Why challenge yourself to a no-spend month?
I have just decided to try a no-spend month. My spending hasn’t been out of control per se, but I’ve realized I’ve developed a few habits in my spending that I’d like to try and break.
I’ve come to realize that I could benefit from trying a no spend month. I believe that a no-spend month will not only leave me with money left over at the end of the month that I can save. But will also help course-correct some recent unfavorable spending behaviors, such as small impulse buys.
Check out how a no spend month went for me. Also, discover some no spend month tips if you’re considering trying one yourself.
What is a no spend month?
It’s a challenge where you aim to not spend money on certain things for a specific period, in my case one month. You can choose to do it for a shorter or longer time.
It’s not that different from a diet where you are trying to lose weight and shock or jump-start your system when you give up sugar or carbs for a while. It’s kind of the same idea here, only with money and spending.
The goal is to get back to savings basics and only spend on things you truly need. Eliminate the things you don’t need i.e., impulse buys. Check out 10 ways to stop impulse buying here.
Why choose to do a no-spend month?
Maybe you realize you’ve been a little out of control with your finances lately.
Have you picked up a few bad financial habits you want to break?
Are you going on a vacation and want to save a little extra for spending?
Maybe you want to try one post-holiday to sort of cleanse yourself after crazy amounts of spending.
In my case, I’m simply trying to cut the impulse shopping I’ve convinced myself I don’t do, but do.
Benefits of a no-spend challenge
Stop impulse spending
The no-spend timeframe encourages you to use what you have. For example, for entertainment break out those video games, board games, puzzles, hang out it the yard, etc.
For groceries, clear out your freezer and pantry. Eat what you have on hand.
All of those little expenses here and there: eating out, vending machine, coffee, grabbing something not on your shopping list, etc. they all add up!
Depending on your current spending habits, you’ll be amazed to see the savings add up by eliminating these habits.
It’s that jump-start motivator you need to change your finances
One month is long enough to change your old ways and create new habits. Fear of Missing out is real, and you may be influenced by the FOMO phenomenon more than you think. This was me before my no-spend month.
You think you can’t miss out on this crazy deal.
You can’t not buy this item of clothing or a new movie.
It’s just one trip through the drive-through, it’s not a big deal.
It’s crazy how much you can spend randomly and things you accumulate in your life by spending impulsively.
The money you’ll save while doing one
If you put in the effort, you will save money during this time. The month is for challenging yourself to stay on a lean financial track. But at the end of the month (or whatever timeframe you decide), you’ll be so glad you tried one. Your savings account will thank you.
No spend month tips
1. Write down why you want to try one
Do you want to be less tied to stuff?
Are you trying to break a habit of spending?
Do you want to jump-start an emergency fund?
Write down what your goal is of trying a no-spend month. Be as specific as you can be, including a dollar figure if you have one to save or cut down on.
2. Define what a no spend month means for you
The definition of a no spend month is personal and can mean different things to different people. It may be that you’re trying to break your morning Starbucks run. Maybe it is to eliminate online shopping. Perhaps you want to stick to your grocery list and only buy what you need. Or maybe it’s all three of these things and then some.
The goal here is to stop behaviors where you’re spending unnecessarily and reap the benefits in saving. Not doing this behavior for 30 days will turn not doing it into the new habit.
3. Is the timing right?
Maybe you want to try a no-spend month in September or October to help save for upcoming holiday expenses.
January is another great month to consider doing one as you likely just came off a huge spending month in December. You and your family probably have a lot to entertain you and plenty of leftovers in the fridge. Find a way to avoid post-holiday shopping deals and you’ll have it made!
I randomly decided to do one in April. It just hit me that my spending was out of control recently. I don’t buy large, expensive items. But the $5 here and there was getting to be the norm.
I pride myself on not being an impulse shopper yet here I am the hypocrite doing it more than I realized. Aside from Easter and making a plan to avoid post-holiday candy shopping I thought it would be a good month to try in advance of nice, summer weather.
I just woke up and decided to do this on April 3rd, and didn’t want to wait until May 1st, the start of the next calendar month. So my no spend month technically went April 3rd – May 2nd. No chance of stocking up on the pantry or cheating in any way. I just woke up and said today is the day I’m starting!
If you haven’t decided when to start one, literally decide to right now! Stop spending immediately, like, today!
4. What are the rules? What are your exceptions?
Keep your expectations realistic if you want success. Small successes tend to multiply so choose something that is going to be a challenge but is within reach.
If you know for a solid fact you aren’t going to be able to give up a specific expense, for example, your weekly manicure, fine. Spend on that.
But what ARE you willing to give up to be able to make that manicure happen? Can you eat out one less meal per week? Are you willing to cancel cable to have this beauty indulgence? Can you take fewer trips in your car and save on gas? Or better yet, walk to the salon!
Set rules for yourself about what your inclusions and exceptions are. You can allow yourself some wiggle room.
5. Meal Plan
Take note of what you have in the pantry or freezer. Plan to use what you have as much as you can. Certainly things like fresh fruit or meat you’ll need to purchase. Other than that, try to use up things on hand.
It’s great for multiple reasons. Not only will you not spend, but you’ll use up things you have before they expire. Plus, it’ll force you to get creative with meals. Who knows, you may find a new family favorite by putting a few things together you wouldn’t normally.
6. Plan what you’re going to do instead of spending
Try some free activities. If you like to go to the movies, consider a movie marathon in. If you like to window shop or online shop, what can you do that gives you the shopping satisfaction, but without the expense. Try shopping in your closet.
Clean out the back of your closet and put a few new outfits together with things you already own! Or pair an outfit with accessories you already own but have forgotten about.
