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Getting Ready For Winter On The Homestead

Getting Ready For Winter On The Homestead

It’s the start of Fall now, even though it’s still hot here in North Carolina, so it’s time to start getting ready for winter on the homestead.  Winter is a slow time for most homesteaders, with the garden being cleared out and animals taking it easy, it’s time for you to do the same!

getting ready for the winter on the homestead

I love settling in for winter, its a quiet time to spend with family, the holidays keep us busy and while there is always something to do on a farm, it’s a great time to relax and get ahead.  Here is a list of some things to make sure you get ready for the winter on the homestead.

1. Clear Out The Garden

Clearing out the garden in the fall

Get a good start on next year’s garden by clearing out everything that you don’t want.  I always pull my plants in my garden and then let the chickens loose in the fenced in area for a few weeks.  They find all the things you missed, they scratch at the soil, find weed seeds and bugs, plus fertilize as they go along.  It’s a great way to really clean up things.  Don’t forget that just because it’s cooling off, you still can garden in the fall and early winter.

2. Mulch All Your Garden Beds

mulching garden bed

After you’ve cleaned up your gardens, make sure they stay weed free! First I’ll turn my beds a little bit, then top dress the bed with compost.  From there I’ll add my mulch layer, putting it on really thick. Whatever your mulching material of choice is, get a really good layer of it on all your beds.  This will keep the weeds at bay when spring comes back, giving you time to plant without much hassle.

3. Get Your Compost Piles In Order

Clean up your compost bins

At the end of the season you have a lot of organic matter you can put onto your pile.  Get your piles built up the right way, making sure you have the proper mix of carbon and nitrogen in the pile to get things cooking.  You want to make sure your piles start off right so they can build up heat and kill unwanted critters, weed seeds, and fungus.  I’ll often add a microbial inoculate right after the heat of the pile starts to taper off to make sure we have a great microbe profile in my soils for later years.

4. Fix Irrigation And Drain Water Lines

fixing broken irrigation in the garden

Over the season things break and irrigation lines are sometimes hard to keep up with when they’re covered in a mess of plants.  I try to take this time to figure out what worked and what didn’t and make repairs for the next year.  Since water can freeze in the line I also make sure all my water lines are totally drained and then blow them out with an air compressor.  Hoses I bring inside, but since we have pretty mild I leave most of the infrastructure in place.

5. Clean Up Your Perennials

cleaning up your perennials in the garden

You most likely have some perennials in your garden, for me I always keep a basic set of herbs and blueberry bushes.  Mint is one of those things that can get out of hand, so I make sure to cut it back some.  I’ll also trim up other things that have gotten unruly.  You don’t want to do too heavy of a pruning because the stress of a major trim plus the onset of cold can kill a plant, but tidying is totally worth it.

6. Fix What Bothered You On Your Homestead

Fixing things on the farm

A homestead is an ever-changing machine.  We try new things: how to better grow a vegetable, a new way to water our chickens, a way to handle post-harvest produce if we sell at market.  The experiments we run never end and we are always looking to improve things.  Think about things that you love about your homestead, then think about what things you don’t like.  How could you make those things better?  What little things bother you on a daily basis during the busy season?  What things are a total pain, constantly breaking, or just don’t work?

When you think about these problems on your homestead, how can you fix them?  Now’s the time to get them on your to-do list and get them done.

7. Improve Your Workflows On The Farm

Improve workflows on the farm

One thing that I see too often is people not considering their workflows on the farm or homestead.  What are the paths in and out of your farmstead?  You bring in a dump truck of compost to add to garden beds, diesel fuel for your tractor gets trucked in, and you buy lumber to build things.  Once on your land, you have to do various things: you spread mulch, fuel up the tractor, and you work on things in your shop, etc.  From there you grow things and harvest them which requires an area to do post harvest cleaning and packaging.  You might bring them to a farmers market, you might can them for your own pantry, or you store things in your root cellar.  Think about all these flows!

All of these things take up time, occupy space in storage sheds, and you have to lift and move materials here and there.  Think about how you can make work easier, how you can reduce the number of times you move something or the ergonomics of lifting things etc.  This will let you get things done faster, it lets people who might not be “farm strong” help you since it’s optimized and you spend less time laid up because of less risk of injury.

