Sometimes you just need a reset in your spending habits. When that’s the case, why not consider doing a “no spend month” where you commit to not spending any money over the course of four weeks? Consider it a spending a spending “detox,” that helps you kick into high gear some new money practices. And hey, it can’t hurt to try.
By making the commitment to not spending for a set period of time, you set the ultimate challenge to yourself. Suddenly, during any moment you have the urge to buy something, you remind yourself of your savings goal. Maybe you’re saving for a much-needed vacation, a new eco-friendly car, or for a house down payment. Or maybe you’re saving to pay down some debt.
Whatever the case, doing a “no spend” month might seem like the biggest money challenge of them all. But, it’s doable, so long as you adhere to a set of strategies during the month. Here’s how to do it successfully.
Understand how the general rules work
We should clarify here that doing a “no spend” month doesn’t mean you actually go through the entire period without spending a dime. Unless you’ve completely checked out from the capitalist society we live in and have a self-sustaining home, farm, and livelihood, you’re going to exchange funds at some point.
The gist of any “no spend” timeframe is for you to cut out any unnecessary expenses.Consider anything that’s recurring, like:
- Phone bill
- Car loans
- Credit card
- Student loans
Of course, you’ll need money for food. The thing is, “food” can mean a lot of different things and it’s somewhat of a flexible spending category. Along with others like gas, transportation costs (if you take an Uber or Lyft), clothing, toiletries, and entertainment. You might “need” all of these, but there are ways to cut back or eliminate altogether.
Determine how much you need and where you can cut back. By sticking to a strict budget for each “flexible” category, you’ll figure out how much you can save.
Get a head start on the month’s activities
To get through the month successfully, it’s recommended you do your shopping or purchases at the start of the month. Pay any and all utilities ahead of their due date at the start of the month. In this way, you won’t have any recurring surprises that dip into your budget for the month.
You’ll also want to meal prep or cook at home. To make sure you don’t ruin fresh produce, come up with meal plans that include more canned, frozen, or non-perishable food. For fruits, opt for ones that have a longer lifespan when refrigerated.
Give yourself a break or some wiggle room
It’s important to tailor the challenge to yourself. Otherwise, every measure might seem far too extreme, completely inconvenient or misery-inducing. If getting a gel manicure every two weeks is your 45-minutes of peace and quiet, allot it into your budget.
If a membership to spin class helps you feel refreshed and you simply can’t do without it, count it in too. Just don’t go overboard with the “exceptions.”
Plan for a mini-emergency fund
You’ve probably heard about the importance of having an emergency fund. To make it through a “no spend” month, set aside a much smaller emergency fund. This is separate from your typical savings. The purpose of it is to cover any potential but necessary expenses that come up.
Think, your cell phone screen broke and you needed to get it repaired. Or, you had an unexpected appointment to the doctor and you have a copay. This will save you from eating into your budget for the month. Anything you don’t use should be added to the overall “savings,” at the end of the month.
“Spend” your saved funds the right way
A lot of bloggers have mentioned that in their first attempts at doing a “no spend” month, they ate up the savings the following month. Avoid this by “spending” your hard-earned savings right away on what you intended them for. If you wanted to save to pay down a credit card—make a payment right away.
If you’re saving for something longer-term, move the extra funds at the end of the month to another savings account. Even better, choose one that’s difficult for you to access.
That’s the gist of it! There’s no one universal way to go about a challenge this lengthy, so feel free to make it your own. And good luck.