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As much as I hate spending money, I know myself, and I know I’m an impulse shopper (much to my dismay). For me, I’ve tried a lot of things to help with my spending, including the cash envelope system, only buying with cash, making a budget, rewriting my budget, and then redoing it again for good measure. Nothing seems to stick, though. So, together with all you Frugalites, I’m going to do a No-Spend month.
What exactly is a “No-Spend month,” and why should I do one?
While it sounds scary, it really isn’t as horrible as it seems. It doesn’t mean that you can’t buy food, gas, or diapers. Essentials are essentials for a reason. What it does mean, though is that you can’t buy things that aren’t essentials. Think take-out, new furniture, trips to the salon, or – my personal weakness – dollar store trips.
I like to think of it as a No-Spend month as the ultimate kick-start to a budget. It’ll help give you a great idea of how much you’re actually spending on things and give you an idea of what you really need to get by. It will also help set up the groundwork for a successful budget afterward.
It may be a bit tight, it may be a bit tricky, but I truly believe it will be worth it.
What’s your reason?
When you come up against a challenge, be it small or big, having a reason – a “why” – behind what you’re doing makes a HUGE impact. I’m going to ask you to dig deep here, guys.
In the last month, I’ve moved to a completely different area. I’ve started a brand-new job where I work nights by myself. I’m now living in a rural town instead of a big city, and for the first time. And, within it all, I’ve spent way more than I intended. It’s what happens when you stop paying attention.
What does that have to do with my “why?” Well, this year, I want to be debt-free. I made a good dent last year, paying off two credit cards, but this year, I’m hoping to pay off my remaining 30k in debt. All the spending I did in January definitely wasn’t taking me in the right direction.
So let’s break down your “why.” Grab something to write with and something to write on. I mean it. Get up, grab something – anything. A clean napkin and sharpie, an old bill envelope and one of your kids’ crayons – anything. Don’t worry; I’ll wait for you.
Okay, you ready?
Let’s write it out.
On your piece of paper, write down the answers to the following;
- Why do you want to do a No-Spend Month?
- Why do you want (answer to Q1)?
- Why do you want (answer to Q2)?
- Why is (answer to Q3) important?
Need an example? Here’s mine;
- I want to do a No-Spend Month because I think it will help me with my budget by helping me to spend less.
- I want to get better at budgeting and spend less because I want to become debt-free this year.
- I want to be debt-free, so I can start saving money and be less stressed about finances all the time.
- Because it will set me up for future success, I can start working on saving for my dream house, family planning, and if I need something, I won’t have to struggle. It will give me peace of mind.
Does that make sense? If you don’t get deep enough with questions 2 / 3, you can add in another “why.” It’s a simple process, and you can use this for any goal, but getting to the root of why you want something will make your resolve stronger. Write it down, stick it somewhere, and look at it every day. When you have a weak moment, get back to that sheet of paper and remember why you started this.
Your reason doesn’t have to be the same as mine; it could be to go on a vacation, to test your willpower – anything. Just get to a deeper “why,” elaborate on it, and envision it. Trust me; this process will help.
Okay, I’ve decided to do this. Now what?
First thing’s first, if you don’t already have a budget, make one. This is going to help make sure you don’t overspend in other areas. Here are the things you’re going to want to make sure you keep:
- Car payments
- Phone/Internet/TV bills
Here are some things you’re going to want to remove:
- Throw pillows
- Date nights (but only the ones that cost money!)
- Basically, anything you can live without, without sacrificing quality of life.
Here are some things that you may want to consider removing but are not completely necessary. This section is totally up to your discretion.
- Subscriptions (Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc.)
- Gym Memberships (try home workouts instead!)
The point here is not to deprive yourself of every little joy but, instead, to cut back. Maybe you drop Netflix and keep Prime. Find a good balance.
Do an audit on your personal finances
Daisy has talked about the importance of doing an audit on your expenses before. It’s always a good idea to start with how you are spending your money already when setting up a budget. Maybe you have a monthly subscription coming out of your card every month to something you haven’t even been using .
I personally found I’d been paying $8/month for over a year to Microsoft office for a computer I hadn’t used in almost a year by doing an audit once. I’ve heard horror stories, though, where people spend hundreds a month on things they have no clue they’re even paying for.
Anyways, when you do an audit, you can see where you are already spending your money and how much you’re really spending, not just what you think you’re spending. You have to know where you are to know where you’re going.
One last thing…
While we are all going on this No-Spend month together, emergencies may happen. If your car breaks down, and you need to get it fixed, that’s essential. That comes out of your emergency fund (if you don’t have one, you should definitely start one). If your fridge breaks down and suddenly stops working, you’re going to need a new one. I won’t tell you otherwise. If it’s a matter of you just want a new fridge, but your old one still works? Well, the latter is the kind of spending we’re pausing.
Well, now you make your No-Spend month official. You know how much you’re spending. You know where you can cut back. Now it’s time to stop the spending and hold yourself accountable. Heck, y’all are going to be keeping me accountable, too since we’re doing this together. Every week I’ll be doing a check-in with some tips and advice for staying frugal and working your way through things. If you’re going to be doing this spending freeze with me, drop a note in the comments, let me know you’re in and tell me what is something you think you’ll struggle the most with? You never know; someone else may just have a good tip!
Happy saving, and see you in a week!
About Chloe Morgan
Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college-age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.