Tightening up your monthly budget can be a good goal that can also be part of a fun monthly challenge! No-Spend Months are exactly what they sound like: a month where you aren’t spending money in the category of your choice. You’re still making the necessary expenditures for housing, bills, food, medications; but you choose what area you can cut back on, and commit to 30 days without spending money in that category.
It's a great way to identify how you can personally save money. Everyone wants to save, but it can seem daunting when you look at your budget and don’t know exactly what you can do without. Taking it in small, monthly sections makes it easier to accomplish and gives you the opportunity to try not spending in one area to see if it makes a difference, rather than trying sweeping restrictions all-across the board. Over-restriction is likely to be harder to stick with and make you feel deprived, so why not try a no-spend month?
- No-Spend Months Break Habitual Spending
Getting that coffee shop coffee every morning seems harmless—you’ve made it part of your morning routine for years now. Even though you are aware that it’s likely overpriced and you could do without this daily expenditure on the way to work; after 3 weeks, it’s no longer a desire but a habit.
Likewise, spending money each week at the movies may have become part of your unwinding ritual on Saturdays—but if you’ve made it part of your weekly routine, it’s also become a habit. These are pretty harmless ways of treating yourself, but it’s good to question which things you’re devoting your financial resources to that have actually become habits. The time frame needed to break habits is 21 days or more (depending on the individual), so committing to 1 month without these extras can give you a good idea if you really miss it, or if you’ve trained your brain to expect it.
If, at the end of your no-spend month, you find that restricting your chosen area has made a difference to your financial wellness and your personal wellness, you can decide when to add these treats back in. After it’s become less of a habit and more of a special treat, not only will you actually enjoy it more, but you’re still going to benefit financially for cutting down on the frequency.
- No-Spend Months Give You Motivation
Whether it’s the amount of money you estimate you can save by doing a no-spend month challenge, or the knowledge that you broke a habit, you’re going to feel better about the state of yourself and your finances after you’ve applied some discipline.
No-Spend Months can motivate you with the idea of a lovely restaurant meal after eating only at home; or the idea of a nice vacation that you’ve finally been able to put money away for; and seeing your savings account grow can motivate you to invest your money in investment risks that will pay off.
No-Spend Months can also motivate you by giving you extra time to complete that nagging to-do list!
- No-Spend Months Encourage You to Reuse and Recycle
Doing a no-spend month to keep yourself from buying the latest fashions but have an event to go to? Check your closet and make some embellishments or alterations to the outfits you already have.
No-Spend months encourage you to take a look at the goods you already have and learn to reuse everything. From your wardrobe to what’s lurking in your pantry (such as forgotten cans of food that just need a little extra thought to be incorporated into a healthy, tasty, homemade dinner) or buried in the back of your freezer, there is always opportunity to reuse, recycle, or upcycle.
There are probably many items you aren’t using daily that can be brought out into the light of day again and serve you now—and it’s a bonus if you find things you can do without and send to donations.
- No-Spend Challenges Can Help Relieve Buyer’s Remorse
Those candy bars at the checkout line after your appetite’s already been stimulated by grocery shopping before lunch; the end caps with tantalizing grab-n-go flashy items; the magazines you probably only want to read one story out of but have to buy the whole thing because you can’t read it in line—all the way up to the tech gadget (or even car) you really don’t need. What they all have in common is that most of them fall under the category of impulse buys, and spending money impulsively is the fastest way to give yourself buyer’s remorse.
If you’re in a no-spend month and choose not to buy anything beyond what’s on your shopping list for that particular day, you can rest assured that it may not be easy at first, but you’ll soon be able to pass on those items. You can come home knowing that you didn’t fall for sales gimmicks and that you stuck to your budget, making you feel good about yourself and dodging those buyer’s remorse bullets.
- No-Spend Months Can Help You Identify Your Weaknesses
We’ve all been there: we started a no-spend month challenge and about 10 days in, we caved and bought something we were taking a break from spending money on.
What to do? Get back on the horse. It’s likely that you’ll run into a few problems during a no-spend month the first couple times you attempt it. The key is to not beat yourself up too much about it, but instead choose to learn from it. If it keeps happening throughout your challenge, look over all your receipts at the end of the no-spend month and see what the purchases have in common.
No-Spend months give you the opportunity to find the areas that are your weaknesses and will illuminate those areas that you may need to work harder in to truly restrain yourself from overspending. Maybe you didn’t know it was actually becoming somewhat of a problem that you kept buying something as small and innocent as chapsticks until you realized you weren’t able to discipline yourself in the moment from buying it.
No-Spend Months help you uncover habits that have become problematic, from a drink that turns into whole rounds for the entire bar, to bargain DVDs you bring home and then never watch.
- No-Spend Months Reduce Clutter
Challenging yourself to use what you already have at home means your pantry, freezers, closets, and receipt buckets will get leaner and cleaner as you go.
Make sure you take the time to make a box to donate if you find that you have stuff you don’t see a need for.
No-Spend Months are very personalized; you can pick what area to challenge yourself in. Take some time to pick something you can do without, and after the end of the month, you can keep going with that area or switch or add another. After you flex your financial muscles, it will get easier and easier to do!
Just remember not to go cold-turkey on things and substances (for example: coffee, or cigarettes, or alcohol, or your fish oil supplements, etc.) that can cause some side effects by cutting them out entirely. For those types of habits, aim to cut down the frequency until it’s almost completely gone, or do it under the supervision of your medical team so you avoid physiological and psychological side effects that will convince you that you really can’t live without them—when you can.