8. Fix Your Fences

fixing fences on the homestead

An old farmer once told me the easiest way to collect firewood is to put up a fence and watch all the trees that fall down on it.  It’s funny, but also seems to be some unwritten law of the universe, trees seem to always fall on my fencing or across my driveway.  All. The. Time.

Take time this winter to get your fencing back into tip-top shape and consider upgrading or expanding if you need to.  In some places, the ground will be too hard to use a post hole digger, but in many places, you can do this most any time during the winter.  I also like to take this time to cut back the vegetation near my fences so that I can run a bush hog along my fences easily.  I’ll help dying trees fall away from my fence and prune branches.

While many don’t like to spray, the fence is one area I’ll use a spray at the base of it to clear the ground totally right where the fence meets the ground.  This let’s me easily see areas where predators might be be crawling under your fence, where water route out a ditch that life stock can slip through, or weaken a post’s purchase.

9. Winter Homesteading Activities And Crafts

homtest crafts and hobbies

Making soap for the coming year and gifts during the holiday.  Melting down wax for salves, wood finishes and candle making is the perfect time for this.  Mending clothing, knitting a sweater or scarf, or other needle crafting.  Whatever you love doing, take this time of year to get them done and enjoy your time.  Explore other great hobbies you can do, even in a small space!

10. Split And Stack Your Firewood… For Next Year

stacking and splitting firewood

It can be tough to keep up with all the wood you need if you have a wood stove or fireplace, but if you really want to be on the ball, you need to be splitting and stacking wood for 2 years away. Living off the grid isn’t easy and a solid plan for heating is really important.  Firewood needs to dry out and become “seasoned” so that it burns better in your wood stove, burns hotter, and doesn’t build up as much creosote.  You should always split your wood and then allow it to dry out at least one year before you burn it.  A hydraulic wood splitter is a great investment for this task on your homestead.

If you buy your wood, go ahead and buy a double order this year so that you can have one pile sit for a year and dry out.  I’ve seen too many people get told that the wood is dry and come to find its basically green and freshly cut.  If you bite the bullet this year, you’ll never have to worry about it.

11. Take A Vacation From Your Homestead!

during the winter take a vacation from the homestead

This is the perfect time to take a vacation.  You can enjoy the winter weather or escape to somewhere sunny.  With things winding down you can take a week or two away from the farm or have someone watch your homestead when things aren’t as complicated.  You’ve worked hard all year long, so take this time to recoup, relax and enjoy time with your family.

Read Also:

Your Turn!

  • What would you add to my list?
  • What’s your favorite part of fall and winter on the homestead?

fall on the homestead pinterest

Decluttering Your Home, Room By Room

Decluttering your home can be a daunting task, it doesn’t matter if you’re a hoarder or someone who wants to live a simple life, having less clutter makes your life less stressful. The science is in and study after study has shown that a messy house leads to higher levels of cortisol, reduces your chances for promotions and puts a strain on family life or marriage. Who has time for that?

how to decluter your house room by room graphic

I thought I’d share some tips to make decluttering your home easier by breaking down some easy steps to decluttering your home by room.

Organizing Your Messy Kitchen

The kitchen is one of those places that seem to attract a lot of junk. It’s the place we have meals, spend time with family and holds a lot of kitchen gadgets that can pile up. All this means you have a lot of opportunities to clean and organize your kitchen to be clutter free.

Decluttering your kitchen the easy way

The easiest place to start is with expired food. Go through your pantry and fridge to find items that are past their expiration date. Toss them.

Next, go to your food storage containers, pull them all out and match each lid to each bottom. Inevitably you’ll find several pieces that don’t have matching parts. Get rid of anything that doesn’t have a match and then take a step back to evaluate what you do have, do you need all of them? I find that I usually only need a few large containers and then a few medium or small containers. When in doubt, keep the ones you like the best, if you don’t like one or it’s looking tired, toss it too!

Finally look at kitchen gadgets, pots, pans, and tools that you haven’t used in a long time. Take them all and put them in a box. If you need one of those items over the next few months, remove it from the box, use it, then find a place for it on your shelf. No cheating! Only take those items out if you’re using them. After a few months, you’ll have a box of things you don’t use, so donate them.

