂 On our way out we stopped at a couple of the lookouts off the road and grabbed some great views. The fog moved in almost every day we were there and it was as if a blanket was being gently laid over the city.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Later this same day we road-tripped to Highway 1, another winery in a small town called “Russian River” and meandered through some beautiful hillside as we made our way back to Berkeley which I’ll cover in the next post soon!

Our first ‘Airbnb Experience’ // Napa, Ca

We’ve had a busy summer traveling all over the PNW. I’ll write a few more posts about the other things we did and where we traveled but for this one, I wanted to tell you how awesome our Airbnb Experience was in California. And nope, this is not an ad.

We’ve been traveling and using Airbnb as our wayfinder for housing for just over 5 years now and we LOVE Airbnb. So much. So so much. Immersion travel is our bag. This past year Airbnb launched (or maybe it’s older than a year, I don’t know, I’m not the spokesperson, just super excited) “Experiences” and, I don’t know, maybe I’ve been trying to travel to places BECAUSE OF THE EXPERIENCES THEY OFFER.

I. Am. So. Jazzed. About. This.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

When it became clear that our kids would actually get into their respective sleep-away camps the same week it meant we could get away together. Alone. Our anniversary isn’t until the end of August but we used this week in July as our excuse to celebrate 15 years of marriage.

I had no idea where I wanted to go but I’ve never been to Napa so I looked at a map, picked Berkeley as our home base, and booked the Airbnb Experience of a Winery-hop in a vintage VW bus all over Napa.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

The tour took us to 3 different wineries with another couple who had signed up for the same day as us. I think there’s room for a total of 6, but the day we went there were only four reservations. We met and quickly made friends with this other couple, celebrating her birthday all the way from Minneapolis.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

We had a ton of fun, she’s my kind of girl.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Turns out wine tasting in California is much more expensive than in little ol’ Northern Michigan. When we go to Traverse City and Lelanau it’s $5 a pop for a tasting. In Napa? $40. Per person. So you know. Uh. Be aware that your adorable “anniversary trip excursion” will look like that really pretty necklace you were hoping for. But you have all the photos instead of a shiny rock. Some how it doesn’t feel the same.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

But it was so worth it.

Fifteen

The vibe

Those kids? They had zero chill about getting married. We celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer and I’ve been thinking about this milestone for a while. There’s some fun stats I could outline, we could walk down memory lane … or I could just write about what it’s meant to be married to Aaron for 15 years straight.

Consecutively.

All together.

So far.

Little did I know as the Bambi child I was that getting married meant staying married. I mean, of course it means this … but in reality … in the doing … I had no idea. You can’t know what you don’t know. And I, simply, just didn’t know. My version of commitment was short. I was a teenager when I met the guy, the only reference to “10 years ago” I could give to anyone was to the first grade.

But I have to be honest with you, being married and staying married and working at marriage and getting to be Aaron’s wife and partner in life – has been one of the most rewarding things in my life so far. And now when I reference 10 years ago, it’s to our beginning. The hard part. It’s looking back and knowing we came through it, together. It’s knowing he’s always been there for me, he’s never wavered. He has waited for me and chosen me and he is my first safe place.

It will not surprise you, dear reader, to hear that I am a romantic. Somewhat of a poet about love or life. I can have rose colored glasses for almost anything, including pain. I’m here for the experience of life and man, has she thrown some at me. But everywhere I turn in my quest to know something or discover myself or become who I’ve always been becoming, there is Aaron. He’s kept pace with me, has often pushed me to be better and find my voice. He’s gifted me with his care, his love, his support.

When I look back, it’s his arm I see around me first before I can even glance at the past. When I look ahead, it’s his stride leading us toward our future hand in hand. And when I stop and just look around? He’s next to me.

How beautiful it is to have him next to me.

Mr and Mrs Schaap

I’m kind of a fan of those letters you write to your younger self, the lessons from the future you wish you could have given your perfect skin and flat stomach to ENJOY IT NOW. Not because it’s fleeting but because now I just know. I know how fast life changes, how little it takes to topple our expectations and plans. How often we claim control over things that simply aren’t ours to mess around with and how worth it this has been to keep trying at.

One of the things I absolutely love about Jen Hatmaker is how unapologetic she is about being obsessed with her big extended family. The love letter she wrote to her parents in her most recent book, Of Mess and Moxie? And a recent tidbit she posted on social media about how their summer days start with coffee on the porch with her siblings … this is not my experience. Certainly not my reality – but damn it if I don’t fist pump every time she regales the happiness this brings her … and to me as a fan, a reader, a hopeful lover of life. That this exists in the world. It might not exist for me personally, and thats ok. I don’t need all the wins … but this one small thing, this relationship that is evergreen … Aaron. This is my win. It’s less than perfect but we’re a beautiful and imperfect mess.

And I’m so thankful for our adventure in life together.

Happy Anniversary, babe.

15 years of learning to trust in love and you haven’t given up on us, yet. I like that about you.

Chicago Feb 2016