The ‘Non Essential Spends Only’ Birthday Money

For my birthday at the end of March the boy gave me £40 spending money with the instructions that it was for ‘Non Essential Purchases’ only.

Initially I was doing quite well, getting books for 37p (after vouchers), clothes for 38p (after vouchers) and hair bands because I needed hairbands, but I have decided to be strict with myself.

Because if I am honest, some non essential purchases have slipped in before and after my birthday that I hadn’t declared on the birthday money. Things which I could ‘sort of’ justify, but really at the end of the day I couldn’t in all fairness declare a No Spend Year if I allowed them.

For instance I recently bought some drinking glasses. I know I had allowed myself a small ‘Homeware’ budget as I don’t think the boy would be too impressed if, say, our tin opener broke and I refused to buy one before January 1st 2018, but I definitely was prohibiting mugs as a purchase this year (I have a mug addiction).

Drinking glasses which were definitely more style than substance are not an essential purchases.

So I clawed my way through my monthly expenses spreadsheets, looking for any purchases that made me feel guilty. Luckily because I have bought so little outside of social costs I knew where to find these expenses.

So my total birthday money spending goes like this:

Hairbands £1

Jeans and Shirt £0.38 (after voucher cost)

2 x Books on Amazon £0.37 (after voucher cost)

E Book on Amazon £1.08 

Coffee in January when I arrived early meeting the boy at his art class £3.10

Tea on my own in a cafe at Bristol Station a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing my brothers and mum £1.90

Baguette on my own at Bristol station that same weekend £3.49 (It’s gone up by 50p since last year, I blame Brexit)

Coffee in town on my own just because I had to hang around for the train station to open £2.60

Lunch at work one day when I had messed up my timings and had to buy something £3.44

2 x Mason jars to make my grown up vodka jelly look pretty and a glass tumblr to make my Friday Gin and Tonic pretty £1.50

4 x books, Vegetable scrubbing brush and a gift for my niece £1.36 (after voucher cost)

And finally today on my train journey travelling to my family home I bought a coffee £2.50. AND the train drink man tried to give me an old five pound note when they stopped being legal tender LAST WEEK. I wasn’t having any of it. I did have to say about five times ‘Could you swap it for one of the new five pound notes’ and naturally I found this really difficult, and I know that I could have taken the old five pound note to the bank to swap it but I couldn’t be bothered.

So total spends that I have deducted from the birthday money were £22.72 so I have £17.28 left.

The money had been sitting in its original envelope at home so earlier this week I took £20 of it, paid it into the bank and paid it off my credit card bill. I have a spreadsheet keeping track of the running total. OF COURSE I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR IT, I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR EVERYTHING!

So in full honesty and disclosure of naughtiness that is it this year in terms of spending that didn’t fit my predetermined ‘allowed’ categories and were very much ‘unessential’ purchases. So just over £20 has been frittered away this year so far, not bad. I used to do that in a 30 minute lunch break in 2015.

I have made £6 this week by doing surveys. I don’t use many survey sites, but there is one I like because you fill out lots of preliminary questions which means when you get sent a survey you won’t be screened out of it half way through as you have been pre-selected. This does mean you do less surveys than other sites might offer but it pays higher as well. I have enough points to exchange for a £5 Amazon voucher but I going to hold off till I reach £15 in points.

I have paid off £500 from my overdraft this year so far, which means it is half what it was in January, and thanks to that £20 payment earlier this week one of my 0% balance transfer cards is now under £1400, and my overall credit card/overdraft debt is under £5000 for the first time in, well, at least a year. I think I had been doing quite well initially in 2016 before the summer of the great unemployment.

I am about to enter a new chapter of my life. One where I am going to have to dig deep to pay back the boy, clear my overdraft, make my credit card payments AND save for Christmas (I have to save for Christmas as far in advance as I can).

I have been doing some prep by re-reading Michelle McGagh’s ‘The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More’ on the train, which in true money saving style I borrowed from the Library.

I’ll be honest, I borrowed this book from the Library because it had some quite bad reviews on Amazon, but I really like it and I will own my own copy one day. I definitely would recommend it.

Last Friday I started a little mini challenge where I was aiming to spend less than £10 on household shopping for a week. It ended yesterday and I was 64p in credit! Huzzah.

My only plan this long weekend is to relax and maybe binge repeat watch Shop Well For Less and Save Money Good Food. My sister has told me she is getting rid of some cook books and if I wanted them and I was like ‘The f*** yes!’ So I hope to be coming back with some inspirational cook books.


Published by flodebtfreediary

Hello, I write about food, debt, saving money, mental health and social anxiety.

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