03 February 2012

The Start of the Annual No Spend Challenge

This February marks the 11th year of the Cheapskates "No Spend" Month.  The very first no spend month was way back in February 2002 and it has become bigger and bigger with every passing year.

Why have a no spend challenge, especially for a whole month is a question I am asked over and over every February.

February is a great month for a spending freeze, if for no other reason than it only has 28, oops, 29 days in it!  Another reason is to get finances back on track after the Christmas/summer holiday/back-to-school expenses that we all have.

Embracing a spending freeze challenge is very freeing. Some participants breeze through by simply staying away from the shops! Others move to a cash budget (I'll write more about that later, cash is king in the budgeting world) and once the cash is gone, it's gone. Others only spend one day a week or fortnight.  There are so many ways to not spend.

Of course it's not entirely possible to go a whole 29 days without spending for most people. There are bills to be paid, emergencies come up, food to be bought and so on. And I don't expect you to freeze spending on essentials, just on the things that aren't essential.

Those are the things that eat into your money: the coffee, the newspaper, the Tim Tams in the grocery trolley (you can make much nicer biscuits yourself for far less), the new dress that you just love but will never wear, the toy car for the baby, well you get the idea. None of these things is essential to life (not even the Tim Tams); they are all wants rather than needs and therefore can be ditched for 4 weeks.

Essential spending is on the things that are just that: essential to life.  Things such as your mortgage or rent, bills that fall due during the month, fuel for the car, food (but only if it's on your list) and medications.  There may also be some other "essential" spending you need to do, especially if you have children in school. The start of the school year seems to require money for excursions and other unexpected items; don't let your children miss out because you are doing the no spend challenge (unless of course you would normally not bother), just make a note so that next year you will be prepared.

Not spending money is great fun. You learn to be creative, finding things you already have to replace the items you want to buy, taking advantage of your local library for books, DVDs, CDs, even your favourite magazines.

You might even learn to sew and do simple clothing repairs yourself (here's a step-by-step How to… for sewing on buttons) instead of paying someone else to do it or worse still buying a new garment.

And cooking! No Spend month is the ideal time to try out some new recipes. Remember the Tim Tams? Well these delicious lemon biscuits may not be Tim Tams but they are just delicious and really easy to make. 

Lemon Biscuits

¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
125g butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 ¾ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Pre-heat your oven to180 degrees Celsius. 
Mix the milk and vinegar in cup and put aside to turn sour.
Beat the butter, sugar, egg and lemon rind until smooth.
Sift in the flour and baking powder.
Add the soured milk.  Mix everything together to form a soft dough.
Put teaspoonfuls 5cm apart on a baking paper lined oven tray and flatten lightly with a fork.
Bake 12 minutes or until golden.
Remove from the tray immediately and onto cake cooler.
Spread glaze over hot biscuits. Leave to cool on the rack. 
Makes about 48.

Mix ½ cup icing sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth.
Spread on hot biscuits.  Leave until cold.

You can make these bikkies without spending a cent by using ingredients found in every (well just about every) pantry. And they cost less than $2 a batch to make, around 4 cents each!

They go well with a cuppa and a book, and I don't think there is a nicer way to enjoy start your spending freeze.

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