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10 Tips to Survive a No-Spend Month

Nikki and my No-Buy June is well underway. If you’re hearing about it for the first time, a no-spend month is basically when you go a month without spending money on any luxury or unnecessary items, like new clothing, entertainment, dates, uber trips (unless you REALLY need one), and only on the essentials like groceries, rent, airtime (in moderation), utilities, petrol and basics for the kids.

Though it’s the 7th of June, I’m already on day 10 – I simply wanted to get a head start to identify the pitfalls and I can already say that the income at my disposable is a lot more than I’ve had in previous months. Only my debit orders have gone off, and I’m rollin;’ in kesh y’all.

I got a taste of ‘modern frugality’ two years ago when I was on maternity leave. I had just quit my day job, literally, and had I retained only two freelance clients, (basically so that we wouldn’t starve). I tell you, living with a third of your salary is not for the feint hearted – it will HUMBLE the f*ck out of you. Yet, even though my “This way, Mrs Brandt” treatment at the bank (LOL!) was now in the toilet, it was the happiest time of my life! I knew that any money that came in was already earmarked for important things, so much so that I never worried with trawling Pinterest or visited my favourite sites for my daily dose of feel-good fashion. I spent days going to the park with my kids or going for walks and my hot half and I got creative with our dates. Even post-load-shedding we kept the TV and lights off to have fun with the kids; the electricity saved was an unexpected bonus. I was completely stress free, less anxious and appreciated life so much more.

Why am I sharing all of this? Well basically to prove that a no-spend month is entirely possible! It’s not easy, so here are my top tips to surviving No-Buy June.

1. Set a goal to get your head in the game. Whatever your reason for attempting a No-Spend Month, you need to write down that shit down. Or print it out and place it in a visible spot. A no-spend month, honestly, is not so easy so arming yourself with a clear end goal will help you stick it out. Without having something to work towards, you’ll easily fall off the wagon. And on days where you struggle, tell yourself, “I am doing this to be treat my mom at the end of the month/ I want a vacation in Pofadder / I am doing this to pay off an account.”

2. Strip your budget down to the bone:
Don’t underestimate going over your transaction history. We recently got wi-fi at home so the only time I needed data was in the car for emergencies. I realised that I was buying data daily for this one trip (gasp!) and it added up to QUITE an amount. So last month, I highlighted everything I frivolously spend money on to single out the bad spending. Stay away from temptation. Nikki and I have both unsubscribed from our favourite shopping sites. The out of sight out of mind principle really does apply here.

3. Surviving midday meal temptations.
Lunch is probably your biggest budget muncher. It sounds unbelievable but a simple calculation will reveal all:

R45 breakfast
R35 morning coffee
R55 lunch takeaway
R15 cool drink
R30 3pm bag of nuts
TOTAL: R180 per day
Times that by 5 days a week
= R3600 per month!

Insanity. That’s why it’s so important to meal plan as much as you can. Make a list of all the meals you want to make during the month, pinpoint the common ingredients and make a shopping list. Chop and cook what you can the night before, or set aside just one hour on a Sunday evening. You can make lip-smacking lunches with ingredients you already have on your shopping list: think low carb thai pesto and chicken wraps, spicy butternut and chicken soup, quiche, a lentil, caramelised butternut, beetroot and lemony salad with cous cous, low-carb burgers with home-made patties. I’ll share 5 of my favourite recipes in my next post. I’ve been rather lazy of note but meal prep takes me 7 to 15 minutes tops a night – less than the time to walk, order and pick up food at any café.

4. Do an inventory of your food cupboards so that you don’t end up buying duplicate items. You may think to buy in bulk, and it is a good way to save most of the time, but make sure that you’re not overcompensating to ‘make it through’. Set a small budget. Get creative and see what meals you can make with what you already have. I love myfridgefood – not the prettiest site but you basically tick the items you have in your fridge or cupboards and it pops out a list of recipes you can make with what you have. Everything I’ve tried has been delicious!

5. Fun don’t cost a thang
Not spending is tougher around the weekends. Luckily there are tons of free activities in South Africa to do. In this blistering cold the beach may be a bad idea so here is a list of free activities to do in and around Cape Town, amongst them, scenic walks and picnics.

6. Surviving school holidays
Spending time with kids during the school holidays is also a time where your wallet feels the pinch. But it doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny, so check out these fun activities (some free!) kids will adore – they may not all be free but they’re definitely all cheap! That way, you are spending less and hopefully doing more! And that’s not an expense, right?

7. Time with friends
The one thing I’ve realised over the last week is how quickly we say, “Let’s meet for coffee.” And it never turns out being just coffee, does it? Meeting? Lunch date. Catch up? Lunch date. Venting sesh? Lunch date. You actually don’t need a meal to catch up with close ones. Have a look at the free activities in the link above and go for a hike together. A pot luck dinner is such a fun night and you can play games as well. Cook together or create a surprise menu. Even going for a free wine tasting is a good idea. Places like Wine Concepts in Kloof street, Steenbarg Farms in the Cape Winelands and well as Buitenverwatching Wine Farm in Constantia all offer free opportunities to dip into some Chardonnay or Sparkling Wine. Your friends will more than likely be happy to meet at a picnic than chandeliered restaurant. Which brings me to tip no.8

8. Do go it alone.
Get your friends or family involved. We all know how it goes, you’re about to start a no-drinking or no-carb or no-meat commitment and just as you prepare yourself those meaty pastas with a side of wine invitations come rolling in. If your friends of family
understand or better yet, join in, you can keep each other focused.

9. Time is irrelevant. If a No-Spend full month seems like too much of a commitment, try slipping in a few no-spend days or weeks around the year. Remember all you’re doing is simply changing your spending behavior so the amount of time you’re doing it is up to you.

10. Your daily coffee. I am not a coffee snob; I’ll be happy with the cheap swill served in a polystyrene mug at a recreational center, but for you coffee connoisseurs out there, who really rely on that morning pick-me-up to turn them into a ‘human who does all the things’, giving up this indulgence can seem brutal. But it’s exactly that, an indulgence and starting with calculating just how much you spend on a coffee in a year will perhaps sway you in the direction of giving that morning mug a pass. The average cuppa costs anything between R25 for a small up to R38 for a grande. If you’re like me who used to pop out for a fix twice a day, that adds up to R4560 every year! I don’t know about you but I could use 5 grand for so many things! Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a teaspoon and a jar of coffee in your desk.

My sister makes an amaaazing golden latte – with turmeric, cinnamon, honey and warm almond milk. You may even add a dash of coconut milk. Almond is pricey, yes, but an entire carton costs the same as one coffee and almond milk lasts forever. Alexandra from girly talk also makes this creamy and delicious drink with two cups of dates and 2 glasses of water. Blend it until smooth. You can also add vanilla if you’re jonesing for vanilla flavoured coffee drinks. So refreshing! I add little slices of banana.

The most important thing is to keep it positive and fun. The minute it feels like a chore, you won’t stick to it.

I’m working on a birthday, anniversary, baptism, baby shower, farewell, housewarming gift list – with every item absolutely free. So if you have any amazing ideas, do a sister a solid and tell me in the comments.


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