Do you often feel like your money is running out before the month does? Do you struggle with budgeting and saving? If your answer is yes, have you considered a no-spend month?
No matter how much money you make, it’s hard to keep up with the Joneses in today’s world. We’re constantly being told by peers or social media that we need this or that new thing in our lives. But for those of us who are trying to get ahead financially, sometimes a little restraint is needed. Therefore, a no-spend month can be a great way to save money and begin your journey to better money habits.
If you are ready to take a step towards a new money mindset and start saving money, read on to learn easy no-spend month rules to get you started.
What is a no-spend month?
As the name suggests, a no-spend month is a month-long commitment to not spend money on unnecessary things. A no-spend month can be a great way to kick off a savings goal or help pay off of lingering debt. Saving and paying off debt are both essential steps if you want to become financially free.
Even more importantly, a month-long financial detox can help you to understand a lot about yourself and your spending habits and weaknesses. Ultimately, it can trigger a mindset change that will aid you to make smarter money moves long term. For example, a month without spending can help you to:
- Break the cycle of living from paycheck to paycheck.
- Break shopping addictions or eliminate impulse spending.
- Build healthier money habits.
- Become more resourceful and use what you have.
Saying no to toxic coping mechanisms that involve spending money forces you to find cheaper and more sustainable solutions.
Although spending money isn’t inherently bad and can even increase your happiness levels if spent in certain ways, it’s also important to know how to pause and say “no”.
In order to get you started, I’ve put together a list of seven easy rules for a no-spend month. These tips will help keep your spending in check, while also helping you save cash!
What are the rules for a no-spend month?
Before starting a no-spend month, it’s important to set up rules that you’ll be committed to for the month. The rules can vary depending on your needs and savings goals. However, the rule of thumb is that you can only spend money on essential needs and give up any wants. To simplify this, here’s a list of things you can and cannot spend on:
Allowed spending during a no-spend month includes:
- Fuel for your vehicle or necessary public transportation
- Pet food/litter
Items to cut during a no-spend month:
- Leisure activities/entertainment
- Takeaway food/coffee
- Beauty services/products
- Anything else that’s not essential (i.e. a want)
7 tips to start a no-spend month
In addition to the basic rules on how you can and cannot spend your money during the month of your financial fast, let’s go through some further rules and tips that will help you to create a manageable action plan. Here are six great tips to start your no-spend month:
1. Figure out your motivations and goals for the month
Saving money for the sake of saving doesn’t work for most of us. So get clear on why you want to do a no-spend month before you start. Ideally, write it down somewhere, and get specific.
How much money would you like to save? What bad spending habits are you trying to break? Or even better; think about what your goals mean for your future. For example, do you want to save money to buy your first house? Or save for a wedding? Or do you want to break a bad spending habit to become debt-free? Or perhaps you want to use this spending detox to help you reach financial freedom faster.
Either way, everyone has different reasons for trying a no-spend month so make sure you set your goals before starting. If you would like more guidance on setting our goals, read my article explaining why setting financial goals is important.
2. Establish your own no-spend month rules
In addition to the basic rule of only spending money on essential items, have a think if there are any other no-spend month rules you will want to stick to.
Are there exceptions, such as purchasing fresh groceries like dairy and bread? Are you ready to cut out treats and snacks such as sweets, biscuits or alcohol? Will you be using cash only during the month? Can you walk or cycle instead of driving or using public transport?
Make a list of what’s an acceptable way of spending money and what’s not, and make sure you follow the list.
3. Tell your friends/family about your plan
The key to a successful no-spend month is not only cutting back on your monthly outgoings but also being mindful of the temptations that you may come across. For example, have friends over for dinner or drinks instead of going out. This will make it easier to resist the urge to spend money at restaurants and bars. Or you can get your friends involved too by hosting a potluck party where everyone brings something. Who knows, this might even motivate your friends to try a no-spend month too!
Also, make sure that everyone in the household is on the same page. It’s important that your partner and family understand and agree to the goals so that they can play along.
Further to having your friends/family supporting you, sharing your goal with others can actually help keep you accountable and more motivated towards your goal.
Related: How to navigate finances as a couple
4. Identify your spending triggers
A no-spend month gives you a good opportunity to understand your spending habits and where your money usually goes on a daily basis. There is a psychology behind every habit. If you want to break your bad spending habits and create better ones, then understanding this psychology can be very helpful.
For example, if you are addicted to online shopping or tend to give up to impulse purchases and offers, here are a few tips that can help you:
- Clean out your inbox by opting out of any offer emails from the most tempting retailers.
- Disable credit card auto-fills on all online shopping sites for a month.
- Delete shopping apps and make a list of websites to avoid.
- Avoid going to shops when you’re upset or hungry to avoid feeling-based purchases.
- Make a shopping list when doing grocery shopping to avoid impulse purchases.
5. Use what you already have
Another good thing about a no-spend month is using up what you already own. If you want to get the most out of your challenge, don’t stock up before you start. That would just defeat the purpose.
Instead, do a pantry/cupboard/freezer inventory to see if you have things that have been there for months. While you’re clearing the excess, try using any gift cards or loyalty points you might have. Using supermarket cashback apps can also help you to boost your savings while cutting spending.
6. Use the time to get stuff done
If you’re used to browsing sites for the latest deals or scrolling through social media to see other people’s luxury fashion items or newest gadgets, this is the perfect time to distract yourself with any productive activities. Clean out your wardrobe and closets, declutter and organise. Donate, throw away, or sell any stuff you don’t need. No-spend money is also a great time to start a side hustle that can help to boost your finances and save more money.
7. Track your spending and progress
Make sure you keep track of your progress throughout the no-spend month. When you defeat temptation, write it down. Write down the items you decided not to buy and how much you saved by not buying them. Or when you find a way not to buy something you usually do, track that too. These small successes will help you stay motivated.
Once the month is over, calculate how much you’ve saved and ensure you move the amount to your savings account. This way you won’t get tempted to spend it!
Finally, compare the saved amount against your original no-spend month goal. Did you hit it? If you did, congratulations! And if not, take some time to identify why not and what you could do better moving forward.
Healthy spending habits beyond a no-spend month
A no-spend month can be a great challenge to save some extra money. But it can be very easy to see it just as that, a short-term experiment. You might want to go back to your normal spending patterns after the month is over without considering what happens next. In fact, you might even spend more than before the no-spend month to make up for the things you missed.
A no-spend month is an interesting way to see where your day-to-day spending goes. It can also help you identify your unnecessary or even toxic spending habits. But what you really need is a more permanent solution to keep your finances in check.
If you’re considering a no-spend month, try to look at it as an opportunity to implement a total reset on your money mindset, spending patterns and limiting money beliefs. Don’t end the month and go straight back to your old spending habits.
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t really need all the stuff you think you do. So, instead of ‘no spending’, try something new: ‘mindful spending’. Stop before pulling your wallet out and really consider whether or not it’s worth it. This will help you in the long run and aid you to make smart choices on how you spend your money on the things that matter most to you.