Saturday, 19 January 2013

No spend years - are they just a gimmick?

I have seen a number of blogs this year start around the whole idea of no spending.  They really got me thinking.  I know that Dotty Angel did a year of buying only handcrafted or thrifted in 2009. Yes Tif is obviously a trial blazer and early adopter.

But to actually not buy or spend anything over a whole year. Is this actually doable?  One such blog is Free our Kids.  I actually think that this is more achievable when you are talking about a toddler (2 years old) and if you have a good network of friends and family who will hand clothes and toys down to you.


When my boys were small, we went to a couple of playgroups a week, which cost 50p and £2 and were a really good investment, not only did the boys get to play with other children, but I also got a hot cup of tea and some conversation!

However, this would not work with my boys who are six and seven.  Firstly they actually wear clothes out at this age rather than growing out of them.

They want to do activities that cost money, such as Beavers, Cubs and football.  Yes they are not excessive in their cost, but they do add up.  Beavers and Cubs are £30 per term and junior foot ball is £15 per month. Maxi is just moving up to Cubs and his uniform will cost me £30 and a five day camp will be £70.

School activities and events also add up.  £5 for a bus to a museum or £70 for a school residential (which is only for one night and Maxi isn't doing as he is going to Cub Camp instead - his choice, as I said one or the other).

We are very much a mend and make do family.  When things break we look in to repairing them rather than replacing them and I do try to shop second hand when possible.  I menu plan, budget and try to instill the value of money in to my children.

To highlight my dilemma.  Our spade snapped last year and we have been on the look out for a new to us one with no luck, so had to buy a new one for MadDad's car (pictured about with Mini).  I wouldn't want him to be out in the snow without it.  If we were in a no spend year then this wouldn't have been acceptable.



I know for a fact we could not go though a no spend year and I actually don't think I would want to.  So what do you think,  Is this just a gimmick and do you see them writing a book about their attempts? Or it is just that I am a cynic and far too soft?

I am not going to set myself unrealistic goals, or try to exploit my children.  We are going to try and cut as many costs as we can and have  fun whilst doing it.

I would love to know your thoughts...........

32 comments:

  1. No I'm with you on this. If you have a baby or toddler it may be possible, but mine are 12 and 14 and I couldn't see this happening. However, I don't work due to long term illness and for the last year or two we have seriously cut down and taught our kids the same. For this I mean if they want to buy new games console games they save and try and get pre owned etc. However, it's impossible with the clothes although my youngest does get the hand me downs. Good luck to you cutting back :)

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    1. Thank you and my two already understand that Mummy and Daddy just do not have the pennies for all that they want. But I see this as a gimmick from an out of work journalist!

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  2. I'm with you on this as well. Living frugally is important to me, but I am grateful that our family budget allows for shoes that fit and museum outings.

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    1. I really think that yes it is great for raising awareness, but missing the point.

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  3. With close family who have children a few years older than yours of the same sex and your area has free facilities and everything is within easy distance - WITH YOUNG children it could be possible. However even with babies/toddlers/preschoolers we couldn't have done it. We don't have family close by, we have 1 relative in the extended family that had a boy 3 years before us and had kept a few bits that they couldn't sell on so we got passed them... however that was it we had to buy everything else as 3 sleep suits will not last a night when a child is sick. We have cut back, shop in sales, buy second hand -- which ever is cheaper but there are still expenses that you can't avoid at all

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    1. It just winds me up and I am all for protecting our children from consumerism, but what about herself! An out of work Times journalist sees and seizes an opportunity. Book Deal me thinks!

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  4. I think you could do it with younger children without too much hassle, especially if you have friends or relatives with older children who are happy to hand down. As a child, the vast majority of my clothes were hand-me-down and most toys were, too. I had no problems with that and had a wonderful childhood.

    After school age, it becomes harder, though, and I think you would have to exempt school-based activities. The other activities, I think you could live without, especially if you had other local families joining you - e.g. go on walks together, do activities at each others' houses.

    Shoes - I'd have to exempt them. Isn't it supposed to be really bad for children's feet to wear hand-me-down shoes? (Or maybe that's a myth perpetuated by Clarks?)

    We have cut down a huge amount over the last year. We are back to a couple of activities a week for Rosemary now (but Eleanor is now on pre-school vouchers so childcare has gone down a lot) but we wouldn't do any more than that. All Eleanor's clothes, apart from occasional packs of socks and gifts from relatives, are Rosemary's old clothes. Rosemary has a good friend who is really tall and almost a year older and she often passes on her clothes. We do buy new pads of paper and pens - couldn't do without that.

    It's interesting, for raising awareness, as you say, but very difficult to implement fully.

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    1. I guess that it just rubbed me up the wrong way, especially when I know that it is pretty much impossible with older children. But I am all for raising awareness.

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  5. The Evil Brother19 January 2013 at 22:42

    Its all made up BS, there is no way a normal everyday person can do a no spend year with a child. I emphasise the NORMAL part.

