Are you always struggling to stick to your budget? Do you find yourself overspending on things you don't need? If so, then maybe it's time to try a no-spend January challenge!
It can be a great way to get your finances in order and save some money. Here’s how to do no-spend January successfully.
What is a no-spend January?
A no-spend January is a type of money-saving challenge where you don’t spend any money on unnecessary things for the entire month. This includes things like nights out, new clothes, and takeout. Instead, you focus on spending only on essentials like rent, groceries, and utilities.
The goal of a no-spend January challenge is to save money and rethink your relationship with spending. By the end of the month, you'll hopefully have a better handle on your finances.
And the best part is, you don't have to wait until January to do a no-spend challenge — you can start any time of year!
Why is a no-spend January a good idea?
After the indulgences of the holiday season, many people find themselves in need of a reset when it comes to their spending habits. That's where a no-spend January comes in.
In addition, a no-spend January can help you break bad money habits, such as impulse buying and splurging on unnecessary items. And if you're able to stick to your resolution, you'll be rewarded with extra money in your bank account at the end of the month.
So if you're looking to get your finances back on track, a no-spend January may be just what you need.
But as a reminder, you can do a no-spend January challenge any time you need to hit “reset” on your spending. You don’t have to wait for the new year to roll around.
How to prepare for a no-spend January challenge
There are just a few steps you need to take to set yourself up for a successful no-spend January challenge.
Decide what you will (and will not) spend money on
The first step is to decide what you will and will not spend money on for the month. This will vary from person to person, but essentials like rent, groceries, and utilities are all still acceptable expenses.
Beyond that, it's up to you to decide what else you need to spend money on. Maybe you'll allow yourself to spend money on take-out once a week. Or, maybe you'll decide to cut out all non-essential spending for the month.
This could include:
- Dining out
- Haircuts and salon visits
Make a list of your spending rules so that you can refer back to them when needed. This will help you stay on track and avoid any temptations to overspend.
Let your friends and family know you're doing a no-spend January
Next, get your family and friends on board. Let them know that for the next 30 days, you're scaling back to the essentials. This way, they won't be offended if you turn down invitations to go out or decline to participate in activities that require spending money.
Create a budget (and stick to it!)
If you don't already have a budget, now is the time to create one. A budget will help you see where your money is going and track your progress throughout the month.
Not sure how to get started? Check out our beginner's guide to creating a budget.
Once you have your budget set, make sure to stick to it! This may require some self-control, but it's important to stay on track if you want to complete your no-spend January challenge successfully.
Kill any triggers that could get in your way
If there are certain activities, places, or things that tend to trigger your spending, make a point to avoid them during your no-spend January challenge.
For example, if you always end up buying stuff on Instagram, limit your time on social media for the month — find something else to do instead.
You could also freeze your debit or credit card (or delete your card info from your online accounts) so you're not tempted to spend extra money.
Make a plan for how you’ll keep busy during no-spend January
One of the hardest parts about a no-spend January is finding things to do that don't require spending any money. To avoid getting bored (and tempted to spend), make a plan for how you'll keep busy throughout the month.
Check out our list of 40 fun things to do for free. For instance, you could:
- Binge-watch a TV series
- Read a book
- Declutter your home
- Take up a new hobby (if you already have the supplies)
- Work on your fitness
- Spend time outdoors
- Have a picnic in the park
- Visit a museum or art gallery (many have free days or hours!)
- Attend a free concert or performance
- Explore a new neighborhood on foot
- Volunteer your time
By having a plan for how you'll fill your free time, you'll be less likely to give in to the temptation of spending money.
Find ways to save money
While you're not supposed to spend any money during your no-spend January challenge, it’s also a good time to look for ways to save.
- Cook at home more often
- Bring your lunch to work
- Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions
- Get a library card
- Barter with friends and family
- Shop your own home first
5 more tips for sticking to your budget during a no-spend January
If you're looking for some extra motivation, we’ve compiled a list of five more ways you can stay busy and on track during a no-spend January challenge.
1. Curate a frugal meal plan to save money on food
The average family of four throws out over $1,500 in food a year. So during your no-spend January challenge, create a meal plan your budget will love. Then, make a promise to eat up everything you bring home!
2. Start a side hustle to earn extra cash
If you're looking for a way to boost your income and reach your financial goals, starting a side hustle is a great option. (Our founder, Bola, literally wrote the book on side hustles for women — it’s a great resource if you need help getting started.)
