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How I Survived A NO-SPEND Month

Stitches & Words | How I Survived a No-Spend Month

I started my year with a shopping detox, and I survived!

What is a NO-SPEND month?

A no-spend challenge is an undertaking to spend only on necessities, or to refrain from spending on specific categories, for a specified amount of time. The intention is generally to cut-back on specific types of expenses, but it could also be a means to evaluate and reframe spending habits, or taken as an opportunity to look at one’s attitude towards shopping.

In my case, I decided the whole month of January 2019 to be my no-spend month. In part, I feel like it may not have been the best time to do it because so many brands go on Clearance Sale after the holidays. On the other hand, it could also have been the ideal season to do it, because I saved a 100% on the stuff I didn’t buy – and we most likely didn’t really need them.

Having said that, perhaps it was all the sales happening online and in-stores that made me think for a second that I wasn’t going to be able to pull through. But I did!

How I Survived A Whole Month Without Shopping

To say I didn’t spend anything in the month of January 2019 would be a lie. But I can definitely state for the record that any spending I did were for our day-to-day necessities or were pre-planned expenses (like me pairs of flip-flops). For someone who does a lot of online shopping (me!) that is really tough. If you would like to do a similar challenge, here are my tips for success:

Set your WHY

This has to be the most important step – set your intentions for taking on a no-spend challenge. You must be very clear of your goals, and why you want to do it. Without the Y, you are likely going to fail.

Why I did No-Spend January – My husband and I earn a decent income. It definitely affords us a comfortable (for us) lifestyle, and funds our hobbies and interests. But believe it or not, we don’t have a lot saved up. I was not hoping to “save money” through this exercise (I had already decided to reduce my shopping budget for the year) but I did want to stand back and re-evaluate my spending habits. I want to do all the things, but I also want to be more intentional with what I spend money on, and what I make space for in my life. Staying away from any unnecessary spending for a whole month was a way for me to reflect on that.

Identify Triggers, and Stay Away

It is important to dig deep (okay, maybe not even) and find out your triggers for unnecessary, and/or impulsive shopping. For me, it’s Instagram. And I don’t mean those influencers with curated feeds, but actual online sellers with IG as their platform.

Thanks to my favorite Plus-Size seller on Instagram, I have quite a lot of clothes that fit, and that spark joy. 🙂 I ordered a lot from her last year, even when I had no plans to. My shopping style was this:

  • Seller posts new clothes up for sale
    • Is it my size? Yes. Mine!
    • Refresh feed.
    • Is it in my size? Yes. Mine!

And I follow more than one plus-size seller – so that could happen multiple times a month! And I also have a favorite book seller, a few local bag-makers, and then those lovely accessories too. If I surrounded myself with those triggers, it would be a little more difficult to say no to spending. I didn’t unfollow them but I did turn off notifications. I also stopped myself from visiting their profiles when they start popping-up on my feed with new stuff on sale.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from the mall. Out of sight, out of mind.

The hubby was due to get some new clothes and we decided to hit SM North’s 3-day sale last month and take advantage of the discounts. I didn’t think I could walk away without a personal purchase, but we made it happen. We had also done a few trips to Greenhills (his errands), and I am proud to say that I was satisfied with just looking, and not buying.

Make A List, Check It Twice

It is not uncommon to suddenly realize or remember that there is actually something that you just absolutely must have. I’d say, make a list and sleep on it. Check your list and evaluate if it’s a need or a want. Ask yourself why you need it. Sleep on it some more.

If you still feel that you neeed it after checking it twice, go ahead and buy it. No-spend month or not, if you need it, then you must have it. But be honest with yourself here.

Let The World Know

Okay, maybe the whole world doesn’t need to know, but at least let significant people in your circle know about your challenge. I didn’t tell anyone right away that I was doing this, but it helps to let people know so you could have help to keep yourself accountable.

If I didn’t tell my husband I was doing a no-spend month, he would have enabled my shopping. For sure.

