Hiya, it's been 3 months since I started my No Buy Year - the spending experiment to tackle my overspending problem. Spoiler alert, I've had struggles but also made amazing progress in breaking my bad spending habits.
If you wonder how my NBY went so far, how much I saved and my thoughts on the challenge, here's my 1st NBY quarterly summary.
How much money did I save?
Let's talk about money.
I compared the total expenditure by categories in the last 3 months to that of the same time last year.
Skincare, cosmetics, hair products, clothing and home decor
I am not allowed to buy anything in these categories this year. I need to use up what I have before replenishing in a strictly one-out-one-in fashion. And I did. This saved me £1306 in 3 months.
Food and hobbies
On food costs, meal planning for grocery shoppings and setting quota for eating out helped me save about 30% comparing to last year. I also replicated various Chinese dishes with locally sourced instead of Asian groceries. This not only saved me money but also reduced my food CO2 footprint. Win-win.
On hobbies, my "quota system" worked pretty well and it saved me £134 in the 3 months.
How has No Buy Year changed me so far?
3 months into NBY, my life has changed in so many positive ways.
The desire to shopping
The most intuitive change is that I no longer make online purchase every day as I did before. Buying things is no longer because "I want something", but because "I need something". I found myself come out of Amazon prime day with less than a mere pound spending: £0.99 for 3 months Audible trial. I didn't feel the anxiety for missing out a big bargain. I realise that I do not suddenly "need" something just because it's on sale.
Attitude towards money
I always had what I called the "student mindset" when it came to money. I didn't care to save for my future. Any extra money I'd just spend carelessly to "reward" myself. Thanks to my NBY, I now see myself treasuring my hard-earned money more.
When I bought my house two years ago, I didn't put too much thought into the mortgage. I was too confused with all those numbers and calculations and had no interest to undertand them properly. I used a broker but didn't even bother to compare deals with other brokers. I went ahead with whatever the broker recommended without checking if it was the best option for me financially. This May, when I re-mortgaged, I checked all the mortgage comparison websites on the market, contacted 4 brokers, and even wrote a script to calculate the lowest total cost mortgage.
Another change that I am really delighted about, was that I donoted a lot more. Donating becomes a way for me to say thank you and express my gratitude to people who helped me, to our beloved local NHS, the non-profit data website, and so many more. With the money I saved from no buy, I found myself more willing to give out.
Time and productivity
No buy has saved me a lot of time. I achieved a lot more in the last 3 months. I started my YouTube channel, and this blog. I wrote engineering technical articles and career development summaries. I wrote reviews and summaries for the books I read. I also adopted some brilliant methods to improve my productivity, as I was doing more and more projects. Life gets busier and more fun.
Sense of control over life
The mentality to spend money wisely has influenced me to spend my time wisely.
You wouldn't see me get up before 12 on weekends before NBY, but now I'm up before 8am every day. The more new things I do (the YouTubing, the blogging, the learning etc), the more I get inspired and the more project ideas spark out. I spent a lot less time watching TV, not because I suddenly gained self-control, but the fun of these new projects has kept me going.
I've gained a great sense of purpose and control over life in the past three months. This was totally unexpected when I first started to write those rules. The energy and the potentials of life just makes me feel superb!
The positive changes happened on me have also inspired other people. My NBY video on bilibili.com has over 20k views to date. So many of my viewers have told me how my videos have helped them on getting them spending back in shape. I'm so grad that the meaning of my NBY has gone beyond just my personal development.
Thoughts on No Buy rules
The most effective rules
If I just say I want to spend less on food, it's going to be difficult to gauge in practice. Instead, by meal planing, 2 courses eating-out and 1 social night every month, I made them actionable and measurable so that I can apply whenever I shop or feel like treating myself a night out.
My "quota system" - that I have to finish reading a book before buying a new one, or finish a watercolour pad before replenishing - has also been very effective. I have to prove that I'm taking the hobby seriously and willing to spend time and effort, before I can make a new purchase for that hobby.
The most debatable rules
The most difficult rules are the ones that restrict me from buying certain things, but without these stuff my productivity is affected. It's essentially the debate between time and money.
Productivity vs money, which one do you vote?
In my rules, I said I cannot buy any computer or paid app this year. I tried so hard to find free solutions for my first 6 YouTube videos, just so I can stick to the rules. I shot with my phone (and I still do) and recorded the sound effects with it. I used different apps' free trials for thumbnails and copy-right free music. I edited in iMovie, which came with my 2015 MacBook Pro for free. If I needed to add any texts of more than two lines, I had to use Keynote animation + play slides + screen recording as there's no way to do it in iMovie directly. My 5th and 6th videos each had more than 6 hours raw materials and my oldie MBP 2015 just couldn't catch up with rendering. In the end for a 5min video it took me more than 24 hours to edit. I was sacrificing my productivity to adhere to the no buy rules.
The last straw on me was that by the time I was struggling with my 6th video's editing, my dream job's interview came where they asked me to prepare a 45min presentation. That was when I realised that my time was a lot more valuable than the money I was trying to save. So I ran to the store, bought the new laptop and the editing software. No surprise, the new equipment has increased my productivity tremendously. My next video only took me a half day from shooting to release. So much quicker!
Make peace with my own rules
Having to break these rules was difficult for me. I was debating in my head for days and weeks before eventually made peace with it.
When I made the NBY rules, I was the person who slept until 12 o'clock on weekends, watched TV and browsed shopping sites for the rest of my waking hours. The rules I set were based on my needs at that time. I didn't foresee myself get up at 8 o'clock and work 12 hours a day on weekends.
In the end I realised that I started this NBY challenge to become a better person. I didn't start the challenge for the sake of a challenge. The rules shouldn't hold me from becoming the person I wanted to become. So long as the purchase was fully justified and fully utilized, and it helped me accomplish meaningful work, then I should feel comfortable making these purchase decisions.
The last three months are the most meaningful and motivating three months I have spent since college years. Not only did I save money, but I also saved time and learned new skills and started new projects which I felt very proud about. No regrets at all.
I look forward to the next 9 months No Buy Year journey and I'll keep you updated...