The #nospendoncrapyear handbook

Yesterday I told you guys that I’m going to do a No Spend on Crap Year . I’m so excited! But also terrified at the same time. Why? Because of a little secret I’m gonna tell you now. Last year I planned to do a No Buy Year, not a No Buy Month. I failed so hard after one month, I stopped the No Buy Year. Still posted about it as if it were a succesful No Buy Month. Which it was! I haven’t sent during the month plus the lessons I’ve learned are real. It just wasn’t planned as such, that’s all. However, trying it again so public feels like a social risk.

My anxiety is legit. 

But I have to do it. For me. And it has to be public. For accountability. Plus I realized that there is one main reason why I failed before. It was not lack of dedication as I thought  in the beginning. I failed due to lack op planning. Planning? Yes, planning. Do I need a plan to not do something?

Yes (and Yes, I talk to myself even in writing. Get over it.)

You need a plan because there will be moments you will get triggered to buy. The moments when you didn’t expect it to happen are the worst. If you don’t have planned out how to handle these situations, you will be screwed. I promise. And that would just be such a waste.

And how do you plan? 

First of, let’s acknowledge that you have to spend money during the year, or otherwise you won’t survive. You need food for example. Cutting out food is only possible if you do it for, let’s say, a month and your pantry is filled up. Or you’re cheap and eat at your parent’s house all the time without giving them a contribution. It’s also nice to not freeze to death in the winter, so you need to pay your electric bill. It seems obvious that you will spend money on these things. Nevertheless, these are exceptions to an absolute rule. The obvious ones aren’t getting you into trouble. It’s the ones that fall within the grey area that will shake things up. Or even worse: the ones that look like clear exceptions, but aren’t! Thing is, you won’t see grey if you don’t know what black and white is. Like, how about replacing things? You can survive without a tv. Not so sure about the washing machine… Are you allowed to replace those when broken? What about your favourite jeans that got a whole in it?

This is how to prepare

You make one list of all the categories your are allowed to spend money on and one of all categories you’re not allowed to spend money on. In addition, you might need some extra rules depending on your wishes and lifestyle or to give your challenge an extra twist

You can also make an Exception List. The last two lists aren’t mandatory.

What’s your why?

Before you start, think about why you are doing it. The why will guide you. Is it going to be a No Buy, A No Buy New or A No Buy Stuff Year? In my case, for example, saving money gazelle intense is not my main priority anymore #daveramsey. I got out of debt last year and I saved up my emergency fund worth six months of expenses. I do this to live more deliberately. Therefore, I don’t cut out experiences. Experiences vary from drinks with friends to vacations. Normally, I would call that a No Buy Stuff Year. Yet, I also don’t want to spend mindlessly on Starbuck and those “experiences”. Therefore, it’s not just the stuff I cut out. It’s all the crap I find a waste of money. Thus, I call it a No Buy Crap Year.

Are you getting out of debt? Then, I would very much recommend cutting out all experiences, too. Are you environmentally minded? Maybe you can only buy things when pre-used or replace consumables with a more eco-friendly version.

Spending during the no spend

As soon as you know your why, write down on the spending list what you are allowed to spend your money on. If you don’t, you’ll call every little spending into question. That’s good, but you don’t want the No Buy take over your whole life. If you have a spending list, there will at least be no discussions with your inner conscience about these items. You won’t feel like a failure, plus you can focus on the important.

The spending list is not an excuse list. Be highly critical. Is cable on your list? How about Netflix or Spotify? The Gym membership you haven’t used in years? Do you know that there is still an insurance for an item that’s broken but you still pay the monthly fee for? Also think of the amount you are allowed to spend in each category. I’m a strong proponent of budgeting. If you haven’t budgeted for something, you’re not allowed to spend money on it. Not familiar with budgeting? Get YNAB before the year starts or similar like EveryDollar. Classic excel spreadsheets also do the work.

Contrary to some others who did this before me, I don’t have clothing on my spending list. This is because I really have enough despite my enormous purges the past years. I aim at 33 items per 3 months. I’m at about 40 now. I also have enough underwear to go through the year. No replacements needed, here. Do you really need new clothing the coming year? Do your kids?

Listen, I know what the odds are

You can admit that there will be odds and prepare for it or you see every odd you could have known as a failure. If you don’t want to spend money in a category but you know you really want one specific item that falls in that category, then you can make an Exception List. Again, be very critical. I really wanted a specific pair of sandals. I’ve put it on my Exception List first, but took it off again. When I’m honest with myself, I know that pair is not worth to be an exception. I have a good pair and I’m sure it will last for at least a year. I also have a big mirror on that list. My old one broke. The mirror not truly essential but my mornings get unnecessary complicated without it. That one I’ll keep on the list in case I really can’t take life without it anymore.

On my Exception List I also have some home improvement projects. My home needs some upgrades after not spending a dime of it the past two years in order to get out of debt. Besides, the not spending is not about deprivation to me. It’s about telling your money where to go. To not be a brainless consumerist. Another example: Let’s say you don’t spend on gifts but you would like to make an exception for your kid’s birthday. This is when you put the birthday gift on the Exception List.

It’s up to you whether the exception list is flexible or not. In that case items can be added to the exception list during the year. If you do so, I would recommend to add the rule that the new item has to stay on that list for at least three months before you are allowed to buy it. There is a real chance that you don’t want it anymore after all. I will do this so I can keep track on how my consumerist mind work.

Last but definitely not least: The most important of it all is that it’s YOUR challenge. Your rules. Your goals. You can only cheat on yourself, not anybody else. Make it work for YOU. If anyone tells you that your rules are too soft/ too difficult/ too strict, screw them. They don’t have a say in this (unless you are in a relationship with combined finances).

EDID: You can find the exeption list here and use it as a starter point for your own.

What I’m allowed to spend money on:

  • groceries
  • giving
  • gas, public transportation & Greenweels
  • lunch at work (it’s cheaper than making it myself)
  • monthly bills & taxes
  • basic toiletries and cosmetics
  • cleaning products
  • gifts for others
  • experiences
  • replacements of broken essentials
  • things on my living exception list

What I’m NOT allowed to spend money on:

  • fun cosmetics
  • clothes & shoes
  • books, magazines and notebooks
  • home items (candles, decor, furniture)
  • electronics and appliances
  • take out food
  • to go food and drinks
  • apps & app subscriptions

Extra rules

  • All allowed spending needs to stay within budget.
  • Gifts need to be local.
  • Basic toiletries and cleaning products need to be replaced with a DIY version.
  • no disposable except toilet paper, because hubs won’t let me ditch it and we use recycled.
  • Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot.
  • Get as many No Buy days in a month as possible.


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