If saving money, following a budget and spending less are part of your New Year’s resolution, or your response to get back on track financially after the holidays, then you ought to try a no-spend month!
A no-spend month, week, weekend, etc. is a set # of days where you only spend money on the essentials like bills and groceries. Everything else (stopping for coffee, getting lunch at work, buying new gloves, etc.) is banned.
You’ll want to prepare in advance for you no-spend month. This doesn’t mean going on a shopping spree in advance so that you’ll have everything you might want, but instead planning out alternative no-cost options and other strategies to get you through the month.
5 Tips to Prepare for Your No-Spend Challenge
First, Determine Your End Goal
What’s the reason behind your no-spend month? Are you saving for a trip, paying off a credit card, supplementing your savings? Determine what exactly your goal is and write it down. Put this on a post-it note in your house or even taped to your credit/debit card. As soon as the month is up, take that money and apply it towards whatever your goal is.
Make a Budget for Essentials
In my experience, I still need to purchase essentials during a no-spend month. That means paying bills, gas in my car, groceries and personal care items (if needed). However, this does not include buying sushi at Kroger or picking up a new mascara. Therefore, I make a budget based off of what I regularly spend on groceries. I’ll reduce the budget slightly, so I can work on stretching my money when it comes to food. I also like to use this time to clean out my pantry and freezer. I’m often guilty of buying another pack of frozen salmon when I’ve already got two in my freezer. If you want to be very strict, pull out the exact amount of cash that you’re budgeting for and put your plastic away for the entire month. Then you’re guaranteed to follow your budget.
No-Spend Prep Tip: Check out a Local Events Calendar
There are ALWAYS free things to do in Cincinnati (and now in NYC since I’ve moved here). Every weekend and most nights there are plenty of free activities that are family and adult oriented. Make a game plan of free entertainment options for your no-spend month. Mark down which museums are free on what nights, when there’s a free movie playing in the park or a free workout class. With your schedule already planned out you won’t be so tempted to spend money as soon as you’re bored.
Make a List of To-Dos
If you’re anything like me, I always have a few things to get to around the house. But when the weekend or free time comes, I want to focus on fun things and avoid that list. While you’re avoiding spending money, you’ll definitely end up with lots of free time, even outside of the activities mentioned above. So, take care of those things around the house like deep cleaning the fridge or finally hanging those framed pictures. You might even make some money if you decide to clean out your closets and bring your gently used clothes to one of those stores like Plato’s closet or sell some things on Ebay and Poshmark.
Update Your Friends and Family
This is possibly one of the most important no-spend tips to prepare for your challenge!
It’s so much easier to complete a goal if you have a team cheering you on. You might be able to convince some friends or family to join you for the challenge. If not, you’ll still be able to prepare them for the fact that you’ll be turning down dinner and drinks out for the month. Instead make plans to have a game night in, visit the park or finish a bottle of wine that you’ve been holding onto.
Have you ever tried a no-spend month or week? You can choose any timeline for your no-spend challenge.
You might also like this article on Things to Do During a No-Spend Challenge.
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I’m definitely due for a no-spend-month. I seriously downsized in 2021 to get ready for an interstate move and a six month’s lease in a teensey little apartment. Now that I’m back in more spacious quarters, I rarely go a day without discovering something I absolutely must buy in order to sustain life. I started tracking expenses by category at the beginning of the year and, yowsa, how much stuff can one little old lady and two cats need?
Thanks for the tips.