Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The No Spend Month

I have been inspired lately by Tracy’sblog.  Tracy is going through tough times financially but bravely putting it out there to get herself going and I must say it’s very inspiring for me too.

I know my husband and I have it much better than a lot of people, but we are still chipping away at our home loan.  We have plans to pay it off early and that is going well, but I feel like I’ve been a little complacent in other areas.  I’m not a huge spender but still buy things here and there that aren’t really necessary and do contribute to our clutter.

I have no trouble keeping out of shops, and when I’m there for a specific reason (I rarely go to ‘just browse’ anymore because it’s too boring for words) I buy that item (having first waited until a time that it will be on special) and then leave.

Online shopping however is another story.  I enjoy buying books, dvds and cosmetics from the comfort of my home and, well, it’s just too easy and I do it too often.  Because all the purchases are on my credit card I can easily add them up with the click of an Excel formula.  I was shocked at how much all those small amounts totalled over the past twelve months.

At the beginning of February Tracy started a No Spend Month, and I also read about a similar idea at Simple Savings.  I was encouraged to start my own no spend month and there are already at least three occasions that I went to purchase something online and then remembered my promise to myself.

I left those items in the shopping cart and instead wrote them down in the first week of March of my diary.  I wrote the item name, where it was from and the price.

I have occasionally been back to visit those items and one even had 10% off just for that weekend.  The month of February crawled for me, realizing there was still more than two weeks to go before I could buy this item!  As the month progressed though, I’ve found my wanting for these things has waned.

In New Zealand, if I cannot obtain something from a New Zealand etailer, I order from a US or UK store.  A New Zealand order comes within a day or two, but when I wait 1-4 weeks for an order from afar, sometimes I have forgotten the appeal and when it turns up I don’t even want it that badly.  Isn’t that terrible?

So even though it’s been a bit annoying at the time that I cannot just ‘click and buy’ but rather ‘click and then realise and then write it in my diary and then not buy’, I’m really pleased I did it.

My no-spend month has been so successful that I am considering making it an ongoing feature of my financial life, where I have to wait until one month’s time to buy something.  So if I see a book I want on the 17th of February, I will write it in the week of 17th of March to see if I still want it.  Some books I have purchased online I haven’t even opened yet, and we are talking several months!  Gee, I really had to have that book didn’t I?  It’s changed my life hasn’t it?

Fiction I have no problem getting out of the library and happily returning when read.  Non-fiction on the other hand I seem to have given myself a ‘get out of jail free’ card.  Because it’s non-fiction it’s serious and important stuff and I NEED it for my home library.

But what about that other, free, non-cluttering library, the one I pay for with my property rates?  I can borrow a particular non-fiction book more than once, whenever I want to read it.    And it’s only the newest books that have big queues, the ones I’m considering for my home library I can easily borrow pretty much straight away.

Now we are in the first week of March, I happily left two items unpurchased that I had written down.  I did order one second-hand book from Abe Books (US10 including postage), so I think I did pretty well.  None of the three items were big, but as I said before, all those rats and mice add up.  Having participated in ‘No Spend February’ I reduced my expenditure – and clutter – by 2/3 and I'm happy with that.

I am definitely using the ‘one month out’ diary method for any future online purchases now.  Do you use any tricks on yourself?


  1. I find online shopping to be a bit of a minefield...
    I put things in the shopping cart and then leave the site for a few days to see if I really want or need them and usually I do not buy them.
    I do love browsing thrift shops though as I am very tactile I like to touch the fabrics and try things on...I am limiting myself to a small allowance for this pursuit and so far it is working. I rarely buy books anymore as we have such a small bungalow and the library here has a huge selection and one can reserve books online and pick them up when they email you that they are ready...
    I am saving some money every month from my pension in a mad money account and am watching it grow. I like to look at the growing amount and think how small it would be if I gave in to every whim that came along.
    Good luck with your savings program and paying off the mortgage is the best thing one can do to improve their financial security. All experts say this...then pay off any credit card debt and always save for the future.
    I think we all need to budget for a few small treats, even if it is a fancy coffee or a bunch of tulips.
    Take care,

  2. Such a comprehensive and helpful comment Leslie. Thank you!

  3. Fiona - thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad I could be of encouragement in saving money. :)

  4. I've done this too- leave the book in my online cart for a week to see if I want it enough. I'm also a big believer in the public library- but then, I am a librarian! :)

  5. This is a well written article, and I am attracted to the idea of a "no spend month". Last summer I conducted a "no spend season", and it was such a thrill to purchase a dress in the Fall - and that's what a purchase should be: thrilling, not ho-hum. I instruct my financial counseling clients to create a budget and track expenses in order to support your greater life goals. It pleases me to see others applying personal finance skills and choices to every buying opportunity before them.

