No-Spend September recap, by the numbers
I spent $1,327.97 less than in August.
Before we begin: It’s been a horrifying week of violence, fear, and anguish. I am learning and listening rather than speaking, but I am hurting alongside you. Please take care of yourself and your loved ones this week.
On September 5, I arrived home in Austin after five weeks of travel and committed to a September Reset.
I knew September was the only month left of 2023 that I’d spend completely at home. I desperately needed to slow down and rest before the busy final quarter of the year. So I gave myself four rules to follow from September 6 through October 1:
Recommit to healthy routines
Clean eating, no alcohol, morning pages, daily walks, lifting every other weekday, try to make it to Sunday yoga.
Necessary spending only. No eating out or delivery. Mindful grocery shopping. Zero purchases on clothes, things, or entertainment.
Make no plans
No self-made plans; instead, I will receive invitations from friends with joy.
Treat myself with as much kindness and support as I treat others.
So, how did it go? Short answer:
I had 26 of the most restful, rejuvenating days of my ding-dang life.
In September, I was peaceful, moisturized, well-read, well-fed, well-rested. Damn, did I get my beauty rest. For me, nothing feels better than waking up without an alarm around 7am, heading outside with my journal and coffee in hand, and writing my morning pages while the birds call, the squirrels bark, and Minerva lounges beside me. As the morning temperatures dropped into the high 60s, my exhilaration climbed.
Healthy habits breakdown:
Morning pages: 15 days
Walks outside (3-6 miles): 13 days
Exercise: 11 days
9 days lifting, two yoga Sundays
I moved my body 24 out of the 26 days I tracked!
Socializing: 8 days
That means 1/3 of these days I saw my friends!
On September 19 I enjoyed a coaching session with Catherine LaSota, founder of The Resort writing collective in NYC. We talked through what I’d like my ideal week to look and feel like and decided to plot out a weekly schedule that would allow me to hit all of my writing goals: time for corporate work, the newsletter, my podcast, idea creation, pitching, and free creative writing time. By the end of the session I walked away with a realistic outline of my ideal writing schedule, complete with daily time blocks and a Saturday tech sabbatical. (Haven’t achieved that tech sabbatical a single time yet, by the way.)
My tightened-up schedule worked wonders for my focus and creativity. My first two full work weeks were like a dream—I was motivated and organized, I didn't procrastinate, I got so much done and still had plenty of leisure time. My butt was at my desk and I zoomed through my to-do list and sent off pitches I’d sat on for months. (I sent three pitches in September and got two green lights! That’s a 66% success rate—September Jillian was on fire.)
Why oh why can’t all of my work weeks feel like this? Does a more balanced world exist where every week actually could feel like this? Or am I setting myself up for failure with unrealistic expectations?
One thing I’ve wrestled with for years is how to find true balance. At 35, I am no longer drawn to harsh restrictions of self—three weeks into this challenge I got a little squirrely. But I still need boundaries and find it easier to exist between black-and-white lines. I feel at my best—physically, mentally, creatively—when I am living on the extreme end of self-induced rules. But it’s not realistic to live long-term under the restrictions of the September Reset.
Does a more balanced world exist? Or am I setting myself up for failure with unrealistic expectations?
So how do I find (and stick with) that sweet spot between healthy habits and indulgence that’s right for me? And does it actually exist, or should I fully release this balance beam fantasy?
Can I give myself the gift of boundaries in a long-term, lasting way so I can become the writer I yearn to be?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know what works for me, at least for a little while: A pre-determined schedule that I actually stick to. Stricter boundaries around daily habits and consumption. Tons of dedicated writing time, including time to just sit there and stare into the distance. Increased alone time with no outside influences siphoning off my energy. Moving my body. Uninterrupted sleep. A clear mind. Pretty much everything those online therapists keep urging us to do—sigh.
No-Spend September, by the numbers
There are lots of ways to try out a No-Spend September (or any other month you want to rein in your cash flow), but my rules mostly centered around eating and drinking out and superfluous shopping on clothes, entertainment, and things. Overall, I did pretty well! It’s exhausting cooking ~70 meals for yourself at home (and cleaning up all those dishes) but I did it! Here’s a breakdown of my main purchases, not including my usual essentials.
Total spent during the September Reset on:
Coffee out: $0
Groceries (food and drink) in September: $576.87
Eating out: $49.28
$35 for a friend’s birthday dinner, and $14.28 for tacos for a friend and I
That’s about $800 less than August!
Oops! Honestly, no regrets: I’ve been shopping for an athletic skort for months (I wear these constantly in the Texas heat) and bought a great one on sale from Outdoor Voices, plus a pair of cute workout pants with pockets ($58.66), then bought three crop tops and a winter poncho on super-sale from Rent the Runway ($102.61).
$84 for my monthly gel manicure (you’ll have to pry this luxury from my polished fingers) and $28 on flowers for a mourning friend
Future me purchases: $482.20
$162.25 for Sweeney Todd tix; $180.31 for a December flight; $139.64 for a month of Rent the Runway for October travels/a wedding
How much less overall spent during the September Reset vs. August: $1,327.97
Key takeaways from my September Reset:
—I am super comfortable being alone. Like, a little too comfortable. No coffee or lunches out meant I didn’t work from cafes and spent pretty much all day, every day inside my house. (And the temps were still in the 100s, so AC kept me close.) And guess what? I loved it. Socializing is important to me and I prioritize it, but I need so much less of it than I thought I did pre-pandemic. I know that how much me-time I have during this period of my life is a rare gift; it’s up to me to take advantage of it while I can.
—Full abstention from alcohol, rather than moderation, makes a lot of hard things in my life naturally easier. This is something I’ve known since I spent six months sober in 2022. I’m not an alcoholic, but I do enjoy drinking—and I know that giving up booze for good would help me reach my full potential. It’s a rather annoying conundrum when you know exactly what the most mature, healthiest choice for yourself is, but, like… you’d rather not. Because it feels large and final. Because it means leaving a coping mechanism behind that you’ve consciously and unconsciously relied on for 18 years. Because it means changing how you interact with most of your loved ones who do drink alcohol, not to mention society at large. Still sorting through this one, but I do feel quite comfortable with my relationship with alcohol right now, and that feels good. I see the progress I’ve made, and I salute myself.
—Overall, this was a successful experiment, and one I’m likely to repeat. And I’ll try to integrate some of these habits into my daily life, especially the weekly writing schedule. Anne Kadet just wrote about her week of no multitasking—maybe that’s my next challenge?