Have you been overspending recently and want to change your money mindset? Or maybe you just want to accelerate your savings efforts? A no spend month could be the answer you’re looking for!
Even the most financially-savvy person goes off-budget and makes not-so-great financial decisions every now and again.
But there is a way to get your spending back under control.
Let us introduce you to a type of savings challenge that actually works.
A no spend month may sound impossible, but it’s totally achievable when you know how. You may even find it fun!
It’s great for anyone that wants to save more, stop bad financial habits, or re-focus their finances after a spending spree.
Find out how it works and why you need to give a no spend month a go.
What is a no spend month exactly?
A no spend month is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a savings challenge where you commit to only spending money on the necessities for a whole month.
It doesn’t mean you are spending nothing at all – which would be quite difficult.
You will still need to buy groceries and pay your utility bills, but apart from the essentials, the goal is that you shouldn’t spend money unnecessarily.
Here are some no spend month rules to follow to keep you on track and make it a success.
No spend month rules for what you should do
- Only spend money on essential outgoings such as mortgage/rent payments, food, utility bills, insurance, and transportation.
- Follow your usual monthly or weekly budget.
- Plan in advance. Using up food in your freezer or leftover coupons in your purse will help you maximize your savings efforts while cutting back on spending.
No spend month rules for what to avoid
- Don't spend money on leisure, entertainment, eating out, takeaways, clothes, or beauty products and services. Basically, cut out anything that is a “want”.
- Avoid reaching for your credit card to borrow money during your month of no spending. Borrowing counts as spending!
- Don't give in to impulse purchases.
In addition to following the basic no spend month rules above, think about any rules that you may want to add.
For example, do you want to use your car less and walk more? Add gas to your list of no spend categories so you can complete two goals at the same time.
Benefits of a no spend month
A month-long financial detox can result in some fantastic personal finance benefits.
Stop bad spending habits
We all have them, but sometimes it’s not clear what they are. Some people can’t resist a monthly subscription service, while others may purchase a takeout coffee as part of their daily routine.
Temporarily pausing spending will allow you to identify your biggest financial weaknesses and put a plan in place to cut back on those areas going forward.
Boost your savings efforts
It goes without saying that you’ll save more money by not spending, but a no spend month challenge goes much deeper than that. It allows you to save for something that’s just not possible in your current budget.
Do you want to pay off debt? Start an investment portfolio? Or save up money for a large purchase such as a car or down payment for a house?
It’s possible with a savings challenge.
Impulse spending is enjoyable at the time, but it can lead to worries and insecurities about money further down the line.
If you couldn’t really afford that dinner out with friends, the rest of your monthly budget may suffer or result in borrowing cash on your credit card.
During a spending challenge, you simply can’t spend on non-essential things, saving you from having to worry about how you will be able to afford something.
Increased financial freedom
By stopping non-essential spending and freeing up some of your outgoings, you can start to achieve your financial goals.
It’s all about taking ownership of your finances and having enough spare cash to live comfortably, save and invest. Writing down your financial goals is a great way to motivate and remind yourself of the reasons why you’re doing a no spend month challenge.
Gets you back on track
We’ve all overspent and regretted it the next day, but it’s how you get your finances back on track that’s important.
The very best way to do this is by putting a freeze on your spending for 30 days. You’ll catch up on the money that you overspent last month and create a healthy money mindset for the coming months.
8 tips for planning a successful no spend month
You need to set yourself up to be successful because not spending is a big challenge! Here's what to do to get prepared.
1. Analyze your spending first
Before you freeze your spending on non-essentials, you need to know where your money is going.
Look back at your expenses from a previous month to identify all of your essential monthly outgoings. If you can cut back on any, do this before you freeze your spending for a month.
Next, look at your non-essential spending habits. The total money that you spend on your wants is the amount that you can save by doing a no spend month challenge. You may be surprised at the figure!
2. Set a personal, realistic monthly goal
Now that you know how much you could potentially save, it’s important to think about what you will do with the money.
To help you set a goal, consider:
- How much you want to save over the month
- What bad spending habits you need to break
- Your longer-term financial goals
Maybe your emergency fund needs a little boost. Or a balance on a credit card needs clearing before the 0% interest period.
Whatever your reason for saving, setting a monthly financial goal will make you more determined during your no spend month.
3. Tell people about it
The more people you tell about your savings challenge, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Why not ask a good friend or family member to join you in a no spend month?
You can rely on the other person for support when temptation is making the challenge hard and also celebrate each other’s success. It also makes the challenge way more enjoyable.