Make Your Living Room Clutter Free

The living room is another one of those places that just seem to get messy really fast. Kids playing with their toys added to the mix make it even harder. Start by getting rid of any old newspapers, magazine, etc. We tell ourselves that we are going to read them, but for the sake of your sanity, toss everything except for the latest issue.

how to declutter your living room

If you have kids, think about thinning out older toys that they don’t play with. Stem the flow by instituting a rule of one toy in, one toy out. Have your kids choose what stays and what goes, letting them make the choice lets them value both what they keep and what is new.

Finally, have a donation box that’s very public in your home and lead by example showing your kids what you’re donating and let them come to the process on their own. If you make it obvious that you’re donating things, they’ll start asking questions and then joining in, building a genuine habit of considering how they can help others.

Organizing Your Home Office Desk

how to declutter your home office and desk

Your office is a magnet for paper clutter. Where most people go wrong is not having a plan for papers to exit, they just bring paper in and it accumulates.
If you haven’t already, transition to paperless billing so you can stop the paper from coming into your office in the first place. Then understand what you need to keep and what you can toss. The IRS officially states that a scanned copy of a receipt is just as valid as a paper copy, so have a system to take any papers you do collect to be scanned and then shredded.

How Long To Keep Papers & Receipts?

3 months:

  • Receipts (non-deducted)
  • ATM deposits and withdrawals
  • Bank statements

3 years:

  • Checkbooks
  • Pay stubs
  • Mortgage statement
  • Car loan statements
  • Insurance records (expired)
  • Charitable contributions
  • All income documentation (business etc.)
  • Receipts used in deductions

7+ years

  • All tax filings and documents
  • W2’s and 1099’s
  • Canceled checks
  • Mileage records
  • Real-estate tax forms

Forever – paper form:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Passport
  • Auto titles
  • Marriage/divorce papers
  • Investment statements
  • Major purchases/home improvements for insurance
  • Wills Current insurance policies
  • Medical records
  • Retirement documents
  • Property titles and deeds
  • Contracts

Now that you know what needs to stay and what can go, set up a process to scan and file the documents you need to keep. Since you have as many of your things set up in paperless bills, this will be a lot less and most of the mail you’ll get is junk mail, which would be tossed right away.

To process your documents, have a good scanner that has a multi-page feed. Brother has a good one for about $50 or you can get a standalone document scanner for around $400. Have two boxes on your desk or in your office: one to scan and then one for scanned documents. Set a schedule to scan your documents once a week and once a month shred the documents in your done box.

Declutter Bathroom Countertops

The bathroom is pretty straightforward for men, little more complicated for women. My best advice is only to keep what you use every day and then allow for a few select things that are less frequently used items. Items you use every day should have a place in the shower, on your countertop or in the top drawers of your vanity. Things that you don’t use as often should be organized into a container and placed in the cabinet itself.

how to declutter your cabinets and counters in your bathroom

Makeup is one of those things that a lot of women collect because they like variety in their look, it’s expensive so it’s hard to toss and they’ll use it “someday”. The best advice I’ve seen is to only keep what you really love. If makeup doesn’t play well with your skin, the tone isn’t quite right, or you don’t find yourself reaching for it most days, toss it. If it hasn’t been used in the page 90 days and you don’t know for sure you’re going to use in the next 90 days, toss it.

Shampoo, conditioners, and soaps are something that seems to collect in the shower. Find options that work well for you and then toss everything else. For me I only keep one shampoo, one face wash and one body wash in the shower ever.

Hacks To Organize A Messy Bedroom

Your nightstand is the official junk drawer of the bedroom. It is a landing pad for a lot of things and they pile up fast. First go through and toss anything that isn’t needed, old or out of date. If you keep a book there, only keep one book that you’re reading and put the rest on a shelf, finally decide what is allowed to stay there and find new homes for the rest.

how to declutter your bedroom quickly

Most people who tend to toss clothes on the floor is a result of not having a proper place to put them or the placement of your hamper isn’t working for you. Get realistic about how you live your life and reinforce the habit. For me, I noticed that I didn’t put my clothes in the hamper because it was still full from when I folded laundry into it. It was full with clean laundry that I just pulled from.

That lead me to have two baskets for laundry and then later I built the habit to always unload the basket into my dresser every time I brought in my freshly cleaned laundry.

