The joy of not spending money

The joy of not spending money

Earlier this year, what started off as "dry January" morphed into something more frugal after the ridiculously cold weather in New York meant I really didn't want to leave the comfort of my warm apartment.

Neha Baulch in NY.jpg

A week in, I realised I hadn't really spent all that much money and the satisfaction of that made me go a bit crazy in an effort to curb my spending as much as I could.

I looked at my money management app and saw my spending was lower than previous months, and it felt really good.

Now, a disclaimer. I'm a Brit living in New York, and if you have visited you may have noticed food and drink can be more expensive than in the UK.

And to make myself feel less terrible, I'll also note that it's quite common for people to eat both lunch and dinner out. Whether that's going to a restaurant, grabbing some takeaway or getting food delivered.

With that in mind, I will admit my eating out habit was really quite expensive. I like food, I like going to nice restaurants, and I like a nice glass of wine (or three). I mean wine is good for you, right?

Last year I did start making lunch to take to work. It started because my doctor put me on a three month restricted diet and by the end of it I was in a routine and started to enjoy having my own lunch.

Generally, if I made it, it was typically healthier and better proportioned than what I was buying. Knowing I was saving close to $10 a day (about £7) on lunch then made me feel like going out and having a nice dinner with some cocktails was okay.

These things tend to get out of hand pretty quickly and I was suddenly spending a small fortune.

So, back to January. Booze was definitely out as I actually found out I was pregnant. I had intended to do a dry January but this bit of news made it easier (I know it's kind of cheating).

My aim was to minimise eating out and cut out shopping for anything that wasn't essential. Essential means different things to different people, but all groceries were permitted.

If I wasn't eating out I had to cook and my supermarket bill did go up compared to other months. If something ran out that I needed I was happy to re-buy it.

I was mostly avoiding clothes shopping, which gets expensive fast, even when there is an extra 60% off the sale. No J Crew, I'm not falling for your tricks!

I kept my monthly direct debits. When you are not going out as much, Netflix becomes an absolute necessity. 

I became slightly obsessed with limiting my spending.

I actively avoided buying anything - skipping coffees and midday snacks, my aim being to have as many days as possible without spending anything at all. Which is much easier said than done.

But, it was fun in its own weird way. I'd set a little challenge for myself and making it a day with little or minimal spending gave me a bit of a rush (that ordinarily I'd get from shopping or going to a nice restaurant).

I will admit I wasn't very sociable - but inviting friends round, cooking and binge-watching something is still cheaper than going for dinner or drinks.

What did I learn? Well, I wouldn't want to do it every month, but it certainly made me think about what I was spending.

I'm all for treating yourself and having a good time, but I think you need to draw a line and ask yourself (honestly) if you need quite so many treats.

And, I won't lie, seeing more money in my bank account after only a month felt pretty good too! 

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