If people know that you’re not spending money, they are likely to support you by coming up with good ideas on how to spend time together for free instead of splashing the cash on days out.
4. Plan, plan, plan
So how do you prepare yourself?
Start by making up a list of everything that you have in your cupboards, fridge, and freezer. Then figure out what meals you can make by using the items that you already have.
Get creative, and you may find that you can significantly slash your grocery bill during your no spend month.
For any household essentials that you need to get, shop smartly. Write a list and stick to it. If you have time, it’s also worth shopping around for the best deals.
It’s a good idea to buy personal hygiene items in advance of your no spend month so you can reduce the number of essentials you need to get beforehand.
Switching to frozen fruit and veg is often a cheaper alternative to fresh and will save you money over time by eliminating waste.
You should also plan days out in advance by researching local events in your area or asking your friends and family to take turns to host an evening in.
5. Remove temptation
It’s not easy to avoid spending temptations, but there are things you can do to make it easier.
Leaving your credit and debit cards at your house and only carrying cash is a great way to spend less. If your eye catches a $30 top during a grocery shopping trip, the temptation is removed because you won’t have access to the funds to buy it.
6. Move your money
It’s easy to spend your spare cash if it’s sitting in your checking account. But if you move it to a separate savings account during your no spend month, you are less likely to give into temptation.
Having a savings account that is aligned with your monthly saving goals is also an effective way to track your savings progress.
You can see how much you’ve saved during the month without having to go through all of the outgoings from your checking account.
7. Stay busy
If you’re serious about sticking to a spending challenge, you need to find ways to keep busy that don’t involve spending money. This will stop you from missing the things that you normally spend your money on.
The good news is that there are plenty of free things to do!
Here are some ideas for some fun no spend activities:
- Have a picnic in the park with loved ones
- Visit the library
- Take a trip to the beach
- Host a home spa day with friends
- Try a local bike trail
- Figure out what events are taking place at your local community center
- Do a family movie night
- Try a free sport such as basketball
It may also help to tell yourself that saving money now will allow you to do fun things in the future.
8. Look forward
Saving money for the future isn’t just about retirement. The future is tomorrow. The financial decisions you make today will impact you in the short and long term.
A no spend month challenge will get you results in just 30 days. Imagine if the amount you saved during that time allows you to cut the interest on your credit card bill in half. That’s extra money that you will have going forward.
During the month, look forward to your end goal regularly and remind yourself that all your efforts will be worth it.
Common no spend month mistakes to avoid
Everyone makes financial mistakes, and that’s ok.
But with the right awareness and planning, you can avoid these common mistakes and make your spending challenge a success.
Not having a reason or end goal
Without a goal, saving can feel pointless.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is as small as saving $50 to pay for a new pair of sneakers or as large as saving $500 to put towards your new car fund. The thing that matters is to have a goal.
Failing to track your progress
Even when you’re saving over a short period of time, such as a month, it’s still crucial to regularly track your progress.
Why? Because you’ll be able to identify how close you are to meeting your no spend month goal and identify issues early on so you can make changes to get you back on track.
Not thinking of the bigger picture
Giving yourself time to consider your financial future and the reasons you carefully budget and save is extremely powerful.
Most of the time, whatever is tempting you to spend money unnecessarily is not going to be as important as your end goal.
Giving up on the first hard day
Saving is supposed to be tough. If you find it easy, it’s likely that you need to set yourself tougher goals.
You may find that you have moments of weakness where you buy yourself something on your banned non-essentials list.
But don't give up. Refocus your efforts and carry on with your no spend challenge the next day.
Not rewarding your efforts
During a no spend month, it’s important to recognize and celebrate your progress. Not only will it give you the motivation to carry on good financial habits once your challenge ends, but it will also encourage you to set larger financial goals.
Celebrating your success could be as simple as telling your family and friends that you met your goal, or you could spend a bit of your spare cash on something you want.
Just don’t let yourself get so tied up in your financial goals that you forget to enjoy yourself too.
A no spend month challenge is something everyone should try!
Saving is not always easy, but a no spend month is a great way to learn about your financial habits (both good and bad) and make saving more achievable.
If this is your first savings challenge, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Preparation is key, so follow the tips and no spend rules in this article and give it your best shot.
Remember to reward yourself afterward, too! Whether it’s a takeout coffee or a new book, treating yourself is important for your motivation and will make your no spend month even more satisfying. If you are ready for more ways to save money, check out the 52 week savings challenge!