Over the festive period I watched a TED Talk by Personal Financial Journalist Michelle McGagh. McGagh went a whole year without spending, buying only the bare essentials like food and paying for her mortgage. This got me thinking, then googling and before I knew it I was in a rabbit hole of minimalist finance videos and articles. As January rolled around, I decided to give it a go for myself. I would challenge myself to one month with zero spending. In this post I’ll outline the rules I set for myself, the challenges I faced and the benefits I discovered…
Minimalist Finance Why Bother?
I wanted to attempt this challenge to shake up the status quo, to reassess my spending habits and live more intentionally. January seemed like the perfect time for me to attempt my financial detox. Firstly, everyone is a bit skint after Christmas so less spending is a good thing. Also, the winter months have much less temptation for going out, evenings snuggled up at home seem way more appealing than in summer, so this made it easier. My aim was to become more aware of where my money flows and be clear on what I actually need to live.
Zero Spend Month: The Rules
I based my rules on those outlined by McGagh in her TED Talk. I could continue to pay my bills, including our mortgage, utilities, broadband, phone bill, charity donations, health supplements, gifts and basic groceries. Unlike McGagh I did allow myself money to go swimming as I am determined to stay fit and healthy, swimming plays a big part in keeping my mind, body and soul in good shape.
Just to clarify, I am totally aware that for some people money is tight and these challenges might sound ludicrous. I was very conscious about writing this post as I know how “privileged” and silly it might sound to those truly struggling financially. However, I hope that this post serves as some kind of inspiration for those who are determined to live more consciously and make more intentional decisions with the money that they have.
To not spend money on anything other than essentials might sound easy for some people, however when you’re living in the city centre with temptation on every corner, it can be challenging. One of the things I do fairly regularly is go out for lunch or a coffee with friends and family. Having to refrain from spending in cafes and coffee shops at weekends was a bit of a struggle. I explained to family and friends the challenge I had set for myself, so they understood. Mostly, I managed to avoid these situations instead meeting up at the Art Gallery or Park. For the times I did go to a cafe, I found that it was better to eat a large breakfast at home before heading out, that way I could sit and have a glass of water.
Things I missed:
- Buying lunch and coffee in cafes
- Not buying natural beauty products
- Not being able to try new foods
- Buying fresh flowers/ plants
For me the zero spend month was just what I needed to kick start my year. The benefits definitely outweighed the challenges. I found myself with more time to read, when I would typically be browsing shops online. Having more time meant feeling much calmer. I rediscovered my vinyl and kicked back at home a bit more than usual. Of course I saved money, which actually felt like one of the least significant benefits. Overall I felt a sense of freedom and gratitude. Feeling like I had all the things I needed and not constantly looking at things in shops or online, made me feel relief. I improved my meal planning skills and actually surprised myself with what you can make with very few ingredients.
- Improved my meal planning skills
- Saved money
- Felt much calmer
- Had more time to relax and read (instead of browsing online shops)
- Felt a sense of freedom
- Overwhelming sense of gratitude
Now, unlike McGagh I only did a zero spend month, not an entire year. However, I felt compelled to share my experience and hope it serves as a little inspiration for any of you looking to feel more in control of your finances. I enjoyed my financial detox and would recommend it to anyone who wants to live more consciously.