Be Prepared to be Bored…6 Month Expenditure Comparisons

I decided that on the 1st of April 2015 I would start keeping a thorough spending diary. I said that this was because it was the start of a new tax year but really it was because I hadn’t had the idea in January.

I never expected to keep it up, but I did. And since that date not a single purchase has gone unnoticed.

I decided for sh**s and giggles to do a spending review at the end of September 2015, which sounds like I had given it a lot of thought but really it was because I hadn’t actually kept track of the spending in any formalised way, I had just shoved the receipts in a folder.

And then I decided to divide the spending into categories as by that point I had fallen in love with spreadsheets (they still remain one of the loves of my life).

I won’t bore you with gory details, but let’s look at some stats concerning my disposable income and food/household spending.

APRIL 2015 – SEPTEMBER 2015 TOTAL SPENDS = £3105.35

APRIL 2016 – SEPTEMBER 2016 TOTAL SPENDS = £3670.45

APRIL 2017 – SEPTEMBER 2017 TOTAL SPENDS = £2856.16

 

So this means…

Average spend per month (on food and fun times) in April 2015 – September 2015 = £517.55 

Average spend per month (on food and fun times) in April 2016 – September 2016 = £611.74

Average spend per month (on food and fun times) in April 2017 – September 2017 = £476.02

So compare this year, the ‘no spend year’ to the first year I started keeping records and my spending has decreased by £41.53 a month (or just over 8%). This is a saving of £249.18 during that time period.

Compare this year to last year, when I went off the rails during my four months of unemployment, and my spending has decreased by £135.72 a month (just over 22%). This is a saving of £814.32 during the same time period.

So for all my struggles with money, for all my cheeky contraband purchases now and again, for all my blog posts that begin ‘I have 72p to last me until payday’ this is clear, hard evidence that my sacrifices have been worth it, that I am making great strides towards paying off my debts, that I am doing well.

Can I get a pat on the back now?

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The Books That Are Helping Me (No Spend Year)

So as you all know I am doing a ‘No Spend Year’, which may seem like a noble pursuit but really when you are in debt you should put the plastic the f*** down and not buy anything as that is just common sense.

Like any good idea, mine was not original at all. In fact after a recent reading binge I can now tell you all about the books I have found on the subject, 3 are about proper ‘no spend years’ and 2 aren’t exactly but they fit the theme well.

My first instinct when I have a problem is always to go to a book store.

I have found five on the matter, let me know if you know of any more, I would love to hear about them.

#5 Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping – Judith Levine

This is both my ‘first’ and ‘last’ book.

It was the first book I had ever heard about on the subject of not buying anything, back in The Times Newspaper in 2006 in an article and interview after the book was released.

But it is also my ‘last’ book as I finished it yesterday (I bought it recently, with a voucher, and finished it yesterday, I didn’t start reading it in 2006, honest!)

Judith Levine decided to go a year without spending in late 2003 after what seemed like traumatic Christmas shopping, so she did for the whole of 2004 (ok, there were some slip ups, but in all the books I have read there have been some, we are human, prone to mistakes).

Her book is probably the most academic out of all the ones I have read, which is good, but probably the reason why I liked it at least, which makes me look a little thick. This might be the reason why you like it best of all.

I think she and her partner (who joined in on the challenge) go to great lengths to stick to their No Spend Year, even making their own beer, which is admirable. I think the book and Levine address the idea that people tie up so much of their identity in what they buy that when you remove that how do you know who you really are?

By that I mean this, Levine is political and everyday makes consumer choices based on what she believes in. With that removed is she being true to herself? Is she even being herself in the first place?

I guess I may struggle with that this year which is why I appreciated reading it.

#4 How I Lived A Year On Just A Pound A Day – Kath Kelly

I had seen this book doing the rounds on the Money Saving Expert website and also on my suggested results on Amazon, so recently I purchased it (again with a voucher!!!) for my Kindle.

So, not a No Spend Year, but it kinda fits the theme I think because even if all that money was spent on just her monthly food budget, that is still only £30ish a month, and me and the boy find it difficult enough keeping to £200 a month, so good on her.

Unlike all the other people in the books I have read, she kept her challenge mostly a secret, she didn’t even tell her brother despite the fact he was the reason she decided to do it (he was going to get married and she wanted to save the money up for his wedding gift).

