September is here with its shiny new satchel of optimism so what better day to start something new: A Year of Less Spending. From today September 1st 2015 until 31st August 2016, I hope to track all my spending and spend far less money than I have in the last twelve months. It's not a total shopping ban as I don't want us to completely go without nice treats. I don't believe living with less means having to go without your favourite things, it just means having them a little less often.
Over the last few years we've got much better at managing on a smaller income whilst still enjoying a comfortable but simple life. We've learnt to live with what we've got and make things last (my husband has only ever owned one mobile phone and it's still going strong). We're fortunate to have no debt other than a small mortgage, no credit cards and modest savings/pension provision.
However, despite improvements in my shopping habits such as keeping my grocery shopping more consistent, I still overspend especially when life gets busy and I'm tired.
Then convenience becomes more attractive than saving money. And despite having minimised my wardrobe to forty pieces last year I've added more pieces to it than I'd planned. Convenience shopping and clothing are still my weaknesses. When I add up my incidental spending over the last twelve months it shocks me how much money I'm still wasting.
Spending less money on my hair over the last year has shown me that I can stick to a challenge. Not dyeing my hair, using less shampoo and cutting my own hair with only occasional salon visits has saved me a fortune (probably more than half of what I previously spent). Now I need to apply this mindset to spending less money in other areas. How many times during the next twelve months will I be tempted to buy wants such as flowers, magazines and charity shop finds? How many times can I resist the lure of my nearby lux eight letter supermarket for the four letter supermarket that requires driving through town but whose receipts ring joy? This is what I'll track and share with you during the next year.
Having less income requires careful management, especially when it fluctuates like my earnings do (I work supply hours as well as my permanent hours). From today I shall be back to keeping a spending diary and trying to spend less. There'll be more time spent planning frugal meals and cooking from scratch. I'll try paying with cash and staying away from shops/advertising/online browsing (where we all know the temptation starts) as much as I can.
My aim is that by keeping a spending diary and by reducing costs we'll be able to save for more fun experiences and some sort of summer holiday next year. I'll be able to make a few considered purchases to update my small wardrobe and start saving for bigger future expenses such as a living room revamp and travel plans for my 50th birthday/our 25th wedding anniversary.
Above all I hope to reduce my wants, adequately provide for our needs and build savings to help realise our long term dreams.
One thing we've certainly found is that a higher income doesn't make us happier. As I've written many times we value time together over earning a high salary because of the hidden costs to our health and family life that we experienced when I worked full-time in a management role in teaching. Living with less has made us appreciate all that we have and they're not just material things.
It also makes me more aware of how easy it is to waste money and how uncomfortable excess consumerism makes me feel.
A Year of Less Spending is a balanced approach to minimalism and materialism. At the end of twelve months I hope to be more accountable for my spending, to have had some great experiences and to have acquired more savings than impulse buys.