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Top tips for the No Spend Challenge

We have completed the first few weeks of our No Spend Challenge and I wanted to share with you where I ‘failed’ and where I smashed it. Spoiler alert – there are no real fails, just tips I have learnt! You will have your own hurdles and your own wins. So start looking for where you are succeeding. By reading this you are making some great first steps.
There may be affiliate links in this page, meaning I may get a small fee for any referrals at no extra cost to yourselves.

First Tip – Tell the world

All my friends know I have this site, and I am totally open when trying new things. So I thought I had told everyone and that they would all be happy to reciprocate. I mean I even went on BBC Radio 4 for the You and Yours programme – 26 minutes in, if you are interested!

tips being shared!
Very nervous before my radio four interview!

So the scenario was our gorgeous nephews 8th birthday and our gift to him. We thought we were sticking to our rules See our ‘No Spend Challenge – Get Started’ article for the rules. So far so smug! In our rules we decided between us to get something which would help his mum out a bit too, so we went for clothes. I think you will agree this is a good tip. Zero waste and totally sustainable. Well yes and no. We went to a large supermarket to get him some cool t-shirts and jeans. This was an unplanned for trip and outside of the normal organised shopping. So we got him some good quality clothes but also missed that we then picked up £10 worth of extra food.

lesson learnt!

Moral of the story – it is not a one way street. I wanted to spend money on him as I felt they would also spend money on us. This in turn led to an over spend in a different area. So we are now in agreement to ask that our friends and family do not spend money on us either. They wont have to give us handmade gifts or lots of time together, but we have enough.

Second Tip – Let’s not use the ‘F’ word!

There is no such thing as failure here. I used to increase my spending as and when, without paying any attention to it. Now that I am learning to take control, there is no f word. This tip is based on keeping a positive outlook. My motto is ‘whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right’. I apply this here. So I have my tiers to keep me on track without any guilt. You will have your own tips and tricks.

This week I planned in to spend less than £10 to get a few drinks at an awards ceremony. This was an event I had put an apprentice forward for, and was therefore very keen to buy us each a diet coke! If it wasn’t for my tier system this may have been seen as a fail, however I also bought raffle tickets and then won a large box of chocolates. Proof if ever there was needed that the world looks kindly on you when you need it to!

In reflection

I want to get control of my money for security. I also want it to be a long term turnaround. To live more frugally. This is not like a crash diet for your money – destined to fail the moment you stop. So I have chosen to go with a certain flexibility. It does not mean I will then go on to be casual again straightaway! Don’t let one evening dictate the rest of your life! Top tip would be to be happy with any progress.

Third of our Top Tips

Be prepared. You will feel tempted. You may feel alone in the struggle. There is a lot you can do about it. I have found sin

tips for leftovers
Are they roast veg, tomorrows soup or even the base of a ‘Spanish’ omelette?

ce outing myself to 3.5 million listeners on British radio, it has been a lot easier to talk about money. So many people portray themselves as successful in terms of money, however they may be hiding massive debts.

For me, every morning before work I would have breakfast with colleagues. We would each spend anywhere between £1 and £8 on our breakfast. I have now started to eat porridge that I bring in. This is still not super cheap and I am sure not the best in terms of zero waste, but it is much better and much cheaper! Now we are all sharing tips for our success.

insights into myself

I had no idea I was so happy with preparing food in advance. Once I embraced it I totally rock at it. I am now cooking every night and intentionally make too much! I then make an easier evening meal the following night, or have leftovers for lunch. in keeping with being kind to myself, I also spent money on frozen battered cod and some chips. so much cheaper and not as time consuming as I had thought. Tips for anyone like me, keep that smug glow going and record your meal plans. Tick them off as you succeed.

Fourth Tip

Use the No Spend Challenge as an excuse. I don’t mean you have to isolate yourself and have no life, because you are not spending money. The exact opposite. Once you have had the initial talk with people, and you can be as open about your ‘why’ during that time as you like. Then all you need to do is think ‘I wont be buying X because I am on the No Spend Challenge’. It means I didn’t need to think whether I could afford a new coat, it just wasn’t going to happen. This kind of makes it perfect for those of us who like to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to money. Which leads me on to …

Tip Number Five

Start to look for other areas to cut back on. I decided to keep my grocery bill pretty constant. In fact it has, but my food waste has gone down massively! This proved that I was wasting my money on things I didn’t use when it came to food. So it got me to thinking about other areas I could cut down on. I have now reduced our unit price for gas and electricity – not our direct debit amount as several companies will promise that, it is the unit price you need ot look at.

by using a site like the one attached I found lots of different options. I have also looked to cut down out energy use, as well as cutting some of our own wood for the log burner. I have also written an article on heating the home for less, Ways to Keep Warm this Winter if you fancy a read and are crafty!

