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Month: February 2017

No spend challenges to improve your finances

No spend challenges to improve your finances

If you’re looking for a way to improve your finances, you should set yourself a no spend challenge. It’s the perfect challenge, regardless of whether or you’re good with budgetting. We are all different and one size certainly doesn’t fit all, so you can flex your challenge to suit your circumstances.

You could start with a no spend day, or go the whole hog on a no spend year (eek!).

Improving your finances in the long term

Before suggesting some different no spend challenges you could try, I wanted to talk about how it improves your finances in the long term. It sounds too good to be true, but a no spend weekend could really improve your finances in the long term.

How? Well it’s a great way to start changing the way you spend. At the moment, spending money every day, or at least every other day is probably completely normal. But a no spend challenge can help you see that spending money every day doesn’t have to be normal. If you can make not spending a normal part of everyday life, you’ll make far fewer impulse purchases and therefore save money.

Its a chance to discover new free and frugal hobbies that you might not otherwise. In my tips for a successful no spend weekend, the most important tip is to make it fun! That means planning something you enjoy but that doesn’t cost money. You might even find your new hobby replaces an expensive past time and gives you less time and inclination for mindless spending.

One of the things I find really powerful is a new found control. At the moment, we’ve become addicted to consuming. If you look at the fashion industry and especially the volume of stuff sold in shops like Primark, it really is difficult to argue otherwise. You can turn your addiction for consuming into one for the feeling of control and empowerment you get from a no spend weekend.

No spend challenge

A simple no spend challenge can change the way you approach your finances, and really improve them in the long term. Here’s a few different variations you might want to try:

No spend day

A no spend day does exactly what it says on the tin: no spending for one whole day. That means you should be home cooking all your food. You shouldn’t do any online shopping or be paying for fun activities. If you choose a work day to do this on, paying for public transport might be necessary, if you don’t live within walking distance. The main rule is that you shouldn’t purchase anything.

No spend weekend

On a no spend weekend, you shouldn’t be spending a penny all weekend. This means home cooked food, no purchases, entertainment that is free or uses what you already have. It means moving “essential spending” to alternative days to keep you in the mindset of having spend-free days. I make sure I’ve been food shopping on the previous Thursday or Friday and the car has enough fuel to get us by.

No spend, but save weekend

This is a variation on the no spend weekend. So, everything is the same but there is an extra part to the challenge and that is to find a way to save money. The best way to do this is to reduce one monthly bill, such as utilities, TV, internet, mobile phone, magazine or gym subscribtions. This will benefit every month to come and have a longer impact than a single money saving activity.

If you’ve already got all your monthly contracts as cheap as you can, you might have to do something that saves money as a one off. Such as batch cooking a few meal portions.

No spend, but earn weekend

Another variation of the no spend weekend, but this time with a challenge to earn extra cash. This could be through selling some of your stuff, doing surveys, selling photos online, etc. The easiest way is selling an old camera to CEX or a similar store. Another way might be reallocating some of your ‘non-essentials budget’ towards investments, earning dividends and growing over time.

No spend, but save and earn weekend

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could combine the no spend weekend with save and earn elements, to have an even greater positive effect on your finances. But don’t forget to make time for doing stuff you enjoy too!

The long no spend weekend

Typically, a no spend weekend would cover a Saturday or Sunday, possibly starting on a Friday evening. Why not extend this to cover the Friday and/ or finishing on Monday. A four day no-spend weekend would see you more than half of the way to a no-spend week!

No spend week

Finally, the no spend weekend stretched for a full week. This may need rules to allow you to buy bread, pay for public transport, anything that is essential.

 

Of course, you can go further and do a no spend month or even a year. I’m not at that stage yet, but I find these give me really great opportunities to make not spending become more normal.

Are you tempted to have a go? Which no spend challenge will you do first?

 

 

How to have an awesome no spend weekend

How to have an awesome no spend weekend

Text: 5 simple steps to having an awesome no spend weekendIf the thought of a no spend weekend sounds tedious or fills you with dread, you’re looking at it all wrong.

Let me start by asking you this. Do you spend money every day? I reckon I do. I reckon most of us do. Spending money is, somehow, easier than not spending. Shops open 24 hours, 1 click online ordering, and contactless payments mean spending comes as naturally as getting out of bed in the morning.

With spending money being so normal, the prospect of a no spend day or no spend weekend might look like an exercise in self deprivation and misery. There’s a few things you might be thinking, like “You only live once, why go without the things I enjoy”. Or maybe “Not spending money for a weekend isn’t going to make any difference”. Or perhaps you’re in the “I could never do it so why try?” camp.

Please keep reading. Because the first time I thought about a no spend weekend, I felt like I just couldn’t motivate myself. And that was my first problem. As long as you look at this in the right way, a no spend weekend can be awesome. All mine have been.

I have 5 easy steps to not just manage a no spend weekend, but to have an awesome no spend weekend. Hopefully you’ll see that it’s not as boring or difficult as you might initially think!