How To Downsize Your Wardrobe

This is hard for many people, but what few realize is that people only wear about 20% of their wardrobe. This was a big eye opener for me so I decided to only keep pieces of clothing that I really loved. If it didn’t fit me perfectly, if it hung kind of weird, if it was a pair of jeans that I used to fit in or something that didn’t match with anything else, I tossed it.

Decluttering your clothes and wardrobe simple with a capsule wardrobe

Building a capsule wardrobe is a great place to start for many people because you can have a lot of options for outfits while still keeping it pretty limited.
For me, I’ve gone as far as wearing a uniform. I have one type of shirt (in a single color) and one type of jeans and one type of shorts. I have all matching socks so I don’t have to pair them. This means I don’t ever have to think about, just grab what is on top and go.

How To Organize A Messy Garage

The garage is one of the hardest places because its such a dumping ground for so many things. In America, one in four people can’t park in their garage because it’s filled with so much stuff. The tough part about garages is that most of what is in there often falls into a few categories: things you have for something you intend to do, items from a deceased relative that has a lot of emotion wrapped up in it, items that represent something want to do more of (sports, exercise, etc) and things that don’t have a place.

How to clean up a messy garage with out a lot of hassle

All these things can be a challenge and you don’t just have to do the work to discard or organize them, you sometimes have to do the emotional work too. Add to that the sheer volume that a garage can hold and you have a lot of work ahead of you.

The temptation here is to organize it all, but that’s the exact wrong approach, you want to discard first, then you can organize. People often confuse organizing things into bins or boxes on a shelf as decluttering, but you haven’t actually fixed the problem, you only made the ugly truth look a little neater.

So get honest with yourself, start by tossing anything that is broken or doesn’t work, follow that with things you haven’t used in over a year or two. If we are honest about how likely we are actually going to use something, we can make real progress.

So those are some tips and tricks to declutter all the rooms in your house.

Your Turn!

  • What is the hardest room for you to declutter?
  • What tricks do you know of?

Decluttering your house room by room graphic

Design Inspirations For The Perfect Tiny House On Wheels

Design Inspirations For The Perfect Tiny House On Wheels

Looking forward to building your own tiny house on wheels? Before you ever start build your tiny house, the first step is to figure out the perfect design for you!  Here are inspirations for your future tiny house design.

Tiny House Models You’ll Love

The outside of your tiny house is almost as important the inside.  One of the reasons tiny houses have been so successful is that they pay attention to details.  The outside of a tiny house if often a modern aesthetic or a more traditional look, coming from the roof lines, window selections, color pallet and other important architectural features.

Click Here For Our How To Build A Tiny House Book!

 

Tiny House Storage Ideas

Storage is a big deal in a tiny house because you don’t have a lot of space.  It’s important to capitalize on every nook.  For storage in your tiny house make sure that you design the storage around what you need to store.  This begins with downsizing your possessions now so you know what to store later.

  • Use vertical space to maximize storage: extending the storage area up adds up
  • Have a home for everything:  Everything has a place and everything in its place
  • Capitalize on any empty spaces: under stairs is a great place to add storage
  • Use multi-function items to maximize the impact of an item in your tiny house
  • Ask yourself do you even need the item?  Less you have, the less you store

 

Click Here for our free tiny house plans including materials list and budget sheet!

 

Amazing Tiny House Kitchens

The kitchen is the hub of the house.  Nothing brings family and friends together like a good meal.  For your tiny house kitchen consider how much you like to cook, if you’re a master chef wannabe then it makes sense to build out a bigger kitchen.  If you manage to burn toast, then a kitchenette might be right for you.

  • Consider your favorite dishes and how they impact your kitchen setup
  • Even if you like to get fancy, keep a minimalist kitchen
  • Consider your stove heat source: gas, electric or induction burner
  • Choose your kitchen equipment and build your storage around that
  • Don’t forget to have a place for trash that’s out of the way
  • When it doubt, have a pantry that’s bigger than you think you’ll need

Click here to learn more about how to wire a tiny house the easy way!

Great Video Tours Of Tiny Houses

 

Here’s more from The Tiny Life

Tiny House PlansThe complete tiny house plan reviews, find the right one for you!

solar oven review guideEver wanted to find the best solar oven?  Here is our complete guide and reviews!

building codes and zoning for tiny houses

Click here to learn all about tiny house building codes!

