When I share our savings total with my daughter, she says we should make limited spending a permanent habit. She's also willing to give up the premium tier of our satellite TV service.
Our no-spend month was inspired by Judith Levine's book, Not Buying It: A Year Without Shopping, which chronicled her experiences cutting discretionary spending to the bare bone in 2004.
I decided to see how she and her partner Paul Cillo were doing two years later. Would a full year without making discretionary purchases have any lasting effect? "We really have stopped impulse shopping: stopping for a coffee, buying earrings in the street, or a sweater on sale, " Levine says. The couple has lost not only the need for discretionary shopping, she says, but also the desire.
"I continue to feel my future is more in control, " says Levine, who saved an extra $8,000 and paid off her credit card balances during her year of no spending. Since then she has managed to pay off all her credit cards every month.
We'd all do well to remember Levine's parting shot, "As far as I see, there's a heck of a lot of money being wasted."
* The best way to save money is just not to spend it. No more impulse buying because something is a great buy. It would be even cheaper if it stayed on the store shelf.
* Expenses happen. There are always those unforeseen things like a car battery dying or a trip to the doctor. They add up, and they'll cost you -- so if you really want to save, purchases must be strictly rationed to only those things you consider essential.
* You can make almost anything taste better if you have olive oil, balsamic vinegar, limes and maybe cilantro (just 89 cents a bunch). And yes, there are thousands of ways to combine eggs, cheese, rice and vegetables to make economy meals.
* Once you really get into trying to save money, the challenge becomes appealing, something akin to the thrill of the hunt.
* Saving money requires more work. A lot of spending occurs because working stiffs are tired. You arrive home beat and you don't want to make dinner, so you call Chinese takeout or pop a Lean Cuisine into the microwave.
Or you hire a yard man when you can cut the grass yourself. If you're really sincere about saving money, you can do it. You'll look in the refrigerator and invent a meal with what you have, or mow your own lawn.
And really, pancakes are not bad for the occasional dinner.
* Each household needs a designated grocery shopper -- someone with a knack for sniffing out deals and two-for-one specials. Impulse buying by other members of the household can wreak havoc with your budget.
* Swiffer Guilt is real.
* The less you buy, the simpler your life is -- and sometimes that makes you happier.