So, if you’d like to get some similar insights or make similar savings, but don’t know where to start, keep on reading.
Most of the work is in the preparation. If you prepare well and set some clear goals ahead of time, then your only focus for the rest of the week is sticking to the plan and avoiding temptation.
Make a Plan
Before you start, decide what you’re going to make an exception on. Emergencies or unusual situations, like falling ill or an unexpected bill, are things you’re almost always going to make an exception for. Think about other things you’ll need to spend money on, such as bills, or travel. You can either make arrangements to pay this early or make an exception for yourself.
Living in London, 99% of my travel is on public transport. I try to ensure I have a travel card on my Oyster card ahead of time. However, depending on the amount of travel I have in a week, this can actually work out as more expensive. If I haven’t got many outings planned, that I will just use my contactless card instead – meaning this becomes one of my planned exceptions.
Before you start you no-spend challenge, you also need to identify any problems or struggles you might face. I know that I am very good at making loopholes for myself. This is why I make very few exceptions – any more and I would exploit them. This is because of something Gretchen Rubin talks about in her work about habits.
There are two groups of people – abstainers, and moderators. Moderators can, as the name suggests, moderate their behaviour. For example, if given a large chocolate bar, they might make it last weeks by only eating one square a day, because that’s the limit they set themselves.
The rest of the world are abstainers. It’s easier for someone in this group to avoid it completely than to moderate their intake. So in the ‘not spending any money context’, it’s easier to spend no money than set a daily limit.
So, have a think about which one you are, and plan your exceptions accordingly. If you’re an abstainer, like me, don’t make plans to only spend a small amount a day, for example – you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
Plan Your Meals
Obviously, one of the big things you need to make sure you have in place before you try not to spend money is food! The last thing you want is to get halfway through the week and realise you have no food left. So sit down beforehand and plan your meals.
Don’t forget to think about the shelf life of food. There’s no point planning a fresh salad for the Sunday if you go shopping on Monday and the lettuce expires on Wednesday. I normally fill the beginning of my week with fresh food like salads and then keep tinned or frozen food for the end of the week.
Don’t forget snacks and guilty pleasures too! And make sure you get something nice to celebrate the end of the week.
Once you have your meal plan and shopping list, you need to go shopping. Don’t use the fact you’re spending no money for a week as an excuse to buy all the top brands you’d never buy normally – you’re trying to save money after all!
I personally get my shopping delivered because I’m lazy, and it works out cheaper. The closest ASDA is a forty-five-minute bus ride away, and I’d spend £3 on the journey. If I do a big shop each week, that’s £12 a month. For £5 a month, I can get it delivered to my door at any time, and I don’t spend hours each week doing it. Of course you don’t have to do this, but it can be useful to consider if you’re looking to save money overall.
Another thing to consider is a meal box. I’ve used Gousto many times now, and generally, love all the meals I get. If you can get a good offer, then it can work out cheaper than your usual food shopping, plus you get to try something new to make the week a bit more exciting!
Whether you shop online, go to the store or get a meal box, making sure you have food in the cupboard is an essential step. You’re now ready to start your week of spending no money!
4. Dealing with Temptation
As I said before, the one thing my no-spend weeks have really taught me is how often I want to spend money. Almost daily, I would find myself thinking about going to buy a chocolate bar just because, or wistfully looking on Amazon for my next purchase. One of the biggest ways I dealt with temptation was reminding myself why I wasn’t spending money, as explored in the next section.
The other thing I did was allowing myself to do the window shopping, and then adding the items to my wish list. Depending on your willpower in the moment, this might prove too much temptation. But sometimes just saying to yourself ‘I’ll add it to my wishlist and buy it on Sunday when my week is up’. If you’re anything like me, you won’t want it by the end of the week anyway!
5. Remind Yourself Why
Let’s face it, a week (or longer) of spending no money isn’t something we do for fun. Maybe you have debts you’re trying to pay off, or money is tight at the moment, or you’re saving for something special like a holiday or a wedding. Whatever your reason, you need to remind yourself of it. I’m not going to dictate to you how you do this, because you’re going to know what works best for you. Maybe it’s writing a list of your money goals. Maybe it’s having a chart of your progress towards living debt-free. Perhaps it’s as simple as a picture on your desktop, reminding you what you’re aspiring to. Whatever your reason for doing this is, find a way to remind yourself of it whenever temptation is drawing nearer. It will make those impulse buys a lot easier to resist!
Joining a support group can really help as well – there are hundreds online now, especially on Facebook, where other people just like you are trying to save money. I joined one for fans of a podcast I regularly listen to, and it’s fantastic to see daily posts on my Facebook wall daily from other people trying to do the same thing as me. Look for similar groups where you can share your story, read other people’s and get the support you need.
I hope these few points will help you with your own plans to save money and spend a whole week not spending anything! Share your stories and any tips of your own in the comments below, or over on Twitter!