Every year, the famous Dry July Challenge is an opportunity for drinkers to give the body a much-needed rest from the booze and raise money for a good cause.
It’s a worthy challenge but it’s not drinking I have a problem with – it’s my seemingly insatiable appetite for spending.
While I don’t consider myself a ‘spendaholic’ or a ‘shopaholic’, my savings, or lack thereof, tell a different story.
So, in a bid to see what was possible in terms of beefing up my bank balance, I put all shopping on hold for 31 days and surprised myself by saving more than $1,000.
FEMAIL’s Emilia Mazza (pictured) applied the ‘Dry July’ challenge to her finances to see how much she could save in a month
One of the first things I did as part of my challenge was to outline the boundaries: spending on rent, transport to and from work, and groceries were permitted.
I knew from looking at my bank statements, my money is largely frittered on smaller items; a tap here for a daily coffee, a swipe there for meals, makeup and a must-have clothing piece.
Armed with this knowledge, the first expense to go was my daily beloved takeaway mocha, an indulgence costing $4.50.
My daily coffee habit saw me regularly amass the nine stamps required in order to receive the much-coveted free cup
Opting for an at-home coffee in the morning was fine – for the first few days, I rode a high of feeling virtuous and in control.
However, by day three, I was tempted to jack the whole thing in. Fortunately, I remembered I had boxes of coffee pods on-hand which Woolworths had included in my on-line shopping for me to try.
While not quite up the the standard of my local, they got me through and all in all, by not spending on coffee for 31 days, I raked in $135.
What did I do to save $1,017 over the course of one month?
* Ditch takeaway coffee for 31 days: $135
* Forgo all weekday treats in favour of fruit or muesli bars from home: $60
* Shop at Aldi and the greengrocer for two weeks: $100
* Put gym membership on hold for a month: $240
* Swap second-hand clothing and receive store credit: $80
* Choosing free movies instead of cinema blockbusters: $22.50
* Opt for ‘naked’ manicure and pedicure: $60
* Free foundation and brush courtesy of a colleague: $118
* Ditch weekend brunch for home-cooked meals: $70
* At home facial over a salon experience: $132
Total savings: $1,017.50
I have always allowed myself some sort of treat during the working week; a $10 smoothie, a $5 vegan slice or when feeling particularly indulgent, a $6 ricotta cake.
But these had to go.
As hard as it was, choosing to ditch my mid-week reward in favour of an extra muesli bar or piece of fruit, doing so allowed me to net a further $60.
While the contours of my challenge allowed me to spend on groceries, I could see that by shopping online weekly, I wasn’t saving that much.
Shopping at Aldi and my local green grocer came with significant savings allowing me to reduce my costs for feeding myself and my partner by $50 per week
Two weeks in, I decided to beef up my efforts by heading to my local mall where I hit Aldi for basics and the greengrocers next door for everything else.
I spent $58 on a selection of essential items at Aldi and a further $44 on fruit, vegetables and deli items from another shop close by.
A ride home with budget ride-share service Ola, with a 25 per cent discount, meant the venture came to a total of $110.
Normally my weekly online shop for myself and my partner cost $160, by stepping outside my comfort zone for two weeks I saved a $100.
While I missed my regular workouts at the gym, a scout around the internet turned up a plethora of free activities including free yoga classes at Lululemon’s central Sydney store
Exercise was another area where I decided to slash my spending. I put my $30 a week gym membership on-hold and looked for other ways to work out.
Riding my bike as often as possible along with walking were two easy ways to ensure I kept up some sort of regime but I missed regular yoga.
Fortunately, I’d remembered activewear retailer Lululemon ran a free weekly class, 7pm Wednesdays in Sydney and within walking distance from work.
Not spending in this area allowed me to increase my bank balance by $240.
By taking my old clothing to Sydney’s Swop, I was able to get rid of items I no longer wore and receive a credit note to ‘spend’ in-store
How does a share economy work?
* A sharing economy is a term for a way of distributing goods and services, a way that differs from the traditional model of corporations hiring employees and selling products to consumers.
Shopping for clothing is my biggest weakness, one I’m not proud to say has landed me in trouble in the past.
Abstaining from this during challenge was always going to prove difficult, but as the saying goes ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.
I’d recently discovered Swop, a store in Sydney’s Newtown that swapped old clothing for garments in-store or cash.
The store runs in part as a sharing economy; as I dropped off my garments, I was able to collect something new to the value of $80.
A pair of Country Road loafers in excellent condition was an easy choice, and one I’ve not regretted for a moment.
I was spared from a spending slip after a colleague kindly gave me unopened makeup samples, a gesture that saved me $118
While I’d had a few tricky moments over the course of the month, I hadn’t encountered anything too difficult, that was until I hit a point where I’d run out of makeup.
Although I was convinced I had to cave, I was spared, thanks to a colleague who kindly gave me some of her samples.
By using the makeup and the brush she gave me, I saved $118.
Spending on ‘self-care’ was also put to the side for the duration of July. Facials were of the at-home variety, a savings of $132 and nails were given the ‘naked’ treatment – filed, shaped and buffed, by me – a savings of $60.
Riding my bike as often as possible wasn’t just a great way to save, it also helped me stay in shape
Eating out was an area I knew I had little or no proper control over so instead of trying to curb this aspect of my spending, I settled on small ‘tweaks’.
By choosing to make brunch for myself and my boyfriend instead of going to a cafe for just two weeks of the month allowed me to pocket an extra $70.
While the prospect of saving a hefty sum appeals, I’m not sure I can break my coffee habit for good
Mid-week meals out with friends, something I do regularly, was managed by choosing to eat at places where nothing cost more than $20.
By way of offsetting my spending here, when I was invited to socialise, I chose free events over those which cost.
I saw movies at the art gallery for free, spent sunny days walking the coastal track between Bondi and Bronte and headed to my local markets for an entertaining a spot of people watching.
While at the end of 31 days I was proud of my achievement, I knew I could have saved more if I’d ridden or walked to work and hadn’t slipped into Starbucks more than once.
Saving $1,017 has opened my eyes to what is possible with a little discipline and also given me pause for thought.
I’m struck by the realisation that over the course of a year, putting away this sum every month would give me $12,000. In two years, I’d have $24,000 and in five years I’d be sitting on $60,000.
It’s a hefty sum by any measure. Whether or not it’s enough to encourage me to curb my rapacious habit for good, well, that’s another story.