Is a no spend year possible?


I know this is Coffee with Kate Kitchen Table Talk but I’m thinking of blogging the whole year of no extra spending. What do you all think of that? It could be fun and inspiring…but to be honest, I’m doing it for me. If I don’t write about it I won’t have to answer to anyone and that means that it won’t last. The first time I have a ten-dollar bill in my wallet I’ll be at the candy store.

I will simply call it a No Spend and take it month by month. Some people have roughed me up for calling it a no spend for a year because, well, you can’t live a whole year on nothing, right? They are right. But you can’t get parsnippity. A no spend is this; you pay for rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, gas, or commuting money. Some of us have insurance; medical, house, car, life. Then we all have phones; house and/or cells.

And that is it. Nothing outside that unless you have an emergency. Of course, if you have car trouble and you can’t walk to work and around town, you have to fix it…or take the bus…or bike? That will be for you to figure out.

If the house needs work with the plumbing or electric you or the partner try and do it yourself and if that fails and it has to be done, you have to hire help. But what if it’s something that can go for the year and not affect your life too, too much?

As the year goes on you have to take each situation in hand and ask, “can we fix it ourselves, do without, ignore it for the time being, or must it be dealt with?”

Then as time goes on and the thrill of this new game fades and you start feeling bored and want to, say, go out to lunch somewhere, buy a peppermint mocha at the cafe during the Christmas season, or go to the movies one Friday night…what do you do? Give in? It depends on how committed you all are and what the goal is. Eye on the prize people, eye on the prize. It ain’t easy.

Some people that have done no spend years set aside little clauses such as books or travel or going out to dinner. Maybe they go out with clients so they actually need to buy dinner out now and then or they travel for work or build their library for work or a passion and they aren’t wanting to compromise. There are some things we may not be able to do without for a whole year and it will behoove you to consider it and write it into the deal so you don’t create suffering that will turn on you.

We love the library and order piles of books each week. I don’t need to buy new books. We have beautiful trails all over the place. We can exercise and have playdates, get out of the house, and have fun in nature as a family and with friends and all for free. We can have picnics anywhere. I have learned to recreate a lot of our favorite restaurant foods such as simple Chinese foods, vegan burgers and fries, pizza, milkshakes. There was a channel Brothers Green Eats (now it’s Pro Home Cooks) and the brothers showed how to make Chinese take out, Wendy’s, and all sorts of fast food right at home. I like to veganize it all.

But there is the issue of the boys needing clothes, new shoes, maybe a raincoat, I know the rain boots are going to be too small next winter, and Christmas toys. So, for now I know I need a clothing fund and Christmas fund for the children. As for holiday meals, that will be included in the groceries. If you have a budget each month for groceries…a grocery envelope is smart to stay on track, you just try and spend less for some months to save extra for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You also learn to shop the sales before or after the holidays to prepare for the next season if you have a pantry and/or freezer chest.

Bali and I have plenty of clothes and shoes. I will just improve on getting stains out and I’ve already ordered easy to thread needles so I can mend holes. There are even fun patches you can iron on to cover holes on pants and such.

Now, when planning to do a huge no spend for a long period of time, and a year is a looong period of time, you have to prepare for it. Some will laugh at this and tisk and shake their heads. Yes, for some of you a no spend starts right where you are with what you have. You may be in dire straights and this is an emergency. There are no funds to “prepare” to not spend.

We have been changing over to sustainable items for years. I have reusable straws, menstrual pads, cloth diapers if I foster babies. My cleaning stuff is all washable like the steam mop, my cleaning rags, vacuum with a canister I can dump and no need for vacuum bags, cloth dish rags instead of sponges that get stale within days. I have piles of cloth towels and napkins. I never use paper anything. I use real plates and eating ware when I throw parties, I haven’t purchased paper plates or plastic utensils in years.

My sewing machine is out now and I have a sewing table set up in the living room. We have art supplies galore. I have fabric for patching linens and such. I have some yarn to make scarves and blankets. I may need more yarn and I will call that a necessity but must find cheap yarn on Craigslist or on a super huge sale. Some things that aren’t really necessary but we do as hobbies and can be used as well can be written in but must be found at enormous discounts.

You can write up your No Spend anyway you like but prepare for it and write it up so you and the family are clear. Decided how long and how to create it to be doable. Too extreme anything fails fast.

You can even say that once a week on Saturdays you all go to breakfast at your favorite diner or you save for one trip out of town in the Summer.

Right now Bali is repairing all our furniture and just rebuilt a new to us bed from the thrift store. It was a California King and too long and missing slats and legs. He rebuilt it and now I finally have a bed off the floor after 5 years of sleeping ON the floor.

