The True Cost of a No Spend Day

Photo: Storyville Girl/Creative Commons

Photo: Storyville Girl/Creative Commons

I like reading personal finance blogs and I like the concept of No Spend Days, those days when you make an effort to buy nothing. Trying to achieve a run of No Spend Days helps me keep discretionary spending down – fewer take-out coffees and snacks, fewer trips to the grocery store for just one or two items, more grouping of errands instead of scattering them throughout the week. But we know we are “spending without spending” because of all the bill paying that goes on behind the scenes. I may not buy a muffin today, and I may put off a trip to the post office until I have other errands to do, so I feel like I’m spending nothing. In reality, I know that my lifestyle is costing me plenty, every single day.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Rom and I are a dual income couple with no kids at home any more, no mortgage and no debt. The amount of money at our disposal these days seems vast compared to any earlier time in our lives! Ah, the perks of being in mid-to-late career mode. We both have many years of employment ahead, but are saving at a high rate in case either of us has to leave work unexpectedly.

So how much money is trickling away every day when I don’t consciously spend a cent? The answer is $163 ! Yes, one hundred sixty-three dollars.

I took all of my annual costs, broke them down into monthly costs, and then broke them further into daily costs. Here is what I am paying every single day to afford my life.

Savings

$13,000 a year or $1083/month or $36.11/day

House

$12,000 a year or $1000 a month or $33.33 a day. And that is with no mortgage or rent!

  • Big maintenance projects such as painting, heating systems, doors and windows or roof: $3600/year or $10/day
  • Small maintenance such as repairing the furnace or replacing a faucet: $800/year or $2.22 /day
  • Property tax: $2273/year or $6.31/day
  • Home insurance: $1312/year or $3.64/day
  • Electricity and heat: $2064/year or $5.73/day
  • Water: $804/year or $2.23/day
  • Appliances and electronics (mostly replacements): $300/year or $0.83/day
  • Yard, garden and bird feeders: $275/year or $0.76/day
  • Miscellaneous household (everything from light bulbs to Christmas trees): $575/year or $1.60/day

Grocery

$6600/year or $550/month or $18.33/day

This includes real food for making meals, snacks, cleaning supplies, paper goods, personal care items, cat food and litter, and a Costco membership.

Vacations

$6300/year or $525/month or $17.50/day

This covers our annual trips to Sussex, UK and Toronto, Canada to visit relatives. The past two years we have added extra trips and the costs have been higher.

Link

$4800/year or $400/month or $13.33/day

We have an adult child who currently needs support. No excuses or apologies provided.

Gifts

$3100/year or $258.33/month or $8.61/day

Because I enjoy it. Includes birthdays, Christmas and all occasions.

Personal

$3000/year, $250/month or $8.33/day

Includes clothes, gym membership, hair cuts, health and dental care (very minimal costs), cell phone and work expenses.

Entertainment

  • Out of the house entertainment:

$2744/year, $229/month or $7.63/day

Includes concerts, movies, plays, museums, festivals, dining out and coffee shop visits.

  • At home entertainment:

$1918/year, $160/month or $5.33/day

Includes Internet and land line, books and magazines, music streaming service and (minor) blog expenses. No cable TV.

Car

$2538/year, $211.50/month or $7.06/day

Just for my car, not Rom’s. No car payments. Includes insurance, maintenance, gas, bridge tolls, parking (insignificant), license and registration.

Charity

$2400/year, $200/month or $6.67/day

I do a combination of direct debits and on-the-spot giving

and finally Miscellaneous

$348/year, $29/month or $0.97/day

Includes odds-n-ends like bank charges, postage, printer ink and cash that is unaccounted for.

Whew! After all that, I feel like I could finance a small country. Ha ha! It helps me to know these figures because it gives me actual data for work/life balance. If I wanted to live on less income, which expenses could I give up? Does it cost more to own a house or to rent? What will the budget look like when I am drawing down savings instead of adding to them? What shift will I make when it’s time for new car payments again? If I had to decrease charity, gifts or entertainment, which would it be?

I could be glib and say that after this “background” outflow of cash every day, No Spend Days are pointless. Not true, though. I’ve set my budget priorities and it’s important to me to fund them, and not let my income trickle away on categories that are unimportant to me.

Do you try to have No Spend Days? Do you know how much you spend each year on your house or car or kids?

