We currently have a lot of decisions to make around our little boys child care, my work and how we are going to afford it all. But what parent doesn't have money worries of some sort. I had plenty when I didn't have a husband or child, but it all just seems more pressured now. So we've been trying to stick to our budgets and January actually was quite a good month. But in February I wanted to take it a step further and monitor everything we were spending. I've always been pretty good with money and setting myself a budget, but I often fail at sticking to those budgets. Car insurance never hurts me to pay, unless it increased loads, but I always seemed to fail at sticking to my food and spending budgets.
One of the items on my list of 40 things to do before I'm 40 is to have a spend free week and recently I managed to go Monday to Friday without spending a penny. The reason why we didn't go the whole week is due to the fact that we had planned to do our batch cooking that weekend. It's not easy to just have a spend free week, it does take planning and dedication. There are few things you can do beforehand to make sure to make it through without spending. Of course there might be some spends that can't be avoided, so although I didn't spend anything that week I think the hubby did in order to get to work.
Here are a few things you can do in preparation of having a spend free week.
- Make a menu for the week, and make sure it fits in with your schedule for the week. There's no point planning a roast dinner if you're going to be out of the house until 6pm.
- Do a food shop on the weekend before having your spend free week. Make a shopping list for everything you're going to need. This way you're not popping to the shops mid week to top up. If you feel you must top up mid week, then have a list of the things you need and stick to your list.
- Stick to the menu you've set. This may mean doing some prep the night before, or taking something out of the freezer. Don't be caught out and forced to get a take out or go to the supermarket because you haven't been prepared.
- Factor lunches into your menu. You can take left overs from dinner the night before, or make something fresh for your lunch. Do what is most convenient depending on if you're at home or at work.
- Plan what trips in the car are necessary for the week and make sure you have enough fuel for them. If you find in the week you are starting to run low on fuel, question whether your trip in the car is a necessity or not. Or can you walk to where you need to go?
- If you have kids try to find free activities to do with them. You can go to the park, do crafts at home, or find local museums etc that are free to visit.
- If you need to travel on public transport see if you can buy a weekly/monthly pass before having your no spend week. If it's not possible know exactly how much you need to make all your trips. And if you have change don't spend it on that chocolate bar that you definitely don't need.
- Leave the purse/wallet at home. This way you're not tempted to spend the money even if you want to. Personally I don't often do this, I guess because I'm a bit of a worrier and think what if...... But I guess as long as the above is followed those what if's won't happen.
Here's how my week went.....
Day 2 - I needed to send a gift to my niece as I'd missed her birthday. As I was tidying in our office/spare bedroom I found some money. Some of the money I knew about, but there was extra there and I had no idea where it had come from. So I didn't need to take money out of the cash point and instead of getting change from the shop I asked around at work and was able to get the change I wanted to send in the card. I already knew I would be sending her cash as that's what we'd decided for gifts this year since we are on a super tight budget. I love sending gifts, but you often pay more for the postage than you spent on the gift. And when you don't live close together it can become expensive.
Day 3 to Day 5 - I wasn't really faced with temptation for the rest of the week as I stuck to our menu and was organised with the food prep needed. Most of the time we have left overs from the previous nights dinner for lunch, so as long as we're prepared with dinner, we have lunch for the next day.
As I said before we didn't do the whole 7 days as on the Saturday we went and did the large month shop for our batch cooking. But I think other than that and Keith buying bus tickets we managed to go the week without spending. This will have saved us loads of money. I was finding I was popping to the shop on a regular basis as I work right around the corner from Asda. I would go in for what we needed to go with dinner, then find other things we "needed" and buy them too. I may have needed (or wanted) them, but I'm sure they could wait. And if it was an absolute necessity, as in my baby was going to starve or run out of nappies then I'd get what I needed. But if I follow the steps above then I should have enough food and nappies for the week.
I know spending is necessary, but this really helped towards us keeping to our budgets. And when money is tight and it's going to get even tighter in the near future, sticking to budgets is going to reduce stress and allow us to have some fun things to spend our money on.