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Impromptu no spend week

Posted by on Monday 13 December 2010 in anti-consumerism, frugal | 12 comments

I’ve decided to have an impromptu no-spend week this week. Well, actually, not a no-spend week – a no-spend fortnight-plus, until the end of the year.

No spending days/weeks/months are an often promoted technique by frugal/anti-consumerism people but I’d never really done it before. Many of my days are no spend days, I probably have no spend weeks more often than I think too – it’s not something I’ve felt was an issue I needed to address. But recently, I’ve been buying a few too many (used) books online, or too many (second-hand) things off eBay and I realised I wanted a bit of a self-enforced time out.

Since I’m really wanting to cut down on my frivolous spending not essentials, I’m giving myself five exceptions:

  • Food – I’d need to do a lot more planning to avoid spending any money on food for a fortnight (although, to be honest, John pays for most of our food anyway so it’s not something I spend a lot of money on these days). I will try very hard though not to buy any take-out though or pick up a chocolate bar while I’m out and about – only buy food to be prepared at home.
  • Food/medical treatment for the animals if needed – definitely an essential not frivolous thing. Although no random ad-hoc treat buying for the cats or dog – they’ve got enough at home already.
  • Bills – I think I’ve paid all the automatic direct-debits for the month already but if any are still due from my bank account, they’ll come out anyway.
  • Bus fares – necessary for getting about – not that I leave the house much really. Will probably be only a few day riders (at £3.30 a pop) depending on how much I have to go to Bingley for rehearsals over the next few weeks. No taxis home though – I’ll wait for the next bus and/or make sure I get the last one.
  • A birthday present for someone because, as usual, I haven’t been organised enough to buy it in advance and avoid having to face Leeds city centre on the run up to Christmas, ugh. I don’t tend to buy birthday presents for people – just give presents at any time when I see something I think people will like/need – but this person is an exception.

My main worry is that I’ll just rely on John to buy me things instead – take-out food or the Saturday newspaper – so I’ll try hard not to do that.

My main temptation will be going to the city centre to buy that birthday present. I’ve not been there for months and probably won’t be going again for a good long while, so the spendaholic devil on my shoulder will tell me to take the opportunity to look in the clothes shops for thick woollies I haven’t been able to find elsewhere or check out what bargain wool is on offer this week in the market. I could use another warm woollie jumper but I don’t need one, and I certainly don’t need any more actual wool. I’m a sucker for non-repeating bargains. Resist! Resist!

The key thing I want to get from it isn’t the desire to never buy anything every again, it’s to make me conscious about when I do spend money.

Have you had a no-spend week/fortnight/month/year before? If so, got any tips to avoid temptation?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Laura

    Not leaving the house works for me most days….as long as I stay off Amazon. When I’m good I’m really good, but there are days when I’ll buy a few little things and suddenly £30 has gone!

    Good luck with your spending hiatus :)

    • louisa

      Yes, that’s how it works for me – but then when I do leave the house and go somewhere that sells things other than food, I sometimes feel I have to make the most of it – whether I need/even like the things that are being sold… And that’s where my bad buys come from!

  2. Taphophile

    I’m challenging myself to get rid of 7 things out of the house each week (I’ve done it before and it’s great). As it’s 7 things nett, outgoings minus incomings must be equal to or greater than 7. It’s designed to make me focus on my consumption. I definitely spend less when I’m seven-thinging.

  3. Chile

    We did a no-spend month a couple of years ago. It wasn’t too bad, except we’d been eating out a lot so there was definitely an adjustment phase. Good luck!

    • louisa

      Hi Chile,

      The temptation to eat out (or get take out) is probably going to be one of my hardest challengers – we get take out when we’re too tired to cook – a point when my willpower is not exactly strong! At least though, because it’s coming up to Christmas, I’ve got two big paid-for-by-someone-else meals out lined up so hopefully that’ll help my cravings/adjustment period.