Final Tip

Keep it up. You are doing a big challenge. This is not meant to be a simple swap. Bu make it easy on yourself and focus on your goal. I have started to look at prices for smallholdings and going off grid. You could look at your goal in the same way. Why not google search for images? The nice yacht, car, holiday, clear bank balance, early retirement the list goes on. Keep focusing on succeeding and you will.

When you feel ready to start using up scraps and finding ways to increase the potential for what you already own, have a look at the below! Let us all know how you are doing and let’s help each other to make this work! By sharing our tips we are able to get the most from our own situation.

Tips on sharing tips!

p.s. you can share tips without having to share all of your private data!!! No bank statements or anything which could help out online fraudsters!

30 day no spend challenge
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No Spend Challenge – Get Started

No Spend does NOT mean no spend. You are still paying rent / mortgage and all of your bills. Any existing debt can still be included in those bills. You will then set your own goals to fit in with your own life.

Why ‘No Spend’?

For our family it has always been the case that we spend what we earn. When we first got together my husband came preloaded with bad debt. We managed to live on the breadline and pull ourselves out of debt. Having never felt that we spent excessively, why do we still have no real savings? We do own our own house, or some of it at least! I am finding that we are not alone in now earning a middle range wage, no children, but no savings.

Another reason would be how much I cringe at the thought of being consumers. Our planet struggles to maintain us all, so we already grow our own as well as make our own crafts. Why not extend this? How can we not at least try?

Your reasons may be similar and I have spoken to people in the UK worried about Brexit and the cost of living going up. I have met people who have one self-employed member in the house and this worries them. Whatever your ‘why’ I can guess it boils down to insecurity about the future.

What are you spending on?

We have two sorts of cost each month, fixed and variable. The fixed ones aren’t all that ‘fixed’ actually. A good mortgage advisor would come in handy each time you need to remortgage and there are ways to negotiate a good price. I am changing job so my super efficient hybrid on higher purchase may need to be tweaked to reduce our overall costs. Our Gas and Electric are not on a fixed term contract so we will look at price comparison sites every 6 months to stay ahead on the amount we spend. I am looking at our water bill and whether we might be better off with a water meter this summer.


We have never been able to stick to looking at receipts to see how much we spend on variable costs. You can see the start of the problem there! However with the no-spend year we don’t intend to. By popping some rules together we will be able to cut all of the variable spending to the minimum.

Rules –

  1. no cutting back on FairTrade products. This is a non-negotiable really as I have been out in countries where modern day slavery has been deployed to bring us cheap foods. It is icky and not something I would like to support.
  2. small steps are also important, see the tier system below!
  3. homemade is acceptable as an alternative, we will look to reuse, recycle and repurpose where we can.
  4. fix first then look to replace
  5. money for pets not to be adjusted, we have furry friends who need certain essentials. That said I do intend to create a lot of toys for them still
  6. medicine is not to be affected. This is particularly important as poor Paddy has just come off his motor bike and he needs dressings and pain medication still
  7. We may need a bit of discretion around gift giving as we have two young nephews and a niece. We are thinking for the older one to give experience days though.

I have a YouTube channel so check out my scary video on the subject!

 

No Spend Tier System

So I have set up the Tier system. It is a bit like when we start a new diet and go all out to ensure we hit our first weeks target. It is not always sustainable and with the best will in the world cutting out carbs or only eating potatoes is not the most exciting way to live!

So we want this detox to work and a no spend year will have everything that life can throw at you in any given year! So if you are suddenly visiting sick relatives in hospital, do not be afraid of getting a quick coffee as a pick me up! You can’t always be thermos flask ready! With the Tier system I intend to start off realistically and if one month is particularly hard I can drop down a Tier. I will show you what they look like for us and you can have a think too.

Tier 1.

No online shopping for anything other than groceries. New clothes, shoes, jewellery, perfume, make up – all banned! Cancel that Netflix. Visit the gym for the first time to get money back and stop any future payments!

Now that I have scared you all, fancy a declutter? Start to get some income as well as no spend! We will talk more about what to do with your unwanted stuff later on!

Tier 2.

Oh no this is the big one for us! No eating out; lunches, nope. Coffees? Oh poop no! Sandwich on the train to a meeting? Only from your beeswax wrap my love! Sneaky doughnut from the staff canteen? A minute to the lips a lifetime to the ‘no spend’ fail room.

This should be achievable and surely we will start to feel that these are more ‘treats’ once we are done?

