If you’ve been hanging around the personal finance community for any length of time, you’ve likely heard about the no-spend month.
It sounds pretty straightforward, but there is often confusion about what a no-spend month actually entails. If this sounds foreign to you, keep reading!
What Is A No-Spend Month?
Hearing the phrase no-spend month understandably implies that you spend zero dollars during a particular month. That would be great, right??
While this sounds ideal, for most people, it is simply not an option. Unless you are a minor, or an adult who is totally dependent on someone else for all of your needs, you likely have recurring expenses every month that are non-negotiable.
The actual intention of a no-spend month is to limit your spending for the month only on the items you need to survive.
Also, you are not limited to only one month. Some people choose to start with a no-spend week, or go even longer with a no-spend quarter or no-spend year! I prefer to do one month at a time because I live by a monthly budget. Choose what makes sense for your lifestyle.
I have attempted no-spend challenges several times during my financial independence journey, sometimes out of necessity other times to challenge myself. Here are a few tips for a successful no-spend month:
Stick to the bare necessities. These include:
- utility bills
- car fuel
- necessary household items
- health-related costs (e.g. healthcare provider visits, medications)
- other required monthly spending
Because you are only spending your earned money on the basics, there are things that should generally be avoided every month.
You know what I’m talking about. Those mid-day lattes, or after work Target shopping trips? Yes, those. They are a no-no during a no-spend month.
Avoid non-essential spending, including:
- Dining out
- Coffee shop runs (I see you, Starbucks!!)
- Entertainment (unless free!)
- Parties, celebrations, & gifts (if planned, consider postponing your no-spend month)
- Non-essential purchases (clothes, shoes, accessories, home decor)
Don’t Forget About The Budget!
Before starting a no-spend month, you’ll want to be sure to create a budget.
You need to know how much money is coming in, and how much is going out before challenging yourself to spend only on your basic necessities.
If you don’t already have a budget, I strongly suggest you create one and follow it for several months before embarking on a no-spend. That way, you’ll feel more confident during your no-spend because you are in control of your money. I also suggest choosing a simple way to track your income and expenses, using either paper and pen, a spreadsheet, or an app.
If you are up for a no-spend challenge, whether you choose a week, a month, or longer, Tana over at Debt Free Forties has an awesome post about how to get started: 10 Simple Rules For A No Spend Challenge.
Okay, now that we’ve briefly covered what a no-spend month entails, let me encourage and motivate you with 5 ways that a no-spend month can totally upgrade your life!
5 Benefits Of A No-Spend Month
Increase Discipline With Money
One of the biggest benefits of a no-spend month is that it improves your discipline with money.
Let’s face it. Being disciplined with budgeting and spending isn’t always easy.
Maybe you have well-meaning family and friends encouraging you to live a little and treat yo’self.
Or, maybe your Pinterest and Instagram feeds have you constantly feeling pressure to spend money you don’t have on things you don’t really need.
Planning a no-spend month will help develop and strengthen your financial discipline by practicing delayed gratification.
When you’ve planned and mapped out your no-spend month, you are more likely to be dedicated to sticking to it.
The less money you have to spend, the more resourceful you’ll need to be with what you have.
When you’re dedicated to only spending money on the things you need, it forces you to be more creative in the areas where you might usually just shell out money without thinking about it.
Here are a few areas to get creative during your no-spend month:
- Food– Challenge yourself to incorporate delicious recipes into your meal plan, using ingredients you have on hand and sticking to a basic grocery list. Good recipes don’t need to have 87 ingredients! Tawra over at Living on a Dime has a ton of budget-friendly comfort food recipes that are simple to make.
- Fun and Entertainment – If you’re already living on a budget, chances are you already know how to enjoy an active social life on a budget. During your no-spend month, try challenging yourself to come up with free activities. Plan a movie night at home; have a picnic; or, check out your city website’s events section for ideas.
- Brainstorm More Ways To Save – Your no-spend month is the perfect time to come up with more ways to save. Here are a few ideas:
- If you still have cable, consider alternatives to help you cut the cord.
- If your cell phone bill is high, research budget cellular service providers. I pay less than $25 per month with Republic Wireless!
Put Extra Income To Good Use
During the course of your no-spend month, you’ll likely find that you have more (maybe even a lot more!) money than you thought you did. It is amazing how much money we spend without even thinking about it.
Since you won’t be spending that extra money on non-essential items during your no-spend month, you’ll be able to make some good, responsible decisions for it. Here are a few ideas:
- Make an extra debt payment. Before I became debt-free, I would often use the money saved during a no-spend month to pay down my car note or student loan.
- Save it! Use it to ether start or further pad your emergency and sinking funds.
- Get ahead on bills! Instead of transferring to savings or applying towards debt, leave the money in your main, bill-paying account to create a buffer that will help you get a month or more ahead on bills.
Improve Your Relationships
It is amazing how our relationship with money can often take the place of relationships with actual people.
When we have more money to spend, some of us would choose to go shopping instead of spending quality time with family and friends. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the occasional shopping trip, they should not take the place of spending time with the people we love.
Consider using your no-spend month to plan quality time with friends and family.
Invite someone to dinner at your house. Go for a walk in the park with your spouse and kids.
Instead of darting out of church after service to beat the IHOP crowd, linger a bit longer to have a nice conversation with someone.
You’ll be amazed at how much your relationships will improve when you give others the gift of your time and presence.
Pursue Your Goals And Passions
What better way to spend your time during a no-spend month than to go after your goals and pursue your passions!
Instead of your usual weeknight trip(s) to Target, dust off that treadmill and revamp your weight loss plan.
If there’s a hobby or topic you’ve been wanting to learn more about, stop by the library (it’s free) to grab a book or take a class.
I know it’s only a no-spend month, so you don’t necessarily have to try to cram everything into one month. This is an opportunity to start creating good, non-spending related habits that will get your closer to your goals.