The last week of January was a Tenner Week here, with a strict budget plus something new and mostly free to try every day to keep things interesting.
Did you join in? How did you get on with the budget, and the different activities?
Here’s quick reminder of the schedule:
- Monday: …Aaaaand breathe
- Tuesday: Make a note
- Wednesday: Connect
- Thursday: Get creative
- Friday: Time to play
- Saturday: Walk in nature (weather permitting)
- Sunday: Wind down well
A quick run-through of my week
In general I would have to say that I really enjoyed participating in this particular Tenner Week challenge, and I think it was the right theme – stress reduction – for this time of year, because January can be tough for so many people. I also found most of the daily activities were easy and pleasant or fun to do, and they were balanced fairly well between different ways to relax and de-stress.
There were a few places where I think some slight tweaks would be helpful, and I’ll mention those as I quickly look at each day below.
Monday’s activity was to try a simple breathing exercise for a few minutes, and I’d forgotten how good it is to take a moment out of my day to actively relax. I don’t know about you, but I often find the start of the working week to be kind of hectic compared with some of the other days. I’ll make even more of a point of keeping Monday Tenner Week activities extra short and simple going forward, so they can be fitted around admin and other urgent tasks.
Tuesday was about writing things down, and essentially was about using a journal or other form of note taking to reduce stress. I’m glad I included different ways to do this, because some people need to get it all off their chest, some like to focus on gratitude or positivity, and others like to make plans to tackle problems or create uplifting goals or things to look forward to.
Wednesday’s activity was about connection, and again it was quite flexible, but it was all about different ways relationships can enrich our lives. I used this day to have a meal with friends and catch up about all kinds of things, big and small. That particular meal was only possible because I had things in the freezer and cupboards already – but I’ll mention it later in my budgeting section.
Thursday was ‘get creative‘ and I have to admit that I almost forgot to do the activity because I was busy doing other things that day. I think my mistake was not scheduling it in to my diary at all, not deciding the activity soon enough, and chores getting in the way that took longer than expected. Maybe next time I’ll put a time limit on the activity. Anyway, I ended up trying to use a design app to do some abstract art doodles, but it was new software so the time was spent learning about the app and not being creative. I’d have been better choosing something else…
On Friday I was busy in a different way, getting ready for the weekend, and I didn’t make much time to play, although I did manage to complete a Wordle on my afternoon tea break. Next time I’ll try to work that into the general Friday evening activities instead, if I can. Also, ‘time to play’ can mean the same thing as ‘get creative’ to some people, so next time I’ll have to be sure to make the daily activities more contrasting.
Saturday’s ‘walk in nature‘ turned out to be lovely, with a long walk and some snacks we’d brought along with us. It has to be said though, we were very lucky with the weather. It could just as easily have been sleeting or tipping it down with rain and that’s not enjoyable for most people, plus it could be actively unhealthy for some folks too. The walk got us talking about the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, so now we’re planning to go to the Natural History Museum and see their exhibition before it closes in a few weeks.
Sunday was ‘wind down well‘, and I did manage to turn my phone off at a sensible hour and read a print book, which I really enjoyed. I put loungewear on in the late afternoon too, which is not something I’d normally do, but it did help with the feeling of settling down, plus I did a quick ‘home spa’ in the morning, and that added to the relaxation as well. It made me realise that I probably don’t relax that much on a Sunday, and I should make more of an effort at least in the evening because I did feel refreshed and raring to go on Monday morning.
My personal budget
I spent £9 on an exercise class because I’d already committed to doing it, and that was pretty much all of my personal money gone on the Monday. This is probably not the best start you could have for a budgeting week, and next time around I’m going to have to put something else in place. Commitments and resolutions are such a tricky thing to budget around sometimes, aren’t they?
With the cost of living crisis being so extreme, there wasn’t much I could do with the remaining £1 apart from keeping it to one side for very minor food emergencies. Fortunately we didn’t have any of those because I’d frozen the week’s bread and a little milk to avoid food waste, and we’d been able to make a really good menu plan with what we already had.
We’d never have been able to invite people over for a meal if we didn’t already have stored food, and drinks and suchlike given to us at Christmas. While that wasn’t anything premeditated, i.e. buying ahead on purpose and basically cheating, it was pure luck that I’d bought and frozen a few things before scheduling and announcing a Tenner Week.
Only having £1 in my personal allowance meant that I couldn’t do anything particularly sociable at the weekend though, apart from a cold weather picnic of sorts, rather than a hot drink or snack anywhere. I must say that was the toughest part for me, especially in a week that was devoted to reducing stress. Okay, a relatively quiet Sunday mostly spent at home was pleasant enough, but a super-budget Friday, Saturday and Sunday all together was trickier than I remembered.
Future plans for Tenner Week
I think it’s very clear that the cost of living crisis is now making an original Tenner Week budget almost impossible, where you’re combining your personal discretionary spending (which is essentially like pocket money for adults) and your personal share of any food that you buy during the week.
Not everyone keeps a small store cupboard of basics like we do here, or puts batch-cooked food in their freezers that they can dip into whenever they like. While Tenner Week was mostly designed to be about avoiding food waste, having a break from constant shopping, and being creative with what you already have, some households simply don’t have much food in them for a variety of reasons before the weekly ‘big shop’ – and it’s impossible to buy all of one person’s food for the week with £10 if you don’t keep a store cupboard or small pantry.
Inflation has hit food prices incredibly hard, and it’s especially noticeable when you look at supermarket budget food ranges, some of which have doubled in price in the last two years.
For this reason I’m thinking we need to give people a choice of two options from now on:
OPTION A: A £10 budget that’s just ‘pocket money’, for drinks or snacks when you go out, or any other optional little treats (then you just manage your home food budget completely separately – and try to keep costs low if you can).
OPTION B: A £25 personal budget that includes your specific share of groceries for at home, and perhaps a couple of little treats for yourself, such as a coffee or two with friends.
Remember, the £25 would be just for YOU, it’s only your share of things. It doesn’t include what you buy for your pets, your kids, your partner, and so on. So for example, if you did a weekly shop for a household of 4 people and it came to £80, YOUR share is ONLY £20 if it’s split equally. If you buy, say, £3-worth of milk for your child to drink, and you don’t drink any yourself then, as always, that £3 DOES NOT COUNT towards YOUR personal total.
The point of having a personal budget is that you can do a Tenner Week challenge on your own, even if your partner doesn’t want to join in, your flatmate isn’t interested, or your pet is poorly and needs special food from the vet, and so on. You don’t need anyone else’s co-operation or agreement, you can just get on with it whenever you like, especially if it’s a week where you really want/need to cut back on your spending.
So, it looks like the format of the Tenner Week challenge is going to have to change fairly drastically to take the current and very serious cost of living crisis into account.
What do you think about the new idea that I’ve proposed, with Option A and Option B? Let me know your thoughts.