She lives in Bristol, so the book feels like a ‘local’ book to me, even though Bristol is in a different country to the one I live in.

The book is interesting as it takes her a little while to get her groove, at first she puts on weight because she is consuming any free food that comes her way as she is afraid her food might be scarce, she manages to go on holiday for free, she manages to get a free bike after hers is stolen. A bit like Judith Levine she makes the small consumer choices she makes based on sticking to her political beliefs and ethics. In fact if recycling and preventing waste are what you are into then this book is better than Levine’s as it does more to show you how to do that.

I think even with my limited spending power there is more I could do to keep my costs as low as possible and a re-read of this book will help a lot.

#3 Save Karyn – Karyn Bosnak

You may have heard of this one. Or like me you may not have until you started getting into debt and reducing your spending.

In the early noughties Karyn Bosnak moved to New York to ‘find herself’ and had a great job as a TV producer, but still managed to rack up £20k of debt trying to live the life she thought she should.

You can guess what happened next, she lost her job, and although she got another one it paid less than half and her debts were not going anywhere.

One day she realised if 20000 strangers gave her a dollar her debt would be cleared in no time. So she set up a website asking people to give her money to put towards her debt.

I don’t know how you all feel about this. Many, many people thought she was scum for doing what she did, many set up copy cat websites, or abusive ones and as she was doing it anonymously there were people trying to track her down and someone even published her address online.

I think it would be good to read the book before you make an opinion. She made mistakes, sure, but she is completely honest about what you would get in return for helping her (it was nothing, unless you liked her blog posts, you couldn’t even claim your donations on your taxes). She was working at the time, she had set up a debt management plan, she was selling all the items she had foolishly purchased before and she was living on such a tiny amount of money that she would go pretty much eat one packet of noodles a day.

I was interested in this book. I would not make the decision she did to ask strangers for money, even if I had thought of the idea first. Because, and I mean this as no disrespect to her, but I am kinda of the opinion ‘I got myself into this mess, I’ll get myself out of it’. For me getting out of debt is my own personal journey, but I loved her book, I could recognise all the terrible ways I wasted my money like she did, just because my tastes are more Primark then Prada doesn’t mean I am/was any better.

But, I feel it follows very closely to Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The Art of Asking’. If you need help, just ask.

#2 In The Red – Alexis Hall

This was the first book I read on the idea of ‘going a year without buying anything’, in late 2015, having borrowed it from my local library. I have had it out on loan for an extremely long time, as I can’t bear to part with it, I just keep renewing my hold on it. No one has any interest in reading it.

I’ll be honest, when I first read it I was a bit put out, as when I first read it I didn’t find Alexis Hall that likeable. She had racked up over £31k in debt through credit cards and loans to pay off the credit cards and then running up the credit cards again and again. Like me I think it is fair to say she was a t*** with money.

I then came back to the book last year, when my first thoughts about doing a no spend year where creeping into my mind. This is the book that inspired me to do it. Because after the second read I realised Alexis Hall had her problems and her choices may have been made as a result of bad times in her past. And at the end of the day she realised she had a problem, she did something major to solve it, and she learnt from it so don’t judge her.

She is a little obsessed with designer labels and the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ way of thinking, which is why I didn’t instantly warm to her because I’m a cheap skate who is an ‘own brand snob’ in that if something is available as an own brand then I will buy it as that.

But I understand how stressed she becomes by not being able to shop, I understand how the small tokens of generosity from her family keep her going (her mum gives her money for her haircuts, her partner buys her token gifts).

Although I am a little jealous that she manages to pay off about a grand a month from her debt, if I had that sort of wage I would no longer be in this problem. But I guess it’s the whole thing of people match their expenditure to their income.

#1 The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More – Michelle McGagh

When I first told people I was doing a No Spend Year, they normally said ‘Oh isn’t there a book of that?’

And I was confused as to how popular Alexis Hall’s book actually was, but then it turns out in late 2016 Michelle McGagh completed her No Spend Year, and in very early 2017 her book came out (so basically when I first had the idea and when I started my year).

So there goes my book deal 🙂

So it was a mixture of curiosity and jealousy that made me want to read her book, but after reading some reviews on Amazon which said things along the lines of ‘You can get the same financial advice on the Money Saving Expert website’ I decided that I would borrow it from my local library like a good money saver.

I can tell you it is my favourite book I have read this year.

