Times are tough right now, especially when it comes to money and Christmas. I’m trying to save as much as I can so I can buy a house sooner rather than later. That means looking at my finances with a fine-tooth comb. Sure, it’s not the most fun job in the world but if you’re trying to save, it’s a necessity! In fact, I often challenge myself to not spend for a period of time. I’ll talk more about how to deal with a spending ban in a bit but I thought I’d share my financial journey.
MY FINANCIAL JOURNEY
As soon as I started earning money from my weekend job at 16, I set up a savings account. I’d save up coins in my piggy bank and then take it into the building society and soon, the amount rose. That was back when the interest rates were like 5% (oh those glory days!).
When I got to university, I worked quite as much overtime as I could to save for a car and to fund a college course after graduation. I was savvy with my money, only buying stuff if I could get student discount on it. After graduation, I commuted every Monday-Thursday to Sheffield for a period of six months for the college course. All my money went on train and tram fares and nothing else. I was still working weekends so had a very small income to see me by.
Upon completion in Sheffield, I stayed at my part-time Post Office job for 18 months. I saved as much as possible to move to Sheffield for my Masters. Whilst I did get a loan from the government, it didn’t even cover half of my rent. I sold my car before moving and whilst studying, I worked as much as I could once again.
As you can see, I’ve always been a saver. That was until I started full-time work in a marketing agency. I was meant to be saving for another car but instead spent all my money online: clothes, stationery, homeware. If there was money to be spent, I certainly spent it! I had no idea on how to deal with a spending ban whatsoever so I had to teach myself!
STARTING MY OWN BUSINESS
Since starting my own business, this is when I’ve had to really track my spending. I started freelancing in January 2019 but unfortunately had to go back to an old part-time job to get some income. For the past year or so, I’ve juggled freelancing and a part-time job and have been able to start saving again. It’s been a process but saving small amounts regularly seems to work for me.
When I went full-time self-employed in September, I looked closer at my income and outgoings. I noticed I had been spending a lot of smaller amounts. Gone are the days when I would spend £100+ on a Primark haul. It’s a takeaway hot chocolate here, a Kindle book there. Lots of small, under £20 purchases that soon add up.
Then I thought to myself, what do I want more? Financial security and my own home or to live at home forever? Clearly the first option looks more attractive so I’m now starting my savings accounts pretty much from scratch. Right now, I have £1,550 in my Help to Buy ISA, which considering I only started paying into it in January, isn’t too bad. When I took a closer look at my finances, I knew I had to be ruthless. After doing a lot of research of how to deal with a spending ban, I came to the conclusion that I had to do it!
You get to make the rules, how to deal with a spending ban is entirely up to you. Do you want to be really strict and just spend on bills and groceries? Maybe you just need to stop online shopping in your lunch break, on an evening or all day if you’re now working from home? The beauty with a spending ban is you can ban yourself from buying whatever you want. For the last two months of 2020, I’m basically banning myself from spending money on pretty much everything. The only exceptions are fixed expenses (such as bills and business expenses) and eBay postage. I will also spend money on Christmas presents but I want to keep this as low as possible.
Now I’m not that strict as I’m sure I’ll spend some money (the odd takeaway or a M&S clothes shop), but the important thing is to challenge yourself. I aim for 20-25 no spend days a month so that way, there is some wiggle room. If I’m spending something on one day, I’ll make sure I buy anything else I might need from elsewhere too. That way, I have more no-spend days later on in the week/month.
Now bans aren’t always the way to go; how about starting with a low-spend month or just cutting back in general? Try making your own lunch 3-4 times a week and ditching the takeaway coffee? Limit yourself to one clothes shop a week if you’re a spendaholic or once a month/season if you’re a capsule wardrober like myself! There’s always a way to make it work for you!
BEFORE A SPENDING BAN
- Make sure you have everything you need: Do a big food shop (particularly for the freezer and cupboards), check your toiletries and beauty stash to check you have enough spares, have a look in your wardrobe and drawers to make sure you don’t need to replace anything. Preperation is key here!
- Do a big clean: I rarely do big cleans anymore because I clean regularly but it’s good to do those less regular chores before a spending ban. Move as much furniture as possible to vacuum around, get on top of your laundry and ironing and reoganise your kitchen or wardrobe.
