So I decided in December that I was going to have a spend-free January. We had an expensive couple of months in the run up to Christmas, with one thing and another, and I felt that I would really benefit from having a cheap month.
I then asked if any of my Facebook page followers would like to join me in the challenge, and ended up with a group of us all doing the challenge together.
Spend-free is impossible
Firstly, it is important to recognise that having a spend-free January is actually impossible. We all need roofs over our heads, heating and lighting, food in our stomachs and fuel in our vehicles (if we have to drive to work) and all these things require to be paid……….every month!
So the first part of the challenge was to look at what we NEEDED to pay in the month and take that away from the income for the month. This then gave us a figure of what we could actually potentially save in this month. How much?? It was scary when you see the figure written down.
What is my goal?
Asking ourselves what on earth we spend all that money on in every other month certainly gave us some food for thought. Thinking about what we could do with the money that we saved is a great tool for keeping us motivated. Paying off debts, saving for a holiday or building an emergency fund are all great ways of using the unspent money.
So with the end goal in mind, we set about getting organised to ensure that we could all spend as little as possible in the month.
Challenge One. Make a list of all the food and drink already in the house, by going through the cupboards and the freezer and plan a menu for the month using many of those ingredients. Result – many people are feeling much more organised, less stressed about food and spending much less on food than they normally would. A huge part of making the most of your money is about being organised and avoiding that last-minute panic purchase that can often result in overspending.
Another major part of cutting spending is thinking about the habitual spending that we do every week without thinking about it. Do you buy a take-away coffee on your way to work every day? How much does that cost you a week? A month? A year? Adding up these figures and thinking about how this impacts on your finances can certainly be a sobering thought and enough to make you think twice before buying things.
I have suggested that the spend-free January group make note of anything that they want to buy in the month and then review that list at the end of the month to see if they still want to purchase that item. It will be interesting to see how many of the items that would have been purchased outwith the challenge are still considered necessary at the end of the challenge. We will just have to wait and see.
I offered to take my daughters out for coffee last weekend, then remembered that I couldn’t! Aaaargh – two unhappy teenagers and me – the mother from hell! Anyhow, I then suggested that we could go and visit a neighbour instead – we had been meaning to pay her a visit since New Year and hadn’t quite got around to it. We got free coffee and really enjoyed our visit with our neighbour. (An 81 year old with an absolutely wicked sense of humour, who really appreciated our visit.) Win-win.
I also wanted some times tables cards, as one of my kids is not very good with their tables. Normally I would have just ordered them online However, this time it was not to be. I put my thinking cap on and 20 minutes later I had tables flash cards printed off onto cardboard and chopped up into cards – job done. Free.
Turn it into a competition
So, I am really enjoying the challenge of the challenge. I think my competitive streak is coming out and I am determined that spend-free January won’t beat me. Unlike the dry January challenge which beat me last night – wooops. BUT I really enjoyed my chilled ciders, which I hasten to add were left over from Christmas!
So, it’s early days, but I am really enjoying the challenge and many in the group are also enjoying being a part of it too. If you fancy joining us, it’s not too late – I promise you won’t be penalised for your previous spending.
I am Eileen Adamson, a Your Money, Sorted coach, working online with UK based women, helping them to develop a better relationship with money. By gaining an understanding of how their personality affects the decisions they make, I can help them to implement changes which will allow them to feel calm, positive and confident that they are in control and making good financial decisions. I can then support them to put into place simple strategies that will allow them to manage their finances effectively on a daily basis and create a stable, secure and exciting future for themselves.