Every Month is No-Spend November When You Live in Poverty

I’ve been participating in this challenge all year long

*Missy*

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A brown-haired woman with glasses smiles at her phone. She is holding several shopping bags.
Image Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

My friends keep talking about No-Spend November. Some of them are excited — they love a good challenge. Others are worried they won’t make it through the month without splurging on a nonessential purchase.

My friends are good people. I love them, but we have different ideas when it comes to living on a budget. If I say I’m broke, I mean that I have zero dollars — or, if we’re being honest, a negative balance — in my bank accounts. When my friends say they’re broke, they mean that they probably shouldn’t DoorDash half their meals each week, but they can still pay their mortgage and utilities on time if they do.

There’s a disconnect when it comes to our finances, and that’s fine. Other people can manage their money however they want, even if that means complaining funds are tight while still grabbing Chipotle several times a week. Like others living in poverty, I just can’t relate. My financial situation is different.

When my friends mention No-Spend November, I say nothing. I want to tell them that every month is a no-spend month when you’re poor, but I don’t. Why make others uncomfortable when they’re just trying to improve their lives? Most folks don’t realize this fun challenge may offend the folks who live in poverty. Giving up nonessential items can be exciting when you actually have a choice.

If you’re not familiar with No-Spend November, it’s a 30-day challenge where you can only spend money on essential items, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation costs, health care premiums, and groceries. You can’t hit up bars, buy Starbucks, or mindlessly add items to your cart on Etsy. You can only buy things you need so that you can easily figure out where you overspend each month or save up for an important purchase. This isn’t a bad idea, but it’s a concept that doesn’t resonate with some of us. Embracing frugality is great, but let’s not forget that participating in challenges like No-Spend November is a privilege.

I launched my favorite frenemy Google to see if anyone else could relate, and it turns out they could. One writer, Anna Gragert, described the no-spend challenge perfectly when she

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*Missy*

Working through my trauma one story at a time. Thanks for joining me on my journey.