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The ‘Essentials’ Only Spending Challenge

The ‘Essentials’ Only Spending Challenge

During lockdown one thing that I have found quite liberating is NOT going shopping or spending money unnecessarily. With a recession looming, it’s important to think about how and what you spend your money on. Focusing on what you need rather than what you want.

In this day and age, we are in a perpetual state of want. We want everything and we want it now. Next Day and Same Day deliveries enable this. Finance plans enable it and credit cards enable it. It’s never ending and we can’t escape it. Our role models promote specific brands and we feel like have to follow suit. Influencers convey a particular lifestyle and we are now brainwashed into believing that to have a great life, we have to live like them – that means buying what they endorse, dressing in a particular way and so on.

Hands up. I know that I’ve got a naturally free hand with my money…it’s easy for me to spend money. It took unnecessary debt and years of saying ‘do you really need this?’, monitoring my finances and itemising my purchases to understand ‘where’ I was wasting my money. And now I am at a point where I feel comfortable that when I make a purchase, usually it’s one that I know makes me happy and one that I really love.

I discovered minimalism quite a few years ago, it was born out of my need to mute my anxiety and help me to feel calmer in my own personal space while also wanted to really appreciate what I have and the experiences that I go through. Therefore, I try to make sure that I don’t have clutter or unnecessary chaotic mess around me. I don’t want junk in my life, junk clutters the mind and takes away from the creative process in my opinion.

And interestingly on my voyage to a better human, I came across this article on The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2016/nov/26/no-spending-year-over-new-way-living-wealthier-wiser

I am not sure why it caught my eye because I’d never really considered ‘not spending’ before. However, this comment really triggered something: “I was spending without thinking, lured in by advertising and the promise that I could spend my way to happiness. I was stuck in a cycle of consumerism – earning money to buy stuff I didn’t really need, which wasn’t making me happy.” – it resonated with me. I used to have a habit of buying ‘stuff’ when I felt down, the initial thrill of making a new purchase made me feel really good. However, it quickly wore off and I still wanted to feel that high and so I would buy more stuff. (When I say ‘used to’ – it’s suppressed and my need for minimalism overrides it but it doesn’t take away from my personal need to feel that ‘high’ every time I make a purchase)

I believe that Michelle McGagh’s experiment was a little too extreme for me as I do think it’s important to ‘indulge’ every now and again. I have decided to carry out my own version of this challenge starting on 23rd June 2020 until 23rd June 2021. Here are the rules and the exceptions:

  1. My Wedding: As I am now getting married in 2021 now rather than July this year, it gives me more time to save towards my wedding. Therefore costs that are related to the ‘wedding’ are allowed but I’ve got to be really considered about what I spend and ensure it is a need to have for the wedding rather than a nice to have and an unnecessary expense. Unfortunately, I can’t back out of what I have already committed to and paid deposits for.
  2. My Honeymoon: We are having a honeymoon but I’ve decided to ‘earn’ the money to spend on my honeymoon but selling my unwanted items through eBay and other sites like Depop. By doing this, I’m ensuring that I am not throwing away things that I don’t need/want anymore and I am actually building up a little pot of money to spend while on my honeymoon. As I said above, I don’t believe in completely cutting out all indulgences and as I only plan to get married once, I’d like to ensure that I get to make the most of my honeymoon BUT I want to do this without getting into debt.

