My No Spend Year – Aug 2018-19


How I plan to get up close and very, very personal with my money.

The idea of a no spend year might not be a new one, but its definitely a tough one by any account. Growing up in middle class families in India, many of us aren't strangers to hand me downs, recycling and up cycling a number of things from various siblings, cousins and yes even a parent’s closet.

But the idea of a no spend year on purpose, as an adult is very different. For me this wasn't born of necessity though. I believe this will improve my love-hate relationship with money. And hopefully, I'll also end up saving some in the process.

I've been a small time minimalist since 2014. I think I've been quite successful with how far I wanted to take the idea as well as how much of I had to tailor to fit me.

But the altogether more drastic idea of the 'no-spend year' came from UK-based personal finance journalist Michelle McGagh whose book documents her 'no spend year'. Replicating that idea in commercial metropolis Mumbai in 2018 seems like a fun experiment. And a challenging one at that.

Poor / frugal / minimalist / miserly

Those are all words that might have crossed your mind when you saw this headline. But it isn't the same thing. Poverty isn't a choice. It's a reflection of society and often a binding and ominous cycle. But being frugal, minimalist or miserly isn't.

In my experience, frugal people tend to hold on to everything - "you never know when you'll need it." Minimalists pare things back to what they believe are the bare essentials. Misers, on the other hand, hold on to money simply because they don't want to spend it.

While each of these probably have their virtues, none of them really fits me. As someone who appreciates efficient solutions to everyday situations, to me this is an exercise in introspection, self-control, resourcefulness, and above all else understanding my personal finances on a very intimate level.

What does a no-spend-year mean for me?

Besides paying for utilities – phone, electricity, water supply, cooking gas insurance premiums, food, medicines and travel - it means cutting out the wants as much as possible and sticking to the needs.

Skipping the eating out and the ordering in, the online shopping (books included) and the mall crawling and avoiding any and all impromptu expenses that crop up is just a small part of the process. Unlike McGagh's experience with food, I love food. I love experimenting with it, and I love it fresh. So I won't be batch cooking, but I will have to come up with ideas on how to keep it interesting. Better meal-planning, maybe?

While no spend can mean no phone or Internet connectivity, in my case, that won't work. I write and edit freelance, and this fits neatly into the 'need' column. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled that my access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple Music and YouTube were safe.

Where I suspect I will need a few good ideas will be to navigate the big holidays and events, birthdays and girls' nights out. But with friends and family already on board with the idea, I think I will be more conscious of the change than they will.

In short, a no-spend year means consciously applying thought to how I spend money for 12 whole months.

Doing my Homework
Preparation, my research tells me, is half the job. I've looked through clothes closets and medicine cabinets, through store cupboards and makeup and made an honest assessment. My active attempts at minimalism means that a lot of it is already at a fairly efficient level - though I do like to stock pile things like laundry detergent, coffee, cartons of milk and tea.

My No Spend Year – Aug 2018 – Aug 2019

My makeup and home cleaning products consist of a small selection of products that work very, very hard and often do double duty. Should I run out of make-up (highly unlikely), I won't be repurchasing until the year-end. But home-cleaning supplies will be repurchased when necessary and I even got my hair cut and styled recently. It will have to last.

I don't work out of a conventional office. But a smart, basic wardrobe full of the staples means I have enough to make the transition without buying anything new if I acquired an office suddenly. My shoe closet used to overflow. It was successfully pared down and even though I'm hardly minimal in that department, I did panic and order two pairs of shoes (heavily discounted). I feel like the ones they meant to replace will give up on me well before the year is over.

Not proud of myself, but I walk a lot, so I've decided to allow it and not send it right back.

This might be a bit TMI (Too Much Information) for some of you but if you're a woman, you know that feminine hygiene is hardly easy. It's both painful and expensive, quite literally. But I since I made the shift to a menstrual cup and reusable pads, I have to say, now it is mostly just painful. Besides, being a bit more eco-friendly and low waste even the initial cost of purchase is low. The downside - this is not for you if you're too squeamish to learn how to position the cup and well, don't want to get your hands dirty. But I've learnt to do this right and I've a system that works.
My No Spend Year – Aug 2018 – Aug 2019

We're a family of four including a 1-year-old baby and a 7-year-old dog. My no-spend challenge will have to take into account a weekly budget that includes food and toiletries for all of us. My husband has decided to get in on the challenge too but on his own terms and this is the bit that won’t be written about but I’m grateful for it anyway.

I like the idea of grocery shopping once a week and meal planning. That way everyone is on the same page. For now I'm still trying to work out what this weekly budget will look like for me.

My phone has been purged of all shopping apps and ad blockers applied where appropriate and possible. While escaping advertising is not the most essential part of this, keeping temptation at bay cannot hurt.

Not being able to read enough worries me. My little baby ensures I get enough reading done, just not the kind I do for fun. So, I now have a lengthy list of both physical and e-books to make my way through and I’m hoping I can make a sizable dent in it before the year is over.

I love a good challenge and this one promises to be full of revelations. I will be on the lookout for free and fun stuff to do around the city, ideas on how to grocery shop better, offers, barters, and keep the style quotient up and the blah quotient way down. Follow my journey on Instagram & Twitter @coffeedesk and wish me luck!

You Might Also Like