January No Spend Challenge Update: Week 1

At the beginning of January I set myself a challenge to spend as little money as possible over the month. There were a few reasons for this:

  • I needed a new challenge to try 
  • My goal for this year is a financial one
  • January is the quietest month in terms of birthdays and events 
  • I needed something to kickstart a frugal mindset that I hope will carry me through the rest of the year.

I set myself some rules for the month:

  • Money can (and should!) be spent on rent, bills and essentials like groceries, toiletries and petrol.
  • Money can be spent on parking should an activity be free. The reason why I am including this is that we have several press reviews at the theatre coming up over January, and while the tickets are complimentary we pay a few pounds for parking.
  • Should I need to go somewhere, I am allowed to spend money on bus fare, but not on a taxi unless it is an emergency (Note: I never learned to drive, hence why I am including this).
  • I am not allowed to spend money on non-essential items, including new clothes, books, takeaways, snacks, meals out, taxis, drinks at the pub etc.

Before I started I was unsure of how much I spent each week. I don’t really buy much online except for the birthday and Christmas presents. Fashion isn’t my thing – I have a few nice outfits for when I go out but my wardrobe generally consists of hoodies and sweats. I do love my makeup but my last big purchase was a Pat McGrath palette a few months ago which will last me quite a while, and replacements of eyeliner and mascara were bought for me as Christmas presents. What on earth was I going to do a no spend challenge if it didn’t appear that I spent much money?

It turns out, I had very little idea about my spending habits.

Week 1: Weekly spend 

Groceries: £7.96

Parking: £10.50

Almond Milk: £1.95 (The Bloke bought this on the way home from work this week as he ran out)

Total Spend: £20.41

How I spent my money

Groceries. Groceries was the biggest thing that I knew I could save money on. On average, we would easily spend £40 + a week on a standard shop for day-to-day groceries, a lot of which would be wasted. With it being just after Christmas we still had plenty of food left in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and so the first week has been spent working our way through this, when normally we would still have gone out and bought more. I will do a full post on this at a later date once we have finished, but it is probably the most useful thing I have done in terms of developing a frugal mindset. I have been conscious of the food that needs to be eaten first, made The Bloke lunch every day to take to work with him, thought about portion size and for the first time in a long time, utilised leftovers. We have both eaten three meals a day, most of which has been relatively healthy and without consciously trying, I have lost 2lbs. 

Now the fresh fruit and veg is almost finished, I needed to do a food shop to supplement the food we still have left. I worked out what is still in the cupboards and freezer and then created a list of what I needed to buy to create more balanced meals. 

I went to Aldi and spent £7.96 on a very large bag of food that will last us for way more than a week combined with everything else. Note: we still have potatoes, carrots, onions, some eggs, free range chicken that we bought before Christmas and put in the freezer and several bags of frozen fruit and veg (peas, broccoli) which would normally be on my shopping list.

I did allow myself one treat in this: some cheese at 75p. We ran out of cheese quite early and it’s the one thing I’ve really missed. 

Money spent: £7.96

Money saved: £32.04

Parking. On Tuesday we went to the theatre for the press night of Bat Out of Hell. The tickets and most of the refreshments are free (wine, ice-cream, juice, water etc) as I am part of the press team, but we pay for parking which cost £10.50. We could probably park somewhere cheaper but this car park is safe, monitored and a short walk from the theatre so this wasn’t something that we wanted to skimp on for the sake of a few pounds. However, we often buy a tub of sweets and a bag of chocolate at the theatre for about £6.00. This week we didn’t buy any extra sweets or chocolate. 

Money spent: £10.50

Money saved: £6.00

Milk: The Bloke bought some almond milk as he had run out (ordinary cows milk causes his skin to flare up hence the reason for almond milk). He bought it on his way home at a local Nisa, which is super expensive in comparison to other places.

Total spend: £1.95

Total spend so far after Week 1: £20.41

Money saved: £38.04

How I have saved money this week

As well as not spending any money, I wanted to try and work out how much money I am saving by not buying non-essentials.

Working from home means that not spending any money is relatively easy. I am self-employed and don’t have children, so am in the extremely fortunate position in that I am in control of my working hours, I don’t have to spend money on commuting, and don’t have anyone else to consider other than The Bloke. However, being at home means that I am more likely to spend money on utilities, so this was something I considered. 

Changes I have made:

No breakfast deliveries. It’s not uncommon for me to order a McDonald’s breakfast via UberEats at least once a week, often at about £10 per order once delivery charges are added on. I haven’t ordered a single thing from any delivery service this week. 