My Takeaways

Just Because I Can, Doesn’t Mean I Should

Shopping definitely makes me happy. And we tend to do more of the stuff that fills us with joy.

I have always been plus-sized and, unfortunately, there hasn’t always been a good source of nice and affordable clothes that fit me. So when I find pieces I like in my size – I grab them and take them to the counter! I end up buying so much because I fear of missing out. Sayang naman kasi. But now there’s a lot of options out there! I can shop online, and at the mall.

But just because they’re available, and I can afford to buy stuff, it doesn’t mean that I should. Specially not when I don’t need them.

As much joy buying stuff gives me, I have to remind myself that there are also other things that do – like having an emergency fund, getting to use up my stash of scrapbooking supplies, seeing our space cleaned up and organised (no matter how brief it stays that way), traveling, hanging out with family and friends. I must keep in mind that seeing stuff pile up and not being used does not make me feel good at all.

Shopping List

I’ve done a bit of destashing prior to January, so I have a good idea of what’s in my closet. This also gave me an idea of what else I really need, like a really good pair of jeans. That goes on my running shopping list. This is a hand-written list of things I have on the back pages of my Passion Planner, and these are stuff I will allow myself to shop for, for the rest of the year. Not everything on that list will necessarily be purchased. See tip #3 above. I will check that list more than twice, and evaluate the need for each item, and set aside funds for it.

This is true also for any gadgets and items for hobbies, or for the home. It’s easy to succumb to impulse buying but if I tell myself I’d put it on the list for later consideration, it helps avoid the wasteful spending.

We already know the value of having a shopping list helps when doing groceries, there’s no reason why it won’t be a good idea for everything else.

Stop the FOMO

When you don’t hit the weekend markets, the bazaars, the sales, and even the latest zero-waste or sustainable fair, you’re not missing out.

I skipped The Good Trade fair last month despite looking forward to it for weeks, because I realized that I don’t want to turn my zero-waste efforts into just another reason to go shopping. After all, to keep amassing stuff you don’t need completely contradicts the concept of zero-waste living.

Prompted by a reminder from the good folks of The Good Trade, I looked at my list of things I thought I needed to get at the Fair and realized I didn’t really have to go.  

If course, if I were going there with friends and we can make a day of it, why not! It would have been a great way to encourage others in my circle to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But it wasn’t the case for that weekend. So I missed it, and I was okay.

Be More Intentional

Perhaps my biggest takeaway is this: being intentional in every way, including spending money, is key to a fuller life. Splurging on a few priced things every once in a while, may be a better reward than buying a few little things too often.

Of course I have done some shopping since the month ended (we’re almost through February now) but I have no guilt feelings about those purchases. I know there will be a lot less shopping in the next two to three months, at least. The best feeling though, is knowing you say no to buying something not out of budgetary considerations (that’s good too, though) but more because you know you don’t really need or want it.

Thanks for reading!

Would you consider doing a no-spend month? Or is there a specific expense category you’d like to cut-back on? I would love to hear about it!



Fit 2019 – February Check-in

Stitches & Words | Fit 2019 - February Check-in

What FIT means for me

This year, I have resolved to once again take charge of my health and wellness – to be FIT! I did a pretty good job of it for a good part of 2017 through the early parts of 2018, and it has meant a lot of good things for me, including but not limited to:

  • Better-fitting into clothes that made me feel really confident
  • Being able to walk straight (instead of crooked), a bit faster and for longer distances too
  • Going up the steps without losing breath too quickly or having to rest every now and again
  • Having regular menstrual periods (maybe not regular, but definitely better than before)
  • Generally feeling better!
  • Losing 40 pounds!

Getting to my healthiest self felt so good, losing the weight was really just icing on the cake. Fit is about these things and more – not so much about the weight or how I look.

My health & wellness ‘secret’ sauce

Getting healthier wasn’t an overnight success. This was achieved by taking it one step a time, day after day after day. Making better food choices, taking the right supplementation, and also choosing to lace up and follow a workout 3 to 5 times a week. It also meant keeping junk food and too much sweets off of our grocery cart.

