Planning My Year of Less

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I made a conscious decision a few weeks ago that this year would be the year I rein in spending and focus on saving. But, to explain why I’ve made that decision I need to go back a few years.

Dave and I spent our whole relationship until LP was one paying off a huge amount of debt. Seven and a half years ago we became debt free. But, we had a young child, maternity pay and another baby on the way. I juggled my working hours around Dave’s shifts and we managed to make ends meet and get by.

Roll forward a couple of years and this blog was doing well, I was still working 19 hours a week at the bank and we had more money than we had done in a while. I could afford, for the first time in years, to go for lunch with a friend without thinking about it, get a takeaway hot chocolate or treat myself to new clothes.

My focus on our spending slipped and, for the first time in my adult life, I could spend money without worrying AND without getting into debt. We had disposable income and it was lovely.

But now, another few years later, that spending has got to stop. We buy lunch out without thinking about it, we buy things when they’re on offer just because they’re on offer and we shop the sales with abandon.

Looking back at the last few years I have loved our holidays, I’ve loved doing up the house and I have loved all the things we’ve been able to do and the memories we have made. But, going forward, that isn’t going to change.

We can still afford holidays, day out and a nice lunch when we want one. But, I’ve been reading The Year of Less and it’s made me realise that we buy so much that we don’t need. We have so much stuff that we need to use before we buy more and I think, realistically, by focusing on what we’re spending we could save literally hundreds of pounds each month.

Unlike many others, I’m not doing a ‘no spend’ year but consciously reducing the amount we spend, the amount of stuff we buy and reducing the amount of stuff in our home at the same time.

I’ve put together an outline of how this year is going to look for us. I think that if I write it down I’ll be accountable and I’ll stick to it rather than it just being a vague hope in my mind.

Now, this year is a big year for us as we are doing a loft conversion. We have released equity from our house to be able to do that so budgeting for that isn’t a problem. We also have a holiday booked to the Dominican Republic this summer which we’re really excited about. Those two big things aren’t really in the equation for our year of less. They’re paid for, they’re happening and we just need to make sure the loft stays within budget. However, we have postponed a trip to Paris we were planning as it’s an extra expense we just do not need this year.

So, here goes. I’ve made a list of things that I can’t buy this year.

  • Toiletries. We won’t be buying toiletries unless we really need them. We have a really big bathroom cabinet that is jam packed with shampoo, shower gel, bubble bath and so much else. The only thing we go through regularly as a family which will need topping up is deodorant and toothpaste. Everything else may even last the year!
  • Cleaning products. Considering we had a cleaner for two years who supplied all their own cleaning products we have a surprising amount of them. I’ll be clearing out the cleaning cupboard before purchasing any more.
  • Books. This is my own personal pledge. I have so many books I haven’t yet read but want to read. I always buy them when they’re £2 or so on Amazon and just don’t read them quick enough. So I am reading all the books I own and haven’t read before buying more.
  • Clothes. I always buy the children clothes in the sale in the next size up and have done since they were babies as it’s meant we can afford good quality clothes at budget prices. That won’t change. But, I buy myself clothes quite often that I don’t really need. It’s not like I’m still growing! So, I won’t be buying myself random clothes unless it’s something I actually need. I have a bit of an addiction to the Next clearance and will be limiting myself to two big purchases a year in the Next summer and winter sales and that is it – which is normally mostly for the children anyway.
  • Impulse sale purchases. I’ll no longer be buying random things when I see a sale pop up on Facebook or Instagram. At times I am an advertiser’s dream and really, in this industry I should know better.
  • Gym. I am cancelling my gym membership as I don’t use it often enough to warrant the £17 a month fee. I can walk for free and run for free. I don’t need to pay over £200 a year for the privilege.

Now that I’ve written that out I also have a list of things I can buy.

  • Groceries. We spent between £60-£100 a week on groceries and this has slowly crept up like the rest of our shopping. I’ll only be buying things we need and cutting down on the things I buy purely because they’re on special offer. I usually buy own brand products anyway but will be checking prices to make sure when I do buy something branded that it is the best option.
  • One lunch out per month. As a family we tend to buy lunch when we go to a National Trust or on a day out. Sometimes we even buy lunch AND cake. Recently these lunches have been £40 a pop and they really do add up. So, I’m limiting this to one bought lunch per month – or tea and cake as that’s often as expensive as lunch anyway! This will make us more mindful of packing lunches instead of buying them and will definitely save us money.
  • Gifts. I’ll still buy gifts for other people. I have always bought things in sales through the year for Christmas for the children so that won’t change either.
  • Work. I can buy things for my work. Ingredients for recipes, props, equipment. If anything is related to work and can be put through as an expense I will continue to buy it.
  • Petrol. Petrol is a necessity for us – along with other travel like trains into London.

I’ll also look to reduce our monthly bills, switch energy provider if I can and review all our insurance policies thoroughly to make sure we have the cover we need and aren’t paying over the odds.

This year is going to be more about things we need and less about the things we want. I’m moving so far away from material things and trying to refocus on making memories and experiences over stuff.

I’ll let you know how we get on with this and if I can stick to it or not. As I work fully from home now it means that I don’t often physically go shopping but I have a lot more time to browse online and as I spend so much time on the internet and social media I am so susceptible to adverts. That may sound like rubbish reasoning but it’s true. Now I’m aware of it I can make change – and I’m excited for this year of less. Wish me luck!

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  • My cousin did the no spend year, she wrote the first popular book on it and it was such a tough thing to do. I think what you are doing sounds sensible and you have set very realistic goals which will be achievable.

    Have you set yourself a savings target for the year?

    • No, I haven’t. I didn’t want to put any figures on it – like the maximum I could spend or how much I wanted to save – as I didn’t want to make it seem unachievable or, on the flip side, if I reached my savings goal for me to think it’s done now and stop. But I’ll report back in a few months with how much we’ve saved! x

  • Oh good luck with this Donna! I have to change our spending habits as we really don’t think about where our money goes.. which is really bad as we’re accountants. It’ll be interesting to read your post at the end of the year to see how you’ve done.

  • Good luck! We need to do much the same, like you we have cupboards full of half used shampoo / shower gel / cleaning products and I need to start making sure these get used up! It’s so easy to spend without thinking about it.

  • This sounds amazing I think it is something which we need to do as well. I am looking forward to seeing how you manage to get on. Maybe you will inspire a number of other people to do it as well