He repaired the broken parts under our hand me down couch and parts of a shelving unit we tore out of the water closet that is now a second bathroom. It looked old and I loved it so he saved it for me.

You can find a lot of free stuff on Craigslist, on the side of the road, and there are all these new things on FaceBook for neighborhood sharing. I deleted FB a long time ago but those of you who have it, check it out.

Find ways to trade and barter. I just bartered seeds for homemade face mask.

Then start looking at ways to reduce cost, rent, gas, groceries. Start cutting out things you can replace with free things; gym membership for walking. Cable for Roku. I used to pay $160 for a gym membership but it was so fantastic and we didn’t live in an area were we could enjoy a lot of hiking. Now we live in the forest so we have no membership and hike and walk everywhere. I got rid of cable and then Netflix. We purchased a cheap Roku TV and I can’t believe the movies and channels I get for free.

Our mortgage is about the same as a two bedroom apartment over here. I’ve stripped down the budget to just the “essentials” (new word for this age, right?). Now I am looking at ways to increase abundance. How can I now bring in needs and luxuries with little cost and how can I increase our earnings?

Gardening and planting fruit and berry trees brings us free organics at some point. My writing of books,Β  this blog and my YT channel brings in some royalties.

Walking instead of driving saves on gas. Cooking and creating foods from scratch and buying in bulk saves grocery money.

I just made plans with friends to walk and picnic in the forest for Memorial Day. No Spend. We have one of the Godmothers coming for a few days after that. I will cook up a storm and we will walk, bake, garden. No Spend visit.

Have fun with it and take it month by month if a year is too long.





33 thoughts on “Is a no spend year possible?

  1. Call it a no spend or no stuff year.

    It won’t be perfect but nothing ever is. That is what makes it interesting.

    I’ll buy the book when you assemble it into a book. πŸ’•

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good points. We spend on only the basics but we did have to purchase the stakes for our garden fence and a new weedeater (ours died and the parts to replace it were the same as a new machine almost). We are always on a “no spend” year it seems, but things do break down (as you say) and they have to be repaired. If I spent foolishly and spent all our money on junk – whether it be food or “cheap” items that don’t hold up to time – then I am not a good steward of our hard earned money. We are retired but we worked hard to earn that Social Security and, in our case, there is no other income. Having a “no spend” week, month, year or whatever should take place every day if you have everything you need to run a household efficiently and leave room for small treats or wants from time-to-time. What those “treats” comprise of is up to each individual.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been doing a low spend year. Spending on needed things & thinking of ways to make do with what we already have. I’m not depriving myself either. I did order a new blouse to wear to my daughter’s cookout the evening before her wedding, though I’m wearing a dress to the wedding that I already had. Like you mentioned, I have categories that I do a little more spending on such as care packages for the grandkids.


    1. I love it! Finances and budgeting are always a popular kitchen table topicπŸ˜‰ By not spending, you’ll be teaching and inspiring us to save!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think it can be done Kate but I don’t know how many can actually do it. It does help to have accountability partners so if you want to blog about it that is a good idea and going month by month is a good idea too. I think for you and the boys who go for a walk and have ice cream or have a little snack while grocery shopping it will be a challenge because we all tend to spend little here and there without really thinking about it. Try it and see. One cannot make progress without trying, right? By the way, I put a question on your last post about a no spend year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it is doable. Just that I know it won’t be easy.


    1. And you are right, it won’t be easy! I’ll have to get clever. We need fun and snacks and such so I’ll have to figure that into the groceries and life. I want to see now if I can do this…pull it off.


  5. Excellent post. I am all for this No Spend month to month !!!
    Please keep blogging on how you are doing with this …
    we have no choice as we are retired & on social security and it’s not a lot .
    We have a huge garden going, we have chicks soon to lay eggs hopefully and and I am so frugal it’s ridiculous!! No credit card debt, just a mortgage & utilities etc . We live up in the Daniel Boone forest Kentucky ( from AZ )
    On 9 acres. We have 2 horses, 6 chicks, a neurotic chihuahua & a kitty.
    I really enjoy your blogs & you tube !! Never give it up ( you are an inspiration to us all )

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I can’t wait to follow your no-spend journey. What an inspiration you are to me! I have gotten so many good ideas from you. And I agree with the above commenter, that I look forward to the book! πŸ™‚


  7. I think it is very difficult to achieve this and most people set themselves up for failure. Also, I am really not sure what the purpose is! I would rather live frugally as we do. Seriously consider each purchase. A need or a want? Budget carefully each month but have a line item for something fun, even if it is just 5 dollars. I think it is better to live a frugal, balanced life. It doesn’t have to be feast or famine. And then after the year is over, then what?


