No Spend February 2021 Recap

by | Mar 2, 2021 | a slice of life, Balance | 48 comments

Well, we made it through no-spend February!  I received a few confession comments/emails from people who felt like they blew it, but the point isn’t to be perfect.  The point is to become more aware of what you spend (and why) beyond tracking it in a budget.  I’m happy to report that I stuck with it pretty well and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

So, first of all, did I buy anything in February beyond bills and necessary expenses?  Yes.  I ended up buying a few small things.

knitting supplies | miss mustard seed

  1. I bought a 2-ball yarn bundle, so I could finish my pair of socks.  I ran out of yarn halfway through and Jeff agreed it was a purchase to finish an existing project, so I could purchase it.  I only bought what I needed to finish.
  2. I bought another set of 2.75 double-pointed needles because I bent a couple of needles while making the socks.  The stitch pattern through the heel ended up being so tight!  Working on bent needles was a bit of a pain, so I bought a new, nicer pair.
  3.  I bought a small plastic case for my 9v batteries.  After the battery drawer organizing post and sharing the drawer on Instagram, I received all sorts of warnings about batterings catching fire when stored improperly!  Many people specifically pointed out that 9v batteries were the biggest culprit.  I was able to get all of the other batteries organized in a way that addressed the issue, but I found myself worrying about the 9v batteries when I was trying to sleep!  I would actually have to get out of bed to go check on the batteries.  So, I ordered an $11.00 plastic case made for 9v batteries for peace of mind!
  4. I ordered the cookbook I made out of my great-grandma’s recipes and had printed through Blurb.  There was a 40% off sale and I made it with the intention of buying it, so I went ahead and bought it.
  5. I needed a few tubes of oil paint and watercolor for a class I’m teaching and, since I’m on a deadline, I didn’t want to wait until March to order them.

Rosa's Recipes Blurb book | miss mustard seed

(I just received the books yesterday and they are beautiful!  I will share about them and the design process tomorrow.)

And that was it!  Even though I did spend some during the no-spend month, I feel like I kept to the spirit of the challenge.

More importantly, here is what I learned during the no-spend…

I browse/shop online as a form of procrastination. 

When I felt stuck on a project or I wasn’t quite sure what to work on next, I would feel the urge to search for some goodies on Etsy or eBay or to search for some new art books or more yarn.  I would go hunting for things to buy just to avoid doing something else.

I browse/shop online as a way to feel productive.

Buying things, specifically materials for projects, books to read, things to post about, etc. feels like I’m doing something productive even though it might be counterproductive if I’m buying something I don’t need.

antique pastel set | miss mustard seed

I buy things because I feel like I need new things to share/photograph/write about.

This is a cycle many, many bloggers/influencers fall into.  The truth is that new stuff makes for easy content.  Just take a picture of the new thing and write about it.  That’s okay if I’m buying/sharing things I need/love/use.  But there is great content to create sharing what I already have.

antique ink well | miss mustard seed

I buy things because I enjoy getting packages.

Oh, happy mail…  Amazon was made for people like me who love having something arrive on their doorstep.  I even like it better than going to a store, because it feels like a surprise.  Oh!  This came today!  I found myself peeking out the sidelights to see if there were any packages even though I hadn’t bought anything.  Instead of getting a lift from the new things, it made me turn to the things I already have and enjoy them more.

I buy things because I’m asked to. 

All of the e-mails about sales and online ads may have been the most tempting thing during the no-spend month.  I just took a screenshot and saved them in case I decided I needed/wanted them later.  We’ve hit March 1 and I can’t remember what most of the products were!  I think this will be a good practice for me to do in general.  Just wait a few days and see if it’s something I really want/need or if I’m just playing into the hands of good advertising.  I also removed myself from a lot of mailing lists.

organizing yarn | miss mustard seed

Buying too many things is counterproductive to organizing. 

