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When I was living paycheck to paycheck, a no-spend month was what helped me to get through the tough times and start saving money again.
A no-spend month is basically when you go a month without spending money on anything besides the essentials: groceries, rent, phone bills, utilities, gas, etc. You are not allowed to spend money on anything that is considered “frivolous”: things like new clothes, movies, travel, etc.!
In this article, I am going to show you how to start and survive a no-spend month!
1. Commit to the month
First and foremost, you must commit to the no-spend month challenge! If your brain is not in it, then your challenge will most likely fail.
You must first figure out WHY you want to commit to the no-spend month. Is it because you want to save for an emergency fund? Is it because you want to pay off debt?
Have a REASON to not spend money this month! It will make it a lot easier to follow through!
Also, if a month seems too difficult, you can always start with a no-spend week or day!
2. Set goals and track your progress
It’s also important to set goals. Well, the goal is obvious: don’t spend any money on anything other than essential items!
However, YOU are the one who decides what is considered “essential” and what isn’t. So, if for example you love going to the gym, you can consider this as an “essential” expense even though someone else might consider it as something unnecessary!
What I love to do is to go through each day on the calendar and write down every single thing that I have spent money on. For the days where I succeeded (no-spend days), I will check off the box in the calendar. And for the days I failed, I will put a cross in the box.
At the end of the month, I like to see how many no-spend days I was able to fit in! This helps me to visualise exactly how I am tracking and I find it a huge motivator!
Another fun challenge is to see how long of a streak you can get of no-spend days! And then always trying to beat your last record!
3. Find new hobbies
I have to admit, being bored is expensive! Before, whenever I was bored, I would go on the Internet and read blogs and do some online shopping. That’s a huge no-no!
All the Internet browsing caused me to find things to buy and to find new activities that I wanted to try out (which costs money).
Here’s a quick list of things you can do during a no-spend challenge that cost no money:
- Playing a musical instrument
- Playing board games
- Playing basketball
- Playing soccer
- Taking a bath
- Visiting the library
4. Don’t go shopping
Well, obviously, if you don’t go shopping, then you won’t tempt yourself to buy new things!
If you’re an impulsive shopper like me, then you’ll probably have a hard time walking past a store without doing some window shopping and then popping inside the shop to see what this week’s deals are.
I used to literally go shopping on a daily basis because I worked right next to the mall. I loved window shopping and I often ended up buying new outfits whenever I walked past a store with a sale going on.
These days, I don’t go shopping at all. I know that no matter how hard I try to resist, I will end up buying something if I go shopping. So I make it easier for myself and ban the mall altogether!
5. Don’t do any online shopping either!
Ditto for online shopping. Don’t even THINK about heading to your favourite online stores. We know the seasons are changing and there are sales going on, but you DON’T need another new dress or another new pair of pants!
6. Unsubscribe from any distraction
One thing that always got me to shop was the emails that my favourite stores used to send me. Headings like “Labour Day sale!” or “Black Friday sale!” or “Boxing Day sale!” always got the best of me.
There’s ALWAYS some sort of promotion going on. Stores often market that these deals are “too good to last,” and “only available today.” The marketers urge us to “act quick” and “buy now.”
They want us to think that if we don’t buy something now, then we will miss out on the deal forever. The impulsive buyer in us feels rushed and does not have time to reflect on the purchase. Instead, what we do is end up buying something for fear of missing out.
That’s why it is so important to just unsubscribe from these emails altogether! There will ALWAYS be another sale. These stores will ALWAYS be there! So don’t fall for these marketing tactics next time!
Another thing that I’ve unsubscribed from is from fashion bloggers who always seem to be wearing the latest, trendy outfits. Fashion bloggers look so cute and they always make me want to buy new clothes. However, by no longer following them, I stopped staying informed about the latest trends. I’m happy just wearing the same old outfits and not comparing myself to anyone else!
7. Learn how to say no to friends/family
It’s tough when friends and family invite you out. It’s so easy to lose track of spending when you’re with family and friends. Maybe your friend is getting married and having a Bachelorette party. Or maybe your cousin is pregnant and invited you to the baby shower.
Sometimes, it’s really hard to say no to the people that you care about the most. But, what I found is that if you explain your situation, your friends and family will understand.
If your friends or family want to go out to eat/for drinks, invite them over instead! And have a potluck so that each person contributes to the meal!
As for gifts, try to make home-made gifts. A lot of people love sentimental gifts. Otherwise, consider cheap alternatives for gifts for frugal people!
8. Go through your closet/garage and sell anything you don’t need!
I love going through my closet and garage and getting rid of anything that I don’t need. I usually list my old stuff online (Craigslist) and wait for the money to start rolling in!
After decluttering and getting rid of my stuff, it helped me to realize just how liberating it is to not accumulate things! And the feeling of emptying my closet actually motivates me to not buy any further things!
9. Pack lunch and coffee
Eating out is a huge expense. During a no-spend challenge, I never eat out. I’ve actually gone months without eating out just because I hate wasting money on restaurants.
The easiest way to avoid eating out is to meal plan. Not only will you save time and money, but you will also ensure that you have something yummy to eat!
Also, skip that morning coffee and opt for a home-brewed one instead 😉 Remember, every $2 adds up!
Related: 62 Ways To Save More Money
10. Give yourself a break
Lastly, I wanted to stress that it’s okay if you do not make it through your no-spend month. Emergencies happen to all of us. And we understand that there are some days where you just can’t be bothered with this.
Going through a no-spend month is an emotional journey. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve your goals! Instead, use these moments as a reminder that you can do better next time!
In this article, I explained what a no-spend month is. I gave some useful tips on how to start and survive a no-spend month. It’s all about eliminating temptation, finding new ways to pass the time, and having a positive mindset.
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