When I volunteered to take on No-Spend November for HelloGiggles, it was a seemingly easy decision. I would only spend money on necessities (food, medication, personal hygiene products, transportation, rent) so I could save up for the holiday season. And when I announced my resolution to those around me? The answer, across the board, was: “I’m not surprised.” Because I’m a budget enthusiast who has financial anxiety, who rarely spends money outside the grocery store. You would think that No-Spend November would be second nature to me, right?
However, several realizations began to manifest themselves before me, morphing into obstacles that are severely messing with my psyche. Mainly, every time I pondered my no-spend existence, I was instantly transported to a time when every month was “No-Spend November” for my family. When we could not afford food. When every purchase evoked images of my father having to work three jobs just to keep a roof over our heads. When self-care was a far-off privilege.
According to Feeding America, in 2015 alone, 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households. This includes 13.1 million children.
Then, here I am, wondering whether or not pre-sliced cheese is a necessity in the middle of a bustling grocery store. Something is wrong with that picture, something that makes my body well up with self-hatred. Yes, I work incredibly hard for everything I have in my life, but that does not take away the fact that I am privileged to be where I am, to have the options that I do. One of those options is No-Spend November.
To put it simply: No-Spend November is a privilege. As someone who gave it a go for a solid week, let me tell you that I now feel incredibly uncomfortable and no longer want to participate. I no longer want to have a panic attack over every item I consider purchasing because I remember what it was like going without. I no longer want to frivolously justify my purchases when fellow human beings are living on the street, starving, wondering how they’re going to survive the winter. I no longer want to debate whether or not “self-care” in the form of material goods is a necessity because, let me tell you, such self-care does not exist for families who cannot afford what one would consider basic human rights.
As someone who knows what it’s like to wonder where her next meal will come from, I am not okay with documenting my purchases, with describing my “thriftiness” in the name of No-Spend November. Because such a trend is not realistic for millions of people.
With that being said, No-Spend November is not an inherently evil or insensitive course of action. Cutting back is never a bad thing — especially when it lends itself to self-awareness — but we should all acknowledge the fact that this one-month challenge is a lifelong struggle to survive for many people all across the globe.
Instead of living under the privilege of a title such as No-Spend November, I would rather adjust my financial focus. As it is, I rarely spend money on non-necessities and am incredibly grateful for all that I have, but I would like to do more. This month, I will be donating the money I save to charities that recognize the countless families who will not have a Thanksgiving feast before them, the families who would tilt their heads in response to No-Spend November because this is every month of the year for them.