After taking a long hard look at our finances and wondering where the heck our money goes each month, Peter and I decided to do a month of no spending. We called it ‘No Spend November’.

Why did we do this to ourselves?

We both wanted to give a month of ‘no’ spending a go to understand two things:

  1. How much we could save in a month; and
  2. How much money we’ve been letting drain out of our accounts without really realising it.

My bad spending habit is coffee, and before our no spend month; I was spending at least £20 a week on a flat white or two. When you scale that up to what that spend equates to in a year, it’s pretty ridiculous and easy to see where large chunks of money goes to. It’s easy to forget that ‘big spends’ are often the everyday small ones purchased frequently.

How did we do it, and succeed?

So ok, let’s be real, it’s pretty hard to spend absolutely nothing in a day or week, let alone month, so we made some easy to follow rules which would help us to decide what we could and couldn’t spend money on.

Our No Spend November Rules

Set up to succeed:

  1. No Credit or Debit Cards: for the majority of the time, neither of us carried debit or credit cards (the only exception was Peter using the debit card for fuel). This meant that we couldn’t spend willynilly; and
  2. Pocket Money: we allowed ourselves each £50 cash at the start of the month which needed to last the full month. This could be used for my coffee fund (I can’t live without it!) and any additional food that Peter needed whilst at work.

Money could be spent on:

  • Mortgage, bills and any other boring stuff which must be paid;
  • Our monthly subscription to our gym – we couldn’t live without this;
  • Commuting costs (bus and fuel);
  • A weekly food shop;
  • Household costs;
  • Commitments made before November but which fell in the month, i.e. a pre-arranged dinner with friends or trip to the rugby;
  • Birthday gifts which had a restricted spend of £30.

Spending was not allowed for:

  • Events or impromptu pub trips arranged in the no spend month, unless it could be funded out of our pocket money; and
  • Purchases (unless food or household or coffee with pocket money).

Did we succeed? What did we learn?

Yes, we did succeed! It wasn’t as hard as what I initially thought it was going to be. I had to be frugal with my pocket money spending as I blew a large proportion of it in the first week as I hadn’t quite realised the price of coffee! It’s so easy to forget when spending using contactless. So, for the remaining weeks in the month, I was limited to spending £1 a day on a black filter coffee from Pret. Thank you Pret for still having these on your menu!

I regularly logged into my banking app to see my savings sat in my account. It was incredibly satisfying to see my money stay in my account rather than to see the endless transactions out.

To quantify our success, on top of our usual monthly savings, I was able to save an extra £200 and Peter was able to save an additional £400.

My biggest learning was that I’m an impulse buyer – especially when I’m bored on my lunch break. By not having my plastic with me, I couldn’t just buy without thinking. I had to consider each purchase and understand whether my pocket money could extend that far.

Will we continue doing no spend months?

In short, yes – although, we’re not being quite as strict with commitments / dinner out with friends etc. To help me get out of the impulse buying habit, I’m keeping my plastic at home and have limited myself to £30 cash for £1 coffees.

Next up in our money related blog posts, spreadsheet-king Peter will talk you through our budgeting and finances.