I also had a great support system who cheered me through it all. My husband was a big part of it – working out with me sometimes, trying to cook more of the stuff on my list of foods to enjoy, and switching to black rice with me for good.

I guess it’s not such a secret after all. It’s true what they all say: proper diet and exercise is really all that it takes. Let’s just say I had good advise on what that actually meant. And that’s why losing the weight was such a positive and healthy experience for me instead of being a painful or stressful one. And I know it could be like that.

Falling off the ‘wagon’

In the last quarter of 2018, I allowed myself to slip up on one too many of the good habits I developed for over a year. I had let myself indulge on food that I thought made me happy but really only made me feel overstuffed in the end; my workouts were too spread out, until I just stopped exercising altogether. When at work, I sat around too much instead of finding opportunities to walk around.

Before the year ended, I had felt stuff that signalled my brain that I was in a state of emergency!

  • I felt bloated
  • I found myself walking awkwardly, and breathing heavily far too soon
  • Sometimes I would feel pain on my lower back – maybe from too much sitting around, or perhaps for the weight I had gained back
  • And then stepping on the scale confirmed what I had suspected all along: I had gained over 10 pounds throughout the holidays.

This made me feel really bad. Lucky for me, I already know what it takes to get back on track. I have the solution! I just needed to put it in action.

Game Changer

Stitches & Words | Fit 2019 - February Check-in

In January, I set up my Passion Planner to help me outline my wellness goals, list actionable steps to take and track them. Hitting my health goals is my Game Changer.

I feel it is so because so much ties back to being truly well and healthy: it means having the energy to do so much more. To be well lends to doing well. It means being better, so I can do better.

So I am making self-care a priority. I do this out of love for myself, not out of a need for punishment. I have no desire to lose weight FAST so I am not going to be pressured in to doing heavier and more challenging workouts when I am not ready for them. I know that those could potentially make me burn more, but I also learned from experience that too much exercise is a lot like too much stress – it tends to harm me.

Celebrating Each Success

This is not to say that everything has been smooth-sailing so far. In truth, I have only met my goal of exercising 5x a week twice last month. There was a week I exercised only twice. For a few days last month I bled too heavily so I prioritised getting ample rest over working out.

That is something I’ve also been working on: rest. I have sleep apnea and have trouble going to bed, I am training myself to sleep better, otherwise, I will not exercise when sleep deprived.

So I’m not the model for a strict routine, but I am still winning at this game. And I intend to keep on winning.

I had junk food one week, and finished up a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies on my own on another. But I’d been pretty consistent with watching my portions, and having veggies with my meals.

I celebrate every win, because each one counts, and is an inspiration to win more.

If you’re also taking steps to care for your health better this year, feel free to share your progress. Specially if you need some cheering on. I know how it feels to do everything and not see the weight go right away. I want to be there for you to tell you to hang in there, and keep going! Cheers to achieving our health and wellness goals for 2019!

Between the Covers – January 2019

Hello! Once upon a time, I would do a reaction post for each book I read and publish it on my Between the Covers blog. I may yet do that, but for now, I will try to do a monthly round up of the books I’ve cracked open and say a little something of the worlds I glimpsed within their covers.

Stitches & Words | Between the Covers - January 2019

This month, I managed to knock off four from my reading goal of 29 books for 2019. Although my ultimate goal is to keep only those books I really loved and let go of most others, I think these books will find a home within these walls. Our bookshelves all over the house are overflowing, and I need to make room for more, but what can a book lover do, eh?

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan 

Goodreads rating: 4.17 stars

This book has the potential to be real life-changing. I say potential, because it really depends on whether the reader actually puts the lessons to work.