Tip 1. Look forward to your no spend weekend

OK, so its a no spend weekend, not a no-fun weekend.

When planning a no spend weekend, prioritise fun stuff. It might be tempting to think ‘I’ll get a shed load of chores out of the way, since I’m not allowed to spend any way.” No, no no! If your weekend is spent doing boring stuff you won’t enjoy it and won’t want to do another.

If your weekend has fun and relaxing activities, your experience will be much more positive. Taking away the ‘spending chores’, especially food shopping, carves out a good swathe of time for extra fun stuff to be fitted in to your weekend.

Tip 2. Plan

If you’re not used to having no spend days or weekends (like me!), this isn’t going to happen by accident so you will need a bit of a plan.

Part one of the plan

Get your ‘spending chores’ out of the way before the weekend: Food shopping and filling up the car are good chores to get out of the way on Thursday or Friday (or any other day for that matter!) that many of us do at the weekend. The purpose of filling the car is so you don’t have to do it on the way to work on Monday morning (and you don’t find yourself without fuel if there’s an emergency). It is not to do a huge road trip on your no spend weekend!

Part two of the plan

The good bit. Plan the things you want to do, especially the fun stuff.

Allowing your days to slip away has a similar effect to cramming the days with chores- your weekend will feel wasted and you won’t be tempted to try again. To be honest, you might even end up compensating the following weekend by spending even more money.

So even if your plan is to spend half an hour with your feet up, drinking orange juice and eating croissants, do it deliberately. (And tell me that doesn’t sound AWESOME?!)

Oh, and try to avoid mindlessly browsing the internet. You don’t want to spot a ‘must have’ item that you don’t need!

If you’re trying this with kids, check out these free family activities, perfect for a no spend weekend with kids.

Tip 3: Drag your friends along

If you’re used to meeting up with people at the weekend, that definitely shouldn’t stop for a no spend weekend. I reckon your friends and family will even thank you for coming up with an awesome idea that they don’t need to dip their hands in their pocket for!

Film nights are fantastic for getting together, but for me, few things surpass a night of competitive board games. And include cards against humanity in the category of competitive.

You don’t have to limit yourself to indoors. How about a group hike or bike ride, or a chilled out garden party where everyone brings something delicious.

Tip 4: Don’t be too hard on yourself

There’s nothing awesome about feeling guilty about a slight digression. It’s easy to be hard on yourself if you find yourself spending, but don’t.

Instead, fist punch the air cos you tried something that most people probably never will. Remember that a no spend weekend isn’t the norm. And know that next time, you’re going to smash it out of the park (incidentally, baseball or rounders is another fun activity you could add into that weekend of awesomeness).

 

Tip 5: Enjoy!

OK, so this is basically tip 1. There wasn’t really a fifth tip but I like nice neat lists of 5. And I do think the key to a successful no spend weekend is E N J O Y I N G it!

A no spend weekend isn’t a punishment. Its a chance to remember that you can have a great time, create some special memories and bucket fulls of laughter without spending money. And even more awesome is knowing that you’ve done your bank balance a favour too 🙂

 

If this isn’t where you’re at yet, that’s fine. I only ask that you mull it over. If and when you’re ready to make the leap, remember these tips. Come back and let me know how you got on!

So, is a no spend weekend for you? Are you on the fence or is it never gonna happen?

 

100 happy days challenge- have you tried it?

100 happy days challenge- have you tried it?

I tried to be happy for 100 days in a row and failed. Twice. And somehow, I got happier in the process.

The 100 happy days challenge took off on social media a couple of years ago. The idea was that we have so much in our lives to be happy about, but no time to recognise it.

This was the challenge: For 100 days in a row, take a photo of something that made you happy that day and publish it to instagram or facebook with a brief caption.

It sounds like a great idea. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives and forget to appreciate all that we have. This helps you to stop and think about those things. There was one flaw in the challenge; it created competition. People wanted to be seen to be more happy by something more ordinary than someone else. Yawn.

Even if it is not intended, facebook is already basically millions and millions of Joneses to keep up with. 100 days of how wonderful someone’s life is doesn’t necessarily inspire happiness in others, especially if they feel alone or unhappy.

100 happy days challenge

My 100 happy days challenge

I decided to have a go once all the fuss had died down, with 2 differences:

  1. I wouldn’t take photos (a photo might speak a thousand words, but sometimes only 5 words are needed) and;
  2. I’d keep it to myself, so I just kept a 100 days note in my phone.

I’ve had 2 attempts at this so far. And I’ve “failed” both.

Attempt number 1

On the first attempt of the 100 happy days challenge, I got to day 48. I stopped on the day our car broke down for the 3rd time in 2 weeks and I was off work sick. Everything seemed to be going wrong, I was tired, the car was costing a lot of time and money, and I just didn’t feel happy at all. Don’t get me wrong, there were things I was grateful for on those days, but I couldn’t say I felt happy. And so rather than pretend to be elated, for the sake of the challenge, I admitted defeat.

