A no-spend month saves money in more ways than you probably realize. A no-spend month also has a positive overall impact on your future finances.
If you think that a no-spend month will just make you spend more later, then you need to read this.
I got an overwhelming reaction when I shared our No-Spend February budget on Instagram last weekend. I spent a good portion of Saturday responding to all of the questions.
Of course there were all the regular questions I get when people see the actual numbers of our budget.
Probably a hundred people asked, “How in the world do you have a cell phone plan that’s less than $20/month?”
Answer: It’s not two tin cans and a string. It’s Republic Wireless.
Another hot topic was tithing. “Why do you give so much money instead of using it for yourself?”
Answer: We have always paid a full 10% tithe, even when we were in six figures of student loan debt. I totally understand why you might think that’s crazy, but we’re comfortable with our reasons.
The most common questions, though, were about our food budget, especially during our no-spend month.
I see pantry challenges, no-spend months, and other frugal excitement all the time in my social media feeds, so for me these are nothing new.
I guess I kind of took it for granted that everyone knew that a no-spend month is a great way to save money fast and reset your money mentality.
For many commenters, though, this seemed like a radical idea. Some were pretty certain that my “poor children” would starve during our no-spend month while we gave away all of our money away.
Let me first assure you that a no one will be starving at my house during the month of February. Then, tell you emphatically that a no-spend month is totally worth it.
Keep reading to find out why, or watch/listen to the video below for the same content.
One of the big misconceptions about a no-spend month is that you’ll just spend more before and/or after your no-spend month. People figure that either you have to prepare in advance for a month of not spending or you have to make up for depleting your supply afterward.
I had this discussion with my brother after our first no-spend month 6 years ago. He saw a no-spend month essentially as deferred spending. He figured that we would use up everything we had and just have to restock when the month was over.
On the surface this is partly true. Our annual toilet paper consumption is not going to change even if we have a no-spend month. We try to stay stocked up on things like that so if there is a polar vortex, a natural disaster, or we just don’t make it to the store, we will never be without this essential. (Yes I know there are alternatives. No, I’m not interested)
In so many other ways, a no-spend month is much more than just deferred or delayed spending. A no-spend month can have a great positive impact on your finances.
1-Avoid Impulse Purchases
Unless you are an ultra conscientious and intentional shopper, you probably end up buying more than you intended to when you go to the store. Whether it’s a great deal that we just can’t pass up, or something on the endcap that we remember that we “need,” or a little snack “just because,” we all do it. This is true for physical stores and online shopping.
The less often we go to the store, the less we buy. It’s as simple as that! Each shopping trip avoided has the potential to save us money!
With a no-spend month, we don’t go into the store, so we never buy those extras we somehow end up with in a regular month.
2-Skip the Food on the Go
Depending on your current habits, not buying food or drink while you’re out and about will be really easy or very challenging. We are accustomed to bringing our own snacks and meals when we’re on the go, so for us this is an easy one.
At the same time, because it’s easy for us there’s not really an opportunity for us to save here.
If you regularly go out for lunch or grab soda or coffee on a daily basis, then you have even more potential savings from a no-spend month. This savings isn’t “deferred spending.” You’re not going to buy twice as much Starbucks next month because you made your own coffee during your no-spend month. The daily temptation to buy food on the go can be replaced by enjoying food prepared at home.
3-Find Creative Solutions
We have become so accustomed to running to the store to meet all of our needs. A no-spend month derails that train of thought. Instead of buying a solution to our problems, we can create solutions.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents practiced the adage “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without!” We can learn a thing or two from them.
Thinking creatively all month about alternatives to buying gets us into a new groove. At the end of the no-spend month, we continue to think of frugal substitutions and money-saving alternatives before we head to the store.
4-Sleep on it x 30
I remember my dad telling me that he always liked “to sleep on it” before making a big purchase. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a deal or getting something new. If you give yourself a day to really think it over, your decisions will be more rational than if you have the idea and make the purchase all in the heat of the moment. This is why “flash sales” and “lightning deals” are so dangerous for spenders. You don’t have time to think your purchase through and make a thoughtful, rational decision.
When you think of something you want to buy during a no-spend month, you can exercise the “sleep on it” principle, not just for one night, but for a whole month. Write down what it is you want or need, then see how you feel about it after a month. You may find a work around or a substitution that fills the need for you and decide to use the money for a higher priority. Or after a month of waiting, you may decide that you do really want to make the purchase. That’s fine too.
5-Don’t Change Your Normal Budget
We have decided that in the months before and after a no-spend month we will be extra careful to keep our spending in check, especially our food spending.
During a no-spend month much of the food we’re eating is the random ingredients that get forgotten or ignored in our regular day-to-day meals. By sticking to our normal budget before and after a no-spend month, what we save can go directly toward our savings goal rather than going into a larger budget the next month.
6-Get into your Frugal Groove
It’s easy to get lazy about being frugal, especially when you don’t have big goals to work toward. Our frugal game was on point as we finished up paying off my husband’s $144,000 of student loan debt. We spent three years working hard to achieve a lofty goal.
Relaxing our frugal standards afterward was good for our sanity, but we’re ready to ramp up our game again. Having a no-spend month gets us back into erring on the side of frugal. Our purchases will even out a bit when the month is over, but it will be good to be back to some of our old frugal habits as a starting point.
As one example, this no-spend month we’re back to using cloth diapers after a hiatus of a few months. We’re also back to baking our own bread and eating some meals we haven’t had in a while.
A no-spend month is totally worth it
There’s so much more to a no-spend month than simply pushing off spending until next month. There are lots of ways that the money you save makes a permanent contribution to your financial goals.
There are also many ways that a no-spend month helps you reset your habits and your approach, helping you be more frugal and save money in future months!
The secret to a successful no-spend month
Okay, do you want to know the secret to making a no-spend month work?
The key to having a successful no-spend month is having a good attitude. I know that soundsa little boring, but hear me out.
A no-spend month is, by definition, depriving yourself of something. Depriving yourself can leave you with a feeling of drudgery or discomfort. It’s hard to endure anything for a month with that kind of attitude!
A wise nanny (who I regularly quote) once said, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and… snap! The job’s a game.”
For me the key to having a good attitude about a no-spend month is to make it a game. Make it fun! Engage your family in the challenge. Work together to see how much money you can save.
As the instigator of the no-spend month in your family, your children and spouse will pick up their attitudes from you. If you set it up as a fun challenge, everyone else will likely follow suit!
You can do this! You’ll be so glad you did!
What do you think?
- Have you done a no-spend month before? How did it go?
- What other ways could a no-spend month save you money?