Bestselling author Cait Flanders challenged herself to live for a year without spending anything – except on essentials. Along the way, she found a happier, simpler way of life.
Cait says that a common misconception about why she decided to live with less for a year was that she was in debt or unhappy. She says that this kind of decision isn’t necessarily prompted by a life event, and her in case it was more of a slow realisation that things didn’t feel right.
She had been writing about money and her own personal finances online for a long time. “I did pay off a bunch of debt and then I found that I basically went right back to spending all of my money,” she says.
Each month she would try to set herself goals, such as saving 20% of her income and would never reach it. Finally after a year she decided to change her habits, as what she was doing wasn’t working for her. Initially, she considered not spending anything at all.
Things came to a head following a conversation with her sister. At the time, Cait’s sister was 20 and working part-time. She’d just bought a new camera and the family were teasing her, saying that as a student she should be saving her money. “And she rebutted with: ‘Yeah, but I save 20% of my income so I can do what I want with the rest.’ And it was just a punch to the gut that my sister was doing that before I was,” Cait laughs.
“But then the words out of my mouth were so automatic that I didn’t even think about them and I just said: ‘Okay, but you live at home and you’re in school, do you really need 80% of your income or could you live on less?”
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For Cait, it was a moment of clarity and she couldn’t believe that she’d never thought of this idea before. Within two weeks of that conversation, she had drafted the rules for the challenge.
She wrote different lists – the first was a list of things she was allowed to buy, which included food, petrol for her car and toiletries when she ran out of them. “The list of things I could not buy was a lot longer,” she says. It included clothes, shoes, books, electronics and takeaway coffees.
She says that giving up coffees is often a stereotypical answer in the personal finance space, but that in her case it was definitely something that she could cut out. “I was at this point where I was basically getting it every day and it was such a habit, but I couldn’t really answer why I was getting it, because I was working from home.”
Listen to the podcast to find out how Cait got on.