Can you handle a no-spend month?

Life has a way of sabotaging your budget. Unexpected bills and credit card debt can kill your monthly budget long before you begin the month. If you’re feeling like there’s just not enough money left at the end of the month, it might be time to try a no-spend challenge. The name is a bit misleading, after all, it would be pretty hard to tell your mortgage company you just aren’t going to pay this month. But a no-spend month can help you cut out unnecessary spending throughout the month. When you start cutting out that daily drive-thru coffee, mindless trips to the grocery store, and unnecessary purchases, you’ll be surprised at what your bank account looks like. If a no-spend month sounds like a great idea to you, here are seven tips that may help you get started

  1. Consider your timing. Let’s say you get paid every week. Doing a no-spend month during a month where you get 5 paychecks (rather than 4) means more savings that month. You should also consider times when extra spending might be necessary. Don’t plan a no-spend month right before the holidays or when your family has a weeklong vacation.
  2. Create a plan for non-negotiables. No matter how much you would like it, you can’t skip paying certain bills. Decide which bills are non-negotiables and which you could cut out. Non-negotiables may include things like your mortgage payment, child support payments, and electricity or natural gas payments.
  3. Cut your grocery bill. Of all the bills you have, your grocery bill is probably one of the most flexible. Saving money on groceries requires having a meal plan in place. Shop your pantry before you make a plan so you can use up some of your older or less-loved pantry items. Use these items in your meals throughout the month. When you buy groceries, shop the sales, only buy what you need, and stick to a budget.
  4. Rethink fun. It’s natural to assume that in order to have fun, you have to spend money. Thanks to clever advertising, we have been programed to think that going to the movies and buying all the concessions is the only way to have fun. Fortunately, fun can be free. Take your kids to the library, go to the park, play games at home. Use your creativity to have fun without spending any money.
  5. Have a clear-cut goal. It can be hard to stick with a strict budget when you don’t know why you are trying to save money. It doesn’t matter how you’ll use the extra savings. You could pay down debt, plan a vacation or give it a way as a gift. No matter what you choose, having a goal will help you stay committed when you are sick of eating out of the pantry again. Once you have a goal, tell someone about it. You are more likely to stick with a goal if you tell someone about it.
  6. Use your no-spend month to tie up loose ends in your finances. Cancel that subscription you never use. Find a less expensive insurance company. Use those gift cards that have been sitting in the bottom of your purse. Focusing on your finances in such a tight way will help you find the money that is sifting through the cracks and use it.
  7. Allow your no-spend month to reset your finances. Most of us get a little careless with our finances over time. Maybe you got a big raise, but instead of using it productively it’s fueled your makeup habit. Use your no-spend month to get you back on track financially.

A no-spend month is a great way to resent your finances, save some money, and retrain you to spend your money frugally. If a month seems like a long time, try just a week. The principle is the same. Cut out unnecessary spending for a short period of time to boost your finances.