One of my favorite ways to get myself motivated and back in the groove of reaching for my financial goals is by doing a no spend month. It’s a great way to reset spending habits before they get out of control and take a hard look at where you can find some extra cash in your budget. But no spending months can be hard! I’m going to walk you through what a no spend month challenge is, how to prepare for one, and tips on how to stick with it.
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What is a No Spend Month?
A no spend month is basically just a month that you commit to not spending any money outside of budgeted expenses. Most people set up their no spend to cut out any unnecessary spending – so no spending on wants instead of needs.
For example, when I do a no spend challenge, I allow myself to spend money on gasoline, groceries, pet supplies, and household items we need. These are all things that are normally in my budget and I consider to be things I’ll actually need to spend on during the month – my boyfriend and I need to eat, the pets need to eat, and I need to put gas in my car.
What I don’t allow myself to spend on is things like clothes, amazon shopping, books, eating out, etc. These are all wants and these are the things that end up being impulse purchases for me that get me off track with my budget.
Set Your Goals
One of the essential steps for a successful no spend month is to set realistic goals. What is your motivation for doing a no spend challenge? What do you have going on in your life during the month? You want to choose a time period that isn’t going to set you up for failure. For example, if you want to do a no-spend in March but you’re spending a week in Disney world at the end of the month… it’s probably not the right month for a no spend challenge.
Figure out what you would like to accomplish during the no spend period. Are you trying to work on sticking to a budget, throwing some extra at debt, or saving a certain amount of money? Are you just trying to reset some spending habits after your impulse spending gets out of control? Think about why you’re doing the no spend month when coming up with your plan.
I highly recommend grabbing a notebook or opening the notes app on your phone and jotting down your goals and plan for your no spend month. We’ll go over how to create your plan next.
Create an Action Plan
Now that you’ve set your goals, create an action plan to reach them. Don’t get hung up on this step thinking it’s going to take a ton of time – it’ll take about 5 minutes max.
Identify the main areas of spending where you want to cut back and what kind of budget adjustments need to be made in order to meet your goals. You can choose to cut out all non-essential spending, or you could just cut out a certain category you’ve been going overboard in (usually books for me!).
Create a framework that includes guidelines that you can stick to. This way you’ll be able to better track your progress and make adjustments when needed. I like to make short lists of things I think I’ll need during the month that I’m allowed to spend on and a list of things I know I’ll be tempted to buy that I’m not allowed to spend on.
Determine What Counts as a Necessity
As you plan for your no-spend month, it’s important to determine what qualifies as a necessity. Generally speaking, any items or services involving day-to-day survival fall under this category. Necessities can include groceries, personal hygiene, gas for your car, pet supplies, parking, and utilities such as internet or gas. I’m talking variable expenses here – obviously, you can’t cut out your rent/mortgage, insurance, etc. It is also helpful to set a certain amount of money that you can use for emergency purchases if necessary (we’ll talk more about this in a bit).
Plan For Financial Emergencies
As you prepare for your no spend month challenge, it’s important to plan for potential financial emergencies. Although the goal is to cut back on unnecessary luxury spending, there may be unavoidable occasions when you need to spend some money when something unexpected happens.
Make sure that you save a small portion of your income in a separate account or envelope solely dedicated to emergencies. if you aren’t familiar with saving an emergency fund, check out this article about why emergency funds are important and how to save one. Being able to quickly access funds to cover unexpected costs is essential, and will help avoid going into debt and help ensure success with the 30-day no-spend month challenge.
Track Your Spending and Eliminate Non-Essentials
One of the most important parts of a no-spending month is tracking your spending. Make sure you track all of your spending during the month so that you can see where you can make improvements or tweaks as needed. Keeping track of everything that you’re purchasing will help you stay on budget and avoid buying something from your “no buy” list.
Tracking allows you to hold yourself accountable and stay on track with your plan. If you aren’t already tracking your spending as part of your budgeting process, definitely read this article about the budgeting method I use and recommend.
Create categories in your budget binder or set up an excel spreadsheet to log each item you buy and its cost. If you find yourself grabbing lattes on the way to work or buying snacks at the grocery store, this you’ll know you have some areas where you could cut your spending pretty easily.
Cut Out Non-Essential Services
To get the most out of your no spend month, identify and eliminate nonessential services or subscriptions that are eating away at your budget. This can include cable, streaming services, gym memberships, etc. Go through your banking app and look for any charge for something you haven’t been using – or even charges that you have no idea what they are. Investigate these and see if they are things you truly need.
Try to look for alternative solutions for things you use a lot such as using a library card instead of Kindle Unlimited or carpooling with friends instead of taking an Uber. Consider canceling those unused subscriptions or utilities too if it’s not something you will be using in the near future. Every penny of spending you save during your no-spend month results in more potential savings down the line and will get you that much closer to your goals!
Stay Motivated and Celebrate Successes!
Sticking to the challenge and avoiding spending money is easier when you feel supported and motivated. Make sure to keep yourself accountable by writing down your goals or sharing them with a friend who can encourage you throughout the 30 days. It’s also important to celebrate the successes along the way. Small wins add up when it comes to managing your finances.
So, pick your month, plan your “no buy” list, and plan some free activities to keep you busy over those 30 days. Take it day by day – you’ve got this!
Learn More About Saving Money:
- 7 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
- The Basics of Sinking Funds (and Why You Need Them)
- 10 Tips for Avoiding Impulse Spending
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