Shopping

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!



Thankful for my Go-To Apps

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I say it now: I am thankful for the Internet.

19 years ago, the husband and I met thru mIRC. We might never have met without the Internet. I say this because we had no common friends or interests, and we moved in entirely different worlds prior to knowing each other.

Today, I am showing appreciation for something more specific that requires access to the Internet: Apps that I use all the time.

Stitches & Words | Thankful for our Go-To Apps

  • Netflix
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Facebook (and Messenger)
  • Viber (and Line)
  • WordPress
  • Gmail
  • Waze
  • Shopee and Lazada

Entertainment. Information. Inspiration. Communication. Creativity. Keeping in touch with loved ones no matter how near or far. Convenience. Feeding your inner shopaholic. These are just some of the things that these apps represent.

Yes, there is so much to be said about social media and it can be a real trap. We spend so much time scrolling through our feeds and many times it breeds negativity. We grow jealous of other people’s seemingly perfect lives, their always clean homes and workspaces, their travels, and even their OOTDs and food shots. How can they look perfect all the freaking time?! If that’s how you’re using social media and it affects you by making you feel like you aren’t enough – then I would be the first one to tell you to walk away from all of it.

I try to be conscious about NOT hiding behind the screen while in other people’s company and I do call out the husband whenever he’s on his phone too much while we’re supposed to be out enjoying a meal together, or hanging out.

More importantly, I firmly believe in using the Internet as a platform for spreading good, and for enriching ourselves and our relationships. It’s just like everything else in life, we are given tools that are neither good nor bad in or of themselves, it’s up to us how to use them, and to what purpose.

How about you? What apps are you thankful for and why?

**This month, I am doing 30 Days of Thankful

The Good Trade Fair – October 2018

Just as we did back in July, we went all the way to Central Square at the Bonifacio Global City last week for The Good Trade fair. It’s a weekend pop-up of small businesses espousing a zero-waste and sustainable lifestyle.

I finally restocked on the first organic deodorant I’ve used that didn’t have me worrying about smelly pits after a long day – Zero Basics Deodorant is all natural, keeps you dry and smell-free for 24 hours (maybe more), and doesn’t leave chemical residue that darkens your pits. Believe me, I have tried deodorants from a couple other local organic brands and this is the best so far.

One bottle will go a long way, unfortunately for me, I dropped my first bottle which is why I needed to restock so soon. Sa totoo lang, ikinalungkot ko yun. The bottle was still more than half full, and I just really had such a good product experience. My deo of choice used to be Dove Original. I love its powdery smell. I was quite happy with it except that the container ends up in a landfill and will probably exist longer than I will. So I made the switch. 

This one comes in an amber glass bottle with a spray nozzle and is refillable at a discount. Zero-waste, and cost-effective. 

I also got a pair of bamboo toothbrushes from the Zero Waste Hub, and filled a bottle that I brought with me with peppermint hand soap from Ritual.Ph. I love that there were a number of brands there that allowed for package-free, buy-what-you-need purchases. It does feel a little weird to already be lugging a shopping bag of empty containers BEFORE you do any actual shopping, but it really wasn’t all that bad, and not an inconvenience.  

It was also great to see Anthill Fabric weaves up close and personal. I didn’t buy any this time because sizes do tend to be for the average Pinay (translation: maliit para sa’kin), and they do cost considerably more than fast-fashion options.  I have my eye on a couple of pieces that I might save up for a custom order though. 

It was also great to dialogue with some of the shop owners and learn a little bit more of their products and advocacies. I was really trying to be intentional with my shopping and didn’t want to just purchase whatever I fancied – but there are definitely new-to-me brands that are now on my radar ?

What these fairs do, really, is make us more aware of the small changes we can do that can have great impact in reducing plastic waste, and leading a sustainable lifestyle that will be friendlier to Mother Earth. I was really looking for an alternative to dishwashing sponges. We go through one of those every couple of weeks and I know there’s a better alternative out there. I was hoping to find wood brushes or those abaca scrubs that weekend. Sadly, whatever stocks were available had already been sold out.  

Luckily, the Daily Convos Shop had these:

I didn’t buy any. But the lady who makes them was nice enough to talk to me about her products. I mentioned that I’m a yarn hoarder and could probably make one for myself. She recommended using cotton thread and even told me about how to keep these scrubbies clean and sanitized so they can be used for a long time.

SO I made a couple of squares to try. I actually still have a few sponges for backup but so far, the scrubbies are holding up and doing the job just fine. We have a silicone pot scrubber that we got from Taiwan for the tougher stains so I’m hoping that this is a switch we can do without any hassles. I just have to convincethe hubby to use the scrubbies instead of the sponge. 

I made a couple more to give to a friend to test-drive too. Friends and family out there who would love to switch too, I can make a couple for you as Christmas presents, just let me know!

Where to Get Fresh Produce Online: Homegrown Organics

Ratings and feedback on products and sellers influence my shopping behavior, so when I find companies or online sellers that make me a happy customer, I try to spread to word.

