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Although I’m a cautious spender, I still had times when I let money leak through the cracks.
Tiffany bracelet for $360? Sure, why not? I can afford that!
Prada bag for $2,000? Look at how effing gorgeous it is, buy!!
Another #thirstythursday night out with friends? Yeah, “once in a while” won’t hurt! I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate Friday’s arrival?
Whether we’re good with money or not, we all have those craving moments, right?
Today, I want to talk about my “no spend” challenge that I started 11 months ago. By “no spend,” I really mean saying bye to the impulse splurges and the frequent night out with friends and coworkers. Basically, the stuff I thought was making me happy, but really wasn’t.
From this challenge, I want to share with you the 11 lessons I learned. But before I go on, I want to tell you how and why I started changing my mindset about spending.
The Pathetic Corporate Life:
About six years ago, things were great when I was three and a half years into my career. I was (and still am) working in the financial services sector. I was networking and building relationships with a lot of people in my area.
Overall, everyone who knew me strongly believed that I was going to do well in the corporate world (pshh, ya right!). 😂
Anyway, I didn’t think much about it because I always knew that I never wanted to slave my way up. I knew that “the office” wasn’t my cup of tea.
For that reason, I started saving and investing for my future self in my 20s, after graduating from University. But I didn’t get SUPER serious about it until recently, and that was exactly 11 months ago.
Lack of passion
I didn’t love what I was doing at my job, but I didn’t hate it either. It was certainly bearable.
Alongside, I was searching for my passion while working my day job, but I didn’t have it figured out
It wasn’t until the 4th year into my career that I started to hate everything about the corporate work life. Stated simply, I hated the people and rat race culture.
Overall, I felt so desperate to get the [email protected]#k out. I even spent over two years researching on a business that I wanted to pursue, but unfortunately, this didn’t work out. Maybe I’ll leave this story for another time.
Become a happy millionaire?
Because I’m six years into a job I hate, I started taking my money more seriously to the next level.
Again, I always knew that corporate life wasn’t my thing, so switching jobs wasn’t a solution either.
To improve my situation, l decided to accelerate my savings and earnings, so that I could build a bigger cushion to leave sooner.
As a result of my seriousness, I started googling about wealth and happiness almost a year ago.
Despite my very basic knowledge about finance and investing, I knew there was so much more I could learn.
During that time, I googled silly things like “how to become a happy millionaire” or “how to free yourself from the rat race.”
Based on those searches, I realized that we can increase our chances by:
– cutting expenses
– increasing earnings
– increasing savings
– investing our money
The challenge is on!
By focusing on savings, I challenged myself to not spend on stupid sh!t for 1 month. This 1 month eventually turned into 2, 3, and now 11 months.
By “stupid sh!t” I mean the things that only gave me temporarily satisfaction. For example, I was constantly shopping for “deals” at HomeSense or Ikea to decorate my home. Or, the time when I made an impulse purchase on a Prada bag, just to make myself feel better from a bad day of work.
Being 100% honest with myself, I admit that I was only spending on “nice” things to temporarily make myself feel better.
I thought by having a beautifully decorated home to show for was going to make me happy; that bringing nice bags to work (at a job I hate) was going to make me feel great. But no, none of this was a solution to happiness. I was too preoccupied with materialistic goods and that’s where I made mistakes with my money.
After going through this challenge, this is what I learned.
1. You become more productive
I spent most of my time thinking of ways to earn more as I restrained myself from blowing my money. I was very motivated and determined to get the f*ck out!
As a side gig, I picked up a skill at refurbishing furniture. With limited time due to a 9-5 job, I was surprisingly able to do more within a day. Compared to when I knew I had all the time in the world just to “chill” and spend money, I was more productive with less time in mind. This motivated me to plan and stick to a schedule.
Aside from fixing furniture, I also developed money management skills by reading and educating myself on finance topics.
Generally, when you know you’re challenging yourself to cut back, you tend to find more meaningful and fun things to do with your time
Personally, I think finding ways to increase your net worth is fun, lol.
2. Experience is more valuable than your “stuff”
Being able to travel and see the world is more valuable to me than a whole wardrobe full of designer clothes, or a home of Martha Stewart’s designs.
What’s your priority?
3. DIY can make and/or save you money
Here, I’m going to mention my love for designing second-hand furniture. Not only do you add your own personal touch, but you also develop a skill.
Recently, I’ve been flipping furniture during my weekends to earn extra income. The best part is that I absolutely love it!
Not only did I stop spending money — instead I’m earning more now! 😍
Aside from refurbishing furniture, you can also attempt to fix your broken things. This includes your stove, faucets, toilets, walls, etc.
Forget about hiring the so-called pros. Unless it’s a major job that requires major plumbing or electrical work, you can always befriend Google or YouTube.
4. You can buy used stuff in excellent or new condition
I used to be close-minded about second-hand items. I never liked the actual physical thrift store, and to be honest I still don’t.
But Kijiji and online apps make thrift shopping easier and more convenient today!
There’s definitely a lot of treasures you can find when you keep an opened mind. You can find almost anything from home decor to furniture in lightly loved condition. No one will know whether you purchased it brand new or not, and the reality is you saved more than 80-90% compared to its original retail value.
On the flip side, I arranged a no-spend weekend with my boyfriend to declutter the stuff we don’t use. We sold off our gently used items to earn some money back. In total, we earned close to $4,000!
