Are you living paycheck to paycheck? We have been, and so are more than half of all Americans. Despite our best efforts to stick to our budget, we almost always spend all our available income each month. Something always comes up, whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a car repair, a last minute trip, or a restaurant visit at the end of a long workday. It is hard to see where the line is between our wants and needs. With huge goals this spring and summer, DJ & I need to get our spending in check before it’s too late!
After being inspired by Cait Flanders’ two year shopping ban, we’ve decided to plan our very own No Spend Month. We’ve evaluated our budget, eliminated non-essential expenses, and identified our savings goals for the month of March. Yesterday was our first day of the challenge. After the month is over, we plan to re-evaluate our budget and essentials, and then continue on each month until minimal living and conscious spending become second nature to both of us.
Why Participate in a No Spend Month?
In the consumer culture all around us, we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and conditioned to think purchasing certain products will make our lives better. Whether or not we want to admit it, we as consumers hide behind our purchases. We buy things to make us seem more stylish, more professional, more interesting. By challenging ourselves to be conscious of what we’re buying, we can become aware of what our real essentials are, what purchases are fulfilling, and what purchases tend to be a waste of time and money.
How to Set Up your own No Spend Month
If you want to challenge yourself to create healthier spending habits, definitely consider committing to a No Spend Month. First, review your current budget and compare it to your expenses for the past couple months. Reflect on any non-essential spending that you want to take control of during your No Spend Month.
Then look through your house and check out your calendar for the month ahead. Identify any stockpiled purchases you have at home, such as a packed freezer or 4 different bottles of shampoo. You may have upcoming expenses to keep in mind, like car maintenance or a doctor’s appointment.
Use this information to make up two lists – Can Buy and Can’t Buy. Only essentials should be included in your “Can Buy” list. On your “Can’t Buy” list, include spending habits that you want to break and items that you already have plenty of at home.
Creating new habits is never easy, so make sure your household is on board with your new challenge. Also discuss or consider your savings goals and keep them in mind when you’re craving a shopping trip or restaurant visit later in the month. As my husband and I continue our month, we’ll be back with more tips and a No Spend Month Success workbook, so stay tuned!
Our No Spend Month
|Can’t Buy||Can Buy|
|Take-out coffee||Rent / utilities / loans / etc|
|Restaurant / take-out||Gas|
|Clothing / accessories||Groceries|
|Housewares||Replacements on essential products|
|Health / beauty products||Wedding rings re-dipped|
|Beer / wine||Coffee beans|
|Impulse spending||Dentist appointments|
Our “Can’t Buy” list might be very different or similar to yours. We waste a lot of money each month on the listed items – especially take-out coffee and dinner! Instead of take-out coffee, we cleaned out our reusable mugs and stocked up on coffee beans. Rather than getting take-out, we decided on a meal plan with extra simple dinners that take less time than a pizza delivery.
Our “Can Buy” list is all about essentials that are reoccurring every month, and a couple that are specific to this month. We listed replacements on essential products, but that means we can only replace things we have totally run out of. I’m also committing to using up as much of our grocery and pantry stockpile as possible this month. There are also some things on the list that we’ve been putting off for a while and want to take care of while traveling and shopping won’t be an option.
DJ and I started our No Spend Month yesterday, and though we’re already missing takeout coffee, so far we are feeling really good about the challenge. According to our budget, we are hoping to save $500 this month! We’ll update on our progress at the end of the month, with more tips to take control of your spending! Let us know if you’ll be completing your own No Spend Month, and if you have any tips or questions for us!
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