A No-Spend Month

A No-Spend Month

My A Year Of Second-Hand Shopping Challenge has really opened my eyes to how much unwanted stuff there is in the world. Testing out a no-spend month seemed like the natural progression for someone living a low waste, minimalist lifestyle. When I look around my home, there's very little I need. This no-spend month was a way for me to enjoy what I have and be content with what I own; and if we're honest with ourselves, don't many of us have far more than we need?

I'm not a big spender at all. I'm very careful with my money, painfully so. I feel immense guilt when I make a purchase, no matter what it is, and I always feel I should be saving every penny. I'm working on that as I know it's not the healthiest attitude, particularly when I live well within my means, have savings in the bank, and no debts. Being cautious of how we spend our money is one thing, berating ourselves for spending it at all is quite another.

This no-spend month wasn't about making myself feel even more guilty about the money I spend. It was to see if I still shopped, albeit second-hand, for fun (which I secretly knew I did), and how I'd feel if I couldn't do that for a while. The one thing the minimalist lifestyle has taught me is to be content with what we have, and we can't be content with what we have if we're always searching for something new–or pre-loved! My no-spend month was an exercise in contentment; a refocusing of my attention so that I could be grateful for the things I already have.

I wanted to go an entire month without spending anything other than what I consider to be the necessities just to see what it felt like and if I'd learn anything about myself by doing it. Between 25th March to 21st April, that's exactly what I did.

A No-Spend Month

The No-Spend Rules

What I could buy:
  • Household essentials (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  • Businesses expenses (materials, supplies, etc.)
  • Pet essentials (food, vet bills, etc.)
  • Dinner or drinks with friends
  • Local travel costs
  • Clothing dye

Obviously the essentials are excluded from the ban. I couldn't go an entire week without stocking the pantry! I didn't expect toiletries or cleaning products to run out as we buy these in bulk and nothing is in short supply. However, just in case, I added them to the approved list.

Spending time with my partner and our friends is of huge importance to me. I see my friends every week and the time we share together is important; I wouldn't want to sacrifice that for the sake of a spending ban. Often we do things that don't cost much money at all. We'll meet in one of the city's museums or art galleries, get coffee together and occasionally eat dinner.

I included local travel on the approved list because I don't own a car and will need to travel via public transport if I want to go pretty much anywhere other than the city I live in. I knew I had at least one event I needed to travel to London for during April and a few in the local area.

Clothing dye went on the list as I'd planned to dye a few items from navy to black so I would get more wear out of them. I felt that was a worthwhile investment and would only cost £10.

What I couldn't buy:
  • Clothes, shoes, or accessories
  • Homewares
  • Takeout food
  • House plants
  • Books

No wardrobe purchases; no homewares; no food that isn't eaten in a restaurant; no books; no plants! These were the things I was most likely to buy during my no-spend month. I chose to ban takeout food because I wanted to ensure I only allowed social spending. We're good cooks in this house so we shouldn't need to pay for someone else to make us dinner!

A No-Spend Month

Thoughts During The No-Spend Month

My commitment to living a low waste lifestyle has made me very conscious of all the things we don't need and, with a little adjustment to our habits, can go without. Through decluttering my life and creating an all-seasons wardrobe, I've learned to let go of stuff with ease and realised I don't actually need a lot of the things I consider buying. However, I still have my weaknesses as we all do.

The reality is I still shop when I don't really need to and I could make better decisions about what I buy. I get a kick out of thrifting. You never know what you're going to discover and most things are one-of-a-kind, making them even harder to pass them up. Ultimately I had to ban myself from thrifting until the no-spend month was over. This raised a red flag for me. It begged the question: is thrifting for fun any different from shopping as a hobby? This no-spend month has taught me there's still work to do on the consumerist mindset our capitalist society has instilled within us.

Not being able to purchase new plants during my no-spend month was the most difficult part, especially since spring is the prime time for buying them. I felt I really missed out on a huge part of a hobby that brings me immense joy. On the flip side, I enjoyed the plants I already owned a lot more, eagerly tended to propagated plants and seedlings, and swapped cuttings with other collectors.

A tricky aspect of a no-spend month for me is that part of my work involves receiving items from brands to test out and share my thoughts on. During April I received clothes and shoes along with skincare and makeup. I didn't buy them but receiving them certainly made it easier to stave off the thrifting bug to complete a no-spend month. It's made me think about whether I should make changes to how I approach this in the future.

The No-Spend Month Outcome

What did I take from my no-spend month and how will it change my attitude going forward?

My no-spend month saved me anywhere between £10-50. What I "sacrificed" (and I use that term very loosely) in order to save that money wasn't particularly worth it. I certainly would have saved more if I had chosen not to allow socialising with friends but I'm not sure I would have learned much by doing that. But my spending ban wasn't really about saving money, it was about assessing my habits.

My no-spend month taught me I don't spend all that much and when I do it's usually on the things that matter the most to me. It has made me reconsider why I go thrift shopping and that I should be more mindful of the purchases I make. With a bit more thought I can make do with what I have or at least stick to only buying what's on my shopping list . There's certainly work to be done there.

What my no-spend month really focused my attention on was how much I already have and how privileged I am to do a spending ban as a challenge rather than out of necessity. I have plenty and I need for nothing. My no-spend month taught me to think harder about the few unnecessary purchases I make and to work on letting go of the need to buy.

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A No-Spend Month