As a personal finance writer, my opinions about money and budgeting are always evolving. I read a lot of financial blogs and watch videos about saving money in my free time. Recently, I’ve become interested in no spend challenges. I participated in No Buy January and ended up loving the challenge so much that I want to continue through at least the end of February.
Spending less money and only buying essentials removed so much physical and mental clutter from my life. I didn’t have to worry about where I’d store new items my spouse and I had bought. Amazon packages didn’t pile up in the mud room unopened. I didn’t have to track my budget as much to ensure I wasn’t overspending. Only buying what I needed freed up hundreds of dollars to put toward financial goals like paying off my mortgage and buying a car, and freed up a lot of headspace too.
This no spend challenge also opened my eyes to the difference between necessities and luxuries. For a long time I was convinced that things like exchanging gifts, eating out, and buying new clothes and home decor were necessities if I wanted to be happy. Our culture and pervasive advertising can make us feel like our life would be incomplete without these luxury items.
However, I was surprised to learn that I didn’t really miss these things during my no spend challenge. In fact, my no buy removed the obligation I sometimes feel to spend money on luxuries due to my fear of missing out. Realizing I could be happy with less was freeing.
5 Luxuries I Used To Consider Necessities
After my no spend challenge, here are five luxuries that I used to think were necessities if I wanted to lead a fulfilling life. I’ll likely limit my consumption of these items in the future.
Everyone I talk to seems to view eating out once a week as a necessity in their budget, including my sister and parents. I used to view eating out as non-negotiable too. I used to go to sit down restaurants with my spouse once a week, and then we started eating fast food instead to save money. But I quickly realized during this no spend challenge that we don’t need to visit the drive-thru every week to be happy.
My spouse and I usually spend $15 per week on fast food, which adds up to $60 over the course of a month. That’s a whole week of groceries for us! This no spend challenge caused me to pause and ask myself which option gives me more joy—4 meals from Subway or a week of delicious, home-cooked food? It’s obvious that I would rather trade my money for lots of groceries rather than a few sandwiches from Subway that I usually scarf down in my car.
Fast food just isn’t adding enough joy or value to my life to continue to spend $60 a month on it. From here on out, I’m going to try to reduce my fast food consumption.
Home and Seasonal Decor
My mom was a homemaker during my childhood and was so good at it, she was practically Martha Stewart! Our house was always spotless and she even decorated for each holiday using window clings and other seasonal decor. When I got married, I bought lots of furniture and home decor that I arguably didn’t need to try and emulate her. My spouse grew up with a single mom who understandably didn’t have much time to decorate for the seasons or tidy up. So I wanted to provide my spouse with the same peaceful, beautiful home I had growing up.
For the month of January, I made a commitment not to buy any home decor, even from the thrift store. Going cold turkey on seasonal decor has helped me appreciate what I have more. Instead of acquiring new knick knacks, I rearranged, cleaned, and enjoyed the ones I already own, which has helped me feel more grateful for my cozy home.
My spouse and I went to a classical music concert last week that I had bought tickets for a couple months ago. It’s one of the first concerts we’ve been to since the pandemic. Although we enjoyed it, we realized that concerts aren’t all that different from listening to music at home through a high-quality speaker. Especially since there are lots of videos of live performances on YouTube that we can watch for free.
We think we’ll still go to one or two concerts a year as a special treat. But we’re definitely not going to attend as many live music events as we used to before the pandemic.
Expensive Grocery Items
During my no buy challenge, I didn’t allow myself to buy unnecessary items at the grocery store, such as snacks, seltzer, fancy cheese, and vegetarian meat like Impossible burgers. Thanks to this rule, I realized I can still whip up a mean meal without specialty ingredients. Simple components like rice, beans, and veggies can taste amazing when you add the right spices.
I learned that my meals don’t have to cost a lot to be delicious and nutrient-dense. I even lost a few pounds during the challenge because I wasn’t buying high calorie snacks like crackers, chips, and cookies.
During my no buy month, I happened to run out of dishwasher pods. Instead of rushing out to the store to buy them, I decided to challenge myself to wash my dishes by hand. I was surprised to find out that it’s not that much more work. I have to rinse my dishes before loading them in the dishwasher anyway, so why not just take a few extra minutes to fully clean them myself?
The fact that I don’t really need my dishwasher when push comes to shove made me wonder—which other home appliances can I do without? I may explore that question further during my no buy challenge in February.
Are there any luxuries you used to think were necessary parts of a fulfilling life? How did you learn to live happily without them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.