Does the idea of spending (almost) no money for an entire month terrify you? Perhaps it sounds downright impossible. After all, you've got bills, necessities, and expenses - how can you just not spend money for an entire 30 days?
We're not talking about spending zero dollars. We're talking about spending only the money you must and nothing more. As summer settles into fall and the kids return to the school routine, there's no better time than now. You've stocked up on snacks, supplies, and school clothes. The holidays are still a ways out. Take the opportunity to become a more savvy spender by not spending at all!
Here's how to do it.
Plan and Create Goals
Think about all the random spending you did over the summer. Fifty dollars here, twenty there, then a couple hundred on that extra trip to Costco (which included many non-essentials) - it all adds up, and quickly if you're not careful.
A no-spend challenge is all about reducing waste and trimming excess. Improving your spending habits starts with small steps, not giant leaps. Something like a no-spend month is the perfect way to assess your own habits and learn more about spending money wisely to save more.
Choose When Your No-Spend Month Will Occur
The great thing about this is that you don't have to do it right away. You can plan for next month, or in a couple of months when you know there will be fewer extraneous expenses that risk ruining your challenge.
In fact, you're encouraged to plan ahead. That will make it easier for you to not spend money, thanks to the plan and goals you have supporting you. Take advantage of being able to stock up on essentials and even get ahead on a few bills if you want, so that you can curb the money going out during your no-spend month.
Perhaps you know that you don't spend a lot between when school starts and the start of the holiday season in November. October could be a great time to do your no-spend challenge and as a bonus, you could even use the extra cash for gifts and holiday travel!
Figure out what works for you and don't put yourself into more debt or any kind of stress over this, or you're going to struggle the entire time. This is supposed to be a good thing, not another source of frustration or anxiety.
Only Spend Money You Must
Essentials for the month are excluded from your spend-free project. For example:
- Mortgage or rent payments
- Vehicle payments
- Utility payments
- Insurance premiums
- Gas and transportation expenses
- Groceries and toiletries (if you haven't stocked up)
- Other bills and monthly expenses that are recurring and not optional
If you spend only the absolute required amount of money during your spend-free month, you'll save a lot more than you think. We're not saying to skip your phone bill until next month, but you don't really need to stop at Target, do you?
What about your emergency fund savings account? While you're trying not to spend more money than necessary, this is not a place to skimp during your spend-free month. Consider this as much of an essential as your housing payment and other bills. You never know when you might need it.
Perhaps you'll even decide to put the excess from your no-spend month challenge into your emergency fund when you're done instead of splurging on something you don't need. In any case, just don't detract from your emergency savings during this process.
Get Rid of Subscriptions and Wasted Spending
As you plan your no-spend month, determine where your money is going. We all have more subscriptions than we know what to do with, but how often do you really use them? We're not saying to cancel all your streaming services, but if you haven't used the premium features from your ESPN+ monthly subscription service in over a year, it could be time to click the "cancel" button.
If you are spending too much on subscriptions but don't want to cancel entirely, see where you can scale back. Can you pay less for ad-sponsored content instead of upgrading to no commercials? Perhaps you can downgrade your music subscriptions or pick just one service to use.
If you're struggling to track down all of your subscriptions, you can even find tools and apps to track them down for you. Some of these apps include budgeting features and other resources, too, which can take your no-spend challenge even further.
Get Out Those Gift Cards
These days, it seems like everyone is happy to gift those little plastic cards filled with money - and recipients are just as happy to receive them, in most cases. However, the frequency with which gift cards are not used is alarming.
Take out that stack of gift cards you just "never got around to" using. Perhaps they're for places you don't normally shop or dine, or you just don't think about using them in the moment. Well, now is the perfect moment to use these gift cards. You can "spend" money you already have, which means you don't have to go without all month.
Commitment to Your No-Spend Challenge Comes with Rewards
The success of no-spend months comes from your commitment and honesty. No one is monitoring you or keeping tabs on your bank account. It's up to you to save money, spend no more than necessary, and cultivate a money mindset of frugality so that you can move forward with better spending habits in the future.
At the end of a successful no-spend month, you should have extra money that you can use for any number of things:
- Paying down debt
- Treating yourself for accomplishing your goal
- Putting into your checking account to go toward a major purchase
- Saving money, instead of spending it, to pad your emergency savings or for a special event or occasion
Protect Yourself From Online Shopping Temptation
These days, you don't have to go to a store to spend money. You can even buy a car or house right from your couch, thanks to digital document signing programs and other technology. So, when it's a no-spend month, staying home isn't exactly a foolproof plan.
For most of us, the bigger risks are things like our Amazon accounts, our Instacart orders, and our various online orders from stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, and others. If you find that you can't resist the temptation of instant access to shopping, protect yourself.
Delete apps, unsubscribe from email lists, remove your stored payment information, and do whatever else you need to so that you can't spend money. As a bonus, this might even make you think twice about reinstalling certain apps or re-saving payment information in the future.
Saving money is hard, but spending wisely is even harder. You can't just start budgeting or hope that you'll learn to save money. You have to change your money mindset and that starts by making sure that you're maximizing your savings at all times.
When your no-spend month has ended and you're ready to start shopping again, shop smarter with tools like the Comrade browser extension, which allows you to get paid by top brands just for shopping and interacting like you already do.
Good luck, and happy saving!