It was an excruciating process. But it had to be done. Now I had it in front of me in black and white. No more excuses. Something needed to change.
Lets face it, with the world the way it is, fighting consumerism can feel like a losing battle. Even a self-proclaimed minimalist like myself can have a tough time resisting the enticing adverts. Which was demonstrated when I decided to look at my bank transactions in detail.
Although I wouldn't say that I spend particularly irresponsibly (although who would really want to admit that...?), if I'm honest, there are items that I have bought that I didn't really need. I always made sure that I had money for the important things, like bills, food and fuel, but I was finding that I had very little left over.
This is a practical issue, as I have some significant expenses coming up in 2022 (e.g car repayments and finishing off our tiny home build), but it went deeper than this. I was suddenly feeling completely out of control. I was at the point that if I saw something I liked, I bought it. My self-control was in tatters and this was causing a constant nagging worry of how much I was needlessly spending.
Hence, my ambition for a 'low-buy' year in 2022. This essentially means I want to cut back drastically on 'non-essential' spending for the entire year. I've drawn up my plan, so I thought I would share with you what 5 steps I am taking, in case you would like to join me this year...
1. Confront your demons
Money is sneaky. It seems to just waft out of you bank account at an alarming rate. Although, deep down, we know that we are to blame.
Going through my bank balance was uncomfortable. Admitting that I am overspending to myself, and now publicly on this blog, is embarrassing. However, these are the essential first steps to start taking control.
Its important to find your triggers. Looking at your transactions, are there any items/types of items that you are perhaps buying excessively? Or are there certain times to day/days of the week you tend to overspend? Is there any behaviour that makes you want to buy?
For me, my weaknesses were home décor and clothes, and these were made worse by mindlessly browsing and spending too much time on certain social media accounts. This is valuable information that I can now work on.
2. Set your goals
We would probably all like to spend a little less and have a little more money. But this is not a specific enough goal. In order to keep motivated, its important to set a goal you can actually measure, to monitor your progress.
My main financial aim is to work towards being debt free by the end of the year. This will involve paying off my car and paying my parents back (at least in part), for the loan they gave us to purchase our tiny home trailer. On top of this, I would like to start putting some money aside for future long-term goals e.g. buying our own land.
My other goal is a bit more difficult to measure, but I would like to have a healthier relationship with my spending. I want to feel in control and happy with where I am spending my money. I'm sure this will be a life long battle, but I'm hoping this year will be a good start.
3. Set out your budget
With my financial goals set, it was time to set out exactly how I was going to achieve them.
First, I reviewed my essential monthly outgoings, including all my bills. Then, I worked out how much I would likely need for other essentials, like food and fuel. From what was left over, I divided this into what I was going to put into my savings (to eventually pay off my car) and set up a standing order to start paying back my parents. Whilst leaving some money left to play with/pay for any unforeseeable expenses etc.
I don't think that a low buy year means you have to cut all your spending to the absolute minimum. It can be tailored to suit you. For instance, I've allowed myself a relatively generous budget for food, as this allows me to shop for my health and in-line with my values e.g. shopping local and organic produce. I also didn't want to restrict fuel when it came to travelling to spend time with my loved ones or spending time in nature. These are my 'non-negotiables'.
4. Create rules for 'problem areas'
After identifying the areas where I was overspending (e.g. clothes and home décor), I decided to set rules to help me pull back on this and stay on track. My rules include -
No browsing clothes or homeware shops, either online or in person
Unsubscribe/unfollow triggering emails/social media accounts
Create monthly lists of what I am allowed to buy and when
Wait at least 48 hours before buying anything that is not on my list
Always check second-hand options before buying new
5. Hold myself accountable
To stop any overspending in its tracks, I am committing to reviewing my spending on a monthly basis. This means that on the 1st of every month, I will review the previous months transactions, measure my progress and set a budget for the coming month. Publishing this blog is another way to hold myself accountable, as I want to be able to provide you with regular updates.
6. Bonus tip - start a side hustle
As well as reducing my outgoings, I have been looking at ways to increase my income in 2022. This has primarily been in the form of launching my new 'digital store', which will host a whole range of digital products, which is a fantastic form of passive income, as well as adding value for my readers. I also now sell my clothes on Depop, rather than just donating them. Although these are relatively small wins, it will all help in reaching my goals.
From conversations with some other people in my life, I think my anxiety about overspending is all too common. But we can take control. I fully believe that we always have the power to change our behaviours and, eventually, our entire lives. Its all about having strong motivation and breaking everything down into manageable steps.
Make sure you are following me on Instagram, for regular updates on how I get on this year. How about you? Would you like to try a low buy year? Comment below...