a peek inside the fishbowl

30 Dec, 2013

About that Shopping Embargo…

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Challenge me, challenge you

Since Christmas 2006 our family has participated in a self-imposed annual “Shopping Embargo.” This basically meant that we stopped buying unnecessary stuff and paid greater attention to the things we did buy. There was a list of rules, but basically, from December 26 until February 28 we restricted our purchases to the basic necessities: groceries, fuel, medicine, soap, things like that.

Overall, it was great, and I’d recommend a personal shopping embargo for anyone. Shopping mindfully became second nature to us. We saved money, thought a lot about how we spent money and why we bought things, and learned a lot about ourselves in the process. You can read my past posts about it here if you’re interested.

So here’s the update… I’ve decided not to host a Shopping Embargo here this year. It’s not because we don’t need to save money – we do – but I don’t have anything new to say about it after so many years. I have said all there possibly is to say about the issue and I’m drained. :)

I AM tossing around some other Embargo-related ideas but I won’t have the details ironed out until some time in early January.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the details of a different kind of money-saving challenge that we’re doing: the 52-week money savin’ challenge! Laurel Anderson (who blogs here and is on Twitter here) shared this concept and I thought it was great.

The idea is a simple one:

  • You take a jar.
  • You put money in the jar every week for a whole year (that’s 52 weeks).

There’s one other thing. At the beginning of Week One you put one dollar in the jar. At Week Two you put in two dollars, Week Three is three dollars, and so on, putting slightly more and more money in the jar each week. If you’re able to keep it up, by week 52 you will have $1378.00 socked away; a decent sum of money saved!

SO. We talked about it as a family and have decided to make this a family money-saving project. Once we accrue a bit of cash we’ll move it to a bank account. Until then, this is our jar:

Our money jar for the next year. We are doing the 52-week money saving challenge!

I’m pretty excited about it. I think it’s a good lesson in saving. There are handy sheets you can print out to go with your jar too, so you can get the satisfaction of checking something off every week. Click here for some examples you can print.

Thinking ahead to how it’s going to go down, I realize it may hurt a little to put away $50 a week in December, but in my head I’ve already cut back on our Christmas expenditures next year and adopted the four gift rule. (Have you heard about it? You give one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.)

If we’re successful at raising the cash, we’ll spend it on a winter getaway at Chateau Montebello. Fine dining, dogsledding, skating, swimming, skiing… the plan is to spend a couple nights there in December 2014. I think that a holiday is better than gifts anyway. What do you think? Would you consider joining the 52-week challenge?

14 Responses to "About that Shopping Embargo…"

1 | Brenda A

December 30th, 2013 at 4:25 pm


I have thought about the shopping embargo several times over the years. I just can’t see how we could swing it. In our immediate family we have 6 birthdays between Jan 5-end of Feb. We regularly have out of town visitors coming to stay with us for Winterlude every year. How could we skate on the canal without a Beavertail, I ask?!

We are conscious spenders and live with the attitude of less is best, but I apply that year round, not just in the post Christmas time.

The money jar savings idea is fun in theory. However, the practical money girl in me says invest it and make more of the money during the year rather than keep a container on the counter. I feel more motivation to save when I know it will give me more in the end!

2 | Alina M.

December 30th, 2013 at 4:45 pm


Such a great idea! Our family decided to do the jar thing too, but we will just add money randomly (for example on week 3 we will add the amount of money required on week 26, etc.) so that in December we won’t have to add the highest amount of money.
Thank you for mentioning this great idea!

3 | Mary @ Parenthood

December 30th, 2013 at 4:58 pm


The four gifts are all from you to your children? Or how do you divvy up which relatives get which part of the four gifts? I am a little confused. Do you count stocking stuffers?

4 | 52 Week Money Challenge - KickAss Living

December 30th, 2013 at 7:13 pm


[…] belong to a Facebook group that Laurel created called The 52 Week Money Jar. Come on over and join us. We are going to have fun while doing the […]

5 | andrea tomkins

December 30th, 2013 at 8:51 pm


Brenda – we found ways around birthdays by buying books, food, and donating to charities on the recipients’ behalf. :)
I should also point out it was never a spending embargo, so we continued to spend money on food, movies, and other kinds of entertainment.

Mary – Yes. The four gifts would be from the parents to the children. So each kid would get four gifts, plus their stocking.

6 | Susan Ovington

December 31st, 2013 at 11:34 am


Our family will be doing this in January. No unnecessary spending for one month to start. I think we spend too much, so it is a great idea! The kids might not think so but it will be a valuable lesson!
Happy New Year Andrea!

7 | Making New Year's resolutions with kids >> a peek inside the fishbowl

January 1st, 2014 at 9:55 am


[…] year we are doing the 52-week money saving challenge. I really like the idea of doing something that involves (a) a lesson in saving money and (b) a […]

8 | Windex

January 1st, 2014 at 10:58 pm


Really like the 52 week challenge idea! Going to give it a try. Loved the idea of mixing it up and paying the higher amounts at a better time of year for your personal situation.

9 | Ginger

January 3rd, 2014 at 1:52 pm


I was going to do this 52 week savings challenge last year about made it about a month before forgetting about it. I am going to try again this year and have spent a few days thinking about it. It looks like several other people had my idea of putting the money in the jar in a random order. Knowing that I need to put $52 in the jar at the end of next year stresses me out completely because December is our “spendiest” time of year. But right now I still have Christmas money and bonus money and taking $52 out of that to start the savings feels like a good thing…save some of that extra money for a bigger goal instead of slowly spending it away on this and that over the next months. That extra money is earmarked for my hobby spending so I am not spending budget money….but there is no reason not to save some instead of spending it all of my new hobbies! I have decided to print out the charge and mark off the money as I go.

10 | andrea tomkins

January 3rd, 2014 at 2:03 pm


I really like the idea of adding cash randomly too. It will definitely make it easier as the year goes on!

11 | Marianne

January 3rd, 2014 at 8:49 pm


I have also heard of some people who do the 52 weeks in reverse order, beginning in January, so the amount gets smaller as you head closer to Christmas. If you are putting the amounts in a savings vehicle, the interest you earn is higher throughout the year this way because you get a larger sum of money up front.
Another friend said they did it last year but used the money to pay for all of their Christmas expenses (gifts, food, holiday outfits for the kids and gas to drive to the out of town in-laws), so that the savings amount being higher in December didn’t matter because they didn’t feel a change in their monthly expenses.
To avoid forgetting about the savings amount, another person I know chooses to pre-set their bank account to transfer the money into a locked savings account every 2 weeks, on her pay day. For me, that’s a lot of transfers to set up though and if you’re doing it as a family you don’t have the same visual as you do with a jar or other container.

12 | Ten things I noticed about myself while not blogging | Javaline

January 11th, 2014 at 7:05 pm


[…] want and need another money jar so we can go on vacation after hockey season is over but I have neither the will nor the oompf to look for an empty jar, or […]

13 | Rayleigh

February 25th, 2014 at 7:14 pm


Congratulations for doing so well with your money saving challenge! I have been saving up to be able to stay at a luxury bermuda hotel and I may need to try this challenge!

14 | A bit about our getaway to Chateau Montebello >> a peek inside the fishbowl

January 2nd, 2015 at 4:29 pm


[…] this time last year we decided to start a 52-week money-saving jar. You can read more about that here, but to summarize, we socked away an increasing sum of money every week with a goal in mind: a […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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