Try a no spending month
Simple Savings is a group I’ve long harboured admiration for and once a year its No Spend Month tickles my fancy.
Simple Savings is a transTasman thrift club of members united by a shared goal to trim their spending, then trim it some more.
In a world where the words ‘‘people’’ and ‘‘consumers’’ are often used as if they were synonyms, it is refreshing to hear from people who simply refuse to be the latter.
No Spend Month is a perfect example of that subversive behaviour.
The rules are simple. Simple Savings members are told ‘‘your mission is to avoid spending money on ANYTHING . . . other than the absolute essentials for your work, education or survival’’.
‘‘Obviously there will be some things you cannot avoid such as basic food and prior bills but apart from that your mission is to make sure you don’t buy anything that is not essential.’’
Examples of things that are not essential include: Takeaway food of any sort, lollies or chips, soft drinks, books, frozen dinners and any form of pre-made food, movies or DVDs, clothing, beauty products and alcohol.
Permitted spending in No Spend Month includes: Rent or mortgage payments, basic food, power, insurance, healthcare, petrol and all the other stuff that simply cannot be avoided.
Now this boot camp approach to resetting your thoughts on spending is not everyone’s cup of tea.
It can look rather extreme and is, for some, utterly impossible or at least would leave them horribly on the outer in a world in which even dropping in on a friend seems to require arriving with a gift of food or drink.
But the idea does have an allure and encapsulates the universal human urge to resist and to become better.
Many of us quietly resist the things in society we disapprove of.
Two of my resistances are to behave as though I am allergic to takeaways and barista coffee and to never, ever take my young daughters to shopping malls.
But taking a month to live radically differently can give you a new perspective, and become a springboard to a better way of living.
A few months back I interviewed banker Andrew MextedBragg, who set himself the task of living on the minimum wage for 11 weeks. It changed him for the better. He was forced into a virtually no-spend 11 weeks because, quite frankly, living on the minimum wage requires it.
The result of his experiment was a man whose money brain was rewired. He saw the world anew. He frittered less. He controlled. He was happier.
I don’t advocate joining Simple Savings or that you try a No Spend Month but I do think there would be value for many of us in considering lighter versions of it such as a No Takeaways Month, a No New Clothes Month, a No Trips to the Mall Month . . . whatever it is that fritters your cash.
And take another tip from Simple Savings.
If you do decide on such an experiment, focus not on what you give up but what you gain.
As Simple Savings puts it: ‘‘Imagine all the things you could do to get ahead financially if you managed to keep all that money in your bank instead of automatically handing it over to shopkeepers for things you don’t need.’’