Mum who did a ‘no buy’ challenge shares how her family saved £25,000 in a year

Mum reveals how ‘no buy challenge’ saved her family £25,000

For an entire year, mum-of-two and YouTuber Lara Joanna Jarvis, 36, took on a ‘no buy’ challenge, giving up all spending aside from rent, household bills, and groceries (which had to stick to a tight budget).

Lara gave up everything from getting haircuts to buying takeaway coffees and clothes. She also made a rule that she would have to sit on all purchase decisions for 30 days.

As a result, she and her husband Stuart, 39, who works in sales, were able to save up £25,000 in the space of 12 months – and they say the ‘no spend’ lifestyle has made them more sustainable and grateful, and changed their lives for the better.

The couple, from Hampshire, decided to take on the challenge to save a deposit for their first home.

Lara documented their No Buy Year progress on YouTube and created an online community dedicated to saving money through her Budget Best Life group on Facebook.

She’s sharing what she’s learned in the hopes of inspiring other people to take on the challenge of not spending for a year

Lara, who works as a YouTuber and blogger fulltime, says: ‘My No Buy Year made me realise that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Now, not spending is no longer a challenge for me – it’s a way of a life.

‘Quite honestly I wish I had done it sooner, I didn’t realise how much we could save if we just changed our habits and mentality.

‘Treats can snowball into excessive spending and I learned that you can make a future for your family by simply not buying a top.

‘I feel financially free and don’t have the same anxiety I used to have about money and saving. Most of all, I’ve completely changed my relationship with spending and realised that buying “stuff” does not equal happiness.

‘Of course, I recognise there are things that bring me joy but I don’t do mindless purchasing anymore or spend with haste. If I have a takeaway coffee now, I really enjoy it.

‘When I started documenting my no buy year on social media, I had no idea so many people would be interested in what I was doing and how I had changed from a self-confessed shopaholic to far more frugal. It’s been amazing and I’m so grateful for the support that I’ve had online.

‘I truly believe it’s never too late for anyone to start saving and you certainly don’t have to go full hog and not buy anything for a whole year like me!

‘Just spending a bit less can make a huge difference.’

Before Lara embarked on a no-buy challenge, she had very different spending habits and admits to making a lot of impulse purchases.

‘I would buy things without looking at the price, purchase clothes that were already very similar to outfits I had in my wardrobe or buy an item simply because I saw someone else wear it on Instagram,’ she says.

‘I would get my hair and nails done all the time. I was also a skincare addict and would buy new beauty products when I hadn’t even finished the old products up.

‘I would regularly get takeaway coffees and go out for dinner too. There was no thought around my purchasing and I was really mindless in the way I was spending.’

Lara estimates that per year, she could spend up to £2,000 on clothes, £700 on meals out, £300 on takeaway coffees, £1,000 on skincare and subscription beauty boxes, £500 on haircuts and colour as well as £200 on manicures.

All that changed when Lara decided to do a ‘no spend’ challenge in in January 2019.

After successfully completing the month-long challenge, Lara was blown away by how much she had saved – so decided to continue her new lifestyle for a full year.

She says: ‘In January 2019, I had just seven transactions in total and I was able to put almost everything I earned straight into savings. Also by the end of the month, the habit of not spending had just become a lot easier.

‘It was an incredible feeling to see how much we had saved and I just decided why not give a no spend year challenge a go?

‘But what really drove me to do the year-long challenge was our decision to save up to buy a house. Stuart and I are in our thirties and we’re the last ones amongst our friends to buy a house.

‘I had always believed experiences came before things so we never saved and spent money on travelling as a family. But we had got to the point where we had two young children and we wanted to set our roots down.

‘So we set a goal to buy a house and commit to this.

‘In my head, I made the overly-ambitious goal of saving £50,000 which was ridiculous because we don’t earn enough to save that in a year! But it kept me determined and focused.’

Lara cancelled the family’s TV subscriptions, cut her phone contract from £50 a month to £15, and dramatically changed the way she shopped for groceries.

Lara’s top tips for saving money:

  • Meal plan every week: This saves so much money and waste.
  • Do the 30 day rule: Sit on purchase decisions for a month to remove ‘the haste’ and if you still want the item after this time and it will bring you joy or benefit then do it
  • Surround yourself with likeminded people who ‘get it’
  • Shop second hand: Shop second hand to save money and help the environment
  • Remember your goal: Have your goal visible daily with your reason for doing it clearly pictured
  • Don’t punish yourself: If you’re having a bad day allow yourself some slack if you need it. Don’t give up!

Lara’s rules for her no buy year:

  • No clothes
  • No skincare or makeup (only buy if a product has run out
  • No haircuts
  • No beauty treatments
  • No takeaway coffees or meals out – with the exception of a friend’s birthday, but even then, just have a main meal and don’t drink
  • Have a weekly food budget
  • Plan meals and don’t let any food go to waste
  • Sit on all purchases for 30 days – if you still want it after a month, you probably really want it

She stuck to the rules of not buying any clothes, makeup, or skincare, and if a beauty product ran out she was only able to replace it with the most economical alternative she could find.

Haircuts, beauty treatments, and takeaway meals and coffees were banned, too.

When it came to food, Lara stuck to a strict weekly food budget, planned every meal, and refused to let any food go to waste. While once, family groceries were a maximum of £150 a week, during the challenge Lara fed herself, her husband, and her two sons, four and seven, for £40 a week.

The rule that radically changed Lara’s attitude to spending was that she had to sit on any purchasing decision for 30 days.

She found that each time she wanted to spend, a month would go by and she would forget what she had wanted in the first place.

‘For the entire year, I didn’t buy anything,’ she says. ‘It was a life-changing rule and it goes to show the haste of buying something immediately.

The ‘no buy’ year was tough, of course, but Lara and her family are so glad they did it.

‘I had to retrain my brain and once I had the goal of buying a house in mind, it helped keep me focused,’ she says.

‘During my no buy year, I learned that it was truly possible to live your best life on a budget.

‘There are so many ways you can get to experience life without spending money. As a family, we would do more outdoor activities that didn’t require money and visit local places or beauty spots for free.’

By the end of 2019, Lara and her husband had managed to save £25,000, even while paying rent and household bills.

Lara says: ‘I feel so proud of what we’ve achieved and it’s been eye-opening to see how much I was spending before.

‘I used to worry and feel anxious about never being able to save enough to buy our first home but in a year, we managed to save £25k by not spending.

‘We’re continuing with our goal of saving £50,000 in 2020. Although now, I’m embarking on a low buy year rather than a no buy year.’