Curb your spending habit and keep yourself and your loved ones occupied with these ideas that cost nothing at all

Is this the year you want to save money and quit impulse buying? One tactic to keep yourself on track is to plan No Spend Days. These are days you mark in your diary or calendar where you do your best to spend absolutely nothing (except on essentials like bills and groceries). No coffees, no treats, no online shopping, and leave your wallet at home.

By now regular readers will know Irish Country Magazine’s Money Mentor Santis O’Garro. In each issue she shares her expert budgeting tips. No Spend Days are an essential part of her money saving method.

In the January February issue, she encourages readers to try planning at least one No Spend Day for the month of January. The secret is to plan something fun to do that day, rather than letting boredom and the temptation to spend sink in.

Santis O’Garro

Santis believes that rather than feeling restrictive, No Spend Days actually help you to enjoy some freedom from money.

“It’s simple really, a day where I choose to give my reliance on money the day off,” Santis says.

“These days are helping me to create a catalogue of memories for my children. They’re an opportunity for me to put down the phone and really engage and be silly,” she adds.

“When I decide on a No Spend Day I personally do not even think of money. I think of what I would like to do on the day. Maybe it’s a bit of DIY, or catching up on paperwork, or a picnic in the park.”

Here, we share some inspiration for your own No Spend Days. Keep it simple, and enjoy the freedom you will feel making the most of quality time alone and with your loved ones.

Just for you 

1. Tackle your to-be-read pile

If the pile of books by your bedside table is getting taller instead of shorter, use this time at home to reignite your love of reading. Check your Kindle and Audible apps too, as maybe you purchased some books in previous years with the best intentions, only to forget about them. Now is also a great time to sign up for your local library. You can do so online and start borrowing ebooks via the Borrowbox app, or browsing newspapers and magazines on the Pressreader app, straight away. Now is a great time to set yourself a reading goal for 2021. You can set your own target for 2021 and keep track of your progress using the Goodreads app. 

2. Save yourself some money

This one may not sound fun but could be the most rewarding and eye-opening way to spend a day at home! Go through your bank statement and really get to know where your money is going. Dig deep into how you spent your money last year, and ask yourself, was it really worth getting a takeaway every single weekend? Check the app store on your phone and make sure you’re not signed up for any subscriptions you had forgotten about. While you’re at it, check your wallet for any receipts you could claim money for from Revenue or via your health insurance. 

3. Treat yourself 

Make yourself a three course meal using what you have at home, but make it feel special with a pretty place setting, some hand picked greenery and candles. The finishing touches should be enjoyed, not just kept for visitors. And make use of all of the lovely ingredients you have bought or been gifted but have been keeping for a special occasion. Now is the time to enjoy the nice wine from a friend, eat the good biscuits and the fancy olive oils you picked up on a whim. 

4. Take pictures 

It may feel like nothing is going on, but don’t let this time pass you by. Take pictures when you’re out walking the dog, of your latest baking experiments and any moments you want to remember when this is all over. Without special celebrations, holidays and nights out, months have gone by that we probably haven’t recorded, and it’s good to have little reminder that life isn’t all bad right now.

5. Pamper time 

Dim the lights, take a bath, and afterwards do the works – use the fancy body cream that has been sitting on your bathroom shelf, give yourself a manicure and pedicure and put on a face mask. You can even DIY it if you don’t have one at home. Maybe you got a beauty gift set at Christmas, now is the time to enjoy it. How often do we make the effort just for ourselves? 

6. Set yourself a walking challenge

Yes, you’re tired of your usual walking routes in your 5km, but there is still a way to make it interesting. Use the Nike Run Club app to set up your own challenge for free. You can even invite friends to compete with you virtually to make it fun. If you’re a Fitbit wearer, check out the personal and group challenges such as Fitbit Bingo. They will really motivate you to get outside. If that doesn’t work, make a promise to yourself to only listen to your favourite podcast when you go out for a walk. You’ll be lacing up your trainers in no time just to get your fix! 

7. Look after your mood

Rather than scrolling, ranting to friends on the phone or spending another night watching Netflix, make time for all those practises you know will make you feel better but never get around to. It’s so easy to let positive habits like journaling, gratitude, meditation and positive affirmations slip. But these simple habits are key to cultivating a positive outlook and appreciating the good moments, even when the world feels chaotic.

As a couple

8. Date night 

This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s too easy to take time together for granted. Yes, you may be at home together all day every day, but there really is so much value in making time just for each other. Set the phones aside, leave the TV off and have a chat over a glass of wine or some tea and cake. Make plans that you can look forward to in lockdown, such as ordering a click and collect meal from your favourite restaurant, or buy tickets for a virtual experience you can enjoy together. It could be an online gig or a Zoom cookery class you can try together. It may feel like life is at a standstill, but you can still make memories. 

9. Get moving

Having some accountability could be just what you both need to dust off the cobwebs after a winter of eating and staying cosy. Try jogging together or find a simple circuit you can do in your garden or local park. Getting some fresh air, releasing endorphins and feeling fitter should lift both of your moods, making for a happier home. 

10. Culture club

You each have your podcasts, authors and more that you love, so why not share. Start a mini-book club, listen to a show together or even read some articles out loud to one another, which will help shake up your usual conversations. Because no one wants to face another “so how was your day” question in lockdown. 

11. Meal prep 

Plan your meals for the week, divide the work and prep as much as you can. You will both feel more organised, and it will save any arguments about who is cooking dinner on what night. 

With kids

12. Gadget-free games

Get everyone in the house to commit to a family games night, no complaining, no bickering and no tech. Dig out all your old board games, or keep it simple with card games or charades. Have some snacks, play fair and enjoy the quality, tech-free time. 

13. Memory lane

Take out your computer, phone and old photo albums and go through all your family photos. Scan any prints you don’t have digital copies of, and organise the pictures on your phone into folders. You could do it for each child, by special occasion, or according to a theme. Children love looking through old photos and it gives them a chance to ask questions about when they were small too. This could certainly lift your mood on a rainy day in the house, and you’ll be organised for the next time you want to get some photos printed. 

14. Learn a language

Use online resources to learn some new phrases as a family, or download the Duolingo app and set aside time each day to practise together. You can learn a foreign language ahead of your dream trip when restrictions lift, or you can practise Irish together to give kids a little helping hand with their homework. 

15. Play dress up 

If they have costumes, let them wear them for a day to make a normal day feel like a holiday! Alternatively, let the kids raid your wardrobe and see what they come up with. 

16. Introduce them to the greats

Depending on the age of your children, why not introduce them to shows or films that you loved at their age. You will enjoy the nostalgia, and they might discover something amazing that they never would have seen otherwise. Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime all have lots of classics, have a look and see which one takes you back!

Main image via Pexels