    Sure maybe if you have a great network out there where you can get a new pushchair from a company and get the right advertisement etc. But in normality where most people reside it doesnt happen.

    And add to that I know fine well if i tried it within a few days everything imaginable would have been broken beyond repair and i would be tearing my hair out.

    Im teaching chucky to try and cut back in everything, she often asks for little things, not big things, she never asks for a scooter, a bike, a new game. Its a bag of crisps here, a treat there. But she is realising that a buiscit out of the house is better for dads pocket than a bag of crisps from the club.

    What i could manage is a nothing but free app year :)

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  6. I have had years of really cutting back, one year we were without a car and biked everywhere, (including to and from work daily with our two young children in bike seats!) and there has been months on end in the past where I have been without a washing machine (hand washed, or took to relatives) and I currently don't have a tumble drier or dishwasher, microwave, or any mod cons.. But we do spend on a fair amount of stuff that I guess sometimes we just don't need, and I guess we COULD do a year without doing that if we tried... Maybe I should give it ago and write a book ;)

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    1. I think that we all spend on things that we don't need and I just do not have the willpower not to buy anything. In fact I am ashamed to say that sometimes I actually enjoy spending money and spending it on my children is rather enjoyable.

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  7. Hmm. I followed this through from Twitter and I know you won't mind that I don't agree :)

    I'm actually a big fan of Hattie's blog. It's well written and interesting and designed (I think) to make people THINK about what they spend and how much of it is necessary.

    Talking about someone exploiting their children or being "just a gimmick" isn't really relevant or justified, in my view. Slating them for paying for a website as though that invalidates their entire blog is just harsh.

    Hattie herself says she'll fail sometimes, there are some things she will HAVE to buy, and she'll write about those things, too. Why jump all over someone for trying something out because it'll be interesting to do, and to read?

    For what it's worth some of those things you consider essential expenditure wouldn't be considered essential by everyone. But it would never occur to me to give you a hard time because I know you're like the rest of us, trying to create interesting, honest content and also raise a happy family.

    I'm sure Hattie's blog won't be about a year of spending zero and not noticing the difference. But what it MIGHT do is share some creative ways to do things for free that otherwise people might unthinkingly pay for. Could be good fun to read, and maybe you'll pick up a tip or two? Just a thought.

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    1. I am always open to ideas, you of all people should know that. Hattie's blog is in my reader and I am interested to see how it progresses. I actually enjoy spending money on my boys - so shoot me

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  8. I am cynical enough to believe for SOME people it IS a money-making gimmick! If you read books like 'not buying it' [which came out back in 2003] you discover they allowed all sorts of 'get out' clauses to justify certain purchases. Mind you, Judith Levine in that book just had a partner, no children.
    But I think anything that encourages people to reconsider their spending patterns, and ask themselves WHY they spend as they do it good.
    Jen, you are already making conscious decisions about spending, AND bringing up the boys to evaluate as well [Cub camp OR school trip etc] They may resent not having the pennies now, but believe me, when they are older, they will understand the wisdom behind it, and be able to make good choices for themselves.
    Parenting is not about Valuables, it is about Values. [can I copyright that sentence?]

    blessings xx

    ps snow shovels are a safety issue- and therefore allowed, even in 'no spend' years!!


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    1. Parenting is not about Valuables, it is about Values. Perfect and as always you are the sensible voice!

      I guess that I had just had a hard couple of days and it really just wound me up!

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  10. I couldn't do a no spend year not just for my boys (10 and 5) but for my husband and myself as well. We work hard so we can afford treats like going to the cinema or doing a family activity.

    I have been thinking about having a no-spend present year in 2013. I like giving something unique and personal but making and up-cycling things can work out more expensive which would defeat the purpose of saving money.

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  11. Hello. Well, I think Sally's said everything I'd want to (thanks Sally!) except, for what it's worth, that I didn't buy the website - a family member who's in web design helped me set it up as a Christmas present.

    It's okay if the blog doesn't do it for you - I know it's not for everyone. And it's definitely true that it would be a far, far more complicated (possibly unworkable!) project with older children. Perhaps I should raise that on the blog.

    Let's steer clear of personal attacks though. Though blogs share a lot, we still don't really know much about each other's motivations and private lives. The one thing we can be pretty sure of, I think, is that we're all trying to do the best for our kids.

    Hat

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    1. I never meant for this post to be a personal attack, your blog got me thinking (which is what it is intended to do, right?) about just how possible this would be with other children.

      I agree with a lot of what you are saying. We all eat the same and always have. I never really purchased toddler snacks etc and agree whole heatedly with you on that front.

      I make gifts when I can and we also make cards etc, bit also understand just how much pleasure can be gained in buying a book when one of my children wants it and we can not get it from the library.

      Anyway, I have said my piece,it would be a very boring world if everyone agreed with me.

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  12. My girls are both teenagers and I would think it would be nigh on impossible to do a no-spend year with them, but with a toddler it might just be possible. I don't think I could do it, but good luck to anyone willing to try.