This is a no-brainer, but I really think it helped to work on organizing while I was having a no-spend month.  I was physically interacting with stuff and realizing that we couldn’t possibly need much more!  Of course, there is always a natural coming-and-going that happens with stuff in a home.  Clothes that no longer fit, things you no longer use, things that break and need to be replaced, etc.  But there doesn’t need to be a steady stream of new things coming into a house.  I should do my best to always focus on intentional, quality purchases.  That might be the hardest part, because it’s so easy to buy something on impulse.

During the month, I kept a running list of things I needed or wanted to buy when the month was over.  Most things stayed on the list, but a few things were crossed off.  Yesterday, I ended up buying the things that stayed on my list…

  • Archival photo storage boxes (I bought Lineco Archival boxes in a few different sizes) and two photo albums, both for organizing and storing family photos.
  • Binder rings and blank white cards for organizing and storing knitting swatches.  I can actually see a lot of applications for the binder rings, so I’m pretty excited about those.

knitting swatches | miss mustard seed

  • A few small plastic drawer organizers to use while I’m going through my studio drawers.  I have the receipt in case I don’t use them all.
  • I bought two sets of drinking glasses (I bought these Working Glasses in large and small) to replace the ones we have.  Some of the glasses have chips in the rim or they are broken and I’d rather have a neat matching set.  Since I can’t find more of the specific glasses we have, I decided to start fresh with a new set.  I do that every 8-10 years or so.

Large Working Glasses 21 oz., Set of 12 (Open Larger View)

And that’s it!  Even though the no-spend month is over, I am planning to continue on with the spirit of the no-spend month.  I’ll give more thought to my purchases, set stricter limits on myself, and keep a potential to-buy list to see if I still need/want those items in a few weeks.  I think in the long run, this no-spend month will save me money well beyond February 2021!  That’s the hope anyway.

We are visiting the east coast at the end of March, so I will definitely be spending some money at some of my old favorite antique stores!  I will temper my enthusiasm, though.

One of my readers asked what the theme would be for March now that no-spend/organizing February was over.  I hadn’t really thought about having a monthly theme, but I have enjoyed having a focus and reading your comments about your own parallel journeys.  I still have more organizing to do, so I’m going to organize through March, but I like the idea of introducing some themes throughout the year.  I’ll brainstorm out loud with you on some possibilities…

  • Annoying projects – Finish projects that have been hanging around unfinished.
  • Learn/try something new – This could be a daily thing or just try a few new things or one big thing in the month.  That could be fun.
  • Daily Creativity – Commit to a challenge to do a creative task daily.
  • Deep Cleaning – Work through the house to deep clean each room.

Any other ideas?  Any votes for one of the ideas I mentioned?



  1. Connie

    I would love some monthly focused goals for those so inclined to attempt & share tips on together! Especially like the sound of a long term deep clean of every room! Even though we just moved 5 months ago to a new, never lived in home and we tossed/donated about as much as we brought, I know how quickly things can get to a state of shambles again, so maybe a yearly rotation of deep cleaning every space is something many could use! Thanks for inspiring us!

  2. sarajane

    Did you get the lids for the working glasses? I have the smalls and I use them for storage just as much for drinking out of. (Sorry to encourage more spending!)

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes! I got the lids for the smalls, but not the large. I thought the same thing…I’ll probably use them for food storage and for pouring out the rest of a juice or milk container to make way for a new container.

      • Elena M.

        Did you know that Dollar Tree has the same glasses (the small) and even the lid, for $1.00 each, you could get some extras in case of breakage! I bought some last year, but they still have them now.

        • Marian Parsons

          I didn’t! I don’t know if we have a dollar tree around here.

  3. Phoebe

    This pandemic has really thrown me out of whack with cleaning house. Since I’m in a high risk group, I’ve been staying home a lot more for the past year and I’ve lost all morivation to do much of any cleaning, let alone deep cleaning. You’d think that a person would get a lot done because of staying home but that just hasn’t been the case! I’d love to do some organized deep cleaning. We get our vaccinations today so here’s hoping an end is in sight to Covid.

