This one rule helped me save £3,000 during a six-month no-spend challenge

Sophie Law
-Credit: (Image: No credit)

January is a time of year where many people like to make changes in their life. And Sophie Law, trends editor at the DailyRecord, decided she would use the opportunity to reassess her spending habits.

She decided it was about time she take action against her online shopping addiction and build a pot of savings. Her main goal was to declutter her life, put money aside for her future and kick start an emergency-fund after a wedding and honeymoon that drained her savings.

The rules were simple, she was not allowed to buy: clothes, beauty products, shoes, homeware items and unecessary things. Find out how she did below.

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Of course, essentials like mortgage payments, bills, and travel were exempt. I also allowed myself to spend on holidays, the occasional dinner or drinks out and gifts for others. But physical items? A big no-no.

Why, you ask? Well, like many, I had fallen into the trap of overconsumption and overspending. My wardrobe was overflowing with clothes I barely wore, my bathroom shelves groaned under the weight of countless beauty products, and my home was dotted with knick-knacks that, while charming, served little purpose. I realised I was living with far too much stuff, and my bank account was perpetually drained. Enough was enough. For money-saving tips, sign up to our Money newsletter here

What is a no-spend challenge?

The basis of a no-spend challenge is as follows: you still pay for essentials, such as your rent or bills, but the focus is to cut down on any extra spending on unnecessary items, whether it's clothes or takeaway coffee.

It's often a good plan to have a goal to work towards. This could be a holiday, wedding, saving for a mortgage, or even home renovations.

You can define what you count as an 'unnecessary' item. The goal of a no-spend is to get a grip on your outgoings and save some extra cash.

How did I get on with the no-spend challenge?

Month one

As a disclaimer, I'm married with no children and own a flat with a mortgage (as well as a dog). I also work full time, as does my husband, so we are a dual income household.

The first month was surprisingly easy. Riding the high of my New Year's resolution, I found myself enthusiastically embracing the challenge. I cancelled subscriptions, unsubscribed from tempting marketing emails, ditched my expensive gym membership, deleted shopping apps from my phone, and managed to refrain from pesky targeted Instagram ads. Instead, I channelled my energy into activities that didn't require spending: I dove into books I already owned, rekindled my love for cooking, and took long walks in the park with my dog.

Before the challenge, I was hooked on the thrill of online shopping only to be met with guilt when the item arrived and, inevitably, lay unused or unworn.

Not buying anything new felt liberating. I started appreciating what I already had and realised how little I needed to be content. My evenings and weekends were spent cosying up with a good book, gardening, walking with friends, visiting family or experimenting with new recipes. It was refreshing.

Month two

As January's excitement waned, February brought a few challenges. The initial thrill of not spending wore off, and I found myself tempted by sales and new arrivals in stores. It didn't help that I had a wedding to go to, in Mexico no less. Usually, a holiday would involve a large shopping haul of all the latest trends, and I had to remind myself why I started this journey in the first place.

To combat the temptation, I introduced one rule - a journal. Each time I felt the urge to buy something, I wrote down what it was and why I wanted it. More often than not, I realised these were impulsive desires rather than genuine needs. This rule helped me understand my triggers, to pause and take a step back. The impulse would usually be gone after a good night's sleep and I'd feel relieved not to have succumbed to temptation.

Months three to five

By March, I found a rhythm. The journal had become a powerful tool in managing my impulses, and I was discovering new ways to enjoy life without spending money.

I celebrated my 30th birthday without a brand new outfit, instead recycling clothes already in my wardrobe. Any gifts I received from friends and family were deeply appreciated, and helped dampen the desire to shop online.

There was just one thing: I missed clothes. To help with this, I reorganised my wardrobe and discovered items I had forgotten. I also embraced a minimalist mindset, slowly decluttering my space. I sold items I no longer needed on Vinted and Facebook Marketplace to earn some extra cash which I added to my savings pot.

April marked the fourth month of my no-spend challenge, and I could already see significant changes. My savings account was healthier, I had paid off a credit card and my spending habits had transformed.

It was by the start of month five that I hit a wall. With upcoming weddings and holidays planned over summer, I found myself mindlessly browsing for clothes online and adding items to virtual shopping baskets. I knew that something had to give.

To help scratch the shopping itch, I sold an item on Vinted and used the money I made to buy a secondhand HandM dress which I wore to a wedding. I figured that the challenge was no longer about deprivation; it was about making conscious choices. I was more mindful about my purchases, focusing on quality over quantity.

What did I learn and what are my key tips?

It's now June, and my no-spending challenge has ended. In just six months, it allowed me to save, on average, £500 a month towards my savings - bringing the grand total to just under £3,000. This was all done through curbing my spending and selling unwanted items.

My first purchase? I've managed to save up half the money needed to renovate my bathroom, something that I never thought would be possible in six months. I obviously realise what a privilege it is to be in this situation, especially since I have no dependants relying on this extra income.

The challenge was the toughest I've set myself. As a self-confessed online shopping addict, I really struggled to avoid temptation, especially when we are bombarded with targeted ads and influencer-culture everywhere we turn.

However, the important rule that helped me was putting pen to paper and writing down each item I wanted to buy, and the thought process behind it. I can guarantee six months later there'll be nothing on that list you'll be glad you bought.

I've also learned to appreciate my things. Instead of buying a new outfit for a special occasion, I repurposed an old one. Instead of splurging on beauty products, I raided my existing collection. My perspective had shifted from what I lacked to what I had already.

I've realised that the no-spend challenge has taught me the value of restraint instead of instant gratification. The occasional dinner or activity now feels like a treat rather than a default way to pass the time. My home, once cluttered, is no longer bursting at the seams with useless junk. And most importantly, I'm building a financial cushion that definitely brings me peace of mind.