Could you do a no spend year?
You may think one of two things after the Christmas chaos: one, that you’ve spent too much and will never spend again; or two, I couldn’t possibly go that long without spending any more. Maybe you think both.
Either way, the idea of a No Spend Year may initially feel completely out of the question, because what about all those essentials you’ll need? Well, here at MoneyMagpie we’re not averse to keeping those essentials in stock: it’s the unnecessary spending that we all do which concerns us: takeaways, coffees out, a quick sandwich on the go, something that was advertised to/at you on a social media pop-up… it’s quite shocking when you add them all up over a year.
A wise friend of mine once explained a great way to think about how to gradually pay off a debt or credit card: think of those little ‘treats’ you put on those cards in the exact opposite way: so instead of spending ‘only £30’ here or ‘just £50’ there, which mounts up quickly, try putting that money toward your debts and credit cards until they’re gone.
And so we come to one of the concepts behind No Spend Year.
- What is a no spend year?
- Change your focus and habits
- The rules
- Keep busy and stay offline
- Don’t go it alone
It’s a serious commitment to not spending any money on what you deem ‘unnecessary’ items for an entire year. Non-essential spends can also include clothing, house items and décor as well as what tends to be the big ones: spontaneous food and drink buys. Once you get your head round the concept, you can actually improve your financial situation over the course of the year. So why not make it this year?
As with all plans, this starts with a list. Make a good, solid, honest list of all the essentials you HAVE to purchase to get by on throughout the course of the year, including:
- Your main grocery shop
- Rent or mortgage
- Energy bills
- Outgoing debts or credit card repayments
Most other things should count as non-essential and avoidable in a No Spend Year. You may also want to unsubscribe from newsletters that offer regular discounts off things you didn’t need, and perhaps shave off one or two (or all!) of your streaming subscriptions, or at least list the ones you’re using and decide if you’re getting your money’s worth.
And tell people! Hopefully you have a few trusted people in your life who you can inform that you’re having a No Spend Year, so can they please help and support you by not sending any temptations your way, being aware and not giving you any gifts. You could also try joining local or online support and accountability groups.
We can all get stuck in spending habits, and convince ourselves we won’t get out of them anytime soon. But they are habits, and can be broken. And as with the credit card debt, small amounts make a huge difference. Going on a year-long shopping detox will allow you to put more money into savings, a rainy-day pot or retirement account; anything that requires long-term saving.
Aside from saving you money, you’ll also likely notice that the no-spend year resolution saves you a lot of time. We often don’t realize how much time and mental energy we dedicate to shopping until we stop doing it. You can free up time for a new hobby, or that side hustle you’ve been meaning to get into.
Think of how much time you spend scrolling through listings, comparing prices, or aimlessly strolling the isles of the shopping mall with no specific “target” in mind. Exactly! You’ll quickly notice that instead of shopping, you’ll find yourself decluttering, donating, and recycling your previous impulse purchases that currently clutter your home.
These are rules you need to set for yourself based on your honest-to-goodness NEEDS rather than wants. As mentioned, food and rent are essentials, as is travel, but how about birthdays? Perhaps you could re-gift your loved ones presents from around your house, and also avoid buying these things:
- Restaurants and takeaways – or limit these to one or two a quarter
- Furniture and décor
- Unnecessary gifts
If you have kids, they have needs of course, so within reason, work out again what they NEED rather than want, and don’t be swayed by persuasive marketing ploys with discounts and deals, or eco-saving purchases you can’t afford. You need what you need, and most everything else is unnecessary.
If you’re addicted to browsing for deals and online shopping, as we say, unsubscribe yourself from any newsletter lists (some you may not even use, so get rid of them in your inbox) and try to limit how much time you spend on social media: most accounts are designed to MAKE you spend money on things you hadn’t even thought about until they popped up.
Have some kind accountability system for your No Spend Year, whether that’s a good friend, family member or online/social media support group. Be mindful of what you spend and why you spend, and you’ll be surprised that when you take control of your spending, you’ll get to the bottom of why you spend, and you won’t be as tempted. GOOD LUCK!
If a whole year sounds a little too rich for your blood. Then how about looking at our other “no spend” challenges here.
Let us know if you have ever done or intend to do a “no spend year” in the comments below. Feel free to share any tips of your own.