No Spend Year 2018: Starting Out

If you know me in real life or have been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I love to shop. I love browsing online clothing stores and buying all the cute items or trying out new subscription boxes. I love buying myself treats when I’m at the grocery store or just other random items that catch my eye and I *need*.

On a weekly basis, I budget down to the dollar so that I can ensure that I have enough money for groceries, but can also afford that really cute top. Not a single purchase is made without really thinking about whether or not I can afford it. For a long time I really never thought much of it. I mean, why would I? I pay off my credit card balance every month, so what was the issue?

Well, then I started to think about it. I see pictures pop up on my Facebook memories and realize how many clothing items I got rid of after just a couple of wears, yet I still have a full closet. I started to think about all the items I have gotten from subscription boxes over the years, and how many of them I still have or have ever actually used. In other words, I realized just how much money I have wasted.

At the start of 2016, I decided to track my expenses. Each month I wrote down every dollar I spent on my credit card, separated into two categories. The first was my necessary expenses. This included items like my vehicle insurance, fuel, haircuts and groceries. The second category was my wants. This included subscription boxes, clothing and any other miscellaneous purchase that wasn’t considered an actual need.

I spent $7580.36 on necessary expenses, and $5318.96 on unnecessary expenses. I realize that these numbers may not seem very high to some people, but I really don’t have much to show for it. This realization made me declare 2018 a No Spend Year.

I started this plan on December 23rd (I’m going according to credit card cycle), which means I’m getting close to my one month mark. Here are three things I thought about before going into this plan, and how I know I’m building for success.

Think about WHY

In order to be successful with a No Spend Year, you need to know WHY you want to do one. Some of those reasons can be: paying off debt (credit cards, loans etc.), saving for a big trip or a downpayment for a home, paying off your mortgage or saving for retirement. It may even be as simple as wanting to challenge yourself or to change your spending habits. There is no reason too big or too small. You do need to identify your reason though. If you don’t have a goal to work towards, you have nothing to keep your focus. You have no reason to leave money sitting in your bank account if you don’t know why it’s there. Pick your reason, and write it down. Keep it somewhere visible, a place that it can serve as a reminder throughout the year.

My reasons: 

  • I want to have money in savings. You never know when a big expense could come up. We could have vehicle troubles, need to replace some appliances, who knows what would go wrong. Point is, I want money set aside so that I don’t have to stress.
  • I want to have more experiences. I don’t know exactly what this will look like yet, but I want to do more. I want to go on a trip and not have to think about whether every single little thing fits into the small allotted budget. I want to go to a festival and be able to gorge myself on delicious, unhealthy food, and not worry about blowing my budget. I want to try new things and see new places. I want another tattoo. All of that takes money. Doesn’t all of that sound better than having another knick-knack on your shelf?
  • I want to challenge myself. Honestly, I love to give myself challenges. I love to think of an end goal and figure out what I need to do to get there. I’m a stubborn person, and I hate to see myself fail, even if no one else knows what my goal is. How big of a challenge is it for someone who LOVES shopping to not spend frivolous money for a year? Well, I guess I’ll find out.

Think about WHAT

Once you know why you want to have a No Spend Year, you need to decide what that actually looks like to you. If you have a large amount of debt or need to save up a lot of money in a short time, it may literally mean no spending except for the bare necessities like bills and food. If you notice yourself putting a lot of money into one general area like clothes, make-up, books or your daily coffee stop at Starbucks, it may mean giving those areas up. Just like how there is no reason too big or too small, there is no category too big or too small. It will never be a one-size-fits-all scenario. You need to identify for yourself where your money is going, and what you want to cut out or cut back on. Don’t compare yourself to others and especially don’t compare yourself to me.

