Things I learned from the February Tenner Week challenge

The last week of February contained a Tenner Week budgeting challenge, with a ‘declutter and spring clean’ theme to give us a new activity to try every day. There were a few ups and downs, but here’s how I got on here:

A quick reminder about the new format 

The Tenner Week challenge originally ran with an all-in £10 budget for several years, but inflation – especially shocking rates of food price inflation – has eroded spending power so much that one person can’t get by on it for a week any more if they start out with an empty fridge.

It’s simply impossible, and something had to give.

For this reason, there’s now a choice between these two options:

  1. Keep your general spending as low as possible, and give yourself £10 ‘pocket money’ for non-essential items. If you can afford to carve this out of your general budget, the money can be used for small treats.
  2. Keep a personal budget of £25 to include your share of groceries, and maybe a small treat or two. [It doesn’t include other bills or money you have to spend on other people such as children, partners or pets.]

I tried the £10 pocket money version this time around, and later this month I’ll perhaps give the £25 all-in budget a go instead to see how they compare.

How the individual Tenner Week days panned out

It was a fairly positive week, and I managed to get plenty out of the way. Here’s a quick reminder of the daily activities:

  • Monday: Declutter your herb & spice rack
  • Tuesday: Declutter your bedside table
  • Wednesday: Declutter your bathroom shelf
  • Thursday: Dust it down
  • Friday: I’m cleaning windows
  • Saturday: Drop it off
  • Sunday: List and sell

The spice rack declutter was well worth doing. I thought it was fairly tidy anyway, but it turned out that some of the spices in it were so old they’d turned to toxic dust. Out they went into the food recycling, which felt like an improvement to say the least. I also reorganised the shelves to put the most used items within easiest reach, and now it’s much easier to find what I need when I’m in a hurry and trying to make a quick meal.

My bedside table declutter wasn’t especially extensive because it wasn’t overflowing in the first place, but again it felt good to have a bit of a tidy up and make it look more streamlined and relaxing. I also let a book go that I finally admitted I’ll never finish – makes it easier to read other books now that I definitely will finish, and just because something isn’t my favourite doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t going to enjoy it.

Cleaning the bathroom shelf was actually a little overdue, but it looks nicer after a good scrub. I moved a couple of travel items that were getting in the way, and now it’s quicker to find what I want in the mornings.

Thursday was dusting day, which reminded me how much I dislike dusting but it also reminded me how much I like a clean home. Picking a set day and a set time meant I could blitz though it at speed and there was no putting it off for later.

The window cleaning on the Friday was not a good bit of scheduling. I wanted to do other things to get ready before a night out, and honestly should have chosen a different task that would have fitted in better with that. It’s crap getting the rubber gloves out when you’d rather be doing a quick manicure instead.

On Saturday we managed to take things to a local charity shop after they’d been sitting under the dining table for a few days. It was so good to clear them out and free up the space again, and the shop seemed happy to get the donations as well. I ended up browsing around and finding a lovely shirt in perfect condition, it really looked like it had never been worn, so I took advantage of having ‘pocket money’ for the first time and bought it for £6. 

Sunday was list and sell day, and I was surprised that we were able to find things to list, but there we are. I decided that the clothes I picked out to sell needed a wash and an iron first before taking the photos, so that ended up on the to-do-list instead, but we did manage to get some books and old collectable CDs up for sale so that was a bonus.

My Tenner Week pocket money budget

As I mentioned earlier, I picked the £10 pocket money option, but we also somehow managed to avoid buying groceries. We managed to live off what we had in the fridge, bits and bobs from the bottom of the freezer, and store cupboard staples for seven days, but I think that it was just a lucky week. The following week we had to do a slightly larger shop than usual to replace a few emergency items, although fortunately it didn’t destroy our budget, but I think it was about £18 extra. That £18-ish does seem to tally with the new £25 all-in Tenner Week option fairly well so I’m going to try that version next time.

Not going to lie, having pocket money as a grown up felt very strange indeed. It gave me more freedom than the Tenner Week budgets of recent years where I’d have to keep money back for milk and bread, and so on. I ended up buying a small bar of chocolate for a treat, a pot of tea in a cafe, and a shirt in a charity shop, with 25p left at the end. I had a free night out on the Friday, and if I hadn’t been scarfing that food and drink I would probably have planned my spending differently.

Being able to spend the full £10 just on treats definitely affected my mindset and behaviours, which I hadn’t really expected at all. After spending the bulk of it on a shirt in a charity shop I almost immediately started seriously hankering after loads of new clothes like I’d taken my foot off the brake and started accelerating away. I managed to head off what could easily have turned into a spending binge, but it was a bit of a shock to find myself getting into that headspace.

I’m not sure whether cutting back caused a rebound spending impulse, or the act of buying clothes triggered a search for a whole new summer wardrobe. I think on balance it was most likely the latter, perhaps made worse by looking at too many sales emails. Recent retail figures suggest that we Brits are cutting back our spending hardest in the area of clothes and fashion, followed by going out, so perhaps the latest sales copy and offers were just too tempting. Anyway, I struggled quite heavily with that when I hadn’t expected to.

If I had the time again I’d stay out of the charity shop in the first place, apart from dropping off donations, and I’d delete sales emails without opening them during the challenge. I might ringfence the money for social spending instead, such as meeting a friend for coffee or going out for a drink in the pub. I’ll certainly be more careful with the online browsing and in-person window shopping during budget challenges from now on.

The week was largely a success for me, managing to stay within budget despite temptation, and completing some decluttering and spring cleaning activities that made home life simpler and more pleasant. Next time around I’ll probably avoid clothes shopping, and I’ll plan the Friday activity to be shorter and sweeter just before the weekend.


Are you on a budget at the moment? What’s your biggest spending temptation, and how do you stop it from derailing your budgeting plans?


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