Everyone has a dream. Even those who seem like they have no ambition. This book gives us concrete steps to help us move that dream (or dreams!) to reality. So even though this may come across as a ‘leadership development’ lesson, or a book you’d find in the business section, it really is for everyone. I think it would make a great gift for any young person in your life so s/he can go ahead and live life to the fullest NOW and not wait until they’re ‘too old.’

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

The biggest dilemma that a lot of us face is knowing where to start. With the simple tools that the authors provide here, starting with the above question, you’d be able to draw a map to your very own treasure chest. You will also be able to determine for yourself what that first step is – what is the ONE thing I can do now to reach my goals? 

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai w/ Patricia McCormick

Goodreads rating: 4.32 stars

Malala loved learning and was very competitive at her school in Pakistan. Her love for education, and her advocacy to keep girls in school, put her in harms way. It also earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, for which she is the youngest recipient.

I had no idea I picked up the Young Reader’s version of Malala’s autobiography, and it turned out to be a good thing. I found this version very readable, and relatable. Very apt for young girls (and boys) so that they could read it and realize that they don’t have to wait to be a grown up to make a difference in this world.

Her story brought me back to my own adventures as a young girl advocating for children’s rights, specifically to end child labor and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. It’s almost 23 years ago now since we were up on the world’s stage telling adults to listen to the kids because we (they) are pare of the solution. Oh but I was never in danger! But she was, and it didn’t stop her.

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen

Goodreads rating: 3.36

I read an Ebook! I will always prefer holding a book in my hand and smelling its pages, but I do have a growing collection of ebooks on my Kindle reader that I buy for 1 to 2 dollars via the Kindle Daily Deals.

Gretchen Lin was born in Singapore but was sent to boarding school, college, and graduate school in the US. She’s one of the heirs to her family’s artisanal soy sauce empire, and finds herself at a crossroads: does she go back to America and rebuild her life after divorce, or does she stay to work in the family business?

It was a good read and I think I enjoyed it more than I did Crazy Rich Asians. It definitely got me interested in soy sauce! Soy sauce is a staple in Pilipino households, but I never woulda thought there was a better soy sauce. Really, can someone tell me where I can find one? I’d love to try that drink they invented! 🙂

Although I am a sucker for a good romance, I think this book could do away with the romantic story-line and the conflict with Gretchen’s friend that came out of it. It felt a little too forced for me. Still, a good read.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Goodreads rating: 4.37 stars

I absolutely love this book! It was one of two books I asked my Dad to get me for my last birthday and I am so not disappointed with that choice.

Where do I even begin to tell you about the story of Strange, The Dreamer? Strange is the protagonist’s last name; it’s the surname given to all orphans in the Kingdom of Zosma. His first name is Lazlo and he’s a dreamer. All his life he dreamt of the lost city of Weep – wanting to know as much as he could about it, and playing make-believe that he was a Tizerkane – one of its legendary warriors.

No one has set eyes on Weep for hundreds of years, and though Lazlo had no reason to believe that he would ever one day be able to step foot in it, he dreamed of one day seeing it. When a delegation of Tizerkane visit Zosma in search for people who would help solve Weep’s greatest problem, Lazlo would not be left behind. And he talked his way through it.

The rest of the story was weaved beautifully, with a cliffhanger ending at that. I believe I have found a new series to love, and a new author to follow.

So there you go, my four books for January 2019. Thank you for reading until the end! Hope you’re motivated to tell me a little something about the books you read last month too, and happy new month for reading! 🙂

 

Passion Planner 2019

This is my third year being a bonafide #PashFam member!

Stitches & Words | Passion Planner 2019 - my Atrium Red Planner
Stitches & Words | Passion Planner 2019 – my Atrium Red Planner

Craft the Life I Love

I really do think that using a Passion Planner has helped me focus on crafting the life I love. That is not to say that I have accomplished everything I set out to do (or want to), because I AM SO FAR FROM THAT! But using my Passion Planner daily and working on a spread at the start (or end) of each week has helped me reflect on how I spend my time. In turn, this helped me to want to make time for activities that mean more to me. Slowly I find that my ‘productivity’ is slowly reflecting my ‘priority.’

