Lately, the main topic I've been writing about is resisting our culture's messages to spend money on things we don't need. I have to admit; however, after reviewing my spending for March going into April, I've been missing the mark myself. Realizing I may be reaching a slump in my debt payoff journey, I need to do something to shake things up and get myself out of a rut. 

While thinking about how to accomplish this goal, I came across the content maker @financiallybrave on TikTok. On her page, she documents how she challenges herself to spend $50 or less on non-essentials each month.

Her challenge is simple: spending whatever you need on essentials is ok, but non-essentials must be limited to $50 or less. 

What are essentials:

Essentials include rent, groceries, bills, transportation, pet care, emergencies, medical costs, and reasonable fitness expenses. Anything required to live a healthy life is classified as essential. 

What are non-essentials:

Non-essentials include clothing, makeup, skincare, or other personal items not being purchased to replace a damaged, worn-out, or empty product. Eating out under any circumstance is considered non-essential. Purchasing gadgets, toys, or decor is also non-essential for this challenge. 

I like the idea of this challenge because it's reasonable and obtainable. Individuals who offer financial-focused content frequently make recommendations that are so restrictive they seem nearly impossible to achieve. 

So many financial content makers blithely recommend that individuals cut their spending on non-essentials to $0 and often recommend cutting out many essentials important for quality of life. For example, I think it's very short-sighted to tell a person they should cut out a reasonable fitness expense, such as a $10.75 Planet Fitness or $14.99 Peloton online subscription, when those expenses are minimal and are very important in maintaining the individual's long-term health. 

Not only do they make what I think are unreasonable and unsustainable lifestyle recommendations, they expect the individuals to persevere with perfect motivation for often years! Imagine expecting someone not to buy one coffee or go to a gym for freaking years and then shaming them when they fail to reach perfection. It's ridiculous. 

It's so ridiculous that it promotes dishonesty in personal finance. For example, of those who have done Debt-Free Screams on the Dave Ramsey show, I'd love to know precisely how many can honestly say they never saw the inside of a restaurant unless they were working there. And no, having mom, dad, or a friend pay your bill is not aligned with the spirit of what Dave Ramsey recommends. 

In short, I like this challenge because it's reasonable and transparent. It recognizes that things like shampoo, conditioner, and damaged clothing need replacement and that it's not the end of the world or excessive to replace these things. This challenge makes room for humanity; it's normal, for example, to want to get coffee or lunch with a friend every once in a while. It's only when we get into the mindset of "treating" ourselves that expenses become problematic. 

Essentially, it promotes frugality paired with a reasonable attitude toward consumption, which is a healthy attitude toward life. 

I will be attempting this challenge myself. It's already the start of the month, but I won't let that stop me. From April 11 through the end of April, I will challenge myself to spend only $50 on non-essentials and document my spending on this blog.

Check back next Friday for my post detailing my progress through this challenge.