7. Tell your family about your intention to do a no-spend month.
The more those around you understand what your goals are the more likely you are to have success. If everyone in the family is on board, not only will you save more, but the fewer temptations you have.
You can all keep each other accountable. You can teach your children the value of time over money and possessions. Bond over board games or take a picnic to the park. Learn to spend quality time together instead of always having to splurge on things.
Note, I’m a fan of spending money on experiences. Check out what I won’t give up to be financially free faster.
8. Identify spending triggers and be prepared to stop them
You’ll likely start strong and have the confidence you can make it through this challenge with flying colors. Then you’ll be faced with a temptation or trigger. Someone will ask you to go out to lunch which is not one of your noted exceptions this month. Or you’ll find a sale on a super cute dress or jean jacket and you’ll want to buy it.
Know what your triggers are, and find ways in advance to overcome them. Can you suggest instead of eating out that you each bring a lunch and sit outside and talk and catch some rays?
Could you sift through your closet and remind yourself of the other dress you bought at the end of last season that you have only worn once? Remind yourself that you can easily wear what you have and that another dress will not make you happier.
9. Give yourself some wiggle room
Are there things that will deplete you if you can’t do them? That yoga class, or a few minutes of peace and quiet with your latte at Starbucks. Build them into your budget.
What’s most impactful during a no spend month are the unexpected expenses that creep up that you can easily say no to. But lately, you have been saying yes to and spending without thinking.
10. Have fun establishing new habits
Enjoy all of the extra free time you have now that you’re not consumed with spending money. Enjoy time with friends. Call a family member. You’re not shopping on your phone, so go outside and play that yard game.
Tips for success with a no spend month
- Define wants and needs. What are you allowed to spend? What are you challenging yourself not to spend on? What are the exceptions?
- Stop going online, checking your email as often, or whatever the triggers are that you usually face.
- If you have a bad day, don’t let it ruin your month. The goal is to establish a new habit. If you have a cheat day or spend on something you wish you hadn’t, don’t let that be the spiral to ruin the month. You can still get back on track and finish strong.
What to do when the month is over
Hopefully, you had a great experience with your no-spend month and are inspired to keep the no spending momentum going. Certainly, put any savings you had over the month in its place.
Go back and remind yourself of why you started one to begin with. If you’re saving for future spending, make sure you actually put it away for its intended purposes. If you wanted to pay down debt, make sure you make said payment.
Try making a new challenge with yourself. Do you have the tenacity and courage to try a no-spend month again? Or take your newly developed habits and reinforce them for long term benefits.
Now that your unnecessary spending has been stopped in its tracks, take another step this month to continue not spending on certain things.
Alternatives to a no-spend month
If an entire no-spend month feels like too much to tackle at once, choose one thing to start with.
- A no eating out month
- A no shopping online month
- Maybe a no fast food month
- A no Amazon shopping month
- How about a no social media month to declutter your mind
Things I discovered during my no-spend month
I spend a lot of time trying to save money
I’m a grocery saver/couponer and take MANY trips to various grocery stores during the week. I’m not an extreme couponer but am very cognizant of sales, store fliers, what stores have the best prices, etc.
I think I underestimated how much time I was wasting taking frequent trips to the grocery store and how much money they were costing (even if they were on sale with a coupon). It was refreshing to make a list of what we needed and to only purchase those things.
I get the Sunday paper and typically the first thing I would do is scramble to find the coupons and sales flyers. But since the goal was for my shopping list of what we needed to not be influenced by what was on sale, I wouldn’t even look at them.
It was tough for me! Once in-store I would look for the best price on things I had put on my list that we needed, but I wasn’t proactively stocking up on things just because they were on sale.
It was also nice in a way to see my stockpile deplete. We were using things that had been sitting on the shelves for months. It’s hard for me to pass up deals on non-perishables or consumables like toilet paper, paper towel, toothpaste, salad dressing, barbeque sauce, etc. I purchased none of these items as we did not need them!
Phone time was drastically reduced
Now what am I going to do when I automatically delete every sales email and have banned myself from online shopping? No Amazon, no Ebates, no clicking through to Gap from their email touting 40% off your entire purchase.
I know I can’t spend any money and I know I don’t NEED anything, so why even tempt myself?
I can miss a sale and life goes on
I get so wound up in the idea of saving, that if I know of a deal and missed it, I’d be so bummed. But when I’m not aware of the deals I was missing, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I have started to simmer down a bit and not feel like I have to drop everything and rush to the store if something is on sale. Once a sale ends, I’ll come back at some point and maybe I can catch that one.
10 years from now, I’m not going to wish I shopped more
Life is too darn short to spend unneeded time away from engaging with family. Specifically my daughter. It was refreshing to put the phone down from my face and play legos and board games with my daughter.
Also buying her things isn’t showing her love. Spending time with her is. That is what she is going to remember when she thinks back on her childhood. Less consumption of stuff and more consumption of her time is my goal going forward.
How much money did I save?
I ended up with $300 in additional savings by doing this challenge. Now, I’m a pretty good saver, to begin with, with a tight zero-based budget already. I am really satisfied with that amount knowing it is comprised mainly of extra trips to the store, buying this just because they are cheap, or snagging a new sweater when I don’t need one.
I would highly recommend anyone start a challenge for themselves today. I’m certainly glad to have the extra money in my savings. But this challenge was more than that to me.
It helped to course-correct a few of my crazy couponing and deal-finding antics. It curbed me from wanting to chase every sale price out there, and simply get some time, sanity, and money back. For that I’m grateful.
Have you tried a no-spend month or week? What was your result? What would you do differently next time?