Michelle McGagh goes hardcore no spending. No bus travel (she cycles everywhere, and I mean everywhere), no gifts (she tells people she won’t be giving or receiving during that year), only a weekly budget for two people of £30 on food and no visiting her elderly Granddad in Ireland.

And yes, she ‘technically’ spends on banned items, but in both cases I think you would agree she had no choice, and the combined total is less than £55.

The book appealed to me as it alternates between one chapter about an aspect of her no spend year, and one chapter with financial advice. So it made me happy as I got a human story, and I also learnt a little bit more about finance.

I really loved this book, and I think anyone could learn something from it.

She had no debt to speak of, other than her mortgage, and in the duration of the No Spend Year she paid off nearly 10% of her mortgage extra, which is her motivation throughout the book.

I know that as soon as I can I will own a copy of this book as I want to always have a copy to refer to. I loved it.

So here you go, the books that are guiding me and that inspired me. Let me know if you have read any others like these.

The ‘Non Essential Spends Only’ Birthday Money

For my birthday at the end of March the boy gave me £40 spending money with the instructions that it was for ‘Non Essential Purchases’ only.

Initially I was doing quite well, getting books for 37p (after vouchers), clothes for 38p (after vouchers) and hair bands because I needed hairbands, but I have decided to be strict with myself.

Because if I am honest, some non essential purchases have slipped in before and after my birthday that I hadn’t declared on the birthday money. Things which I could ‘sort of’ justify, but really at the end of the day I couldn’t in all fairness declare a No Spend Year if I allowed them.

For instance I recently bought some drinking glasses. I know I had allowed myself a small ‘Homeware’ budget as I don’t think the boy would be too impressed if, say, our tin opener broke and I refused to buy one before January 1st 2018, but I definitely was prohibiting mugs as a purchase this year (I have a mug addiction).

Drinking glasses which were definitely more style than substance are not an essential purchases.

So I clawed my way through my monthly expenses spreadsheets, looking for any purchases that made me feel guilty. Luckily because I have bought so little outside of social costs I knew where to find these expenses.

So my total birthday money spending goes like this:

Hairbands £1

Jeans and Shirt £0.38 (after voucher cost)

2 x Books on Amazon £0.37 (after voucher cost)

E Book on Amazon £1.08 

Coffee in January when I arrived early meeting the boy at his art class £3.10

Tea on my own in a cafe at Bristol Station a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing my brothers and mum £1.90

Baguette on my own at Bristol station that same weekend £3.49 (It’s gone up by 50p since last year, I blame Brexit)

Coffee in town on my own just because I had to hang around for the train station to open £2.60

Lunch at work one day when I had messed up my timings and had to buy something £3.44

2 x Mason jars to make my grown up vodka jelly look pretty and a glass tumblr to make my Friday Gin and Tonic pretty £1.50

4 x books, Vegetable scrubbing brush and a gift for my niece £1.36 (after voucher cost)

And finally today on my train journey travelling to my family home I bought a coffee £2.50. AND the train drink man tried to give me an old five pound note when they stopped being legal tender LAST WEEK. I wasn’t having any of it. I did have to say about five times ‘Could you swap it for one of the new five pound notes’ and naturally I found this really difficult, and I know that I could have taken the old five pound note to the bank to swap it but I couldn’t be bothered.

So total spends that I have deducted from the birthday money were £22.72 so I have £17.28 left.

The money had been sitting in its original envelope at home so earlier this week I took £20 of it, paid it into the bank and paid it off my credit card bill. I have a spreadsheet keeping track of the running total. OF COURSE I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR IT, I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR EVERYTHING!

So in full honesty and disclosure of naughtiness that is it this year in terms of spending that didn’t fit my predetermined ‘allowed’ categories and were very much ‘unessential’ purchases. So just over £20 has been frittered away this year so far, not bad. I used to do that in a 30 minute lunch break in 2015.

I have made £6 this week by doing surveys. I don’t use many survey sites, but there is one I like because you fill out lots of preliminary questions which means when you get sent a survey you won’t be screened out of it half way through as you have been pre-selected. This does mean you do less surveys than other sites might offer but it pays higher as well. I have enough points to exchange for a £5 Amazon voucher but I going to hold off till I reach £15 in points.