What a No Spend Year means to me:

  • No new purchases relating to clothing, shoes or accessories, unless necessary. The key point here is necessary. I have a pair of Skechers that I wear almost daily. They have become quite worn out and just aren’t as comfortable anymore. I will buy a new pair, and I will do it without guilt. To me, that’s a necessity. What isn’t a necessity is buying another really cute top. If all my black pants suddenly get holes in them, I will get new ones. If one pair does, I can just move onto the others.
  • Minimal junk food purchases. I like to treat myself, but I have also spent a lot of money on junk food. Including this in my No Spend Year will likely help me reach some of my health & fitness related goals as well.
  • Home-related purchases are allowed. We bought a house in August, which was very exciting. We were previously in a condo and we really didn’t do any personalization there, not even painting. We are ready to make changes to our house and really make it ours. We don’t really need much in regards to decor or furniture, but there are changes and updates we want to make. My closet is almost finished, with just a few key pieces left to go (I will be sharing DIY tips and room tours as they are done), and my bathroom is next on my list. I won’t be putting these projects off, but I also won’t put money towards unnecessary items within that. Even if the current colours of my towels don’t totally go with my plan or a new shower curtain would be fun, they are still in perfectly good condition and don’t need to be replaced.
  • I won’t hold money back from doing things. We didn’t really take any holidays last year, so I’m hoping this year we can. It won’t be anything big or lavish, likely just a trip to Calgary or a couple camping trips. I have every intention of making the most of those times and trying some new things. That will cost money, but I’m okay with that.
  • I will still be getting two subscription services: Trillia Planning (monthly) and My Balanced Box (quarterly). I will also still be posting reviews of those subscriptions. This is a fraction of what I used to get and I find that I get use out of both subscriptions.

Think about HOW

Okay, we have covered the WHY and the WHAT, now for what may be the most important factor, HOW? Once you know exactly what you are (or are not) including in a No Spend Year, you can decide how to do it. If you want to give up buying books, make sure you have a valid library card or arrange a book exchange with friends. If you want to spend less on your morning coffee or workday lunch, make sure you have supplies to make your own. If you want to significantly cut back on your spending but don’t want to go completely without, pick a weekly or monthly allowance to give yourself. Finding ways to still incorporate what you love and have grown accustomed to having will help you in the long run. This isn’t about deprivation, it’s about a change of mindset. Get creative. You can even explore new hobbies that don’t cost anything. Start running outside or try out some new recipes in the kitchen. Maybe you’ll discover a new passion as you go through this year, or at least develop some new skills.

How will I succeed: 

  • Well, this will be covered in future posts as I share further tips on not spending money or saving on necessary purchases. Stay tuned!

Once you’ve thought about WHY you want to do a No Spend Year, WHAT you plan on giving up, and HOW you are going to succeed, you’re ready to begin. It’s not going to be easy, and there will likely be some bumps along the way, but you’ve got this. As you journey through the year, make sure you focus on the wins. The moments you’ve said no to spending, and the hurdles you’ve overcome. The whole point of a No Spend Year is to make changes, whether they be financial changes, mental changes or both. Every time you say no is another step towards that change, that end goal. And remember, what your journey looks like isn’t necessarily what the next persons journey looks like.

I’d love to hear from you if you are participating in a No Spend Year. I will be doing monthly posts with tips to help you succeed along the way, along with my own progress updates. Are there any specific areas you would like tips on? What have you found the most challenging so far?

  • Shelia Riley Janifer

    I love the idea of a No Spend Year. I definitely need to think about how my family can cut back on our purchases. I like the fact that we should know our “why.” Great article.

    • Thank you! I think it’s a great thing to consider even if you just want to spend less in general. I know that a No Spend Year is definitely not for everyone, but every change makes a difference.

  • I love the way you broke this down into What, Why and How – preparing for a “No Spend Year” really is not something to decide to do on a whim, so asking these three main questions can be key to success. Although I must say, for me I’d definitely have to cut out home purchases…that alone would blow the whole thing for me, haha!

    • I will definitely have to be careful with home purchases and try not to get too carried away. I’m hoping that staying away from decor and focusing on actual cosmetic changes will rein me in a bit.

  • Andi this is such an excellent post. You did a great job explaining what and how and why – I’m sure you’ll be successful in your no buy year!

  • Katie Deckert

    Such good details! Love that you are committing for a year!

  • You would love the website: “and then we saved” if you aren’t already familiar with it. They went on a no spend year as well and they got rid of so much debt and saved so much money. Love this goal that you have for yourself and the amazing baseline you kept from last year!

  • Jill D

    Love the idea of this and that you’re not completely restricting yourself! Good luck!

  • I think you have really awesome reasons for doing a no spend year! We’re currently avoiding any unnecessary spending because we know that paying for baby boy’s birth will probably be our biggest (and most worthwhile!) “splurge” of the year. 🙂 It’s actually pretty cool how choosing NOT to spend on small items can really add up to some pretty awesome savings!