    • Cynthia Johnson

      I hope you can give yourself a lot of grace Phoebe.. I too hoped I would have done more during the past year and it didn’t happen that way and I’m okay.. It was a tough year to move through, to watch the world and it’s suffering, and maybe we needed that time to let it soak in. I also got my first vaccine and cannot wait to go out and move around. I do have some post covid plans and none of them include perfection in my home 🙂 I hope to help others~ Be gentle! Cynthia

  4. Linda

    Thank you for the inspiration for the “no spend” February! I did great, just bought one tiny painting off of Facebook Marketplace for $5 (luckily I was able to buy one of your painting in JANUARY)!!! I agree with all of your points–impulse buying was just a bad habit that needed a few weeks to both become of aware of and curb! I am inspired to trying this with my husband in the future months (as he wasn’t so frugal in February).

  5. Betsy

    I’m not a person that loves multiple types of glasses so I use the working glasses for everything. The smalls I use for desserts , home made puddings , individual triffle, even red wine. The large for drinking of course and flowers : ). They truly are working glasses. I like the screen shot idea. I tend to jump the gun with purchases. Self control is my goal for March.

  6. Janet in Kansas City

    So I bought 1 tube of paint, and varnish which in hind sight really could have waited. And I ordered the Whistler book since there was only one left on Amazon and the price was really good. Miss Mustardseed is completely to blame for that purchase since she brought it up. 😂😂 But that is it. So I think I did really well. And the thing I liked best is that it really slowed down your thinking about – what do I really need? I will do this again!

    • Marian Parsons

      Ha! I was trying to be very careful about not sharing links and tempting my fellow no-spenders with cool products, but several people asked for the link to that book, so I shared. I think one art book and some art supplies is okay! 🙂

  7. Angela

    Love the color palette you show in the beautiful yarn photograph. It’s reminiscent of your recent post that featured your sample paint color swatches for your artwork. I know that is not an accident!! Beautiful.

  8. Janet

    I loved reading your (and others too) no spend February ideas and goals and I played along too. I think did well also and it certainly made me stop and think before purchasing anything other than food and necessities. The only thing I bought was a book to read (one of my favourite pastimes during yet another lockdown here in Ontario Canada). So I call that win. Your ideas for March sound great, looks like I’ll be playing along with everyone this month too 😊

  9. Char

    Definitely annoying projects! And learn something new. Now that I think about it, I have projects that fit into both challenges.

  10. Chris Moore

    I did the no spend February too. It was eye opening. I came to the realization that I don’t ‘need’ anything. PLEASE don’t think I’m wealthy or have self control now. I am retired. I live on Social Security. I need utilities and food. What is important to me is books, reading, thinking, ideas. I am so fortunate because Seattle has an excellent library systen, even during Covid. I get books, CD’S AND DVD’S free from the library, which is also a show room for books I want to buy/own. And those are few. After I get an art book, a cook book, a gardening book, I look at it and decide will I look at this again, does it teach me anything new, does it satisfy in some way. Most of the time the answer is no. If yes, that is thrilling because I know I HAVE to have it. I would not have done this exercise without your inspiration. I enjoyed the learning process and decision making. And at the end of the month, my Amazon credit card was nothing. YAY!!!!

    • Marian Parsons

      I agree! I learned that I really don’t *need* that much! Yes, there are things I might want to buy, but we have more than enough. It really is making me think about what I buy.

    • Cathy

      Yes!! Living on SS and savings is a tricky thing!!! This was a great experiment so I want to make every February no spend👍😉

  11. Sabrina

    I am interested in your photo albums and where you found them. I love digital albums but still want to have hard copies of most of the mine, so I have them printed up twice and year and put them in albums (I even label the back with important info. But, finding economical, functional and classic albums is getting harder than ever. Thus the question, where and what did you find? Thanks!