    And, for what it's worth, I applaud her initiative if it leads to do a book deal. I'm sure a lot of people will be kicking themselves that they didn't think of it first.

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    1. I was just pondering how practical it is with older children Jean and there are other blogs out there doing similar no spend things.

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  14. I think you are missing the point of what ‘free our kids’ is trying to achieve. From my perspective, it isn’t about not spending any money on the little fella, but rather having a go at re-evaluating the worth and/or value of what we so readily spend on our kids. I don’t think the objective is to get through a whole year without any spend, but rather to get to the end of the year and have a better understanding of what ‘things’ are important to spend money on, and what things we could forgo without any harm to our children, or dare I say it, the kids be better off from not spending it. Take the more recent article on the blog, where Hattie asks an expert about the difference between baby/child shampoos and conditioners and adult ones. I have to confess I’ve never stopped and asked that question. In blind faith that they need to have them I have gone to the shops and purchased the baby products. It may be that it is right to do so, but unless you stop and ask the question how do you know? Additionally, I don’t for one second suspect Hattie will be allowing her little fella to romp around in ill fitting shoes, but rather she will speak to the experts and find out at what point it becomes important to have well fitted shoes – what do little people’s feet actually need? Again, I’ve not really stopped to ask those questions.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not all pro Hattie’s project. I am in a very different position to Hattie in that I have 3 very small children, and for me I haven’t the head space to explore these issues. For me my day to day is about surviving and not questioning the value of the playgroup I drag my children to. In addition I personally think there is a lot of value in attending local playgroups. I have made some very solid and valuable friendships, as well as drank a few well needed hot cups of tea while my children terrorise other kids. Personally I enjoy being in a position of being able to buy my kids toys for toys sake, I’m fortunate. But, I fully respect Hattie for actually stopping to question these things. It is important that these things get looked at. As for the little fella coming to some harm, I suspect Johnny will have a great time exploring the world a little bit differently. Having seen how excited my kids are when we throw the rule book out the window and get a MASSIVE cardboard box and just see where we end up within our imaginations, I suspect the small guy will be enriched and happy and educated just as much. From what I’ve read, if it turns out that well fitted shoes are what he needs, then well fitted shoes he will have.

    As for the accusations about being after a book deal; just because someone starts a blog doesn’t mean they are after a book deal. You yourself should know that. I suspect when Hattie started this project she doubted it would ignite such interest. No one can anticipate that it would be so well read and circulated and take off in such a fashion. Hattie started something because of her situation, and making the best of it, and the world were interested. You can’t hate her for that. I started my own blog, and fully hoped that someone would want me to make it into a book. They didn’t. I don’t hate Hattie for that. I wish her well. And if it results in a book then that is because enough people have been supportive and interested in what she is doing. Enough people are also interested in whether they need to waste money on baby shampoos and small boxes of raisins.

    Don’t presume to know someone’s motivations.

    So I am sorry this comment has been so long, but I really think you should look at her blog again, with fresh eyes, and maybe try and understand where Hattie is coming from and what she hopes to achieve.

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    1. I actually wrote this post because I suspected it wouldn't be possible with older children to have a NO spend year. I for one understand that children do not want things all the time, but rather time and attention.

      I never suggested that her child would come to any harm, he is 2, what hard can come to a 2 year old for not having money spent on them?

      I just did not and still do not think that a no spend year is practical or even something I would wish to consider with older children.

      I have Hattie's blog in my reader, I have no what she is trying to achieve and she is highlighting over commercialism. This post is just my opinions and it would be a boring world if everyone agreed with them

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  15. Got to say I really enjoy that blog and think you're missed the point, for all the reasons mentioned above.

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    1. We are all allowed out own opinions and I am happy to have mine challenged

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    2. I suppose I took the comment 'or exploit my children' as an implication that you felt that was what this lady was exploiting hers, and in order to get a book deal. I especially sensed some hostility on your part when I read your twitter comments. You're very entitled to question Hattie, or indeed anyone else's, blog. I just felt you jumped to conclusions about someone else's motivations.

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    3. Sorry that reply was intended as a response to your reply to the above comment.

      Delete
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  17. You mean you didn't whittle Mad Dad a new shovel out of an old branch? I'm outraged!! ;0)

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  18. I think it's totally fair enough to point out that Hattie's blog is probably largely about self-promotion! She's a journalist presuamably now freelance so marketing herself as the go to person for advice on spending and children is obviously a good idea. I think the whole thing smacks of Marie Antoinette personally. It comes from a position of obvious privilege and doesn't seem to acknowledge that some people struggle to buy food for their kids at all let alone toddler snacks. She doesn't talk about the fact that loads of free activities that some people actually rely on like Sure Start and libraries are being cut and the blog assumes we all come from a super-middle class household stocked with binoculars and the like. She's going to stop buying Baby Boden and going Baby Raves big deal.

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