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The concept of a no-spend month is nothing new. If you're not familiar, it involves restricting your spending to necessities for a month (i.e. rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries).
There are numerous benefits of a no-spend month, other than the obvious (saving money!); it fosters an appreciation of what you already have and helps flex that impulse control muscle. It also means that for an entire month, no new clutter makes it into your home!
Following the holidays, many of us have had our fill of material things and are stretched thin, financially. So, January's a particularly good time for a consumer detox!
If you've been following along for a while, you'll know that this blog's primarily about decor and decluttering, and I probably have no business instructing others on how to save money. But, maybe, just maybe, some of you in the same non-financially-savvy (designer) shoes may appreciate an amateur perspective!
In the past, we've tried and failed at a no-spend month. This year, we're attempting a modified no-spend January---a no-spend month for dummies (or sissies), if you will. We're avoiding purchases of non-essential things (i.e. clothing, makeup, toys and eating out at work), but we're keeping our weekly date night out.
I think part of the reason we failed the first time was that we restricted too much too fast; like a financial crash diet, it was just no fun! I told you, I'm no Suze Orman...
Based on our past attempt, we've learned a few things that will hopefully make our second go at a no-spend month more successful. I'll share them with you below!
Tips for a No-Spend Month
Don't select a month when you know you'll have unusual expenses (i.e. when you're going on vacation or one of your kids is having a birthday). Alternatively, to get around this, be flexible with your timing; a no-spend month doesn't have to start on the first and end the last day of the month---you can choose any consecutive 30 days.
2. Set Yourself Up for Success
Plan ahead and make sure you're well-positioned to avoid non-essential expenses. To avoid spending money at work, plan on cooking enough at dinner to have leftovers for the next day's lunch; avoid the mall or websites that tend to trigger spending.
3. Inform Your Friends and Family
Let those close to you know what you're up to. Plan get togethers at each others' homes instead of at restaurants, coffee shops or bars. This should thwart tempting invitations for drinks or a night out.
4. Manage Temptation
If you find yourself really wanting to purchase something non-essential during your no-spend month, make note of it and agree to revisit the idea at the end of the month.
If you still want it by then, treat yourself!
This may seem like simply postponing spending, but you'd be surprised at the number of things that seem like a good idea at the time then don't once the moment passes. Not hitting the 'checkout' button right away gives your subconscious time to come up with reasons why you don't need those leopard print tights.
5. Bend the Rules...A Little
Allow purchases using gift cards or store credit for returned items (you'll probably have accumulated some of these over the holidays!). This allows for a little ingenuity, which always makes things more fun.
6. Keep Busy
Figure out some free activities to keep busy during your no-spend month. We didn't realize how much we spend on just entertaining ourselves until we tried a no-spend month (going out to movies and escape rooms are our weaknesses).
Some no-spend activity ideas: make use of things you already have at home (puzzles, board games), declutter your home, organize your kitchen drawers, sell decluttered stuff online (keep an eye out for my tips on maximizing your profit doing this!), start an exercise routine, plan your next vacation...
7. Customize It
If the idea of a no-spend month seems too daunting, consider a no-spend week (or day!). Or, restrict the 'no-spend' to specific categories (like clothing or eating out).
Alternatively, if a month is too easy, consider trying a couple of months or even a year!
8. Track Your Progress
Using an expense-tracking app, like Mint.com, will allow you to compare spending during your no-spend month with an average month's spending. It's encouraging to check in weekly to see how much money you've saved compared to the same time the previous month!
There you have it, my best tips on how to approach a no-spend month! Have you tried it? Are you planning to? Let me know in the comments below!
Look out for my future posts on cheap date night ideas, how to maximize your profit selling used stuff online, how to create a capsule wardrobe, and essentials for a good night's sleep!
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