No luxury bathroom goodies, or garden treats. A big one for me are plants. So I am squeezing seeds for food into the groceries category, but I am not being hedonistic with it! I will frugally still accept gifts of seeds from others as well as swap mine.

Tier 3.

Hardcore no spend only! Travel expenses to be cut. I am going to be 2.3 miles from work so surely I can walk/cycle or run? For a year? Holidays to be cost free. I will be unpicking all of these things along the way so don’t worry! Gifts for free or homemade. This may be hard as there are often times at work when you need to give a donation – a leaving gift or maternity. So we are happy to still be generous here, or offer a handmade alternative! We will also avoid spending on interior decorating. This is a tough one as we have only lived here three months. We still have lots of DIY to do around the place – luckily we have all the power tools we need!

 

How are we going to manage an entire year of no spend?

By still having fun! Beauty products can be homemade and fun girlie nights in arranged. Hosting a games night, with homemade pizza can be great. Date nights can be movie nights and we can build our own BBQ in the Summer. We can arrange a clothes swap or attend ones which are available in our local area. There are museums to visit and even open air productions for free.

Using the Tier system will allow us to go deeper one month than another. If it is pouring with rain I will not feel guilty for driving to work, I will just need to be aware that it will impact on our overall success.

 

Over to You!

I will be sharing ways we are reducing our spending throughout the year and let you know if I need to drop down a Tier at all. I will be making my own old fashioned cleaning products. Alongside beauty products made from the garden.

There is no one way to do this.

It is up to you.

Dip into Tier one first month then progress to Tier three, one week each month for the rest of the year. Look to adopt elements from each Tier or skip and just do Tier 2 and 3? Up to you and your families needs. Keep on track by sharing how much you are saving with the rest of the family, or just keep a secret stash account for paying off the mortgage? Whatever your reason why, let’s do this together!

I am starting this fully on April 6th 2019 as it is the start of the financial year. It is a challenge so I will share the bleakness as well as the surprise successes.

Good luck and let’s make this work!

 

Urgent Financial Help

If you are in dire need of emergency financial advice and the debt is getting too much have a look at Citizens Advice website as they have even more useful advice.

However, if you want to have a sneak peak at some of our crafty upcycling to date check outour Crafty Up-Cycling pages here and equally if you want to get some growing started have a look at our Veggie Patch pages here.

 

Best of luck getting started!

 

no spend year is starting soon
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Warmest February, but also the driest?

Is anyone else panicking about the lack of water so far this year? As this is the warmest February in history could it also be the most arid? I don’t want to sound like the harbinger of doom but I am bricking it. A few years ago I was thinking about plants that love the gloom and wet. Looking for Hydrangeas, or Rhubarb. Now, however I’m looking at Mediterranean plants and those that can survive a drought!

This article contains affiliate links, which will not cost you anything but I may get a reward.

What can we do about the lack of water?

  1. We have cut down some massive yew trees and will be chipping it with a hired machine, this will hopefully keep the moisture in when the weather is at its warmest.
  2. interlink your water butts. Or there are some really cute ideas for planters which co-ordinate with your butts, making them less of an eye sore! Currently there is an offer on at waterbuttsdirect.com
    and I also have the code MUM10 to give you an exclusive 10% off any purchase at check out – prior to Mothering Sunday!
  3. change our planting options.

It may be the warmest February ever so far, but that doesn’t rule out the coldest March. So how are you planning on ensuring a hardy crop?

We have planted Sweetpeas, Marigolds and several other seeds that will need protecting if a frost comes. So do not be tempted to plant out before hardening off. That means we have started them out in nice warm and moist conditions on a windowsill. They are delicate little baby plants and will need to learn to cope with colder weather. We are still having frosts overnight and so I will transfer them to the potting shed for around 5 days until I feel they are ready for the ground! I am also warming the ground! I will show you how in the next article.

Proof I don’t trust the weather?

Well we have been busy here, not just in the garden but also creating a few new crafts including a Scarf – woven with a peg loom and I cannot emphasise enough how easy that one was! Also it was one skein of wool, so cheap enough!

peg loom weave sacrf

We have also been experimenting with lovely homemade mini greenhouses. I have an idea for a cute gift for Spring and you can watch the how to video on our YouTube channel

I will write the full article once we have some herbs ready to eat as well!

 

If you agree with me and don’t fully trust the weather but want to get gardening, I have written an article on
Micro-Greens Maximum Taste!

I don’t know how to convince you all but they are THE easiest thing you will ever grow. That and the fact you can store the seed for years makes this the perfect preppers food.

Let us know how you are getting on with your mini smallholdings too!
 

