For most people, the month after the holidays can be a tight one financially. Maybe you want everyone to feel included and subsequently you shop for some last minute gifts for your cousin’s mother-in-law’s turtle so that it gets a present too. Even if it’s only carrots… Little Yoshi needs to know he’s loved.
All that to say, after spending some time and money doting on others with wild abandon, it can be wise to consider your financial purchases more thoughtfully. Traditionally, my family will do a no-spend month for January to start the year off right. This year, we moved in the middle of January and it just didn’t seem like the best time. However, we’re discussing doing a no-spend February or March. For individuals who observe Lent, it can even go longer than a month.
With this in mind, I decided to share some thoughts for considering no-spend practices!
1) Start Small
If you’ve never done a no-spend month or even heard of it before, don’t feel like you have to dive right in. It’s okay to give yourself some time to get used to it. Consider doing a no-spend day or a no-spend work week. It’s easier to spend less during the work week, anyway. Instead of stopping to pick up fast food or grabbing a few things at the store, head straight home and practice using the groceries you already have. Alternately, you can do no-spend in certain areas, like clothing, or dining out, or books and entertainment. Picking one area at a time can be a good habit too, as long as you aren’t over-spending in other areas to “compensate.”
2) It is not quite literally no-spend.
I know, it sounds deceiving but, if you’ve never done this before, please don’t think I’m telling you to skip paying your bills! This does not cover your mortgage, rent, utilities, cable or cell phone bill, etc. We’re not talking about spending $0 here, just focusing on wants vs needs. For individuals who enjoy gift giving or donating to charity, this doesn’t have to impact that either. Same applies to healthcare, it’s a need. Don’t skip out on your $3 prescription this month just because. Overall, remember to keep paying all of your standard bills, but take time to consider your other purchases.
3) Consider groceries and dining out.
If you are like me, and love having a fully stocked freezer and pantry with at least 10 meals worth of items ready at all times… you may be able to actually do no-spend when it comes to groceries! That’s awesome! However, not everyone operates this way. That being said, if you were to apply some no-spend rules to your food consumption, I have some thoughts for you. Buy only what you need to make meals for your family. No sodas, no alcohol, no impulse buys. Make a list. Go to the grocery store. Buy what’s on the list. Nothing else. No matter how good the sale is. (Preaching to myself on that last one). If you have a garden, you can reduce your spending even further. When it comes to dining out, it can be tricky. My personal thought is, only if necessary. Let’s say you pack your lunch, leave it on the kitchen counter, get to work and realize you don’t have lunch for the day. Well, don’t go without food! But don’t go all out either. Maybe get just the sandwich and not drinks and chips too? Again, no spend isn’t about starving yourself (literally or figuratively), it’s about being conscious of your purchases.
4) Clothing and other household goodies.
This may actually be the easiest for me out of all the categories when it comes to no spend. Mainly because I start with cleaning up my email inbox. No more emails about all the great sales on wall art or rugs or jeans or dresses or sweaters or books or kitchen appliances or throw pillows or shoes or boots…. You get the point, right? Remove the temptation and you’re already halfway there! If you do most of your shopping in the store rather than online, you just have to change your plans. If you’d normally go to the flea market on the 3rd Saturday of every month, you may have to find something different to do this month. Consider playing board games, listening to podcasts, visiting your local library or learning new skills like knitting, baking bread, or maybe even juggling? Alternately, do something that could make you money! Gather books, DVDs, games, clothing you don’t need any more and sell them to your local second-hand shop, or if you donate them to charity, just get a receipt for tax season.
5) Why would I do this? Sounds weird.
Yeah, it does. But if you want your finances to sparkle and shine, you have to put some work into them. I don’t expect my kitchen to stay clean if I don’t make the effort to tidy it and I don’t expect to lose weight if I don’t hop on the treadmill. Same goes for finances, friends. You have to make the effort. No-spend is a great way to jump start paying down debt, or save up for that emergency fund. It’s not necessary for everyone, but can be fun for those of us who like a challenge. If you love a good challenge and want to be more aware of how you spend your money, consider trying out no-spend. It never hurts to try, after all.
If you have any thoughts or tips on a no-spend moth, let us know in the comments! Happy Savings!