If you’re on a journey pursing simplicity, you’ll likely already have explored Decluttering/Minimalism, Capsule Wardrobes, avoiding busyness and calm parenting styles such as Montessori or Gentle/Respectful parenting.
But what’s the next step?
I’ve been mulling-over ways to further simplify our lives. Clearly, the next stage after decluttering is to buy less clutter.
But now I’m extending that logic to reducing our spending in general. After all, if we can live further below our means, we can save more money for the things that really matter – like a family home with a spare bedroom for future kiddos, or a holiday where we can really spend some quality time together.
Spring/Summer is always an expensive time of year for us. Our little family of 4 all have our birthdays within 3 months of each other, plus Father’s Day of course. Add to that the fact that the twins have just outgrown their clothes, the car is due a service and we are saving for a mortgage, and you’ve got a perfect storm for this single-income family!
Enter the no-spend challenge:
Can we get through a whole month without buying anything unnecessary? Can we seize back control of all those little card transactions that slip under the radar? Just one little tap of a thumb or the siren call of contactless payments?
I started by drawing up a comprehensive budget – every expense accounted for. I hadn’t actually formally budgeted
since the twins were born in a while, and with the complications of multiple incomes, different pay-dates and the vagaries of SMP, it was a sprawling monstrosity of a spreadsheet!
(That’s definitely a benefit of being a single-income family – it’s all much simpler. Our income is limited to Bespoke Daddy’s wage and statutory child benefit.)
**At the end of this post I’ve included a free budget template for you to use, if you’d like to join us in the challenge!**
You’ll find two columns – the first is for your existing budget. This isn’t what you THINK you spend, it’s what you actually spent last month. You’ll need to go through all your accounts & any receipts if you use cash. If you’re like us this will expose lots of extra expenses!
The second column is called your projected budget – the road paved with good intentions! This is where you’ll input the new budget figures – what you intend to spend this coming month.
This way, you’ll be able to directly compare your progress and see where the money is haemorrhaging from.
Streamline those outgoings:
Seriously analyse every expense, and dare I say it, KonMari each one! Does this spark joy? Is it really necessary/useful? And for the sake of this challenge, can you go without?
This led to me axing several subscriptions: DisneyLife, Netflix & Spotify. In truth I don’t really need the first two any longer – they are a relic from the days when I literally spent all day and night breastfeeding two newborns or being napped on. And, irritating though they are, I can probably stomach a few ads amidst my Spotify playlists.
I have held on to my Headspace mindfulness app subscription however, as it forms a key part of my daily and emergency coping strategies for when Gentle Parenting feels impossible. As such, I consider it a vital part of my family’s wellbeing!
It sounds uncharitable (boom-boom) but do also consider your charitable giving. If your circumstances have changed dramatically from when you first signed-up with a charity, then you might need to make a tough decision. This is about your heart, and your head, and your family. It benefits no one if you keep on giving but get into debt to do it. You can always reconsider once your finances are in order.
But fear not! A few months back I stumbled upon an affordable alternative to charitable giving which helps people get themselves out of poverty and eventually returns your cash so you can keep reallocating it. I used to give £15 per month back when we were affluent, but lately I haven’t been able to afford to most months. Luckily, the continual repayments of my previous
donations loans mean that as soon as £15 has accrued on my account, I can invest in somebody else, and change a whole new family’s life. Not sure what I am going on about? Check out Lend With Care
Control your Grocery Spend:
For groceries I advocate starting by calculating how much you spent on consumables per week last month, and budget the full figure, rather than aiming to reduce spending straight away. To get this figure, take the total grocery spend for the month and multiply by 12. This gets you the yearly spend. Then divide by 52, and you’ll get the spend per week. Obviously, we want to try and reduce the grocery bill, but it makes better financial sense to plan for a higher figure, then try to reduce the spend in person week by week – and bank the change. Depending on how well you do, you can lower the allotted funds next month.
Sticking to the budget:
Easier said than done! We’ve all been there: you map it all out and yet somehow you spend more than you intend. Well this time I am making it impossible to overspend accidentally. I am forgoing plastic! No more lovely card payments!
At the start of this week I withdrew, in cash, our ‘daily spending budget’ for the month. I have divided this up into envelopes, one for each week, and am only allowed to carry enough for the current week. I did the big food shop immediately so I’m not carrying excess cash, but then whatever change is left is all I am allowed. The challenge is to hold onto as much of that cash as possible so that I am coming in under budget. Then, at the end of the week, I plan to leave the change at home and start the next week fresh.
Essentially, the No Spend Challenge boils down to two stages:
1. Make a challenging, frugal budget
2. Dare yourself to out-frugal your frugal budget!
Who’s with me? I’ll be reporting back to you guys for accountability!