      -louisa :)

  4. Su

    I’m having a ‘no spend day’ today. Whilst it’s not quite on the scale of a ‘no spend fortnight’ it did require some planning! This is the first time I have actively decided that on a particular day, that I would not buy anything, obviously I have days where I don’t spend a thing, but it’s by accident not design.
    It’s also interesting that bus fares should be mentioned, since I am trying to reduce my expenditure on them. It would actually be cheaper for me to buy a yearly pass at £660, BUT, if I do that I will have to make sure that I get the maximum use out of it, which means that I won’t walk or cycle! Which is obviously not terrible healthy. So I am trying to get my annual expenditure on travel to less than £500, which sounds a lot, but it won’t go very far.
    In the new year I am planning on having a week of not buying any food, I will have to rely on what I already have in stock. At last count I had 4 different shapes of pasta. I mean it’s not as though they taste any different is it?

    • louisa

      Hi Su,

      When I had a bus pass, I was certainly inclined to walk less. I used to work at Leeds Uni which is up a pretty steep hill from the city centre – a short bus ride or a puffy, sweaty walk. When I had a bus pass, I’d get the bus up nearly every day and down sometimes too. When I didn’t have a bus pass, I’d walk down every day without fail and most days I’d walk up too. I’d never thought of it like that but saving myself money was making me less fit – at least I wasn’t paying for gym membership with my bus savings!

      I think we’ll have a week or fortnight of not buying food in the new year – probably in the spring when we can supply more of the fresh food ourselves.

      I might be kidding myself but I do think pasta different shapes do make a difference – the way they absorb the sauce etc. … I’m deluded, aren’t I?

  5. bookstorebabe

    Oh, I buy different pasta, too. The flatish noodles I use for cassarole or soup,and the spirals and shells noodles I buy for pasta salad, and spagetti noodles. Although the spirals and shells would be just fine for spagetti, true….It’s all what we’re used to, what we grew up with, how we learned to cook. I know I can use whatever I have-and I will, if I have to-but I’ll keep buying the different styles. I only use small shell pasta when I make this one bean veggie soup. When my girl was little she liked how the minced veggies and beans would end up inside them, and dubbed it ‘hiding bean soup’.
    Eating out and takeout when I’m tired are my downfalls, too. The best thing for that is to have good food on hand, and to have as much prep work done as possible. And that’s a hard habit to get in to. I do have baggies of chopped carrot, celery and onion for my soup in the freezer now. Then it goes together fast, and when I’m tired, the last thing I want to do is chop a pile of veggies. Heck, even something as simple as having carrot sticks in cold water in the fridge helps. If they are there, the family eats them like bunnies, and I can throw a sliced carrot into whatever, too. I force myself to package meat into meals before putting it in the freezer. That means stew meat chopped, hamburger made into patties, or browned and drained for tacos, ect, chicken cut up, you get the drill. I’ll still get take out if I’ve forgotten to defrost it :), but it’s a start.
    Oh, and no you aren’t deluded. Or if you are, I am too!

  6. Su

    It’s just me then that thinks all pasta shapes taste the same. My taste buds are obviously taking some time out!

  7. Frugal Queen

    Hi – I’m the opposite. I have two spend days a month. I buy all the food and durables when I get paid. I fill the car with diesel and make it last a month, we buy our train passes once a month. Then, that’s it. We’re on financial lock down for the rest of the month. The only extra we spend is £5 a week on fresh veg. If we need clothes, presents or anything non essential, then we have to sell something or make extra money to pay for that. We have paid back 18K in debts this year! In 18 months, we will owe nothing! keep up with no spend day, cut out the papers and takeaways and you could save (£15 a week takeaways £7 for papers – £1144 a year!)

    • louisa

      Hi FQ,

      After reading about it on your blog over the last few months, I do admire your determination! The first week of “no spending” has been quite as spend-free as I’d have liked but it’s been very interesting and I’m definitely going to try to stick to some no spend rule from now on – either only spending on some days or not spending anything on some days.


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