There are tons of ways to make money from home, and many of them can be done in just a few hours a week. So if you're looking for some extra cash to help you through your no-spend January challenge, consider starting a side hustle.
Not sure where to start? Check out our list of 24 unique side hustles that make real money.
3. Make a no-spend January jar
Want to gamify your no-spend challenge? Here’s an activity to try…
Every time you resist the urge to spend money, take the cash you would have spent and put it in a jar. Then, at the end of the month, use the money you've saved to buy something special — or save it toward one of these financial goals.
Not only will this help you stay motivated, but it'll also give you a visual reminder of how much money you're saving by not spending.
4. Cancel any subscriptions or memberships that you don't use regularly
Consumers spend $219 per month on subscriptions — but how many of those are you actually using? Stop the money leaks by plugging up (read: canceling) any subscriptions you don't use. This could include:
- Gym memberships
- Food delivery services
- Magazine subscriptions
- Music streaming services
- Online dating memberships
- Cable TV
5. Get to know YOU during your no-spend January challenge
No-spend challenges are also a great opportunity to get to know YOU. So take some time to self-reflect during your no-spend January challenge.
For instance, you could ask yourself:
- What are your passions and interests?
- What makes you happy?
- What are your values?
- What do you want to accomplish in life?
Answering these questions can help you figure out what's truly important to you. And that, in turn, can help you make better decisions about your money.
Challenges you may face during a no-spend January challenge (and how to overcome them)
A no-spend January challenge can be tough — there will be times when you're tempted to spend money, even though you know you shouldn't.
Here are a few challenges you may face, along with tips for overcoming them.
1. You get invited to a party or event
It's hard to say no when you're invited to a party or event, especially if it's something you really want to do. But if you're committed to your no-spend January challenge, you'll need to find a way to decline gracefully.
Here's what you can say:
"Thanks so much for inviting me! I wish I could come, but I'm currently in the middle of a no-spend challenge. Maybe another time?"
By being honest and upfront, you can avoid any awkwardness or hurt feelings. And who knows, maybe your friends will be so impressed by your self-control that they'll decide to do a no-spend challenge themselves!
2. You have a birthday or special occasion
If you have a birthday or special occasion during your no-spend January, don't worry — you can still celebrate without spending any money.
Here are a few ideas:
- Have a potluck dinner with friends or family
- Do a picnic in the park
- Go for a hike or walk
- Play tourist and explore your own city or town
- Organize a board game night
- Have a dance party
There are many ways to celebrate without spending any money. So get creative and enjoy your special day!
3. You run into unexpected expenses
Even if you're carefully tracking your spending, there may be times when you need to spend money on unexpected expenses. This can be frustrating, but don't let it derail your no-spend January challenge.
For example, if your kid suddenly needs a new winter coat because they lost theirs at school, that’s okay. See if you can cut back in another area to make up for it.
If not, cover the expense and keep pressing forward with the challenge. One little hiccup doesn’t matter.
By being flexible and adjusting your budget as needed, you can still complete your no-spend January challenge successfully — even if there are a few bumps along the way.
What to do with all the money you save from a no-spend January challenge!
Once you've completed your no-spend January challenge, you may be wondering what to do with all the money you saved. Here are a few ideas:
Investing is a surefire way to build long-term wealth. So if you have some extra money after your no-spend January challenge, consider investing it!
Save for a rainy day
If you don't have one yet, start by setting aside a chunk of the money you saved during your challenge. This money should ideally go into a savings account. Then, continue to add to it each month so you'll be prepared for anything life throws your way.
Use it to reach your goals
If you have any financial goals — like saving for a down payment on a house or taking your dream honeymoon — put the money you saved during your no-spend January challenge towards reaching those goals.
Treat yourself to something fun
Use the money you saved to invest in yourself — whether that means taking a class, buying a new piece of workout equipment, or getting a massage. (For more ideas, check out our list of 25 self-improvement ideas for your life and finances.)
You can’t truly take care of your family and your finances until you learn to take care of yourself. So don’t hesitate to spend a little time (or money) on yourself.
Are you ready for a no-spend January challenge?
No-spend January challenges can be tough, but they're also a great way to save money and reset your spending habits.
By following the tips in this article, you can make it through the month successfully — and maybe even start a new habit of mindful spending that will last long after January is over. And who knows… it may even motivate you to try a low-buy or no-buy year.
Or better yet, sign up for one of our courses. They’re 100% free and are designed to help you tackle whatever big goals you have — whether it’s paying off student loan debt, creating a solid financial foundation, buying your first house, or anything in between.