 

 

 

 

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Priorities for our forever home

priorities for Paddy!We have started the settling in process and a large part of that has been to make the garden ready for spring, more of that to follow. However Paddy has been insisting that we ensure our home is lovely and cosy too, and we have made a lovely new/old mantelpiece from reclaimed Railway sleepers. Some of you may know that we both work in that industry so it is a little incongruous to get it into our home! However it is on Paddy’s list of priorities and I don’t think he is wrong. I am focusing on collecting plastic bottles form friends at work, as well as toilet rolls for seedlings, but I shouldn’t lose focus on the priorities.

Good Food

Good Food. Great Friends. Wonderful company have all been a theme of the festive period. Now, however the hard work starts. I have ordered all of my seeds for the new year from Suttons seeds .  So now all I have to do is stare dwn at the frozen garden, willing it to become raised beds overnight!

There has also been a lot of fun working with a fab dietician on an article around Sprouting Seeds and who can grow them, and how! So please do have a read if you would like some inspiration in that area.

What are your Priorities?

Mainly though we have been setting priorities for our next 12 months in our ‘forever home’. One of us wants to get the garden producing as much as possible. The other wants to work out as many new recipes for his slow cooker as he can. So between us, I think we can keep you all interested for at least a year! I am going to keep the crafting up as well as starting to grow flowers for our cousins wedding bouquet – so much pressure!!

Managing realistic goals

Be honest with yourself, how many hours of physical activity can you handle per day? I love to use winter daylight hours in the garden, but will manage it better if I have tea and biscuit breaks. So I am going to start making healthier snacks ready for the heavy work! Also I then like to keep productive but mix it up with some crafts in the evening that don’t require sweat!

Long term plans Vs short terms steps

I know I need to have steps to achieve my priorities. One way is to start planning the garden. I hope to achieve ultimate successional planning and will share this as we go! Knowing that some goals will be for the following year, is stress-free! Organic is a priority, but we know the soil is poor quality right now. Investing in it’s future has been at the top of our minds and the compost bin is in, more to follow on that one too!

Be more like Santa – make a list and check it twice

None of us like to admit when we are wrong, but sometimes our priorities change. That is ok. Let’s create a safe space where we can make a list, but keep it realistic. Hopefully you will all enjoy reading about my SMART targets for the smallholding and follow us as we make this a reality.

Talk about your goals and priorities

So many people at work have pulled it out of the bag to help me. Be it gathering old loo rolls. Or bringing their single use plastic to me. It has all helped. Not to mention their words of encouragement. So join a facebook group. Speak to different people on twitter. Pin those ideas on Pinterest and talk to each other! Get the ball rolling today and plan for tomorrow!

Vibrant hydrangeas for all of winter
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Winter is Coming – look out

Winter has been really slow to appear this year. But wow is it here now, with an oomph! I have been wandering around the City from one appointment to another and have been like a bundle of wool. So it has really focused my mind on the wildlife in our gardens and how this sudden drop has affected them. I have put together a few bird feeder ideas and hope that this will inspire those of us who are creative and caring. I have also popped one together for our younger audience as I know getting mucky with a pine cone and seeds will really appeal to a lot of kids!

With the coming of winter also comes the dread of Christmas presents. Both the giving and receiving. It is so hard to be green at Christmas! So my decorations are developing and I am putting together more for you all to try in the next few weeks. I am also looking at eco-friendly wrapping options as this will really have a long term impact.

I am more focused on my works secret Santa gift than I should be, but it is hard to spend five whole pounds when I have so many free or upcycled gift ideas. I have to admit that I did swap my name with a friend as he didn’t know his! All in all I think we are ready for winter and the oncoming challenges of shorter days and a lack of sunlight. It can get very gloomy and I am trying to combat it. I know I am not the only one who finds achieving things in the winter much harder than in the summer. So I have started to make a wreath out of the very easy dried hydrangeas which I have some very vibrant ones. I am combining it with all of that Hessian I was given. So I hope this works out ok for Christmas presents.

The house move is coming on a pace and this is in no way scaring me! We have given our fridge freezer away as well as our washing machine and we will be moving in two weeks. So this means leaving milk hanging form the window, just like when we were students. This is so strange but we are downsizing to get a bigger garden. A more sustainable home will mean less stress. It will also mean less impact on the environment. Something we are both very pleased about.

So we plan on leaving all of the bird feeders here as well as a few birdhouses. This way we will know that our wildlife here is still being looked after. I hope to get another post out to you all before we move as we are trying to be as eco-friendly as possible in our move and I have written an article on it here. I hope you all fidnthis useful.
As ever thank you all for your support and I hope that you can feel inspired and start to share your photos of your successes!