Solar Oven Guide & Reviews

Solar Oven Guide & Reviews

solar oven review guide

Considering a solar oven? In this comprehensive solar oven guide, I’ll go through everything you need to know about solar ovens and solar cooking. You’ll find comprehensive, honest and unbiased solar oven reviews on every top solar oven available right now, videos explaining my experience testing each solar oven, and even my personal interviews with each solar oven manufacturer. Using this solar oven guide, you’ll find the best solar oven for your needs—or you can even learn how to make a solar oven on your own using simple materials.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GUIDE & REVIEWS

Why I Created This Solar Oven Guide

cooking with solar oven
Moving into my tiny house took many adjustments at first. Not only did I downsize, but I also went off the grid. Off-the-grid living presents quite a few challenges—and one of the biggest was how to cook food without electricity. When you rely on solar power, you can only store so much energy in your battery reserve, so I needed to cook food in a low-powered way. My quest led me to explore how to cook using solar ovens and solar cookers: appliances that capture and concentrate the sun’s heat in a box, to cook up delicious dishes—no grid required!

CLICK HERE FOR THE GUIDE & REVIEWS

 

 

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

This year I decided to take on a personal no spend challenge. I wanted to see if I could buy nothing for an entire year. Six months in, I’ve been successful (and learned a few lessons too).

As I’ve shared my story with friends and blog readers, many of you have asked how to take on a no spend challenge. In our world of buy, buy, buy, where almost anything is available instantly at the click of a button, a year without spending sounds daunting at first.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I could handle the challenge either. Even though I live in a tiny house and follow a mostly minimalist lifestyle, the thought of buying absolutely nothing for a year seemed tough. Now that I’ve been going on the challenge for six months, I must admit, it becomes easier when you start. It was a simple matter of setting up rules and then shifting my mindset. Here’s what I’ve learned about buying nothing in my first 6 months.

Why Try to Buy Nothing?

One of the first questions I get about the no spend challenge is “why?” To be honest, answering the question of “why” was a big part of the process to taking on a year without spending.

What it comes down to is, the no spend challenge isn’t meant to stop people from spending money because it’s somehow bad or wrong to buy what you want. There’s nothing wrong with shopping in itself.

When buying becomes a problem is when we spend money we don’t have on items we don’t need. It’s an issue when we buy items and tell ourselves little stories that aren’t true to justify our purchases. We expect our purchases to bring us happiness, friends, freedom, or other rewards they can’t possibly deliver. Ultimately, we end up less happy because those stories we told ourselves don’t come true and spending now detracts from our long-term goals in the future.

Personally, I have a lot of goals I’m working toward. One of the biggest obstacles to achieving those goals was money.

Spending money on extraneous items was causing me to delay accomplishing my biggest goals. It was creating a barrier to the big dreams I wanted to achieve. Once I realized my “why,” keeping myself focused on my no spend challenge has been much easier. No way am I going to pass up my big dreams for a temporary fix. Spending money now in lieu of a bigger, better future, isn’t worth it.

My No Spend Challenge Rules

I’m not a huge fan of rules, to be honest. In fact, one of the only rules I follow is that it’s a good idea to question everything (including the rules). I apply this “guideline” to my minimalist approach to work, as well as organizing my house.

Still, when it came to the challenge, I wanted to set up guidelines and parameters. Plus, I’m a stickler for semantics so I wanted to clearly define the rules, so I couldn’t exploit any loopholes. So, these are the no spend challenge rules I decided to follow:

1. Food Is Fair Game

Everyone needs to eat and I’m nowhere close to growing my own food at the moment, so realistically food was a necessary expense. As part of the no spend challenge I cut out all fast food and only allow myself to eat out at “sit down restaurants,” on special occasions. This means I’ve cooked a lot more.

2. Everyday Consumables Are Allowed

Consumable products were another necessity–like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, soap and other similar items that get used up over time. To make sure I didn’t find a way to exploit this no spend rule, I created an “inventory” before I started. I only allowed myself to keep those items and not add to the inventory list. These household items are super basic and have been reduced to only products I use every day.

