January is typically the time when you think about your goals for the upcoming year. You make resolutions, or promises, to make changes toward a better you. It’s a great opportunity for a fresh start; the opportunity to do something different, something better, for the coming year.
Gift giving, travel, activities and celebrations can make December an expensive month. A great way to get back on track after the holidays and start off the New Year right is to have a No Spend Month.
Really, anytime is a great time for a no spend month – I encourage you to try it no matter what time of year it is!
If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know I love no-spend weekends. Having a no spend weekend is a great way to save money, but an entire month is a whole different ballgame. I mean, you can typically get by without going to the store and you can certainly find free entertainment for just two days. But…a month?
A month is an entirely different animal. But it’s doable. And it will likely save you a ton of money! Not only will you save a heap of money but, by going cold turkey, you can see where your money leaks are and just how little you can actually survive on.
My challenge to you, friends, is to join me for my no spend month.
Now, you can’t just jump into a no spend month and expect things to run smoothly. A month with no spending requires a little planning and prep work. And, no doubt, your creativity will have to kick in to solve some problems during the month. But the idea is to stretch yourself and your money. Think of it as a game you intend to win.
I will publish weekly posts throughout the month, with suggestions on what to do and how to get through the month with your sanity intact. The posts will update you on how I’m doing*, what I’m doing, and the challenges I’m facing during my own no spend month.
I need to prepare for this and so do you. So, I’ve put together some guidelines to help with preparations.
How to get ready for a No Spend Month
Set your own “rules”. For instance, I am allowing the purchase of milk and enough fresh produce to get us by. I won’t buy any other groceries. This is a great opportunity to use up what you have in your pantry (I know mine is overstocked).
You may also have to make a rule that you can purchase medication, school lunches, and other necessary expenses unique to your situation. Be very specific about your allowances, just don’t get too crazy with the number of exceptions. Make sure they’re necessities or non-negotiables. And write them down to keep yourself accountable (I’m including mine below).
Maybe you have activities and obligations already scheduled for the month. Don’t let this stop you from participating! Place a spending limit on those activities and write them in as an exception.
During her no spend month, Tiffany, over at Don’t Waste the Crumbs made the rule that if she sold something on Craigslist, she could use the money during the month. What a great incentive to clean out and side hustle a bit!
- Milk (almond and cow)
- Fresh produce (enough for each meal)
- School lunches for son
- Prescription medication
- Family birthdays (Dad and Mom-in-law – less than $20 total)
- Breakfast for Taekwondo test (less than $20)
- Fuel (to get to work/school and classes only)
Talk to your family. Kids and significant others may think you are trying to torture them. Talk to them ahead of time and get them involved in making the “rules”. Get them excited about meeting the challenge and getting creative. Make a chart to see how much you’ve “saved”! It’s all about attitude here…have fun with it and stay positive.
Prepare for needs (cautiously). You need to ensure you have an adequate supply of certain things, such personal care or health needs (tp, soap, medication, water). Don’t go overboard here, or it could lead to excess spending. Just check your supplies to ensure you have enough to get through the month, don’t stock up for the entire year.
Groceries. As with the previous point, don’t buy enough food to get you buy for several months. Prepare minimally for one month. Clean out the pantry and freezer to take stock of what you have on hand. Think ahead on meals. What’s for lunch each day? Do you have enough coffee (coffee is a must in my house)? What are your bare necessities for healthy eating?
I expect to do more baking and food prep than I do in a typical month. But, I figure I’ll have the time since I’ll be home more! 🙂
Entertainment. Plan a few no spend activities ahead of time (check out this post for some great ideas). This would be a great time to use any gift cards you have sitting around, break out those board games that rarely get played, or DIY a home project with things you have around the house.
Pet needs. Check your pet supplies to make sure you have enough food, litter or medications to get your fur baby through the month.
Plan what to do with the money you saved. Whether you throw that extra money at debt, retirement, an emergency fund, or a planned purchase, make it an intentional choice. Don’t let all the money you save during the month just disappear into thin air. Track it and use it wisely.
Post reminders of your why. Why are you doing a no spend month? The answer could be an overarching financial goal, a vacation, or a dream you want to fund. Whatever it is, post it on the fridge, on the bathroom mirrors, in your car and in your wallet as a daily reminder of why you’re doing this.
Mentally prepare. Get your mind right. Don’t think of a no spend month as a month of deprivation, but as a month of growth and challenge. Be positive. It is going to stretch you and challenge you and it won’t always be easy, but it’s only a month! And just think of the possibilities!
*To quantify my “savings” for my no-spend month, I’ve added up my average monthly spending on all non-fixed bills for 2016. My average spending is $1650 (not including bills, such as the mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. and travel-related expenses).