With the new year in full swing, most of us are desperately trying to stay committed to our resolutions to save money. But, as you pass on Starbucks and resist the impulse buy at the checkout counter, you might be feeling your willpower wavering. Well, tuck in for this inspirational story, because it will calm your itchy credit-card trigger finger.
— BBC Woman's Hour (@BBCWomansHour) January 12, 2017
McGagh made the decision to make the “spend nothing” leap when she look at her credit card statements and realized that she spent £400 in one year on coffee alone. (McGagh is based in London.)
— Charlotte Hardman (@C_Hardman) January 12, 2017
The author was inspired by “Buy Nothing Day,” an international day of protest against consumerism. It falls on Black Friday, the most notorious shopping day of the year, and it encourages people not to spend a cent on the day in question.
You've probably got #blueMonday vibes – don't use it as an excuse to buy. It'll only make you feel better til the credit card bill rolls in
— Michelle McGagh (@mmcgagh) January 16, 2017
This lead McGagh to wonder: Could she do a “Buy Nothing Year”?
She could, and she did. But how?
First, McGagh sets rules for herself. She would pay her bills (such as her mortgage and her utility bills), and she would allow herself basic groceries (but no extras such as candy or soda), and she would purchase household sundries (toliet paper, laundry detergent and soap). But that would be it. She would also not spend money on transportation, meaning she would have to ride her bicycle everywhere.
Keeping it frugal. Sandwich from the bin bags outside Eat in Moorgate. Loads of perfectly good sarnies pic.twitter.com/5HKvcneLxz
— Michelle McGagh (@mmcgagh) December 10, 2016
How did it go?
Well, it depends on your point of view. McGagh says that she certainly struggled, missing out on trips with friends. She was also unable to visit her grandfather, since she couldn’t bike to Ireland from London. She also says that her clothes often smelled of sweat because they needed to be replaced, and she when she ran out of things like moisturizer she simply had to suffer without.
Voila! Stinky, stained old t-shirts now bike cleaning rags. Reusing and recycling. pic.twitter.com/BkCBVwjl7o
— Michelle McGagh (@mmcgagh) January 7, 2017
But, in the end, she saved £22,439 ($27,809.55!), which she used to pay off a portion of her mortgage. And she created wonderful memories with her husband, such as bike-riding around Suffolk and Norfolk, going to free museums (one of the perks of living in London is that most of the museums are free), camping and picnicking outdoors.
Simple pleasure no 2. Remembering to take my water bottle (which I got for free!) out with me pic.twitter.com/RvY9rqzcsm
— Michelle McGagh (@mmcgagh) January 8, 2017
Does she plan to continue her vow of no spending?
Not exactly, but she has changed her outlook on her spending, saying “I buy the essentials, put aside a little for holidays, pub trips and fun, but I’ve cut back on the takeaway coffees no end. Ultimately, those longer-term goals, security and the feeling of contentment with what I have are important to me and make me far happier than anything I can buy in the shops.”
McGagh also details her story in her book “The No Spend Year: How I spent less and lived more.”