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).

Get ready, we’re gonna unleash the joy

Good morning!

The forecast where we live is predicting the first snowfall tomorrow and I just want you all to know I’ve been preparing for this moment all year. I started re-watching The Gilmore Girls with my daughter and we’re almost to the first snow episode and can I just say that my wish is for all of us to be Lorelai.

Snow Day! ❄️☃❄️

You know what surprises me? I get that driving in snow is hard(er) than normal and shoveling snow is laborious and dressing for colder weather is allthethings, but what I don’t get is the adopted attitude that everything turns to shit in winter. I live in Michigan, winter is all but guaranteed, and while I used to have the rage feelings about this season, too, I’ve since realized that the only reason I felt that way was because I was taught to feel that way.

Truth is? I really love winter. Like, I AM A SUPER FAN OF WINTER. I love it so much. It’s beautiful and calm and the entire world whispers and it shines like glitter and it smells amazing and Thanksgiving happens and then Christmas comes and then we get to celebrate a handful of family birthdays (one being my favorite teenager of all time) and we get to go skiing and be among the trees while they hibernate and glisten and we bake all the things and drink hot chocolate and have you ever felt the pure joy of sledding down a hill with friends, or small kids, or grandparents?

YOU SHOULD TRY IT.

I get that popular opinion is usually the path of least resistance and that there are staunch supporters of “Winter is the Worst” – thats fine. Hats off, dear friends. But the rest of us? Really? Do we really hate winter? Or are we just taught to turn our noses up and complain about the roads?

We can do hard things, even changing our mind about our likes and dislikes – or maybe discovering them for the first time.

It's embarrassing how long it took us to get here this morning only to find the lodge closed, no rentals for the day, and the sledding hill roped off. It was pretty though. Aaaaand I'm done.

Let’s not forget that for some weird (out of body) reason I am Team Holidays this year. I feel like making jersey’s and going caroling and hand delivering baked goods to my neighbors in a horse drawn sleigh. We can all wonder what the H happened to me, while you’re busy doing that – I’ll be over here cheering for snow and flipping the freak out about the weight of all this joy. Effortless, I tell you. There’s just so much and it’s just so dangum easy to carry.

The other side of the camera is me freaking out with a stupid happy face and lots of giggling. I love snow. Love it love it love it.

Here’s a list of things to do this winter, and please add to it and take from it whatever serves you and leave the rest. Maybe the most freeing thing about all this is realizing we can change our minds or witness our hearts healing. Look up, you get to decide what’s next.

Obviously, GO SLEDDING
Make snowmen
Bake Holiday treats
Watch Holiday movies (Elf, The Christmas Calendar, Home Alone, Easrnest does Christmas, Polar Express, The Grinch … I need more, leave suggestions in the comments)
Make tree decorations
Snowball fight
Go to a local middle or high school play (go to all of them?)
See the Holiday symphony
Sing along to the radio
Play Christmas music REALLY LOUD, and often
Decorate early!
Or just dust off those boxes and decorate at all
Make an indoor tent with sheets, read stories, drink hot chocolate
Hang twinkly lights
Buy those chocolate advent calendars, go nuts
Speaking of nuts, roast some! Or sugar some!
Walk around the mall, take it all in. You don’t even need to shop, just watch, smell, listen.
Pick up a journal and choose to write something in it every day – a joke, a memory, something you’re thankful for, what you need to let go of in order to choose new/different/now. No rules, there is not right way to feel (especially in private).
Draw or paint or color
Do a puzzle
Wear slippers on purpose, giggle
Buy that coffee creamer you love, and get the full fat, real sugar stuff. (do it.)
Try a new latte
Meet a friend for lunch, order mimosa’s (or something fancy)
Host a game night
Greet your neighbors with a lot of excitement. They should maybe wonder what you’re so jolly about. Confuse the hell out of people – give away joy like candy canes at the north pole.
Go for a wintery walk in the woods or a trail you love
Shovel someone’s driveway
Play with puppies in the snow
Skip school for the perfect ski day – run away together
Sit in a hot-tub during a snowstorm
Take lots of baths, light the candles
Go cross-country skiing
Go snow-shoeing
Go bird watching after a powdery snow fall
Call your Grandma’s and Grandpa’s – ask them about their favorite holiday traditions from their past
Visit your library
Make goofy headbands (elf, reindeer, santa)
Star in a child’s directional debut of the Night Before Christmas – perform at gatherings, laugh a lot
Play group games (pictionary, catch phrase, etc)
Host sleepovers
When out of town family comes to town, SHOW THEM WHAT YOU LOVE, take them to your favorite spots, spring for the bill, get out the good plates, buy the brisket
Build an igloo
Go iceskating

Your turn, friends. Show up in the comments, let’s build this list so grand and fantastic that we look back and think of this as the winter we started believing.

It’s going to snow tomorrow.

I’m ready.

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.

When the leaves start to turn

Here’s how I want to talk about things from now on:

Like we mean it.

Like there’s something bubbling on the stove, resting in the oven, growing in the garden. Like we have purpose and patience. I want to hear you cry after you’ve burst yourself wide open in laughter, I want to see you savor what it feels like to hear the waves.

I want to be a people who gather when there’s a harvest and sit when there’s a wake. Fall does this to me, so does rain. When my little charges scatter and it’s down to me and the pantry and the bruised pages of my favorite cookbooks, and coffee. I want so much more for you and me, for us. To be together, but like, really together. I want to get drunk on knowing this will never end.

Weekend up north with Penelope

Homemade donuts

Night 1, Day 2 of Summer Road Trip West

Randomly stopping on the side of the road to photograph fields of kale 👌#jodiandpenroadtrip

Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.

Deep Lake Campground

Weekend up north with Penelope

Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

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!