I have paid off £500 from my overdraft this year so far, which means it is half what it was in January, and thanks to that £20 payment earlier this week one of my 0% balance transfer cards is now under £1400, and my overall credit card/overdraft debt is under £5000 for the first time in, well, at least a year. I think I had been doing quite well initially in 2016 before the summer of the great unemployment.

I am about to enter a new chapter of my life. One where I am going to have to dig deep to pay back the boy, clear my overdraft, make my credit card payments AND save for Christmas (I have to save for Christmas as far in advance as I can).

I have been doing some prep by re-reading Michelle McGagh’s ‘The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More’ on the train, which in true money saving style I borrowed from the Library.

I’ll be honest, I borrowed this book from the Library because it had some quite bad reviews on Amazon, but I really like it and I will own my own copy one day. I definitely would recommend it.

Last Friday I started a little mini challenge where I was aiming to spend less than £10 on household shopping for a week. It ended yesterday and I was 64p in credit! Huzzah.

My only plan this long weekend is to relax and maybe binge repeat watch Shop Well For Less and Save Money Good Food. My sister has told me she is getting rid of some cook books and if I wanted them and I was like ‘The f*** yes!’ So I hope to be coming back with some inspirational cook books.

Sayonara

690 Days

There are 690 days left before I turn 30.

I want my debt cleared by then.

Currently my Credit Card and Overdraft debt stands at £4920.83

I owe the boy £1011.75

Total = £5932.58

Divide that amount by 690 and it comes to about £8.60 a day.

If I could pay that everyday then my debt would be cleared by the time I am 30 which is my target date.

Trouble is that amount a day seems impossible.

I’m going to have to dig deep and use every money saving skill I have to clear the debt by that time.

I hope I can do it.

Financial Review of April 2017

Another month has ended. Things are getting very ‘real’ financially for me, so I am going to analyse where I have been making mistakes.

Here is a breakdown of my spending in April 2017.

FOOD AND HOUSEHOLD SHOPPING

TOTAL SPENDS IN APRIL = £241.28

This was £41.28 over budget, which is far from ideal. I am going to do a separate post about the food budget so I will leave that for now.

 

DISPOSABLE AND DISCRETIONARY INCOME SPENDING

SOCIAL

Social spending was an astronomical £210.90 and all I have in the way to offer up as an excuse is that it was my birthday near the end of March. But I wouldn’t say I celebrated it excessively. I did owe the boy money for a ticket to yet another gig, and I did go to ANOTHER gig in April, so maybe no more gigs for a while.

HOMEWARE

Homeware spending was a fairly reasonable £11.75 which consisted of things we did need, and some things we didn’t. I bought a mixing bowl as because I have been getting my bake on a lot recently having one mixing bowl just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I also bought a measuring jug as I broke our one. I also bought a magnetic shopping list, which I guess was style over substance. AND I bought two mason jars with straws and a nice tumbler for my Gin drinks which definitely weren’t needed, but their combined cost was £1.50.

GIFTS

Gifts was a crazy amount, I spent £67.95 in April on things I classified as gifts, but to explain further my sister was doing the London Marathon, and in the past when my brother had competed in a marathon I donated £50 to his charity, so I wanted to do the same for my sister. I also donated money to a work colleague as they are running 4 half marathons this year as they are turning 40, and it is for another good cause. And I was relatively good on a few of the other gifts using vouchers to drive down the costs.

TRAVEL (DAY TO DAY)

£27.20 was spent last month on travelling day to day costs and I have no excuses for it as I did not go anywhere that especially needed to be travelled to, it was just laziness and or a lack of planning that created this cost.

That is nearly £30 that could have gone on my debt or prevented me from being in such a pickle now.

WORK EXPENSE

£4 was spent on milk and other related costs in April, not bad, but then I did start a new job where the tea, coffee and milk are provided. So this cost should cease to exist soon.

TRAVEL (VISITING)

I had to buy my train tickets to go to my Granddad’s 90th birthday in May, which cost me £42.50. Whilst I might have been able to buy the tickets cheaper, I am glad that I am going to spend time with my family soon.

My total DISPOSABLE/DISCRETIONARY SPENDING in April was … £364.30. 

This is too much, and was aided by the fact that it was my birthday and I had received birthday money, so I was able to buy things that I might not have been able to otherwise, such as the train tickets, but this is a HUGE amount of money to be spending when you are doing a NO SPEND YEAR and I think I have lost my way a little bit and may do a strict challenge to sort myself out.