  6. That's a great idea to leave in the cart and wait. I'm guilty of impulse shopping, especially when it comes to books.

  7. Recently I ordered five books from my library that were on my Amazon wish list. There wasn't one book out of that pile that I wanted to read once I had it in my hands! One of the books was "too academic" for me though I thought I needed it for my library too. Trial run your books and then see if they are really your cup of tea.

    Donna from alovelyinconsequence.blogspot

  8. Hi Fiona, We too are chipping away at our mortgage. We have 2 years left on it - I am 48 and want the mortgage gone! I think your no-spend month is a fantastic idea, and I've been seeing other bloggers (in the personal finance/frugal living genre) doing this as well. It would be a tremendous challenge for me but I think I am ready to attempt it!

    I've been following Tracy's blog since you recommended it in a previous post. I can't get enough of the frugality blogs where people are trying to simplify their lives. You are always so inspirational to me and I am thrilled whenever I check in here to see if there is a new post from you. It makes my day when there is :)

  9. Totally inspiring. Thank you for this post! ~ Adelaide.

  10. Hi Fiona,


    1. With books, you can Google the author and when you find their author website, email them via their contact page and offer to write a review of their book on your blog in exchange for a gratis review book copy. Some will gladly mail you a review book, or their publishers will; others won't--it depends sometimes on whether they feel a blog fits their niche audience/readership, and/or whether the blog has a large enough following.

    2. My husband tracks our spending regularly using Excel spreadsheets he has customized to our particular life. Then we have a meeting together every two weeks to make sure we stay on track with spending, savings, investments, etc. and we adjust accordingly. This helps me know how to spend wisely within our means since I do the majority of purchasing and initial researching for best deals on purchases and then we discuss it before actually buying. We also do quarterly and annual financial planning meetings together as a couple. (Married nearly 34 years.) This is what works best for us, but everyone is different in how they work that out I think. For me, when we track $ expenses ongoing, it's like me weighing myself on a scale every day--if I see I've gained a pound or two, I cut back/adjust accordingly.

    I like your idea of making a list and giving it some time before purchasing. Amazingly if some time passes, I too decide sometimes that I don't really want that item after all.

    Have a wonderful day in New Zealand! Kathryn :)

  11. Love this and it was freakishly timely for me to read. I have been consistently hammering away at some debt and have made significant progress--we should be debt free (outside the mortgage) by October if not sooner. But I haven't been overly disciplined in not buying un-needed things. I will try your suggestions and see if I might be able to incorporate a no spend 4 months. Merci, ma chere.

  12. You only give yourself credit for purchasing just one of the three books desired, but you probably also stopped yourself from buying even more other stuff. Because if you'd gotten those books at the impulse moment, emptying your cart, you may have just purchased other stuff, too. "Breaking the seal" as they say on buying, so the subsequent occasions of it are even easier to do than the first. So more credit for you!

  13. Susan, that may well be true. I definitely affected my mindset with this experience - it made me look at a lot of different purchases in a new way.

  14. I also will leave items in an online cart for several days or even longer. I usually end up deleting most of them. I recently bought some books with an Amazon gift card and did not wait or think about the items, just browsed and purchased -- it was "free" money after all. I now regret a couple of the books I got. Putting an item on a wish list is such a good idea; it keeps us from impulse buying.

  15. My weakness is online shopping too. It's so easy to click and buy. I really like your approach. I love posts on frugality and ideas on how to save.

  16. Hi, I have only just found your blog! Still better late than never. I have found the posts so interesting and humbling. We are, as proved by your blog and many others, finding it financially difficult, but instead of feeling sorry for yourself, the spirit of adversity and beauty shines from the writers of these pages, honestly it brought tears to my eyes, it would be too easy to sit there and "accept" your lot in life, or moan about it like many do, so this pay it forward attitude has lifted my heart and nourished my soul, thank you ladies. Sisters. x

  17. Hi Suzie, your comment is beautifully written and I too agree that chic ladies of the blog community are an inspiring bunch.

  18. Being frugal can bring anyone closer to materializing a debt-free life. bI always make it a point to homeowners, especially to newbies, that frugality will help them avoid credit card debts and mortgages. It also increases their credit scores. Anyway, I love that you are in on the idea of being frugal, Fiona. Good luck with the challenge! All the best to you! :)

    Barry Sutton @ Iron Point Mortgage Group


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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