16th January 2017 by Paula Lyne
Could you swear off coffees, cinema trips and cheeky nights out for 365 days?
When you stop and add up the amount of cash you mindlessly hand over for daily purchases like coffees, lunches and Luas fare, it all adds up pretty fast. Even on pre-payday weeks when you’re trying you’re hardest not to spend, it’s near impossible to get through 48 hours without using your debit card or putting your hand in your pocket at least once. Or is it?
After getting a rude awakening when she applied for a mortgage in 2015, English journalist Michelle McGagh realised she needed to save a lot of money… fast. Her solution? Cut back drastically on spending for a full year by challenging herself not to buy anything except the bare necessities.
“Having worked as a personal financial journalist for ten years, my friends, family and colleagues assumed I was brilliant with money – but that wasn’t strictly true,” Michelle explains in a personal essay in the Telegraph.
“When I did brace myself and look at my [bank] statements I was aghast at how much of my wages I frittered away mindlessly. I totted up that I’d spent £400 [€455] in one year on takeaway coffees alone. Not to mention the meals out, rounds of drinks, clothes and other random spending.”
Rather than start saving bit by bit, Michelle opted to go the whole hog and spend virtually nothing for a year, except for basic toiletries (“toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo” – no Kiehls moisturiser here), cleaning products for laundry and house maintenance, and her bills, which included her mortgage, utilities, life insurance, charity donations, and broadband and mobile phone. Aaaand… that was it.
“There was no budget for luxuries – that meant no cinema trips, no nights in the pub, no takeaways or restaurant meals, no new clothes, no holidays, no gym memberships, not even a KitKat or cheeky cheesecake from the supermarket,” she explains of her ‘No Spend’ year, which began on Black Friday 2015.
Rather than using public transport, Michelle vowed to cycle everywhere, and set a weekly food budget of €40 with her husband. The couple even fit in a holiday during the year: a cycle and camping holiday, on which they lived on homemade pasta salad and bread rolls for six days. “It was one of my favourite holidays,” says Michelle. “However, the strict rules of my challenge meant I missed out on my annual girls’ holiday to Ibiza. As I waved off my friends when they left excitedly for the airport, I felt gutted.”
After a year of no spending, Michelle managed to put away a massive £22,439 (€25,553), and celebrated on Black Friday 2016 by buying a massive round of drinks for the friends and family who had supported her along the way, plus some wardrobe updates and a trip to see her granddad in Ireland.
“One year on, I’ve reassessed my spending priorities and found a balance. I fostered a new appreciation of sitting in the park in the sunshine with a (home-made, in-budget) picnic of falafel salad. These simple pleasures made me far happier than any expensive restaurant dinner,” explains Michelle.
“I buy the essentials, put aside a little for holidays, pub trips and fun, but I’ve cut back on the takeaway coffees no end. Ultimately, those longer-term goals, security and the feeling of contentment with what I have are important to me and make me far happier than anything I can buy in the shops.”
Would you try a ‘no spend’ year, or is Michelle taking things too far? Tweet us @stellarmagazine!
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