14 comments

  1. Very interesting perspective. We’ve been doing similar (but less thorough) calculations to figure out what our lifestyle costs us baseline, and what we have ‘left’ to put away for possible care needs when we’re older and also for the fun stuff like holidays. Plus like you giving to sons surplus they need more than we do right now, which is a joy for us to be able to do and helpful for them.
    I like that you’ve included charitable giving as an essential. I agree that so long as we have enough to live on (and I know that even here in the UK increasing numbers don’t), giving is essential.

    • Hi Deborah, I just listed all my expenses and didn’t make any judgments about what is essential, but I will keep charitably giving as much as possible until I can’t any more! I am trying to figure out a baseline, too.

  2. Fiona

    Once again, I’m impressed by your tracking prowess. Your overall costing on things like the house is remarkably similar to ours. I am still not good at tracking the more ‘discretionary’ items like eating out. I love your division of entertainment into ‘out of the home’ entertainment and ‘in house.’ We are finding ‘in house’ entertainment is now one of those categories that easily gets out of hand with cable TV, internet packages, music/app/gaming purchases etc. This is always a surprise to me: a few years ago, ‘in house’ entertainment was so much more limited in scope. I have also wondered whether ‘No Spend Days’ just end up time-shifting the payments but I still find the concept really helpful overall…I’m still not great with curtailing impulse buys of snack food etc. so ‘NSDs’ really help to motivate me.

    • Thanks, Fiona. I still find No Spend Days helpful. I just remember that my non-discretionary expenses are still ticking away in the background. I am thinking of bringing back cable TV for the winter but will have to decide what to give up for it 😦

  3. I do no spend days. Like you, I know with all my other bills, I am not really not spending when I do a no spend but it helps focus on conscious consumerism. And not spending on little things helps you focus and save for the big things.

    I join Fiona in being impressed with your tracking.

    As to supporting adult offspring, we do it too. Meh. I see nothing wrong with it. The world is different. I had free university and easier job options and fewer must haves. (No internet, phones and other electronic bits and bobs.) and cheaper housing.

    • Conscious consumerism, yes, that’s what it’s about! I am still trying to reduce the physical stuff that comes into the house, hence the focus on entertainment and travel. And I like being able to shift funds around to where they are needed in the moment, month or year.

  4. I’m doing a no spend year at the moment and am absolutely fascinated at how much money you’re spending over a year. I think a lot of it could be reduced, but that’s only if you really wanted 🙂
    Great blog and thanks for sharing all your expenses.
    Greetings from the UK.

    • Hello and welcome, AM. I am not a minimalist but I try very hard not to be wasteful. I am vegetarian, don’t tolerate food waste, walk to work, and mostly avoid buying anything disposable in favour of things that are valuable and long-lasting. Fortunately I like my job and plan to work for many years ahead. My savings and lifestyle are fully funded so I’m not really trying to reduce expenses, just spend wisely and not wastefully. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I totally need to do this. Since we moved and began getting an actual paycheck again, I stopped paying attention to the details. We spend very little beyond housing and food, but still… I don’t know how to budget well anymore, because of years of hand to mouth on the farm (and so much of our support was invisible: the veggies that didn’t sell, the bartering with our neighbours). Thanks for the push!

    • Hi Susan! Hope you are enjoying your work. I don’t participate in the sharing economy as much as I used to, and I miss that. For me, starting to share again among a small circle of family and friends would feel much better.

  6. Sam

    This is a truly interesting way to think about the cost of living, overall. I know there are some folks that have stated in their blogs that no spend days/weeks etc. do not work because it just ends up being spent on other days when less conscious of the spending. For me, both work. No spend days help me focus on eliminating stupid purchases and planning better. At the same time, keeping overall spending low will bring a less cost per day Cost of Living.

    • While I’m not really trying to cut costs right now, I do have a budget and I intentionally spend in all the areas that are important to me, and I valiantly attempt not to spend money on things that grab my attention but aren’t meaningful (like fast fashion).

  7. Freckles

    When I read posts like these I perk up and think “ah, a kindred spirit!”. And then I go tinker with my spreadsheet. 🙂

  8. jbistheinitial

    This was so interesting to read, I’d love to take the time to figure out my own daily spending. I have our household finances on a spreadsheet divided by month, but certain things – big projects, vacations – aren’t included on there. Right, off I go to start doing the sums!

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