I’ve come to realise that reaching Financial Independence means changing my relationship with money. I used to treat money as a means to buy things that got me what I wanted today and gave me a short term fix – at the time that fix felt great. I never considered that if I didn’t spend it immediately it could offer so much more in the long term, compounding that short term fix feeling several times over.
Changing my relationship with money is only half the story – changing my lifestyle to compliment this new relationship is just as important. It’s silly thinking I can save money and invest in my future self whilst still spending my weekends trawling around expensive shops and eating out 3 times a week.
I use No Spend Days (NSDs) as a way of adapting my lifestyle and getting used to the concept of planning ahead to avoid unnecessary spend. If you’ve read my 2017 Financial Goals post you’ll see I’ve gone as far as setting out to achieve 240 NSDs this year – doing this will have a positive impact on my net % savings rate and ultimately result in bigger strides towards my Financial Independence target.
A typical weekday No Spend Day goes something like this…
NSDs start Early
It all starts first thing in the morning. Setting an early alarm means more time to prepare for the NSD ahead. An extra 30 minutes in the morning gives enough time to make a breakfast fit for a king (in my world, this comprises a decent portion of porridge, slow cooked on the hob with coconut milk, water and a bunch of fruit mixed in). After a big breakfast there’s no way I’ll be tempted by the aroma of baked pastries or cooked breakfast that is so purposely pumped through the the station platforms I traverse during my morning commute.
To avoid the inevitable coffee shop temptation which is amplified by the early start, I’ll brew something hot just before I leave and carry it in a thermos flask which quite often lasts long enough to be finished at my office desk.
In my foolish days, I’d have spent £5 on a coffee and croissant before I’d even made it through my office door, and still wouldn’t be satisfied. That was the true cost of an extra 30 minutes in bed and a hurried morning.
I previously thought I was blessed having an office that supplied ample vending machines and a coffee bar within minutes of my desk. If they were gratis I might still agree, but when I’m having a NSD they’re the root of all evil. By what can only be described as a supercharged metabolism, I’m often hungry again well before lunchtime and hunting around my office for my next meal. Knowing this, I’ll pack a mid morning snack that comprises either a piece of fruit or breakfast biscuit that scratches the itch and keeps me free from spend until lunch.
It’s all in the prep
Getting up early has a second advantage, it gives me time to prepare my second kings meal of the day – my lunch. Whilst everyone around me is getting out of the office and hitting the likes of Pret or the local independent sandwich shop, I’m tucking into the first of 2 rounds of sandwiches which I’ve layered up that morning supported by a side serving of crisps, fruit or yoghurt. By the time I’ve finished lunch I haven’t spent a penny – my previous spendy self would have easily spent £10 of my future self fund by this point.
It isn’t just food
Although a lot of my historic daily spend would to go on overpriced food and coffee shop latte’s, there’s further evidence I was getting it wrong in the way I dressed and the routes I took to and from the office.
Today, I’ll take the scenic route home through the park, in the process switching my office shoes for trainers because I get much better mileage out of a cheap pair of trainers. The park route means I avoid the plethora of shops and advertising campaigns that are specially planted to unsuspectingly catch me and my wallet. It isn’t just the passing shops and opportunity to pop in and spend money that I try and avoid – it’s the subliminal messaging and my unconscious mind playing tricks on me later when I randomly think of the latest iPhone or Sky package that I’d unsuspectedly seen on the bus stop advert stand.
The green route between my office and train station helps me resist the temptation to jump on the bus if it arrives as I’m leaving – something that in my previous mindset would be an opportunity to take the easy route to the station, despite still waiting for the same train home. If it’s raining I’ll use an umbrella rather than finding another excuse to get the bus. At £2 a journey and with 4x opportunities a day to take the easy route, this habit was getting expensive without me realising it and today would count as a big red mark in my NSD diary.
When analysing my daily commute and subsequent day in the office, it amazed me how much I was being targeted to spend the money I’d barely just earned. It’s quite ironic that I’d go to work to earn money and in the process of going to work I’d be obliged to spend money before it had even appeared on my payslip.
What does a typical No Spend Day look like for you? Have you been through a similar experience and how has your daily routine changed as a result? I’d love to hear your stories below.