OK, so we don’t literally mean stop spending money altogether for a year. Everyone has to eat, pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. But, there are ways we can all be smarter with our money and not spend when we don’t really mean to, or need to.
If you struggle with overspending or just can’t resist a purchase when something catches your eye, you’re not alone. But, what if you stopped, for a whole year, and didn’t buy anything unless you really had to; could you survive and change your life for the better after ‘Your Year of Less’?
Admittedly, as topics go, this one may seem controversial; is it really possible to ‘detox’ your spending and stop for a month, let alone an entire year? However, there is a growing movement of people inspired by ‘Buy Nothing Day’, now in its 24th year, who are changing their habits and starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and taking control of their hard-earned money.
While most of us know what the monthly bills add up to, we’re not so good at keeping tabs on where the rest of our money goes and getting a handle on our everyday spending habits. Spending without thinking has become the norm, so could you leave your comfort zone and skip those meals out, holidays, drinks with your friends, new clothes, or your daily coffee?
Being minimalist on what we spend isn’t living with nothing, it’s being intentional about how we spend our money, rather than spending on things without really thinking about it. Just buying that daily takeaway coffee, rather than making a flask, could mean you’re spending more than £400 a year alone and those random supermarket trips without a shopping list and takeaway lunches can add another £1,000 over the year on top.
It’s so easy to squander money as it burns a hole in your pocket, especially this time of year as we gear up to flex the plastic in the shopping Christmas bonanza. Having those little plastic cards makes buying mindless stuff a thing of ease. The problem comes when you have to budget and can’t afford to spend money here, there and everywhere.
If you’re living beyond your means, lured in by the promise you can spend your way to happiness, think about ‘Your Year of Less’ as more of an experiment than anything else, you don’t have to stop spending forever. That’s easy to say and hard to do, we know. Yet a spending detox or diet may just get you back on track.
There are many steps you can take to stop spending money that you don’t have and the easiest ones to start with are making rational decisions, a budget and avoiding temptation. Whenever you’re tempted to put your hands in your pocket ask, “did I need this item yesterday?” and “will I really need this item tomorrow?”. Nine times out of 10 the answer is no and you won’t spend your money. If you’re spending more than you earn, sit down and take the time to do a budget, scrutinise everything, big and small, over a year, to prioritise what’s important and make cuts where you can; it will help you to prioritise your spending.
A year-long challenge may seem a long time. But, if we can all be more mindful about spending money, try new things and get out of bad habits, we could all start to enjoy simple pleasures and be wealthier and wiser as a result. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.