What I Learned from a “No Spend Month” and How You Can Have One Too!

Our summer was what can only be described as “epic.”  Date Nights, festivals, multiple vacations, shopping, so much fun.  But all of those things come with a price tag, so at the end of July, I was feeling a little uneasy about our spending.  If we’ve been friends for a while, you know I’m not down with diets, or cleanses, or detoxing.  But after a period of indulgence, I decided that a detox was exactly what I needed–a financial detox.

I like to give myself challenges, but this was the first time that I had ever given myself a financial challenge.  So to say that I was nervous would be a severe understatement.  But I resolved, for the month of August, to not spend any money.  Yup.

Okay but like how?  So let’s start with these five steps:

  1. Find your why.  Why do you want to partake in a month of not spending any money?  To add more to your savings, to pay off debt, to hit a certain target?  Just like with any other challenge or goal in your life, it’s important to have a “why” to keep you focused, centered, and grounded.  My why was to add more money to our savings.
  2. Establish Rules and Expectations.  With your own challenge, you can be as strict or lenient as you would like.  For my personal challenge, I wanted to follow a “bare bones budget” and not spend any money outside of that.  Essentially this meant only paying for our bills, groceries, and gas.  Everyone is different, and you have to personally decide what is a non-negotiable in your own life.   But I encourage you to really reflect on what you can give up for a month.  For example, I let go of any beauty treatments (hair, nails, waxing), but I did not give up my gym membership.  (Call it mental health.)
  3. Prep Your Pantry and Plan Your Meals.  This was one of the most challenging ones for me, but so very necessary.  There are a couple of ways to go with this.  You could buy a month’s worth of groceries at the beginning of the month and never grocery shop during the challenge, but this takes a lot of money up front and some seriously masterful planning.  I resolved to create a weekly grocery budget and to not buy anything that was not on the list of necessary groceries.  I knew that this would be my biggest challenge, because I love to grocery shop, and I am constantly buying and trying new items at the store.  But I know that this adds a ton of money to my grocery bill each month.  Enter online grocery ordering and pickup.  Okay, I know that I’m really late to the party, but this was a game changer!  We have a Walmart that is 2 miles from our house, so I downloaded their app, adding only the necessary items to my online cart, and I picked them up.  This prevented me from adding unnecessary things to my shopping cart, and it was so convenient!  I have continued to use this every single week, and I love this new routine.
  4. Find Support.  I told my husband, my friends, my co-workers, any necessary parties that I was completing this challenge.  It was important that those around me knew this so as to support me and not try to entice me with opportunities to spend money.  I got absolutely zero shade from anyone, and most people said, “I need to do that too.”
  5. Set Up Obstacles.  Again, you have to decide what those are, but here are some suggestions:
    1. Delete the shopping apps on your phone.  Bye Bye Target, Etsy, Amazon, anything that triggers you to spend money.
    2. Unsubscribe from emails.  You don’t know that there’s a sale if you don’t get the email.
    3. Hide or Unfollow stores/people on social media.  I always joke that there are people on Instagram that make me spend too much money, but it’s the truth.
    4. Don’t use gift cards during this time either.  That may sound strange since you’re not using your own money.  But if you’re like me, you typically do wind up spending some of your own money, and this is also an exercise in not buying things you don’t need.
    5. Get in the habit of saying no.  Easier said than done, right?  But that’s the importance of having support.  When you tell your friend that your coffee date will have to wait until next month, they will understand.  (Or they’ll buy your coffee for you like one of my sweet friends.)

So guess what, y’all…I did it.  I freaking did it!  I went the whole month and did not spend one unnecessary dime.  But I definitely learned some things from my month.  Here are my three biggest takeaways:

  1. Timing is key.  Do not set yourself up for failure.  If you look at a month and it has a ton of events, or it requires significant home repairs, or it’s Christmas, maybe not the best month.  August actually worked well for me, because I was traveling a lot for work and didn’t have as much idle time to shop or spend money.  One thing that was very helpful was sitting down in mid-July and looking at the August calendar to plan for anything that month that may cost money.  For example, my parents’ anniversary was in August, so I purchased their gift in July so that it didn’t interfere with the challenge.
  2. Track your progress.  I know you’re wanting to know my outcome, and the best I can determine, I saved approximately $1000 in the month of August.  That was staggering to me.  $1000 that I’m spending unnecessarily each month.  And on what?!  And that’s why tracking is crucial–I’m not sure that amount is accurate, so when I do this again, that will be a big component, in order to determine my habits.  (I know that there are a lot of apps that can help with this, so I will be researching those.)
  3. Build in some fun.  Again, I was traveling a lot during my month, but I could see this getting a little bleak.  Remember that there are a ton of free activities!  The library, a park, lots of options.  Just don’t go walk around the mall, because you will only be torturing yourself!  Additionally, if you feel too restricted, you’re likely to go overboard when the month is over.  (Kind of like when you go on a very restrictive diet and eat an entire chocolate cake when it’s over.  Allegedly…)

Overall, I loved this challenge and plan to do it again.  I learned a lot about myself and my spending habits, as well as things I can be doing to improve my behaviors.

I hope this helps you, and if you decide to try it, tell me all about it!

XOXO,

Molly B.

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