How to succeed on a no spend
We’ve all been there.
I’ve reached a critical point in terms of storage, or I’ve taken a look at my bank statement and done some cartoon level eye popping. Either way, the outcome is the same – I decide to go on a no spend.
I’ve gone on lots of no spends over the years. Given I have a lot of hobbies/interests – make up and skincare, papercrafting and planning – I’ve got lots of experience of stopping purchasing different types of products. The fundamentals of a no spend though tend to be the same. I generally follow the same process each time, whether I’m cutting back on beauty spending, or avoiding Hobbycraft like the plague. While I have done generic no spends in the past where I try not to spend any money at all (save for essentials like food) they only tend to succeed if I follow the same steps.
1. Realise you need to do a no spend and why
This may seem a strange first step. You might be thinking “but of course I know I need to do a no spend” but it’s not that simple. If I just have knee jerk reaction to an expensive weekend and decide to go on the no spend the following week, I inevitably fail. I need to really appreciate the reason for the no spend, and the impact if I don’t stick to it. Getting this down on paper and putting it somewhere as a reminder, is a great way of keeping yourself focused and on track.
2. Take stock of what you currently own
For example, if I decide to go on a beauty no spend because my stash is overflowing I need to understand what’s in that stash. I empty out all my storage places and take an inventory of everything I own. I usually find a few surprises of things I forgot I had!
If you do this, you’re less likely to break that no spend by replacing an item you’ve just run out of. Do you have a back up stashed away? Or a deluxe sample you’ve never got around to using. It also means that if you really are down to your last bottle of toner, you’ll know going in to your no spend that you’ll probably have to purchase a new one within the no spend period, and that’s okay. It means you can set aside money in your budget for it, and possibly spend time researching a cheaper alternative.
When taking stock of what you own you’ll inevitably come across items you’ll never actually use. Maybe you tried them and didn’t like them. Perhaps you received it as part of something else and won’t ever open it. There’s no point hanging on to such items as they’re just taking up valuable storage space.
One benefit to this can be coming across a stash of products that can be sold on. I often go through my stationery and and planner supplies and do a destash in a Facebook group. The extra money can either be put in the bank or left to one side as an allowed spend during the no spend. I will often leave any destash money in my Paypal account so that if there’s something I absoutely must have, I can break my no spend without dipping into my bank account.
4. Set yourself a budget
I’m a massive fan of budget planning and expense tracking. I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago which is probably due an update now. Getting down your planned income and outgoings each month can be a real eye opener. Once you’ve got that down you can work out how much is left each month for everything else – food, spending money and savings contributions. If you’re doing a no spend to save money you really need to do this part. Alongside this, it’s good to review the previous month and how you spent your money.
It may also help you to discover that what you need to a no spend on might be something completely different. Some months I think I need to cut back on the planner sticker purchases, take a look at my bank statement and realise I’ve spent way too much money on meals out.
If you’re doing a repurchase only no spend i.e. only buying something to replace something you’ve run out and have no alternative for this will also help to give you a budget for that. Yes you might have run out of your £50 face cream, but can you actually afford to replace it that month? Or do you need to spend time researching some more budget friendly alternatives?
5. Set some rules
That brings me onto the rules of the no spend. If you don’t set out the terms of your no spend, it’ll be tricky to assess whether you’ve achieved it or not. For a beauty related no spend, a repurchase only (with reasonable repurchase amounts) is generally a sensible one. You can’t run out of cleanser and not replace it just because you’re on a no buy. I tend to also only repurchase known brands or items. I’m unwilling to try something completely new during a no spend and potentially waste money if it doesn’t work out.
For planning and papercrafting I tend to be a little more strict. Either a complete no spend (because I have way too much of everything), or a very strict budget of say £20 a month to stick to. If you’ve really taken stock of everything you own this actually proves to be fairly easy. If you know and remember you have millions of everything, the desire to purchase more starts to fade. In fact if anything, the desire to actually starting using up things increases.
There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing up a roll of washi, or foundation. Particularly if you know you have lots more stored up ready to move onto. There’s whole corners of the internet dedicated to ‘panning’, particularly in the beauty community. It can get quite addictive once you set out to finish some products.
6. Unsubscribe to anything that can tempt you
This is a good practice to do all the time I find. Is Colourpop harassing you with too many emails showing off the latest palette that you just can’t resist? Unsubscribe. That beautiful Instagram account that makes you buy a load of products with the hope of being able to recreate what they make? Unfollow. It doesn’t have to be forever, but if you frequently see something online and have to go out and buy it, perhaps you should take that temptation away.
7. Track and reward your progress
This is really important. Whether you mark it off on a calendar, or have a habit tracker set up on your planner, it’s good to see when you’ve achieved a no spend. Also, if possible, it’s great to reward a good no spend. That’s not to say you should go on a massive Sephora blow out because then you’re just undoing all the good work. But how about that new lipstick you’ve been eyeing up for ages? Or a small spend in your favourite Etsy shop? Even just a bag of your favourite chocolates (Malteaser Buttons for me). Something just to give yourself a little pat on the back.
I hope this little guide has been helpful. It’s certainly helped me over the years. It’s also helped me to create some good habits. Once you start really looking at your spending habits, and the stash you’ve accumulated, you really think a bit more about any purchases. I no longer want to buy everything I see online. I know what I like and I know what I use and I tend not to deviate from that too much. I’ll still drop money and do hauls sometimes, but it tends to be more thought out and focused. If it’s a new Etsy shop I’ve discovered I won’t necessarily buy everything, I’ll just buy a few sheets to make sure I like the quality and style first.
If you have any questions or would like to see an updated budget planning post, please let me know in the comments!