I swear by these 6 tips for how to survive a no spend month. It can be a really tough challenge to stick to at times, but it is definitely worth.
A month doesn’t seem that long does it? It can feel quite long if you decide to not spend any money for a whole one though! Obviously money must be spent on essential living expenses, but have you ever looked at what those expenses actually costs every month?
If you took all discretionary spending out of your monthly budget, what would you have left over. More importantly, what could you do with that money?
I was in the position where I needed to find out those numbers pretty rapidly a few years ago because of a divorce. I did a whole year of no spend that year. What started out as a necessity, became a life changing experience. So, if you are ready to give it go;
Here is the checklist for your no spend month:
1. Set No Spend Rules
2.Decide On Your Reason Before You Begin to Keep You Motivated
3.Join A No Spend Community Online
4. Be Ready to Face Criticism (But Completely Ignore The Haters!)
5. Allow Yourself An Outlet Or Reward
6.Write A Budget And Write A Meal Plan
So let’s get down to business and talk about the 5 tried and tested tips for surviving a no spend month
1. Set No Spend Rules
Example Of No Spend Rules
- No convenience foods. Cook everything, in so far as possible, from scratch.
- No eating out except for budgeted for non-negotiable family events (such as a wedding)
- No buying clothes, shoes, accessories or make up unless something is absolutely essential.
- No paid-for extracurricular activities outside the home.
- Days out involve free actives and bringing a picnic from home.
- No replacing anything that can’t be repaired, swapped, borrowed or if possible, done without.
- No subscriptions ( netflix etc)
- No paid-for beauty or grooming services except haircuts
- No unnecessary journeys. Plan all errands outside the home for one trip to save on diesel costs.
These were my no spend year rules. Take them as an example on which to build your own set of no spend rules. This is a strict set of rules but it meant huge savings.
2. Decide On Your Goal Before You Begin to Keep You Motivated
That might seem like an obvious statement, but it is an essential step. No spend challenges have taken off online over the last few years, but when I did my no spend year in 2017,they were still a bit off the wall.
I was faced with my reasoning for my no spend challenge, because of immediate circumstances, but maybe you are choosing to get a handle on your money before it becomes a problem. In that case you’ll need to find your ‘why’.
Why would anyone choose to put themselves through the hassle of a no spend month, not to mention a year? Hearing about others experiences can be helpful. During my no spend year I came across this TED Talk by Michelle McGath on the topic, that you might enjoy.
You can read about why I started my no spend year here:
These are some longer term reasons for no spend challenges:
- Low income and/or struggling to pay bills
- Saving for a wedding
- Moving house
- Parenting alone
- Mounting debts
- Education costs
These are shorter term reasons for no spend challenges:
- Replacing appliances/furniture
- Increasing emergency funds
- Summer holiday savings
- Replacing savings after needing to use the emergency fund
You alone know why you would like to begin to get control of your money. Think about what you would love to be able to do with your life. Then work backwards and breakdown the larger goal into a shorter term goals. One of those shorter term goals will be the focus of your first no spend month.
Here is an example;
My long term goal is to work for myself. To do that I needed to get rid of some debt and to pay for college. I broke it down and focused on a different goal each month.
The greater goal involved a lot of money and that was pretty overwhelming to think about.
I set challenges every month, to pay a specific debt off, or to put a set amount of money into my savings.
I always give my no spend challenges a purpose and a name.
The reason you do a no spend month needs to matter to you and to you alone.
3.Join A No Spend Community Online
I found my tribe on Facebook through various budgeting groups at the start of my no spend year. The groups were especially helpful in these 3 areas:
I shared my goals within the group. If I didn’t post for a couple of days, someone would send me a DM to check on me! Some friendships have lasted beyond those groups, years later.
People were generous with their knowledge within the group. It saved people time and money to have a little background knowledge on certain issues. People shared information on legal issues, on housing, on parenting and lots of other things.
Celebrating wins (big and small):
I remember how genuinely people within the group celebrated with me when I closed my overdraft. That kind of encouragement gave me strength to continue on my journey. If you choose to do a no spend month you should find a community you enjoy online to help keep you on track.
On Instagram there is a huge community of like minded people wanting to improve their relationship with money. Follow me @mrs.hawkins.house
4.Be Ready to Face Criticism ( But Completely Ignore It!)
One of the main pieces of advice on how to survive a no spend month is this one. You do you!
Set your goal, write your rules and make your plan. There are many sources that will make you feel that you are not quite doing this right. At the end of the day, who can tell?
You know the the reasons you spend money on certain things and you don’t need to justify them to anyone except yourself. Don’t fool yourself, but at the same time, don’t be unnecessarily hard on yourself either.
Know what works for you:
Know the money management methods that work best for you. Some of my favourite methods are; cash clips and envelopes, manual bank transfer and a pencil and paper budget. Plenty of people prefer to budget using only digital methods such as banking apps, debit cards and budgeting apps.
Don’t justify yourself:
You don’t need to justify why you are not spending money to anyone outside of your household. Is the debt going down? Are you building your savings? Thats all the validation you need.
Some people will not be supportive. Find a way to become ok with it because that is unlikely to change. It’s your money, so it’s your business!
Put your head down and get it done and don’t worry about any negative opinions.
5. Allow Yourself An Outlet Or Reward.
A month is a long time to spend no money if you are not used to it. Set yourself a reward to help motivate you to stick with it your no spend month. A takeaway is usually my reward.
If you are doing a longer no spend challenge, think about allowing an outlet on a weekly or monthly basis. I allowed myself one takeaway coffee a week during my no spend year. I didn’t always use my coffee money, but knowing I could if I wanted helped me to not have a total blow out.
My main budgeting weakness is takeaway food, coffees and nice deli food. I’ve able to curb every other impulse to the point where I really don’t care that much about shopping anymore. Good food and coffee however, will always challenging for me.
Think about splurge items you struggle with and decide whether you should allow a reward in that category or if you need to cut it out entirely.
5.Write A Budget And Write A Meal Plan
If you need budgeting pintables for your no spend challenge, go to my free budgeting pintables page linked above.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. In other words, you need to write a plan. There are many things you could write in your plan but the absolute basics apart from writing down your goal, are a budget and a meal plan.
A Written budget
Writing a budget is like drawing a map for a journey. Your goal is your destination. It will keep you on course if you begin to loose your way. Make it really detailed. Open your banking app and from there write down your regular expenses and income into your budget.
Some people like to use budgeting apps. I prefer to use pencil and paper. There is something about the process of writing the numbers down that turns budgeting into a commitment. Sign up for my monthly newsletter and you will receive a FREE printable budget planner.
A Meal Plan
Food is one of the largest expenses in most households. For us, it is about no.3 on the list of expenses, after housing and transport. During my no spend year I reduced my grocery bill by 50%. I aim for as close to zero food waste as I can get. Meal planning goes hand in hand with budgeting.
It does not need to be complicated though. If you write a meal plan that is realistic, it will be easier to stick to it. Don’t be tempted to add things to your meal plan because are fashionable. Plan to eat the foods you and your family enjoy.
This Was: How To Survive A No Spend Month: 5 Simple Tips From A No Spend Year Survivor.
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