- Make a list of jobs you keep putting off: If you think you might get bored because you can’t spend any money, list all those jobs that you always add to your to-do list but never actually do. Anything from painting the garden fence to organising the loft space, get yourself ready to get them done finally.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A SPENDING BAN
Find or rediscover a hobby
In order to not spend money, do something you love. Whether it’s rediscovering an old passion (knitting, jogging, Morris dancing) or finding something completely new, try to make sure it’s free or cheap! Maybe you’re someone who often starts with a new hobby for five minutes and then gives up? Take it back up and try again!
Since lockdown, I’ve rediscovered my love of dance, reading, bullet journalling, decluttering and home organisation. I’ve done more research on astrology zodiac signs (I’m a Capricorn) and enneagrams (I’m a type 8), started baking and journalling again as well as getting a tonne of blogging ideas down on paper and scheduled in my content calendar.
Get on top of your finances
Now is the perfect time to sit down and look at your finances. Gather all your bank statements from the past few months and see where you spend your money. If you’re a organisation weirdo like me, you’ll want some highlighters, a calculator and maybe a new notebook to take notes in,
I actually own a budget planner which I’ve been using all year and already have next year’s on my shelf. I categorise my spending using highlighters and total up what I’ve spent in each category. It’s eye-opening to see what you actually do spend when you tally up the numbers!
You might then decide you need to change banks, open up a savings account, set up a debt repayment plan or cancel some regular payments. When you see it all in front of you, it’s easy to see where you can save or spend!
Make a vision board
A relatively cheap actvity to do is to make a vision board. Gather up old magazines (or see if anyone you know has some spare) or buy yourself a handful, cut out images or words that resonate with you and stick them on a high sheet of paper. This can be your vision for the next year, 5 years or longer but it is personal to you. Display it on the fridge or your office wall to give you inspiration and motivation. Alternatively, you can create a digital one, either on Canva or Pinterest.
I would consider this a hobby personally and I could actually do it for a living if my friends and family would let me test them as guinea pigs! It’s one of those household jobs that you say you’ll do but always have an excuse for (no time is usually the main reason). Start small with a drawer or a shelf or you’ll get overwhelmed as a novice.
If you don’t love it or need it (nobody loves a potato peeler but we need it), it needs to go. Whether you sell it online, donate it to a charity shop or give it away to friends or family, try to throw away as little as possible. Old clothing can be cut up to use as rags and jars and pots can often be used to store small items. If you have to throw something away because it is broken or unusable, take it to a local recycling centre (most are still open during lockdown).
Unsubscribe from emails / unfollow accounts
If you’re a bit of a shopaholic, how many hauls come from receiving from your favourite shop, seeing an ad online or a post on Instagram? If that’s the case, delete and unfollow as many as you can! The first step is admitting you have a problem and by simply unsubscribing from retail newsletters, you will save something! I only subscribe to very few, usually who offer good loyalty schemes, but often will delete their emails before opening them!
As bloggers, it can be difficult if they’re a brand you work with so you could just mute their account or notifications. You can still interact with them, just not as often.
When you’re just sat at home for months on end, it’s so easy to grab your laptop/phone/iPad/tablet, go online and splurge on something. Sometimes, it only takes a couple of clicks! In order to stop this urge, keep yourself busy. It could be one of the ideas above or anything really.
Start your weeks by making yourself a to-do list and take your time if you can. You might notice how much your screen time goes down too (that terryifying notifcation won’t be as terrifying anymore!).
Challenge yourself: treat at the end of ban, set number of no-spend days
If you know you’re not particularly motivated or strong-willed when it comes to not spending, set yourself a challenge. As I said ealrier, I love doing low/no-spend months and find them really motivating!
You could also treat yourself at the end of a challenge; whether it’s an ASOS haul, a book or a beauty treatment. My treat is often moving the money I haven’t spent into my saivngs account. There’s something exciting to me about seeing that total increase, moving me closer to my long-term goal of buying a house!
There are plenty of things you can do when money is tight. You might even make some money for yourself in the process but you will definitely save something. Lockdown is actually the perfect time to strip back your spending to the basics. Then, you can learn how to deal with a spending ban all year round!