This week on the podcast we talked about the Spending Fast I’m doing to majorly cut back on my expenses and save money for my 2,650-mile hike (or, as my grandma and the kids I babysit call it, my “very long walk”). The spending fast is different from a traditional budget in that there are no set spending limits for certain categories. In fact, there is only one category on which you’re supposed to spend any money at all: Your Needs.

Sounds simple, right? And it is! Simply identify your Needs, and spend money on ONLY those things. Simple. So very simple. And so very not easy at all (until you get the hang of it, that is).

At the beginning of this project, I had to write out a full list that separated out my Needs (think rent, groceries, gas, electricity) and my Wants (think clothing, eating out, drinking out, getting your hair did). Not only has this exercise helped me save boatloads of cash, but it also opened my eyes to how frivolous my spending habits had been.

We all spend unnecessarily. How could we not? It’s so convenient to pull out that plastic card every time we justify to ourselves that we need that new book or deserve a cupcake this one time or just can’t wait until we get home to eat because we’re starving. But, when you take a closer look, you might be surprised to find that, really, there’s not that much that you need.

Here are the top spending areas where I have saved money by putting them on the Wants list and cutting. them. out.

Books

  • Problem God did I have a problem with buying books. I genuinely felt FOMO if I left a Barnes & Noble without a bag of new books in hand. And of course I felt that way. I’m always listening to podcasts and reading articles and seeing Instagrams about these inspiring people and their new books coming out about subjects that, if I don’t read about, I will be dumb and out of the loop and no one will talk to me.
  • Solution Here’s a fun thing though! Books are free at the library, you just have to give them back. BOOM.

Knick Knacks/Souvenirs 

  • Problem When I go to a concert, I want a t-shirt. When I go on vacation, I want a t-shirt. When I walk in a cool art museum gift shop and am surrounded by the latest in modern design and watches with no numbers on them and upside-down octopuses that hold all your rings (!), I want all of it!!!!
  • Solution! Did you see all those times I said “want”? Yeah. Get over it.

Food

  • Problem Eating out is convenient. There’s food wherever I go! And my friends do it, so what am I gonna, like, not hang out with my friends? Also, what if I’m on a road trip and I get hungry and I need a Clif bar?
  • Solution! Groceries. Cooking. Bring yo snacks!!! These things not only save money, they essentially force you to eat healthier. And your friends don’t care if you eat before you come out with them and then still go out with them, I promise. If they do care, get new friends (also free!).

Drink

  • Problem Drinks are also convenient and often a huge part of social experiences. What if someone wants to meet up for coffee? What if I’m going out and I want to have a beer or a glass of wine
  • Solution! OK, if you want to drink alcohol, by no means am I saying to stop. Remember groceries?! Stock up on the cheap wine. Have a few drinks before you go out (I believe the kids call it “pregaming” (just kidding, I still am a kid and know for a fact we call it pregaming)), then go to the bar or concert or sporting event (that you already had tickets to because you’re not buying new things right now) with your friends! Drink water. Feel great in the morning. If someone wants to meet up for coffee, go watch them drink coffee or suggest that you meet somewhere else. Parks are good. So is your own house.

Clothes/Accessories

  • Problem I don’t think I even need to say anything here.
  • Solution! Unsubscribe from all the shopping newsletters and stay away from the stores. Out of sight, out of mind. Wear what you have, get creative with it, and if an occasion comes up that you don’t have an outfit for? Well, that’s what friends’ closets are for, my dear.

Subscriptions/Memberships

  • Problem OK this is a tough one. I had to do some digging here, because with the way auto-pay works now, it’s hard to even know all the services you’ve subscribed to without even realizing it. That one-year free trial you signed up for two years ago? Yeah, they have your CC info, and they are using it.
  • Solution! Identify the paid subscriptions you use on a daily or at least weekly basis and that add value to your life. For me it’s Spotify, Adobe Creative Cloud, and my membership to the climbing gym. You have to give yourself the things that feed you and keep you going, but recognize that you really don’t need a subscription to every magazine and a membership at three gyms. Then, get out your shovel and dig deeeep into your credit card statements to see who is billing you. Cancel those errant subscriptions that you just do. not. need. Goodbye, Angie’s List, thank you for your service.

Services

  • Problem Seems like we outsource everything these days. Uber drives us. The cleaners do our clothes. The nice ladies and gentlemen wash our cars and cut our hairs. Shit adds up.
  • Solution! Do. It. Your. Self. Or find a friend who’s good at it. Make it a car washing/laundry doing/driving to the airport party and bond with your friend over how fun doing things for free is. If you can’t do it yourself or get help getting it done, find the cheapest possible way to have someone do it for you.

Going Places

  • Problem I can’t just sit at home all day, I want to go places!
  • Solution! I’m writing this at a Public Library right now. Freaking awesome. This place is quiet and the Wi-Fi is free. No purchase required. No shitty Starbucks coffee. There’s all kinds of places to go where you can do things for free. Parks. Tons of museums. Walking around cool neighborhoods. Riding your bike.

There are tons of ways to save money if you know where to look. And, often, “where to look” is your own spending habits. Challenge your ideas of what you “need” to spend money on, and you’ll be saving money in no time.


Sarah Mowery is the Podcast Marketing Editor for the Spark – Inspire Your Life Podcast and an avid podcast listener. Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Sarah enjoys writing, playing outside, going to concerts, and anything else she can list here that will make you think she’s cool. Sarah is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and a member of the teaching team at YogaSport in Dallas. You can read more of her writing here.

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