There is something in the frugal community that I just cannot get behind, and that is a No Spend Day. That's not to say that I spend money every single day, but a No Spend Day seems pointless to me. There are a few reasons for this – I think it is like going on a diet, so you just binge the day before your No Spend Day (like the day before starting a diet), plus they are really hard to do if you have bills coming out, etc.
I have seen a lot of people committing to No Spend Years for 2020, and again I find this a really odd concept.
Thankfully Nicola from The Frugal Cottage was kind enough to answer some questions and debate this topic with me.
Emma: I know you're a big fan of No Spend Days, but they are not for me. In 2020 you've set a goal to have a No Spend Year. Can I ask why you're doing this and how it works?
Nicola: I’m doing a No Spend Year to stop our mindless spending and go back to basics with our budget. We’re also doing it to try and show our two young children that you can have lots of fun without spending! The way it works for us is:
– No takeaways
– No eating out
– No takeaway coffee
– Use up before buying more
– No clothes
– No books!
Emma: You've got two young boys who are growing and I assume their needs are changing often. How does a No Spend Year work with them?
Nicola: It differs slightly as some of the rules don’t apply to our children; they’ll get new clothes and shoes as and when, for example. They also do activities such as gymnastics and that will continue. I more want to explore the fact that they don’t have to get stuff every time we’re out. I’ve noticed a change in them asking for toys and magazines every time we pop to the supermarket and it’s that kind of thought process I want to minimise.
Emma: I am a huge fan of some of the things you have listed, like takeaways, eating out and books. How do you see yourself managing this for an entire year? Will you be working some takeaways etc into your budget?
Nicola: I must admit that no takeaways will be the hardest but at the moment we’re sticking to that. We have far too many and it’s impacting my health as well as my pocket, so to speak. It’s just a case of being more organised and having things that are quick and easy to cook.
Emma: My issues with a No Spend Year are two-fold – first of all I find the name misleading because you need to pay bills and buy food and petrol. The second is that when I tell myself I can't do something then it is all I think about (much like starting a diet and then self sabotaging). Can you convince me otherwise?
Nicola: Obviously, it’s impossible to actually do a no spend year as there are certain expenses that are unavoidable. The fixed expenses in each household are unavoidable – though check you’re on the best rate/tariff for you – if you want to live in our society. However, it’s the variable expenses that can be cut back and limited.
I think that a No Spend Year is more about challenging your own spending habits and the reason behind it as much as buying more. So often, buying something is an impulse decision and is there as a comfort more than anything. For me, emotional spending is on a par with emotional eating.
Emma: Do you think that you will just end up spending more of your budget next year when you start to incorporate these things back into your budget?
Nicola: I don’t think so!
Emma: What will you as a family be doing with the money you save from a No Spend Year?
Nicola: It will be added to our ultimate dream fund which will fund our early retirement hopes!
Emma: I definitely agree that we should all be trying to purchase less and make more ethical decisions when making purchases. For example I am looking at a lot of second hand furniture options to furnish our new house. Do you have any suggestions for anyone who wants to do similar but doesn't want to take part in a No Spend Year?
Nicola: I just think that being more mindful and deliberate about our spending habits can have a great impact on finances after all. Just take it one step at a time – maybe try cooking at home weekdays first, or having No Spend Saturdays, if weekend spending is high.
Emma: What are some of your top tips for anyone who wants to embark on a No Spend Year
Nicola: Track everything! Spending, income, recurring themes in your buying. More knowledge about your finances means you can make the changes you want.
Emma: Will you be sharing your No Spend Year?
Nicola: I have my first video up on YouTube already:
I’ll be documenting day to day things over on my Instagram – www.instagram.com/thefrugalcottage
My main take away from this is that a No Spend Year doesn't mean not spending any money at all, but rather looking at ways to minimise your spending, for both financial reasons and for ethical reasons. A No Spend Year won't be possible for us but we can definitely look at ways to source items for our home second hand and try to save money and minimise the impact on the environment at the same time.