3. Medical Items Are Allowed

If I need a prescription or an item recommended by my doctor, I can get it. I limited this to only the directions of my doctor. As a rule, this situation hasn’t yet come up, because I’ve stayed healthy. Still, health is too important to not add this caveat.

4. Only Buy What You Need, When You Need It

When an above-mentioned consumable or food is gone, I buy a replacement. This no spend rule stopped me buying items I don’t use. For consumables I use frequently or go through quickly, I set a number I’m allowed to store in my “inventory.” The rule is I can maintain my inventory numbers, but never go beyond them.

5. Fix First, Replace Second

All I really have in my house are the basics, which means if something breaks, I really need it. So, I said I had to first try to fix it, then if I couldn’t I could replace it. So far, I’ve only had to replace one thing that couldn’t be fixed.

6. Only Digital Version Of Books

I love reading and do a lot of it. One of my main goals is reading two books a month, minimum. So to do this I chose Audible audiobooks downloaded to my phone. In cases where I want a physical book, I’ve started using the library

7. Gifts For Other People

In some situations, it’s necessary to get gifts for other people. In many cases, I prioritize giving experiences over things. When a birthday or special occasion comes around, I may choose to take someone out to dinner, go to an event, take a trip, or another gift that doesn’t involve buying more “things.”

Six months into my no spend challenge, the only item I’ve purchased (besides food and shampoo) was a new bathmat. Unfortunately, the one I had mildewed and became grungy. After washing the grimy mat (following rule the fifth rule), I decided it needed replacing. When I did replace it, I bought a quality mat and threw out the old one. In six months, only spending $20 on a bathmat is a purchase I can definitely live with, so I still consider the no spend challenge a success so far.

6 Lessons You Need to Succeed at the No Spend Challenge

There are six practical lessons I’ve learned from taking on the no spend challenge. As I work toward a year without spending, these lessons have helped me more successful.

Better yet, these lessons will still apply even after the challenge is up. I would say, even if you don’t plan on taking the no spend challenge for a full year or if you set different parameters for yourself or your family, you will still benefit from applying these minimalist lessons every time you purchase.

If you want to buy less, take on a year without spending, or save money and make wiser purchases, use these 6 lessons to guide you.

1. Start with “Why” Before You Buy

As I mentioned before, when I discovered my “why,” taking on the no spend challenge became much easier. It’s the whole “keep your eye on the prize” mentality. If there are bigger goals you want to achieve, focus on the deeper purpose.

Purpose will keep you on track and give you direction. Again, the no spend challenge isn’t about getting people to stop buying for a year because buying is bad. It’s about implementing plans and purchases to ultimately make your life better. If an item doesn’t make your life better or move you toward your larger purpose, then it’s probably not worth the money.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to take on a no spend challenge?
  • What are my larger goals?
  • Why will this challenge move me toward the goals I want to achieve?

Once you’ve discovered those answers, the rest is easier!

2. Do You Have the Money?

Perhaps the most obvious and easiest question to ask is one we often overlook. Especially with credit and “buy now, pay later,” promotions, it’s easy to live beyond our means. When it comes down to making a purchase—any purchase from a steak dinner vs. ramen noodles—as yourself if you can really afford it.

If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Plain and simple. If you’re facing a need you can’t afford, look at the other areas where you spend beyond your means. Are you renting a space that costs more than you can afford? It may be time to move. Does your car payment eat up your budget each month? It may be time to trade in for a cheaper vehicle.

A world of credit has skewed our view on what we can and can’t afford. At the end of the day, if you don’t have the money, don’t buy. It’s that simple.

3. Delay Your Gratification

When you’ve convinced yourself there’s a need to purchase something, add it to your list and wait until the next trip to the store. If you’re shopping and you see an item you want to buy (not on the list), wait until your next trip. The majority of the time the urge to buy will pass before you go back to the store.

This approach works really well with online shopping too. Whenever you want an item, add it to your cart and leave it there. Then the next time you shop, if you still want the item it’s there and ready. Chances are, you’ll find a solution to your problem without spending or you’ll discover you didn’t need the item as much as you thought you did. Waiting helps those who struggle with impulse purchases.  After doing this constantly for 6 months it’s amazing to me how often I find I don’t want something, it’s very eye-opening for a person who didn’t buy a lot to begin with.

