No Spend January?


Over a number of years I have heard of many people choosing to do ‘no-spend’ days, weeks, months or even a year. It seems that there are as many different ‘rules’ as there are people undertaking this idea but the general premise is to not buy excess food and try to use what you have on hand but most importantly to eschew discretionary spending.

I have never consciously tried to not spend for a specified period of time but since we are halfway through January I thought it might be timely to review what I have spent this month. It is a relatively easy process as we track everything we spend.

We track our regular, fixed expenses on one spreadsheet. This allows us to see what subscriptions, insurances etc are due each month and we make sure there is money set aside for those.

The other spreadsheet is a month by month record of our variable spending. Some of this is discretionary such as eating out, books or clothing purchases but others are what I regard as essential. This category includes things like groceries and fuel.

This January certainly does not look like ‘no spend’ as our expenditure for the first 16 days of the month has been a little over $2000. So, let’s examine where the money has gone.

  1. Our fixed expenses for all of January are $627.
  2. We had planned and budgeted for an interstate holiday for 2.5 weeks which concluded when we arrived home on 6th January. Costs for the January portion of the holiday were $503.
  3. In the 10 days since we arrived home we have spent $912.
  • $195 – Groceries
  • $148 – Fuel
  • $285 – Pet expenses
  • $100 – Health expenses
  • $134 – Home maintenance expenses
  • $50 – Entertainment expenses

Yes, the entertainment expenses are definitely discretionary and if I was strictly following a ‘no-spend’ regime that would have been foregone. Other than that and the holiday spending at the beginning of the month, everything else was necessary.

On balance, I think that our method of accurately tracking and recording our spending works well for us. I don’t feel any real need to try to artificially reduce our spending by pushing spending from one month into the following month.

Do you do ‘no-spend’ months? What are your ‘rules’? Do you feel that it makes a difference to your overall spending?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

A Frugal Mindset – 2

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Today I will address the second point in the article which you can read in full here.

2. Frugal people know where their money goes, down to the penny. If you get to the end of the month and wonder where your money went, you are not tracking it as well as you could. While it may seem like a hassle to keep track of where your money is going frugal people know that this information is vital to keeping money in your pocket and from being frittered away on things that aren’t important, in the grand scheme of things.

To keep track frugal people use the dreaded “B” word — Budget. A frugal person’s budget has two parts — it has a plan for how they’ll spend their money for the time period of the budget (see mindset #1 above), but it also has another part, to track what actually happened to the money. They want to know, were they able to follow their plan?

Question to ask yourself: How well am I following the plans I’ve made for my money?

We all know life happens, and sometimes we can’t follow our plans completely, but when you know what the plan is, and make mindful corrections and deviations when life throws you a curveball, you’ll be much better off.

For many years I kept a fairly close eye on our spending but did not track every cent.  It was always a bit of a revelation at tax time to see what our net income was, deduct the total we had paid on the mortgage and shake our heads as to where the rest of the money had gone.  It is a sobering thought.

However, over the past 18 months we have kept track of everything we have spent in a spreadsheet which we complete every couple of days.  I am not sure that it has changed our spending greatly but we do know exactly where it has gone.  It will be interesting to compare things like groceries year on year.  Because I have it set up in categories we can easily identify costs that will disappear when we retire – transport is the big one as we spend several thousand dollars each year in train fares to get to work.

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I would definitely recommend tracking your spending to really understand where the money goes.

Tomorrow we will delve into the little purchases that can sabotage your savings.

Making Ends Meet – Expenses


We all have different expenses and priorities but I will try to cover them all using some broad categories.  Not all categories apply to everyone and please add any of your own.  Please feel free to let me know what I have omitted.

The necessities are really shelter, nourishment and clothing.  There are lots of other things that we see as essential in Western cultures but if we strip it all back these are the bare necessities so we will start with them first.

Mortgage repayments or rent

Other ‘essentials’

Debt repayments
Transport costs – car and/or public transport
Utilities – water, electricity, gas
Communications – telephone, internet
Heating, cooling
Education costs
Health – including health insurance
Other insurances – house, car, life

The first thing you need to do is to know how much you are spending in each of these categories at the moment.  Some, like rent or mortgage payments will be easy as it is a set amount.  Decide on a timeframe such as weekly, fortnightly or monthly and then work out how much you are spending in each category for the specific timeframe.  I would recommend weekly or fortnightly, however, monthly is an option if you are paid or receive benefits as your major income source on a monthly basis.

Money problems

Now, you need to add up what you are spending on the essentials and what income you have.  Is you income enough to cover your essentials?  If not, you will need to work out how you can cover the shortfall.  Increase income? Reduce costs?  Even if you have calculated that you have enough income to cover the essentials, now is not the time to be feeling smug.  Remember, there is no allowance here for gifts, treats, outings, birthdays, Christmas, haircuts, coffee, snacks or eating out.  If you think this sounds extreme, it is, but it can be done.

No spend
Read this link from Frugal Queen’s blog.  I began reading this blog about 3 years ago and it is absolutely inspirational.  Froogs pulls no punches about what has to be done to improve your financial situation but she leads by example and we would all do well to follow her lead.  Once you have read the previous link, I would strongly suggest that you take the time and read the blog from the very beginning.  You will not do it all in one sitting but you will start to see that by taking some fairly drastic action you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Some things will be relevant and others will not but the message is clear – take responsibility for your own financial position and do something about it now!  Cut your spending to the bone.  There is no use mincing around the edges and wailing that you can’t do it.  You can and you must.

Tomorrow I will cover what I refer to as ‘Emergency Action’.  These are things that you can do right here and now that will make an immediate difference.  You will not necessarily be able to continue such drastic measures long-term but it will help to kickstart your journey to balance the budget.

Budget Review


Just when I thought I was back to blogging in earnest, life threw me one of those curved balls.  There was not enough time or inclination in my days to include blogging but now I am truly back.

We carefully planned our budget for when we were on holidays and stuck to it.  Since we have been back there have been several expenses, such as the doona covers, car service and lawn mower repairs as well as restocking food items after being away but now it is time to get serious again and get the debt reduction heading in the right direction.

We have discussed and set our financial goals for the remainder of the year.  If you break things up into small chunks it usually is less daunting and debt is no exception.  It is 14 weeks till the end of 2012 – that is 7 paydays for most of us.  What can you achieve?

Frugal Food


I know that food prices are constantly rising and there is a lot of angst about the price of fruit and vegetables.  We recently discovered a fruit barn not too far from us and we are very happy with the prices and quality.

I went and bought some fruit and vegetables this afternoon.  Here is what I selected.

1kg carrots
7 nectarines
6 potatoes
5 bananas
1 head of broccoli
1 knob of Australian garlic
6 apples
1 lebanese cucumber

This cost me $11.40.  I would like to know if anyone could honestly construe that as expensive.

On the way home I stopped to fill the car with fuel.  While I was waiting in the queue to pay I noticed the sign above the ice-cream freezer cabinet.  “Magnum Temptation $4.00”  My bag of fruit and vegetables was cheaper than 3 of these fancy ice-creams!  I know which I would rather have.

How do you manage your food budget?