Whether it’s for afternoon tea, a bottomless prosecco brunch or a spa treatment, we were there, proudly brandishing our voucher codes. But even at 50% off, we still need to spend some money.
Having both read about Michelle McGagh and her amazing No Spend Year, we got thinking… Could we enjoy a whole weekend without spending any money at all?
To be honest, I think we were already (almost) the converted. Neither of us particularly enjoy needless clothes shopping, nor partake in any extravagant spending of any kind. My decision to take charge of my finances and secure my financial future had already started me on my path to a better money management, with less spending.
What is a No Spend Weekend?
A No Spend Weekend involves, unsurprisingly, a whole weekend of no spending. It means that everything you do, everything you eat or drink and however you travel, has to cost nothing.
It isn’t about ‘blagging’ free meals or lifts; it’s about taking a step back to notice what you normally spend your money on, and appreciating all that you can do locally, for free.
It’s about quality time with yourself, your partner, your family or friends. Time to allow you to take stock of your spending habits, to see where you can make adjustments and ultimately save money.
What Are the No Spend Weekend Rules?
A No Spend Weekend takes some planning. Not least because you need to eat. And as a No Spend Weekend involves absolutely no spending on food, travel or activities, you need to be creative.
Essentials like mortgages and bills are already budgeted for, and so is food to a certain extent, but ordering up a load of shop bought pizzas in advance is a No Spend Weekend no-no. Home cooking with ingredients you already have is in, ready meals are out.
Eating and Drinking on a No Spend Weekend
Two words. Batch cooking. You may already meal plan and prep for the week, ideal for a No Spend Weekend, and if you don’t, it’s well worth a try anyway.
Cooking up batches of food allowed us to eat nourishing and filling meals all weekend, having already budgeted for them. We also allowed ourselves a bottle of wine, left over from a friend’s wedding a few months before, that had been saved for a rainy day.
You can also join the food sharing revolution by signing up to Olio. Olio allows you to pick up surplus food in your local area for free.
Your neighbours may have some leftover apples from the garden or an excess of fruit juice that you can collect for free. You can then repay the good deed with some of your excess batch cooking, minimising food waste as you go.
Exciting Things to Do, With And Without The Kids
Living in London meant that we had a wealth of activities on our doorstep. With the kids we planned our Saturday around child-friendly activities and our Sunday for the adults.
On Saturday morning, after our breakfast of fruit (from Olio) and freshly made pancakes, we donned our comfy footwear and set off on foot to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, part of London’s Victoria and Albert museum.
The V&A Museum of Childhood is an absolute must-visit and a trip down memory lane with its displays of popular toys of yesteryear. And the kids love it. Like most museums in London, it’s free to enter and has a wide range of interactive exhibits and even has a sand pit.
As the weather was dry, we ate our packed lunch of oat cakes, hummus, carrots and leftover homemade cake in nearby Victoria Park. We took advantage of the free Tree Trails, learning about the different trees as we went, with their free downloadable tree leaflet.
We’d taken a book with us on wildlife too and had a competition to see how many animal and plant species we could spot.
With two exhausted children, we then made our way back home and spent the early evening playing games and puzzles. A perfect day was finished off with the veggie chilli I’d made earlier in the week and an apple crumble made with Olio apples. Oh, and that bottle of wine.
Sunday morning began much the same way as Saturday, and we spent our time mooching around Brick Lane Market (we cycled there), grazing on various leftovers and sewing fabric squares together for a blanket for another friend’s new baby.
All in all, an entirely enjoyable weekend, not a penny spent and a £100 saved! And during our Sunday of cycling, wandering and crafting, we were inspired to bring you our top tips for your perfect No Spend Weekend…
Our 32 Ideas for a No Spend Weekend
- Visiting museums – many are free to enter all around the country, not just in London
- Picnicking using leftovers (you’ll be surprised how creative you can get with a sandwich filling)
- Foraging for elderflowers to make cordial or blackberries to make crumble
- Leaf rubbing (that thing we all did at school!)
- Being part of the audience at the filming of TV shows (sign up to SRO Audiences)
- Staying at home and reconnecting with your partner and family
- Using Eventbrite to find free events, talks and exercise classes in your local area
- Using Meetup to find like-minded people who love what you love
- Cycling, everywhere! (Or walking)
- If you live at the seaside (lucky you) going for bracing sea walks, or having a dip in the sea!
- If you live in the countryside, exploring your local trails and walks
- Playing board games and jigsaw puzzles on the carpet, in the garden or in the park
- Visiting your local working farm
- Volunteering for a charity event, sponsored walk or school fete
- Setting up a blog using WordPress and starting to write about your passions
- Joining your local library and whiling away the hours reading
- Or reading in your cosiest chair at home!
- Practicing mindfulness and being thankful for all that you have in the world
- Preparing your garden for the next season, sowing seeds or cutting back that unruly hedge
- Learning a new skill – YouTube has excellent musical instrument, knitting and language tutorials
- Having a cathartic clear out or Spring clean and giving to charity
- Geocaching, the world’s largest treasure hunt!
- Having a home pampering session with a bubble bath and candles
- Visiting a friend for dinner and bringing a ‘friend voucher’ promising dinner in return, in lieu of bringing a bottle of wine (or doing the washing up)
- Visiting Pinterest for new and exciting crafting ideas
- Making a scrapbook of old printed photos, tickets and trinkets
- Bingeing on a new TV boxset
- Catching up with an old friend on the telephone or Skype, or even better, writing them a letter
- Finding a hairdressing or beauty school that cuts and pampers for free
- Packing a flask of coffee and walking to that local park you’ve never visited
- Switching off all communications and chilling out
Some of these are weather-dependent, and some can be done exclusively with the kids, or without them. And you never know where they might take you. You might end up speaking to someone in the know who can lead you to other, free yet fun-filled events. Experiences make much better memories than actual things, anyway.
We learnt that there are SO many ways of having fun without spending money. And it’s definitely made us stop and think about all the unnecessary things we buy on impulse.
Saving, Twice Over
So, what to do with all the money saved from a No Spend Weekend? Save it!
You could plan a thrifty weekend once a month, and put aside the cash you think you’d normally spend in a weekend – I have put my savings towards my Christmas budget. After 12 months you’ll likely be amazed at how much you’ve saved up.
It’s all too easy to spend absent-mindedly or to purchase things because we’re led to believe we need them. A No Spend Weekend will make you focus on what’s important, and what you really need.
And adding a little bit of mindfulness to your spending, whilst supporting local events and using less transport has a collective positive effect too.
Even though we already had a thrifty mind-set, it really is something anyone can try, and learn from. Because, in the words of my wise and thrifty friend, “when you know better, you do better”. So go on, give a No Spend Weekend a try!
This article is in collaboration with Scottish Friendly; check out their blog for more creative tips to help you save money and get the most from your savings.
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