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  3. Takeaways are out! I actually love a takeaway – I do only buy from the local businesses in my area and I have to be quite selective about what I buy but it’s a habit that I really need to kick especially when I am quite capable of cooking at home. Takeaways also include ‘coffees’ and ‘cakes’. Prior to lockdown, I was known to frequent a local bakery a couple of times a week for a takeaway coffee (in my KeepCup of course) and one of their delicious cakes. The problem is on a monthly basis that really adds up.
  4. NO NEW CLOTHES! I recently did an overhaul of my wardrobe and reviewed how many items of clothing I actually have. These have built up over time but there’s a lot and a lot of it I haven’t been wearing because I’ve gained weight, so they’ve just sat in my wardrobe gathering dust. During lockdown, I forced myself to get more active, eat better and actually start to fit back into those clothes that I have so that I don’t need to invest in new ones.
  5. Toiletries & Make Up: I think face wash, toner and moisturiser all fit under the category of essentials especially when you have terrible skin like mine but make up on the other hand is not. I don’t wear make up that often anyway but I have found that I have bought replacements well before I’ve run out and therefore it’s a question of buying when ‘I need’ to replace rather than just in case.
  6. Free events: Eventbrite is actually one of my favourite sites anyway, there’s always something new to do and lots of things to do for free. I also love being outdoors and so walking in the countryside and site seeing around the UK are actually favourite past times of mine. While previously, I would have bought my lunch at a local cafe, on outings now – I’ll need to take my own lunch. I’m not sure when I’ll start doing these things yet though as we’re still just peaking out the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic and I am still a bit nervous about venturing too far away from home.
  7. Fuel for my car: I live in the middle of nowhere and while that has been great for isolation during the pandemic, it does mean that I need to spend money on fuel for my car to get around. With commuting currently out of the question due to restrictions at my workplace. I am actually quite lucky, I only need to use my car for essential trips. However, when I do start venturing out more – I will need to top up my car so it’s understanding what trips I want to make and why – are they an unnecessary trip, can I combine them with something else and could I cycle or walk to my destination?
  8. Grocery Shopping: I feel that I am already quite good at managing my food shopping and avoiding food wastage but there is always room for improvement. Planned meals will probably help with this substantially. Using what’s in the freezer and bulk buying are also good ideas too. Not just that, reviewing my bills and itemising what I buy and understanding and if I actually use certain items will help cut items from my shopping list. Also, buying in season is key so that you don’t pay inflated prices and also add food miles onto your purchases. Read my previous post about Buying Local.
  9. Gifting: I love buying people presents but when I think about the money that I shell out and the lack of ‘memories’ that are created. It’s actually a bit of a waste. It’s time to start getting creative with the gifts that I give. I love the concept of personalised gifts and I’m placing an exception in the gift rule that I can buy relevant personalised gifts from small businesses on special occasions like birthdays.
  10. Find hobbies that are free: Reading is a hobby that I enjoy and one that I find passes a lot of my time as well. I’ve got shelves of books that I’ve not read and also lots of friends and family that I can swap books with.
  11. Unless it’s free – I can’t do it: That means meals out, cinema trips, nights out and the rest of it are off the cards. During lockdown I have been so creative with my cooking and we’ve had some fantastic nights in that I have wondered why we spend so much on nights out and food at local restaurants. While I’ve missed the company of my friends and family.. inviting people round for dinner and cooking up a ‘cost effective’ storm is just as good as a night out and will probably cost significantly less. While I understand that eating out, going to the cinema and trips to the shopping mall are all nice things to do, often I would haemorrhage cash when meeting up with friends and family for meals out or I’d buy far more than I intended or needed on an impromptu shopping spree. A special occasion now and then is fine, but every week can become really costly.

I think it’s important to understand why I am undertaking this challenge. and while I can’t write off or get refunds on the things that I’ve already booked in; I can consciously make a decision not to spend for the sake of it. For me, money is a stress trigger. I use it as a way of making myself feel good about myself while then spending beyond my means to the point that I can get myself into debt and that’s not a good place to be. Not just that – in this constant battle with the ‘want it now’ culture, we work like crazy to get this ‘new’ shiny toy to then find that it doesn’t actually fulfil out basic needs. This vicious cycle really brings me down.

Worrying about money can impact your mental health and ultimately your relationships with your loved ones. By having a healthy relationship with money and having the ability to deny yourself the things that you really don’t need will help you overall in the long run.

It may also sound like I am saying ‘don’t spend’ and ‘don’t contribute’ to the economy at all. In fact, what I am actually saying is spend local to ensure that you support local businesses but only buy what you need and don’t over indulge. Buy gifts from small businesses that offer personalisation as a USP so that your gift has added value and use your time to get out into the countryside, enjoy the fresh air and do more than go out to eat. Create memorable and unusual experiences with friends and family. I also don’t disagree with going out on special occasions for dinner but when every week you’ve created excuses to go out – then it’s not longer a special treat.

I also think that by understanding what you really need, you’ll then be able to realise what else you can do and the difference that you can make in people’s lives.

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