In 2017, I wrote about Why I love my Passion Planner. And I think now, on my third year, I just love it all the more. I had my doubts about the new “Pro” size which is now the only size new planners come in, but it’s growing on me. I specially like that it weighs less and fits in my bag/s better.

I chose the Atrium Red dated planner (Monday start). $1 from each red planner sold is donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My maternal Lola was afflicted with AML and I really pray that there be better, more affordable treatments for blood cancers, and all other types of cancer.

Planning as Self-Care

Along with my Sunday Night Journal,one of the ways I practice self-care these days is by setting aside time each week to reflect on the week that was, and to map out what’s coming next. This is helping me look at what I am grateful for, and to look forward to the coming days. I usually do these on Sunday nights, or Monday mornings (since the work week officially starts Monday evening, anyway).

Tools for Success

In previous years, I didn’t feel like I maximised the back pages of my Passion Planner all that much. Last year, I did enjoy creating tracker pages and lists on so I am carrying that on for this year.

I’ve also attached a few pages of Elise Cripe’s habit tracker for those daily habits I’d love to cultivate and build on. Subscribe to her newsletter to get the free download! I love her getting her newsletters, there’s always something in there that sparks my interest. Oh and I love her Instagram feed too!

Here’s a quick flip-thru my weekly spreads so far this year, and the trackers, planning pages, and lists I’ve set up:


If you are using a Passion Planner, I would love to see how you use it! If not, (why?!), what do you use for planning?

Let’s Read More Books in 2019

2018 in Books

2018 was a good reading year for me. I set a goal of 18 books and managed to finish 27. The year prior, I only managed 13 out of 17. I’m aware that there are faster readers than myself who manage to gorge through five or more books in a month but I guess that’s just not me – and that’s okay.

The Goodreads website offers a cool year-in-review page that lets you see the book covers of all the books you read for the year, and even provides a few stats. I wish they allowed for a convenient way to share it on your blog, but I had to go old-school and screenshot-paste-cut-move the whole thing to be able to add this graphic here. Worth it. Hah! 🙂


2019 Goal: 29 Books

This year, I hope to read no less than 29 books to make a significant dent on the ever-growing pile of books in the house (and my e-readers). I’ve already knocked one down with The One Thing but that’s because I’ve been reading it on and off for a few months (I’m learning from it, which is why I re-read some chapters a few times, took notes, and let some info rest before taking it up again. Also my Dad borrowed it while I was going through it!).

I used to blog about each book and movie I read and I haven’t decided if this is the year I do that again, or if I ever will. There are just some books that really move me and writing is my way of ‘thinking out loud’ and processing the learnings so I might just be compelled to share those thoughts here some times. Others do a monthly round-up of what they’ve been reading, and that feels like a manageable schedule…

There’s no specific pile of books that’s waiting to be read. Maybe I should do that – pre-select the books I’ll be reading each month, like some others do. My approach has always been to just go around the house and see which book calls out to me. Or sometimes I decide which shelf (or area really – outside, upstairs, big shelves, new books) to choose one next. Or whatever.

How do you choose your next book?

Letting Go!

We let go of a number of books last year. I gave away a few, sold some at super bargain prices (why not make a few bucks in the process?), and donated others. I’ll keep doing that, a few books at a time.

I can’t believe the effort it takes to decide to get rid of a book. Unless I read it and didn’t really like it. Or if it’s Dad’s book – although I do find that I enjoy reading his books too, not surprisingly since I grew up reading whatever was on the shelves at home.

But yeah, for the sake of decluttering, and having more room to breathe (or for even more books), we shall continue to practice the art of letting go.

Do you have reading goals this year?

What do you plan on reading this year? I love looking at people’s reviews or even their to-be-read lists.

Do you need help getting back into the habit of reading? I shared tips on how to find the time to read. Check it out and let me know if it helps.

Happy reading!


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