    • Marian Parsons

      I agree! It was hard and I ended up going to three different stores until I found some traditional photo albums with archival “magnetic” pages. I found them at Walmart! They had some traditional albums with sleeves, too. Nothing fancy, but are inexpensive, pretty classic in design, and work well. I bought ones in a finish that looks like white marble with gray veining.

  12. Theresa

    Janet in Kansas said she ordered the Whisler book because there was only one left. How interesting! I ordered the Whistler book also because there was only one left. Ha! Oh well. It was a good price. I did pretty well during no spend February. It certainly made me realize just how much needless shopping I do and I am more mindful now as a result.

  13. Sue

    I like and NEED the deep cleaning challenge – it would match up perfectly with “spring cleaning”.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I agree and my house needs it, too. Some corners are a little fuzzy these days!

  14. bethsnively

    How about family traditions especially around the holidays like meals, table settings, birthdays, collections, etc.

  15. Laurie

    Theme idea – Something in My House – where you share something that you love, purchased, had for many years, paintings, art tools we’ve never seen… And you share the story behind the piece.
    Theme idea – art books and artists – I love your book shares and hope you continue
    Definitely, unfinished projects would be a fun theme!

    • Beverlee Lyons

      Annoying projects! Deep cleaning. Two I need.
      We had the record setting freeze in Houston, and while not the winters you have, it is rare here. Cleaning up all the dead plants in near 80 degrees this week….very annoying.
      Need diversions.

      • beverlee Lyons

        I spent a lot of $$$ on trying to save my flowers, so fail!

    • beverlee Lyons

      wonderful idea, Laurie!

    • Marian Parsons

      Such great ideas! I added them to my list.

  16. Suzi Matteson

    Prepare a home inventory with pictures and stories about some of your favorite possessions.

    • mimi

      Oh I really like this idea. I need to do that since I have had too much in storage boxes most years & my two young adult age kids do not know the stories or the people they are from since my parents died when they were toddlers. I think I will just assigned one day a week to do that for an hour or two.

  17. Pat

    I did no spend too. And was amazed when I was out I put things down as I was in no spend! I did break bidding on a huge bridal photo on site, thought for sure would be outbid, but alas I won! $18.00! But really makes you think before you spend. Need vs want. But I do have list for this

  18. Andrea

    An interesting theme might be Small Beauty, those things we miss through the hurrying of life, but that could bring joy if noticed & appreciated. Fine workmanship, a beautiful stroke of color, a standout architectural element mostly lost in the background…the list is endless.

    • Kim

      Excellent idea.

  19. Cynthia Johnson

    Oh gosh..I likely need those glasses with the tops too! I often put things you’ve purchased Marian in my cart just in case and gosh does that fill up my inbox :). As you know I’m cleaning up our flooded basement which has given me another opportunity (after moving from MN to CO 3.5 years ago) to ponder my treasures and to pass some on or donate them. I am truly loving putting my hands on things from my Mom, and Grandmothers… Our home is much smaller now but a bin is no place for treasures to live. Thank you for all the inspiration.. Cynthia

  20. Mary S

    February was a great challenge and I am happy to say I did not spend any money on “stuff” that I might have casually picked up while out and about. I was successful because I did not venture beyond the grocery store or pharmacy. I have a short list of items to replace since I am still decluttering however, I am looking forward to some consignment browsing later this week.

  21. Karen B.

    I loved the idea behind no-spend February. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped but I will try again. I liked the challenge.
    Thank you.

  22. monique

    The no-spend February is a great initiative, don’t we all have too much stuff around? Do we need more things? It is a good time to reflect on why we are constantly seduced to buy more things, I hate to watch TV adds, they never get me.
    February was not a challenge for me, I only wanted a pair of sleepers but did not find any that I like on line. All I spent money on was the daily needs, food, pay the utilities. I am frugal by choice, and tell I my husband how lucky he is that I do not ruin him with impulse buying, and futility. I just bought a pair of shoes on line tonight because I absolutely need them.

