2018: My year of 30-day challenges

Heavy fog on a moor

There’s something dreary about this time of year.

The party season, with all its excesses and its pressures, is coming to an end. In its place comes the prospect of months of long days at work, dark evening commutes and cold, wet weekends.

If an image comes to my mind, it’s the photo I took, above, on Dartmoor at the beginning of this year. What should have been a stunning walk in one of the UK’s most beautiful places ended up being one part pointless and one part creepy-as-hell.

That’s why I’ve never really understood New Year’s resolutions. January is miserable enough without trying to get through it sugar-free, or by committing to taking early-morning runs in the drizzle each day.

You only feel like a failure when you inevitably find yourself hiding under your duvet one morning doing shameful things with a family-size bag of Revels.

Instead, for 2018, I’m hoping to set myself challenges in a different way.

Taking my inspiration from a talk by Matt Cutts (who was himself inspired by Morgan Spurlock), I’d like to try a series of 30-day challenges for each month of the year.

I’ll put no pressure on myself to stick with the habit after the month has elapsed. If it works for me, I’ll carry on. If it doesn’t, I can ditch it with my head held high.

For my first month, I’m going to try something which has been intriguing me for a while now: a shopping ban.

I’ve followed with interest as Michelle McGagh dived into her no-spend year, Cait Flanders completed her epic two-year shopping ban and other bloggers tried similar challenges, like trying not to buy new clothes for a year.

But as a reformed consumer who rarely goes shopping any more, I’ve always assumed that I don’t need to follow suit.

I’m now putting my smug assumptions to the test. Can I save a pile of cash by trying a shopping ban? Will it all be a piece of cake? Only one way to find out!

The rules for no-spend challenges can vary, so here are the groundrules I’m setting myself for January:

All purchases will be banned except for the following:

  • Groceries and essential household products (think loo roll)
  • Utilities and bills
  • Basic travel costs
  • A £20 monthly entertainment budget, not to be used on any physical goods

I’d be interested to know if people think some more rules (or more exceptions) should be on the list – thoughts, anyone?

18 thoughts on “2018: My year of 30-day challenges

  1. Clare says:

    Ill join you. Im a fashion and shoe shopaholic but justify it by thrift store shopping. It all adds up so im going with your plan for January! C

  2. Mel says:

    I love mini challenges. Many of mine I have adopted as permanent changes. Last year I tracked every item I purchased new or used that was not an essential consumable (ended w about 25 items each). I am going to do the same this year as I noticed some habits I want to try and tweak (about 1/3 of the used items I re-sold as they were not quite right). I also expect shifts as I settle more into being (mostly) plastic-free and waste-free and having a capsule wardrobe. Definitely recommend people try not buying single use plastic, either as part of this or another challenge – amazing what you start to notice. Other rules to consider with a shopping ban – allowing purchases to replace items that break and cannot be repaired that are also necessary items; allow the purchase of items essential to fostering a new hobby / goal. These may apply more to anyone considering extending their shopping ban. Very excited for all who try this and keen to see what comes up for the other 30 day challenges.

    1. Wow, you’ve done some great life experiments. Wondering now if a plastic-free month can be one of mine (I think I would fail almost instantly). And yes, I hadn’t factored in allowing for the replacement of essential items that break. I wonder if I could hold off until the end of January anyway, before buying any replacements. But I agree, anyone considering a longer shopping ban would have to include that. Thanks!

      1. Mel says:

        Thanks. My first Plastic Free July I tried to eliminate the ‘big 4’ (plastic bags, water bottles, take away coffee, straws). I failed miserably and set myself the challenge to eliminate them by the following July. I truely did need the year. Since then, I worked on eliminating 2-3 single use plastics at a time. It has been years and a good learning experience. I don’t do anything that takes a lot of effort. Other than getting started it has been very easy. Loved my first 30 day shopping ban and followed it up with a 6 month ban. Before that, I was challenged just hanging clothes in my closet as it was so packed. I definitely have a long way to go in other areas. Regarding budgets, I give myself a weekly budget for food, travel, entertainment, and ‘stuff’. I have a seperate splurge account I put money in for bigger things like Christmas gifts, renovations, trips…. Seems to work fairly well to keep my spending under control and force me to think about priorities and goals. Keen to see how everyone goes with the shopping ban and looking forward to the other challenges.

  3. Interesting challenge and I will be intrigued to hear about how you get on.
    I think £20 is a little on the tight side, you deserve a bit more fun if you can afford it! But you could balance that by, for example, quantifying the savings made if you borrow books/dvds from a library rather than buying them (I know this is so pre-Netflix but I don’t have wifi!) and also quantifying the savings made by going for a run, versus paying for a swim or gym session. I do love swimming and the sea is pretty nippy at this time of year!
    Also, the January sales allow me to stock up on clothes for the kids for NEXT winter (!) so that would also be a challenge for me in January.
    However I am keen to learn how you get on. Good Luck!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, I think £20 is a little tight too. Not sure if I’ll manage that, but as you say, it might force me to be imaginative! And yes, January sales will be a big temptation – gulp!

  4. Serene Focus says:

    As I make my budget every month by categories I have noticed that there are a lot of “in-between” goods like shower gel, schampoo, deodorant, candles. If you run out of these, maybe you should decide if you are only allowed to buy one of the cheapest brand at the supermarket, rather than a luxury version or if you can buy whatever you usually would buy or if you can live without these. I personnally don’t have stocks (well, for candles I have a box of them) but this may not apply to you if you have some. Also, you should maybe decide if your £20 include gifts for people when you are invited to diners (flowers and chocolates), birthdays and so on. And if your £20 entertainement allottement is gone by January 15, are you going to say no to invitations to go out or let your wife/friends buy you beers, train trips for week-end excursions and so on? Just some thoughts, you decide the rules! 😉

    1. Hmm, some good points! Firstly, great idea about buying the ‘budget’ version of goods that run out. Consider it on the list of rules!
      I was going to put gifts on my list of things I was allowed to buy, but then took it off – mainly because January isn’t a big month for birthdays, anniversaries, etc in my household. But you make some good points. I’ve not considered what I would do if my entertainment budget ran out, I certainly don’t expect my friends/family to pick up the tab instead!

  5. Kristy says:

    Thanks so much for your posts-they are giving me the (nice) shove I need to go in the right direction! I hate being a consumer, but I so am! I am taking small steps and your posts are super encouraging!😊

  6. Caroline Benton says:

    I wouldn’t know whether to go out with my £20, or stay home with lots of family bags of Revels now you’ve put the idea in my head!
    I popped in the supermarket earlier, but really don’t need anything, so left empty handed.
    Good luck with your month

  7. Sandra says:

    I love your idea of the 30 day challenges. I have given up shopping for clothes and shoes for six months (January to June). Wanted to do the full year but decided to do six months at first and see how it goes and maybe then continue. It was very inspiring to read that you have a list of exceptions of what you can spend money on. For me, I would also add presents as so many people in my family have their birthdays in spring. Not buying any new clothes or shoes for just 30 days would be too short a period of time for me but other challenges such as zero waste or no plastic for 30 days sounds tough. I’ll think about trying it in February anyway. Good luck for your challenges! Love reading your blog and also the articles on simplicity voices.

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