    1. Then you have paid off your debt, have a big savings and it only too a year to get your finances in order. If you read the whole article you will see that I suggest you write in what you need to be comfortable. Really, our grandparents lived like this with out question. It is for those that are in trouble and need to get their financial lives right and in balance.


      1. I agree Kate. I am currently into what is likely to be a no spend 2 year challenge. Define going for one year. I have a note book. Each day I start the day by putting the date, my countdown indoor in right margins ( # of says that have been no spend)/ number of days left in challenge / # of days total in challenge (365). Throughout the day I add wins and losses in the no spend challenge. It may look like this: 5/24- leftover chicken in sand for breakfast, leftover spaghetti for lunch. Purchased $24.31 for gas, Walmart purchase of soda and two pairs shoes ( normally, I wouldn’t but one pair was dress shoes marked down for $3 and one was sneakers marked down to $6 and o have hard to find size 12W.) I purchased all with a giftcard. My WHY is I’m cash flowing my graduate degree. I am nor borrowing money. I’ve been saving for several years and I’m in the home stretch.


  8. Thank you so much for your blog and YouTube channel. I found it through sheer luck 3 years ago just when I needed it (isn’t that what they say about when the student is ready the master will appearπŸ˜€). I hated my job and I was old enough to retire. We had been frugal for years, first out of necessity and later out of habit. House and car paid off and no other bills. All 4 kids raised educated and financially stable. Your blogs made me realize I wanted to be at home, garden, cook, and keep house. Thank you for giving me the inspiration to get out of the rat race and enjoy my life. It’s not too late for many women who are reading this and thinking you could never stop working. Listen to Kate: cut your costs wherever you can, make a budget and a plan. Your life will be so much sweeter when you can leave the rat race behind.


  9. We are doing something slightly different. Frankly, the shortages due to the pandemic have us concerned about both food shortages and grocery prices going sky high. One official here said that he anticipated $12 cucumbers at the end of the growing season, and flour still isn’t in our grocery stores regularly. So, we are making sure our pantry is fully replenished as soon as possible (instead of waiting for sales which have disappeared) as well as spending on things like extra canning lids, extra canning jars, etc to make the most of what we have. I just got my victorio food strainer! A swath of gamma lids (to seal 5gallon pails airtight) are arriving any day. I bought 8 dozen new canning jars instead of trying to find used ones in the closed thrift stores, so that I am able to do the extra canning I want. We felt this was a year to invest in items that will stretch our income.


    1. We already got some extra canning jar lids too this year, with the thoughts that there could be a shortage when it comes time to do the canning. We have plenty of jars that we have kept year after year.


  10. Fantastic idea to stay on track. I’ll join in too. I’d like to see what others deem as essentials… judgment, just curious
    My”essentials” may include some Amazon used books as our library is still closed due to the pandemic.


  11. I’ve loved your YouTube channel, and vaguely knew that you had a blog, but never looked it up. So glad I found you here! (Maybe plug your blog a bit more on YouTube!)

    No spend is a great idea. My life is actually no spend, and has been for a long time. There’s nothing to spend! For those of you who have a choice to spend or not, give it a whirl! Welcome to my world. πŸ˜‰

    Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away I had a great career and no money worries. Alas, life happened and (without boring you with the gory details) I ended up moving back to my home state, to an area which has always been economically depressed, with two children to raise on my own. Fast forward, said children are now awesome adults out on their own, and doing really well. Apparently, poverty does build character!

    Okay, enough of that. Basically, now I have a black belt in frugality. I still like “the game” of trying to find something for free (Queen of CL “Free”) or barter. It doesn’t feel like a grind or desperate, it’s just my life. There’s almost ALWAYS solutions to problems that you haven’t thought of and with enough research and/or luck, you find them. Believe me, not having the choice to just buy your way out of a problem really does spark creativity and resourcefulness you might not know you have!

    Again, so glad to have found your blog, Kate! You’re an inspiration. Keep up the good fight!


  12. I’m in for the no spend beyond essentials. I need a reset and this will help me do it. I recently moved from a house to a condo…just me and the pups. I wanted something smaller, less expensive, and easier to maintain. I have a couple of container veggie plants and will be adding to them (essentials). πŸ™‚

    Plan to listen to your latest YouTube post while painting the bathroom cabinet. Really enjoy your videos and looking forward to reading your blog postings.


  13. You inspire so many. I just found you and you are very uplifting. I do hope you blog about your no spend since it will help all of us. I am enjoying catching up on all of your posts and you tube videos.


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