Related: De-own your sh!t: do more with less!
5. Out of sight, out of mind
When I see something I’m interested in, I wait at least a week to see if I’m still thinking about it.
If I don’t, then that means I don’t love it enough to buy it.
Walking away gives you the time to assess whether you really need or want that Tiffany Bracelet or Bose speaker that was on sale. If you don’t need it nor love it, then the saying goes “out of sight, out of mind,” right?
I know most people talk about fighting consumerism using the 24-hour rule. So, basically waiting 24 hours before buying that particular item that you “loved at that moment.” That helps too, but I personally prefer my one-week rule. 😉
6. Time spent with friends and family is what makes you happy
When I sit back and think about my happiest times, I realize it’s not the glamorous materialistic goods I have. I admit I love that stuff, but it’s not what makes me permanently happy. Neither is the idea of making more money by slaving a corporate job (just to spend more).
Instead, it’s spending time and forming meaningful relationships with family and friends. This is priceless to me, you can’t buy that with money.
Also, time only moves forward which means you won’t be able to buy it back. With that said, today is the best time to start spending it with the people you love before it’s too late.
Numerous studies revealed that moments before peoples’ deaths, they said their biggest regret was not spending enough time with their loved ones.
According to The Guardian source, this article mentions the top five things that they wish they had done:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
As you can see, not everything is about money and fame. But most people get too caught up with “other things” that they miss seeing the things that do matter.
7. Retailers are more of a rip off than you think
This no-spend challenge led me to research and learn more about how companies make money from consumers. I recall learning this in my consumer behavior courses during my University years, but reading about them online reinforced these facts.
These companies invest a lot of money into studying psychology and consumer behavior to get you spending. Even when the item is marked “50% off” they still make a huge profit from you. They also love to use the line “limited time” to make the promotion look scarce, but it really isn’t.
My point is if you don’t need the item, don’t fall victim to their marketing tricks!
Here are a few articles that explain how retailers use psychology to lure you in. In some cases, they adopt unethical practices, so beware!
8. You start to appreciate the small things
When you frequently eat world-class food or dine out a lot, you transition yourself into this lifestyle.
Eventually, all the “finer” things in life won’t mean anything to you.
In other words, most things won’t spark any joy because you have it most of the time.
For example, there was a period when I was spending at least $10 on lunch every day, and dining out with friends more often. Not only did this sidetrack me from my financial goals, but I was getting bored of dining out. On top, it led to unhealthy eating habits.
To fix this, I developed a healthy balance by cooking at home and eating out less often. For example, I would eat home prepped meals on Mondays to Thursdays, but treat myself out during the weekends.
As a result, I found myself enjoying and appreciating the small indulges. Not to mention, this also made me look forward to my weekends!
9. Saving money is not as difficult as it seems
At first, it felt intimidated to increase my savings and earnings.
To be honest, I thought putting myself in this challenge was going to kill me. But it turns out I’m still alive.
In fact, it feels great knowing you can stretch your dollar. And no, it’s not called being cheap… it’s called being smart by being able to find the best value!
Overall, this “no-spend” game challenged me to find creative ways to preserve capital and to earn more.
For example, I picked up wood pallets and brand new ceramic tiles (for free) to craft home decor items. To my surprise, this up-cycled stuff looks better than what you can find at your local HomeSense store! Guests who come over would think it was bought from the store. This is where Pinterest comes to the rescue!
Not only do you save money by being creative, but you can also earn money by selling this stuff on Kijiji or Etsy.
I’ve even gone as far as picking up free stuff (on Kijiji and Letgo) to flip things for a profit. For example, I’ve picked up free furniture to fix and sold them within a few weeks!
This may sound crazy to you, even I thought I was nuts, but creating wealth almost feels like a hobby now!
10. Financial freedom is closer than you think
Time flies, doesn’t it?
It has almost been one year since I put myself on this no spend on stupid sh!t challenge. Not just that, but it has also been over six years since I started saving and investing. It surprises me how much I learned and accomplished within these years. But of course, I’m still learning and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way which I’ll blog about in many future posts.
I can tell you, for a fact, that this journey becomes easier if you stay positive and determined. Sounds pretty cheesy, but it’s true.
Needless to say, do not become too preoccupied with “financial freedom” every second of your life — I personally made this mistake. It will drain your mental energy and cause stress.
Instead, set small goals for yourself and achieve them in baby steps. Challenge yourself, stay determined, and have fun!
Believe me, everything will eventually fall into place.
By the time you know it, a year will have passed and you’ll notice a significant improvement. After that, it’s time to move onto the next year. 😉
11. More Lessons Learned Along the Way…
Aside from these lessons I learned during my “no spend” phase, I also went through a year of reading some motivational and inspirational books and blogs that kept me on track with my financial goals.
Like my old self a year ago, you probably don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve started and you’re making great progress! But sometimes you hit a bump, and I know… $hit happens! So I understand that you need someone to lift your spirits up during your financial journey!
To motivate and inspire you, I want to share my inspirational posts and other lessons learned with you. I wrote these to give you that lift on your journey!
Here they are:
Over to you
I hope these 10 lessons along with my other posts inspire you to get serious with your money.
Let me know how your no spend on stupid sh!t challenge goes! It’s inspiring to hear about people’s progress, so feel free to drop your comments or email me personally!