I try to do a No Spend Month every year. For me, the tradition started seven years ago and I have only skipped one year since. It has improved my finances significantly. I wrote a book about my experiences in 2011, and while the book 30 Day Spending Detox, is a little outdated now, I thought I’d update my thoughts and give you some tips and advice for doing your own spending freeze.
This year I’m doing my no spend challenge in February.
I like to do the challenge early in the year. It gives a good foundation to the rest of the year and sets up more mindful financial goals as the year progresses.
January is too busy (and can get expensive) with school going back (in Australia), therefore I chose February. I don’t have any major birthdays or anniversaries. It’s a clear month. And a short one. 😉 So it makes a good month to stop spending.
Why Do a No Spend Month?
For some, spending is out of control. We buy things without much thought.
If we need a new lipstick – no problem, let’s buy one. Even though we have a make-up bag full of them already. We reason with ourselves. I don’t have that new shade of lipstick. It’s on sale. I need it for that date/job interview/Sunday brunch.
Consumerism has become a way of life. It’s become normal to constantly buy new things.
It’s eroding our savings and putting us into debt.
Debt was the reason I started the challenge back in 2011. Today it’s to build my savings, remain in control of my finances, and be a more responsible consumer.
Seven years ago it was weird to stop spending for a month. These days it’s acceptable and even encouraged. We’ve become more socially conscious and financially aware. And who doesn’t love a challenge?
The most obvious short-term benefit is that you’ll save money, which can help with your savings goal or for paying down debt.
You might also find that you have more free time. The peace from stepping out of the shopping hustle can be enlightening. Or not. You could crave to get back to the mall again once the challenge finishes. You’ll find that out soon.
After the No Spend Month Challenge is over you’ll start to think more mindfully about every new purchase you make. You went without for a month. Do you really need this new thing? Sometimes the answer will be yes, sometimes it will be no.
Which means you’ll have power over your spending habits. Control. That can give you tremendous confidence that you can get out of whatever financial situation you’re in, or save for that big thing.
Whether you save $100 or $1000, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and you will be paving the road for a better future.
That’s why I still do one every year.
Are you with me?
Rules of the No Spend Challenge
This isn’t about starving or stop paying your electricity bill. Those items are necessary.
It’s about all the other stuff.
- You will still need to pay for accommodation, so rent or mortgage payments on your regular living place are obviously in.
- Fixed cost and other utility bills. You’ll need gas and electricity.
- Food from the grocery store. You’ll be making all your meals this month.
- Gas/Petrol for your car. But only for necessary trips. Either stay home or walk/bike as much as possible.
- Internet/Cable/Netflix/Phone. Since this challenge is only for one month, there is no need to cancel your current services. However, you still might want to look at your usage to see if you are on the best plan.
All your other spending:
- Dining out/Takeaway. That includes cafe-bought coffee. You’ll be making your lunch for work/school. Having home-cooked meals every night which either you or someone else in your family will help prepare. And drinking coffee you make yourself (thank goodness for gifted coffee machines – amiright?)
- Alcohol. I know. It’s only for a month. Think how healthy you’ll feel at the end.
- Clothes, shoes, accessories. You have enough.
- Household decorative items, furniture, kitchen gadgets. You have enough. If you need something desperately then improvise until the month is over. It’s okay to boil water in the microwave if your jug dies for a few weeks.
- Body care, makeup. This is my weakness. I love a good scented body lotion.
I, I meanYou have enough.
- Books, movies, apps. Borrow from the library or read/watch the ones you already have. Don’t spend money on in-app purchases.
- Entertainment. You have television, Netflix (probably), internet and more than enough free entertainment to get you by. You might even have other people living in your house. Talk to them.
I’m sure there is plenty more, but you get the idea. Essentials only, everything else is out. No spending on anything you don’t legally have to.
Did I mention that this challenge is going to be fun?
You can do this.
Before you jump into your No Spend Month it’s a good idea to prepare. Planning in advance can help your spending detox to go much smoother.
That doesn’t mean spending up big now, it does mean doing things like making meal plans, searching for free things to do around your city, browsing Pinterest for fun activities to do at home.
There are Facebook groups dedicated to taking it further. Use-it-up challenges, decluttering challenges, minimalist challenges, cooking from home ideas, pan-that-pallette challenges. Even good ol’ low or no spend challenges. Being about to talk to others who are doing the same thing with the same goals is incredibly motivating.
Prepare by telling your family and friends that you’ll be doing the challenge. That way they can be in on it with you. Even if they aren’t doing in themselves, they might encourage you and help you. Before my first challenge, I used to meet up with a friend at a coffee shop. Once the challenge started, we went to each other’s houses instead. We still met up, just at a more frugal location.
How Much Money Can You Save in a Month?
How much money you can save during your no spending challenge varies on several factors including lifestyle, geography, age, and reasons for doing it.
A single person in a one bedroom apartment in the city is going to have very different expenses to a four-person family in the suburbs.
Geography plays a huge factor too. Housing, food, transportation, are vastly different around the world. Even from state to state, or city to city.
The first time I did the challenge, I saved $2,000 (helped by selling unwanted items on eBay). I was hugely motivated at the time and even went so far as turning off appliances in stand-by mode. My reasoning was that every cent helps. And it did. For a long while after I became very frugal. I was determined to pay down my debt. And I did. Within a few months.
I’ve relaxed somewhat over the years as my needs have changed, but I still do a spending challenge once a year if I can. Now I can save a few hundred dollars to a thousand or so by not spending. My motivation isn’t as serious now, and my expenses and location have changed since the first time.
Now it’s about growing my savings. I credit the first No Spend Month Challenge as the catalyst to get my financial life back on track.
How much will you save?
You won’t know unless you do it. Most people that have emailed me have saved between $500 to $1000. Some less, one person significantly more.
So why not try?
I’ll be doing mine in February.
Want to join?
P.S. I’ll be writing more articles on this topic, including ways to make a few extra bucks, tips to save at the grocery store, what to do going forward and more. Stay tuned.
Other No Spend Month Resources
Here are more great articles on the web which have tips for doing a no spend month challenge: