At the beginning of this year, I gave myself a challenge: to give up spending on all but the essentials for a whole year. I started this challenge on the 1st of January 2021 – amidst all the seasonal sales.
Honestly, though, I’ve been pretty good at not spending money for the sake of it since I started my de-cluttering journey back in 2019. Even when it comes to gifts, I’ve told everyone not to buy me anything unless it’s something I really NEED and am going to use.
In the past, I was spending without thinking, lured in by advertising and the promise that I could spend my way to happiness. I was stuck in a cycle of consumerism – earning money to buy stuff I didn’t really need, which wasn’t making me happy. I used to buy things I wanted, but only to realise with time that I actually didn’t USE them.
As extreme as ‘giving up spending for a year‘ sounded in the beginning, the aim is to learn to live with less, make the most of what I have, save money for my tiny house, embrace frugality, shake up my spending habits and pay all essential bills up to 10 months in advance via weekly standing orders.
I’ve learned to shop for food in a better way than I did before – I plan our meals upfront, make a meal go further than just one meal and I am constantly working on improving my meal-prepping and cooking skills.
I’ve created a board on Trello called ‘Life Reset & Life Admin’, where I’ve created a list called ‘Things I NEED & things I WANT to buy this year‘. I’ve then created sub-lists for each month where I’ve written down what I need (essentials) and what I want (non-essentials). For example:
JANUARY (I bought)
- pair of shoes for Spring & Summer (essential)
- a Kindle book (non-essential).
FEBRUARY (I bought)
- a mascara (my previous one had expired)
- a trench coat for Spring & Summer (didn’t have any coat for this season)
- a new laptop (was meant to buy it in April, but Khushi’s desktop crashed, so I had to give her my old laptop and buy myself a new one earlier than planned)
- a weekend bag for when we can travel again
MARCH (I bought)
- a Kindle Voyage (second hand)
RELATED: A YEAR OF INTENTIONAL LIVING
Having spent the last year mostly at home, I realised how little of the things I own, I actually used, so I decided to de-clutter our entire home (every nook and cranny) and in the process, I gave away, donated and sold over 50% of my belongings (this is, of course, ongoing). This has made me more mindful and aware of my NEEDS, WANTS and most importantly, how and where I spend my money.
This is the reason behind me aiming for a no-spend year – I can only buy what’s essential – to me (REMEMBER: This is personal and individual – what’s essential to me, might not be essential for you and vice versa).
‘No-spend’ weeks, months, or years involve cutting out spending on all purchases that are not absolutely necessary and essential. Recurring expenses like food, shelter, and utility bills are allowed, but impulse buys like clothing and gadgets are not (unless they’re essential).
Here’s how to get started with a 30-Day Spending Hiatus (I do recommend taking a month at a time, and not the whole year)
- Note your wants vs needs on paper (or your phone). In the next 30 days, GIVE-UP those wants and stick to your needs.
- Figure out where you want your money to go; debt, loans, retirement fund, emergency fund etc.
- Place your subscription services on hold.
- Shop your own closet. Unearth things you’ve forgotten about.
- Plan your meals for the week, and avoid eating out.
- After 30 days, assess how you can modify and keep these habits.