Today let’s feature my latest source of fresh produce:

Homegrown Organics

@myhomegrownorganic on Instagram | Shop

I just love how you can get fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables delivered to your door! The price and quality is way better compared to what you’d find in the big grocery chains.

Where to Get Fresh Produce Online: Homegrown Organics | Stitches & Words http://verabear.net

This is already my second order. I was so happy with the first batch of mixed greens that I just had to go and order more before I ran out. The greens stayed fresh longer, and also tasted so good.

Carrots came with our first order, and I grabbed one pack of their free tomatoes.

We got avocado too. They are not yet ripe upon delivery but they include a tip sheet so you don’t accidentally cut through the fruit before it’s ready (but I still did, Ha! Excited much?).

On this second order we’re also trying their Sweet mangoes (still waiting for those to ripen), and Indian mangoes (sarap!).

Although there’s a bit of plastic packaging included, I think they are trying to minimize that as best they could and that is truly appreciated. For my next order I’ll have to remember to tell them to go paperless – I have no use for the printed invoice, and though I appreciate the tip sheet and their message to customers, I can just view those online.

Ordering Experience

They have a shopping cart system on their website. They’ve got good pictures, FAQs, and detailed description for each product. Delivery date (tentative) is clearly displayed on the site, and they also send you an SMS to confirm. I received my text confirmation a day before scheduled delivery, and they ask you to respond. Since I know I’m talking to a live person, I also let them know my time preference.

If you would like to place an order, be sure to check their FAQs.

Mode of Payment

Cash on Delivery. As mentioned above, you already know the tentative delivery date even before you order so it’s very easy to plan to have someone available to receive the produce, and pay. Sweet!

They offer free shipping for orders above PHP 450 otherwise, shipping costs PHP 75.

They don’t deliver everywhere, but have a specific delivery coverage which covers most of Metro Manila. I understand this is to ensure the quality and freshness of their products.

Happy Customer

Let me be clear, this is not a sponsored post. I have not received any compensation in exchange for this – I am just a happy customer spreading the word.

In this social media-driven world, where customer service horror stories abound, I try to share something positive every once in a while. 🙂

19/100

Let’s Karaoke!

I happen to think that I can sing well. And most Karaoke/Videoke machines agree with me 🙂 I am not about to quit my full-time job though – my singing won’t be paying the bills, for sure.

We’ve owned a Videoke machine for years – my Dad loves to sing-along too, probably more than I do. It is a LOT of fun, specially when you do sing-offs with family and friends. Should you be in the market for your own system, this post is for you.

Here are Things to Consider Before You Buy Your Karaoke Machine:

Deciding on which karaoke machine to choose when you are interested in buying one can be quite challenging, especially considering the barrage of options that you will be faced with. The entire process may be even more complicated if you do not have information about karaoke systems and are working with a limited budget. A number of factors are worthy of consideration before you buy your karaoke machine. Invaluable help is provided by the Best Karaoke Machines 2018 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.

Here are things to consider to help you make the right choice:

The speakers

When choosing a karaoke system, speakers are an important consideration. The quality of the speakers and the output power differentiate good speakers from those that are not. Karaoke speakers for kids usually have not more than 5 watts power output, while home karaoke systems can be up to 10 watts, but not more. For outdoor parties, speaker jacks are required with the karaoke machine for a higher power and quality output.

Microphone

Karaoke microphones are arguably the most important karaoke machine accessories. For home karaoke systems, one microphone is usually provided, with an input jack that allows one more microphone to be connected when necessary. The same setting applies to karaoke systems designed for kids, and the extra microphone would be purchased when needed. The two microphones are used when there is the need to sing duets.

Ease of setup and portability

When trying to decide on the karaoke machine to buy, the portability of the machine and how easy it is to setup is a relevant factor. Most machines come with manuals to offer guidance on how they should be setup, but you still need to verify if the procedures are not too complicated. When your intention is to carry the karaoke machine around, then portability is key. Having to spend a lot of time assembling and putting it apart when you want to carry it around is a put-off.

Option for recording

There are karaoke machines that have the option of being able to record songs that have already been performed. Such machines have USB ports and SD card slots for memory sticks to be connected for recording when singing. Besides, such karaoke systems have playback features that allow recordings to be played back instantly for assessment. An added benefit is that the memory devices containing the recordings can be copied on to computers, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) or burnt on to CDs.

AC Power

The very fact that karaoke systems can be used at home or outdoors means that they come with AC adapters, and sometimes battery terminals. Your intention should dictate if you want both the AC adapter and the battery-powered kind or just the AC-powered type only.

Sound and Voice controls

Good karaoke systems should come with the option to use automatic voice controls that give singers the freedom to mute voices of singers while allowing only the background music to keep playing. That way, you can overwrite the singer’s voice with yours on the same background music, allowing you to create a new mix.

I hope you find this guide useful. What’s your favorite tune to sing-along to?

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