Attempt number 2

On the second attempt, I go to day 52. I gave up on 25th December, Christmas Day. This time, it was different. I gave up because  just wanted to enjoy the Christmas break and be in the moment, rather than thinking “Should I write this thing I’m doing right now as the thing that made me happy today?”

What I learned

I couldn’t help doing a bit of analysis on what had made me happy over the 2 challenges (I love a good spreadsheet!). All in all, I had notes of what had made me happy for 100 days, albeit not in a row.

30 of my days’ happiness resulted from spending money, including weekly Pilates classes (I’m always on a high when I finish), being on holiday (so the thing causing happiness wouldn’t have happened without spending the money to travel, if that makes sense) and the run up to Christmas and buying gifts for people.

70 days came from things that didn’t cost money. That’s something I’m really chuffed with, and just goes to show you don’t need to spend money to be happy.

The really great thing about the challenge was that it made me make time for more of what I enjoy doing and forgetting the stuff I enjoy less. So playing more board games, going for more walks and trying my hand at more new recipes. Less slobbing in front of the TV!

I also realised that being happy every day isn’t necessarily a good thing. It is important to be serious and it is human to be sad sometimes. It is experiencing unhappy days that allows us to have a greater appreciation for happy days.

Have you tried it?

You should totally have a go if you haven’t already. Don’t post it on facebook. I’ll leave you to choose whether you want to take photos. But have a go, because:

  • It’ll teach you about where your happiness comes from and
  • It’ll make you more aware of bad days and doing something to make them better

Have you tried the 100 happy days challenge and how did you get on with it?

Cheap and easy (indoor) entertainment for kids

Cheap and easy (indoor) entertainment for kids

It’s always good to have a list of cheap and easy entertainment for kids, especially indoor entertainment as the weather can put a stop to getting out in the fresh air. As February school half term approaches (surely one of the most miserable, weather-wise), I was chatting with my sis about what she could do that wouldn’t cost a fortune but would keep my niece entartained.

We came up with some pretty good options (the benefit of trying many of these out in our own childhood!) so I though I’d share them with you.

A visit to the library

You can wile away an hour or two in the library, picking out stories and audio books to take home and taking part in the free (or nearly free) activities usually going on in the school holidays. It’s a great way to get out of your own four walls whilst being undercover for free.

An indoor picnic

The weather might not be good enough for picnics, so bring it inside. When I say picnic, let’s not go overboard. I’m talking about sandwiches, maybe some grapes and a packet of crisps. (Hey, if they still do iced gems, they’d be perfect for an indoor picnic!) Laying a blanket on the floor and, of course, picking a few teddies, will add to the indoor adventure.

Sow seeds

You can be adventurous as you like, but cress, runner beans or a sun flower are all simple ways to start. Cress can be grown in a yoghurt pot, and to extend the activity, I always think it’s fun to cover the pot in white paper or paint and draw on a face so the cress looks like hair.

Find a box (make believe fun)

The ultimate imaginative play item. They might have a room with a billion toys in it (ok, so not a billion, but it feels like that when you’re tidying up sometimes) but a box won’t fail to provide hours of fun. If they’re feeling creative (and you’re feeling brave), why not let them paint it as whatever they want?

Put on a show

We used to love practicing and putting on our own little shows, usually a dance show or gymnastics display. My mum definitely used to appreciate the opportunity to sit down with a cup of tea, whilst we pranced around the living room the the grease soundtrack. It also provided a brief spell of time where we weren’t making a mess, something most mums will probably appreciate.

Bake cakes or biscuits

OK, so the last suggestion was mess free, but this one probably won’t be. I always loved baking as a child. Even if you’re no good a baking, you can pick up a simple cake or cookie pack that needs minimal baking skill. If it all goes wrong, you’ll probably make stronger memories than if it all goes to plan! (That’s something I know from experience!!!)

Play board games

I used to love board games. In fact, I still do. When we were younger, it was mostly scrabble and scategories. Now, there seem to be so many games that appeal to children of all ages. If you’re playing board games, it’s another reason not to have the TV droning on in the background. Less screen time has to be a good thing, right?

Make a den

Clothes horses, sofa cushions, duvets… your house is full of perfect den building materials. Dragging stuff from all over the house was always a good way to burn off some energy when we we stuck indoors as kids.

Do some science experiments

I know this might sound boring on the face of it, but there areactually loads of fun and easy science experiments you can do at home. I found loads of free science experiments over at sublime science. Many of them can be done with things you’ve already have, so you don’t need to buy anything extra.

 

 

Hopefully this gives you some fun ideas for that next wet and miserable weekend or school holiday that won’t cost you a fortune. Just because it’s wet and windy, doesn’t stop you wrapping up and splashing in puddles… but its good to come indoors and warm up afterwards.

Do you have any fun free (or cheap) ways you entertain the kids when the weather is too bad to go out? We feel like we’ve come up with a good list, but more ideas are always good!

 

P.S If you want to save this for later, you can now pin this on Pinterest 🙂