Money saved: £10.00

No takeaways. On a Friday night I would often order a takeaway, which for The Bloke and I would come to about £25 after delivery charges were added. This week I didn’t order a takeaway, instead cooking from scratch. 

Money saved: £25.00

No snacks. Similarly, after work on a Friday The Bloke would come home with a bunch of snacks (that we refer to as snacky treats) that often cost about £10 – £15 each time. This, combined with the takeaway and a film would be our reward for a job well done for the week. He didn’t buy any snacks this week.

Money saved: £10.00

No film rentals. If a new film has been released, we would often rent or buy it. Both No Time to Die and Venom were released this week, both of which we would have rented for the weekend. We didn’t rent or buy any films this week.

Money saved: £10.00

No weekend lunch. On a Saturday afternoon The Bloke would often buy lunch from our favourite cafe, usually costing about £18. He was hasn’t bought one this week. 

Money saved: £18.00

Utilities. While I am working I need sound – I think because of the decade I spent teaching I was used to constant noise and talking while I was working, so now I find the silence too loud. Consequently, the TV would be on in the background all day. I didn’t turn on the TV from Monday-Friday this week until after 12.00pm instead of from 7.00am (or earlier) which is when I often start work. 

The weather has been absolutely freezing and it has snowed on several occasions. I live in an old house which is susceptible to extreme temperatures and even though the heating is set to a timer I would often turn the heating on all day. Instead, I put on extra clothing, pulled out the blankets and didn’t turn the heating on until mid-afternoon. 

Money saved: unsure – I will be interested to see the cost of our next utility bill. 

Other savings: While the pandemic restrictions aren’t preventing me from meeting up with anyone, I am still keeping my distance. By now I would have met one of my oldest friends at the local pub (the pub is equidistant between our houses so it’s the perfect meet-up point) for a new year drink, but I haven’t so far. I also haven’t been into town to take myself out for brunch mid-week as I got into the habit of doing last year, and The Bloke hasn’t gone into town this weekend and spent money on bread and cheese from our favourite deli. I haven’t bought any more stationary to add to my bullet journal supplies. I haven’t ordered anything online at all. As this is not a weekly thing I am not including in the weekly budget, but will include it in the end of month review. 

Total money saved based on average spending (including groceries): £111.04

What I have learned at the end of Week 1

Total Spend: £20.41

Money saved based on average spending: £111.04

The Bloke and I spend a RIDICULOUS amount of money on food, often to ‘treat’ ourselves and we take it all for granted, wasting a lot of it and simply buying more. 

I enjoy cooking, but sometimes it takes up time that I don’t necessarily always have and my enthusiasm wanes after a long working day. Meal planning in advance has really helped, but one of my things to work on next week is to cook more in bulk and freeze it in advance. 

While I have done brilliantly with the grocery shopping, money I have spent was just on food. By the next shop I will be out of some toiletries, almost out of loo roll, aluminium foil, washing up liquid and fabric softener, which will push the shopping bill much higher. We have also been eating food that we had already purchased – I will be interested to see how much our weekly spend is once all this has gone. 

What about you guys? Have you been sticking to any goals or resolutions you have been working towards? Let me know in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “January No Spend Challenge Update: Week 1

  1. Good post, Suzie. Hubs and I spend a LOT on food, although we only eat take-out maybe twice a month. Hubs likes to cook, but he and I are always trying new recipes that require ingredients we may not have. My sinkhole for money is Amazon (boo and hiss). Earrings, books, stuff for the house. I need to try a month without buying anything non-essential. Thanks for the idea!

  2. I had no idea how much I was spending eating out four to six times a week until the pandemic hit and I stopped eating out. Since March 2020, my savings account has been growing instead of shrinking. A few months ago, I realized I could afford to have solar installed on my roof and add a back up battery to compensate for power failures. The monthly power bill all but vanished after the solar and battery were installed.

    Before the pandemic when I ate out, I’d spend between $15 and $20 each time (just for me). When I eat at home, Each meal costs me about $5. Then I found out because I was driving a lot less, my car insurance went down dramatically about $60 a month. And I was only filling the gas tank once every four to six months, instead of once every two weeks.

  3. When I was still working, I had a great money-saving trick. If I wanted something, I would figure out how many days (or hours, if I was working an hourly rate) I would need to work to buy it. It’s amazing how many things you realize you don’t need when it hits you that you’d need to work two or three days to afford them!

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