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How to Do a No-Spend Month


Mother and daughter cooking

If you’re anything like me, you may have experienced some shock looking at your credit card statement after the holidays.

Between gift purchases, decorating, travel to see family and other general end of the year splurging, I realized I needed to slow down on the spending and give my bank account some relief. But where to start?

While you may have heard of acquaintances doing a “Dry January” to get healthier in the new year, the concept of “No Spend January” has become an increasingly popular way to reset your budget and get smarter about where your money is going. Just like it sounds, the idea is to only spend on what you need, and eliminate any unnecessary wants.

While January may be over, this challenge can, of course, be done during any time of the year. Don’t think you can commit to a month? Try it for a week, a weekend, or even a day (trust me, it’s harder than you think!). No matter how long you do the challenge, or what month of the year you do it in, here are some ground rules and tips:

Determine your motivation and goals

Think about why you want to do this challenge. How do you want to change your spending habits in the long term? What will you do with the money you save? For example, are you hoping to put more towards outstanding debts? Save more for retirement? Or perhaps save for a fun goal, like a family vacation? Having a goal for your saving will help get you motivated! If you’re a visual person, you may even want to put reminders of your goals somewhere you can see them easily (perhaps the fridge, or a bulletin board.)

Establish your dos and don’ts

Of course, it is impossible to stop spending money altogether. For most “no spend” challenges, you are allowed to spend on the following:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Utilities
  • Gas
  • Monthly credit card payment
  • Groceries
  • Necessary supplies for children/pets

Here are some examples of things that would not be covered:

  • Dining or drinks out – yes, this includes coffee!
  • Takeout
  • Clothes shopping
  • Salon visits
  • Travel
  • Entertainment (movie tickets, theater tickets, etc.)
  • Unnecessary Amazon purchases (i.e. diapers are fine, but you don’t need to buy that selfie stick this month)

Of course, this is your challenge and you have to make it realistic to your own life. Determine in advance what your “OK to spend” items are so you don’t go off the rails. If you choose to do an entire month of no spend, you may want to print out a calendar to track your progress. For example, on the days you successfully did not spend, you can mark the calendar green. On the days you go off budget, mark it red. At the end of the month, you will get a better idea of your spending habits.

Set Aside the Money You May Have Spent

If you can, set aside the money you would have usually spent on a non-necessity (for example, $5 on your daily coffee). At the end of the challenge, apply that money toward the goal you wanted to achieve.

By taking a break from your everyday spending habits, you may realize that some things you thought were “needs” are actually things you can live without. Happy saving!