  23. Gloria

    Congratulations! I completely failed with the no spend! Depression hit and spending kept me sane! I did notice two things I had questions about. One you are going to teach a painting class? When and where ho is invited? Two where did you find your cute “knitting bag”? Thanks for all you share with us!

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I did a lot of online shopping when I was feeling anxious during the shutdowns. It gave me a little bright spot to look forward to and mail felt like a connection to other people. I get it. Sometimes you need to do what’s going to help your mental health! About painting classes, I have free classes available on my blog and one paid class. Just look at the “art classes” tab in the nav bar. I am also working on a course for Jeanne Oliver that will be available this summer and I’ll let my blog audience know where to purchase it. It will be available to anyone interetested.

      The knitting project bag is from Dunn by Designs on Etsy.

  24. franki

    No-spend February was nice. I didn’t fully buy into it (pun intended) since I couldn’t resist purchasing some linen fabric and making the linen dish towels you made early in the month. (Well worth the purchase, I might add! I threw out my stained dish towels that I never use…because they were stained.) Knowing you’re a woman of faith, what about a “God Spot” month. Sharing moments/inspiration on our daily/weekly encounters with God -however small or large they may be. I love the song by Larry Fleet “Where I find God”. I sometimes struggle with my faith and it helps me to just stop and see Him in the flowers or the sky, but also in the artistry of a painting or a piece of furniture because I know the talent to create it was a gift from God.

  25. Betty Bashaw

    I love to hear your thought process when making purchases, decorating, etc. Thank you for your honesty. It is inspirational and ecouraging. I’m thrilled with your monthly theme ideas.

  26. Sandi

    I’d love to know where your favorite East Coast shops are! Maybe some are nearby!

    • Marian Parsons

      If you search “honey holes” on my blog, you’ll find a couple of posts listing my favorite spots.

  27. Margot

    I replace my drinking glasses about every 10 years too. I bought 1-1/2 pint canning jars a few years ago to use as glassware for a party. They have accidentally become my family’s favorite drinking glasses. I love that I can pour the bottom of the last gallon of milk in one, screw in the lid, and keep it in my fridge knowing no one is going to knock it over.

  28. Kim

    No-spend February was a breeze for me. I haven’t spent money on anything but groceries since the beginning of December! Also during all this winter time we have been in lockdown (I’m in Canada), and I have enjoyed my time doing deep cleaning, sorting, organizing, and re-decorating shelves, etc. with all the lovely items that I already own. As your post points out, most people are buying things for reasons far beyond actual need! Then there is that wonderful Marie Kondo question to ask yourself, “Does this spark joy in my heart?” when holding an item in your hands. Lots of lessons to be learned in our society full of “stuff.”

  29. Jan

    I love the idea of a theme for each month, but you wouldn’t have to stick to it exclusively since projects, trips, and other cool unrelated topics are bound to come up. I like your suggested topics. Here are two more; repurposing, stay-cations and birthday celebrations.

    By the way, with my February reorganizing I found that I have no fewer than FIVE sets of size four circular knitting needles! The deep delving into the knitting cabinet was long overdue, I’d say.

  30. Rita

    I would like to put together some vacation books. This is certainly a family treasure. That is so funny about Rosa helping your mom fry chicken for a picnic with your dad. My mom did the same thing. When I was dating my husband, she helped me fry chicken for a big picnic we were going to have at a nearby state park. Needless to say, he proposed about two months later. That was 30 years ago. What is that saying about the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Might be something to that.

  31. Betty

    February was an eye-opening experience! Loved the challenge … only fell off the wagon a time or two!! I’m thinking that having a theme/challenge each month would be fun and a good thing. I vote for annoying projects to be the March or April theme. Eventho none of us interact personally, I still feel a kind of kinship knowing that others are doing the same thing as I am. Thanks Marian … you are an inspiration to us all!!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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