4. Ask Yourself What You’re Actually Buying

We buy food because we need to eat. We have a biological imperative to get food. For the majority of our other purchases—clothes, decorations, exercise equipment, appliances—we buy because we’re purchasing an ideal or concept.

When you buy a piece of exercise equipment, it’s not simply because you LOVE to exercise, it’s because you want to get the end result: a healthy, fit body, more energy, lower blood pressure, and so on. You’re buying the equipment because you believe the purchase will give you the outcome you desire.

When you decide to purchase, ask yourself: What am I really buying? What do I hope to gain from this purchase? Will my actions result in the desired outcome or am I just telling myself it will?

We should always look at the stories we’re telling ourselves and the narrative we’re inserting into the purchase. I’ve seen this with people who buy RVs, only to find they wish they’d tested it out first. It turns out they aren’t really “RV people” and now they’ve made a huge purchase that’s hard to undo.

On a smaller scale, I ran into this myself last year when I bought a blender (before I took on the no spend challenge). I looked at the $500+ Vitamix blenders because I like to purchase the highest quality when possible. Looking at the price tag, I decided to opt for a $16 blender at Wal-Mart, telling myself if I used it consistently for three months, I’d splurge on the Vitamix.

Well, after a few weeks of smoothies, I discovered I don’t actually like smoothies all that much. They’re okay, but not $500-blender-level okay. By delaying my gratification and not buying the narrative that the new blender was going to convert me into a “smoothie person,” I saved myself $484.

5. Ask How Else Can You Achieve the Purpose

If there’s an item you want or need, such as clothing, books or tools, ask yourself if there’s another way to achieve the same outcome. Figure out how not to spend money, but still get what you need. Could you borrow the item from a friend? Could you somehow find a workaround to achieve the same results?

Oftentimes we purchase before we really explore alternatives. If there’s a book you want, chances are, you could find it at the library. The same goes for movies you want to see and music you want to listen to. For most tools, you can find rental options through home improvement stores.

Other items, such as clothing, appliances, and dishes are found for less at second-hand stores. You may even check Craigslist or neighborhood exchange pages to find the item for free. Barter and trade with others to get what you need without spending. Learn to create: cook, grow a garden, teach yourself to sew and do small repairs.

When we focus on the desired outcome, we may find many means to an end. A treadmill may seem to solve our desire to get in shape, but could you start going for regular walks instead? Is there an indoor track somewhere you could use for free? In the longer term, would a gym membership cost less and end up taking up less space than a treadmill? Simply buying an item won’t give you the end result you want, so you have to put in the effort. Could you get in shape without spending?

6. Ask: What Will This Purchase Replace?

In minimalism, many of us embrace the “one-in, one-out” rule. This, of course, is vital if you live in a small space. But, even if you have extra room, applying this rule will help you minimize clutter and keep excess stuff from taking over your space. Whenever you buy an item, ask yourself what you’re going to toss out to create room.

If you buy a new shirt, let go of your oldest one. New sneakers? Toss out your old smelly ones. New bathmat? Replace the mildewed one (which was the whole need for buying a new bathmat in the first place).

Don’t let yourself hold onto items that end up cluttering up your life and taking up your valuable space. Taking on a year of buying nothing will help you reprioritize and realize what really matters. What items do you buy “just to buy” and what items do you really need?

As you pare down and prioritize, you’ll discover there’s simplicity and beauty in maintaining the number of items you own. If you decide to purchase something new, toss out something old. Be sure the items you hold onto are what you actually need and enjoy—the items that make your life better and move you toward your bigger goals.

A year of buying nothing is a tough challenge, but not as tough as it may seem at first. Once you go through the process of trying a no spend challenge, you’ll be amazed at how your priorities shift. You may suddenly gain several hours a week you used to go shopping, you can now spend cooking a good meal, taking the time with your family, or going for a walk. You’ll move closer to your financial goals and build momentum to keep going.

I look forward to sharing more about how my year of buying nothing is going. I’d like to hear how you’re doing with your no spend challenge, too.

Your turn!

  • Have you taken on the no spend challenge?
  • What’s the longest you’ve gone without making a purchase?
  • What stories have you told yourself when you bought something you didn’t need?