How To Do A No-Spend Month To Boost Your Bank Account
With the holidays come and gone, you might be cringing a little as you look at your bank account. Between gifts, decorations, and holiday parties, the season always seems to cost more than we anticipated. All that spending makes the start of a new year the perfect time for a no-spend month.
A no-spend month (aka a no-spend challenge) is when you commit to not spending money on certain items for an entire month. This type of challenge can be a great way to kick your bad spending habits and add a little extra buffer to your bank account.
So how exactly do you put together a no-spend month?
Step 1: Set some ground rules
A no-spend month looks a bit different for everyone, so figure out what exactly you will allow yourself to spend money on. After all, a no-spend month doesn’t mean you can’t spend any money at all. You still have to eat, and I’m guessing your landlord or student loan lender isn’t going to get on board with you not paying them this month.
Usually, a no-spend month means you’ll only spend money on necessities — think rent, utilities, debt payments, food, and any other monthly bills.
Also, decide what items you’ll replace if they run out or are damaged. Sure, you’ll probably replace your shampoo if you run out rather than just not wash your hair for the rest of the month. But what if you use the rest of your mascara? Or what if your favorite pair of jeans end up with a hole and you can’t wear them anymore?
Setting ground rules ahead of time means you won’t have to make difficult decisions throughout the month. Those rules will also make you less likely to cheat a few weeks in!
Step 2: Plan ahead
Planning ahead is 100% necessary for a successful no-spend month. First, plan to have some safeguards in place to remind yourself not to spend. You may not even realize how second nature it is to hit that “buy now” button on Amazon. Consider logging out of all of your favorite shopping sites and apps. You might even go so far as to stop carrying your credit card, and instead, only carry a small amount of cash for emergencies.
Other parts of planning include packing a lunch every day so you don’t eat out, and making coffee at home so you don’t impulsively grab Starbucks on the way to work.
The final key part of planning ahead is telling your close friends and family about your no-spend month. You might feel a little embarrassed about it and worry that they’ll judge you, but chances are they’ll be totally supportive! I’ve never shared a financial goal with a friend and had them judge me.
Not only will they be able to encourage you along the way, but you’ll also be able to avoid a situation where your best friend invites you out for a happy hour and you feel guilty saying no. Heck, your no-spend month might even help your closest friends to cut their spending too.
Step 3: Find other creative ways to spend your time
A no-spend month might seem super easy…until you realize just how often you spend money. Your week might include running errands, grabbing drinks with friends, seeing a movie on Friday night, and brunching on Sunday. That’s a lot of time to fill when you aren’t spending money!
The best way to stay strong when you’re feeling the urge to brunch is to find other ways to spend your time. A great way to do this is to make plans with friends for a substitute activity. If you love grabbing dinner with friends, invite them all over for a potluck at your place. Instead of going to the movie theater, have a movie night at home with all the Netflix movies you’ve been meaning to watch.
Your no-spend month might also be a great time to get to all of those projects you always tell yourself you’ll do, but never actually do. For example, a long time ago my mom gave me all of our old family pictures to organize into albums. I’m talking years ago. I’m embarrassed to say those pictures are still sitting in boxes. But a no-spend month would be the perfect time to tackle that task.
This is also a great time to learn a new skill! Maybe you’ve been meaning to learn to cook. Now, not only are you going to have more time on your hands, but you’ll also be eating all of your meals at home. Try checking out some YouTube videos with directions for easy recipes to help you learn your way around the kitchen.
Step 4: Make a plan for that money
A no-spend month is super fun because, in the end, you’re going to have a bunch of money leftover that you usually would have spent on things you don’t need. You could just leave that money in your account, but you might just end up spending it all next month.
What would be even better is to make a specific plan for that money. For instance, maybe you track all the dollars you would have spent but didn’t, and use those as an extra payment on your student loans. You could also use it to boost your emergency fund (or to start an emergency fund if you don’t already have one). Finally, you could use that money as a reward and put it away for a vacation.
Step 5: Create new spending habits for yourself
Once your no-spend month is over, it can be so easy to fall back into your old spending habits. But now that you’ve paused them for a month, it’s the perfect time to create new and better spending habits for yourself.
Maybe this month taught you that you actually don’t mind bringing lunch to work every day. Even if you allow yourself to go back to eating lunch out one or two times per week, you could still be saving yourself a couple of hundred dollars per month.
Or perhaps your no-spend month forced you to really revisit the clothes you already had in your closet, and it turns out there were a ton of pieces that you love but just totally forgot about. You realize that you don’t need to be buying as many new clothes as you used to.
You may have seen other benefits from your no-spend month that make you want to change your habits. If you normally go out a lot but didn’t during your no-spend month, you might find that your body feels a lot better since you’ve been cooking at home and drinking less.
That’s the great thing about a no-spend month. Not only do you see financial benefits during that one month, but it can act as the jump-start you needed to help you change your habits for good!