Last month, DJ and I challenged ourselves to eliminate all non-essential expenses with a No Spend Month. The month absolutely flew by, and now April is almost half over as well! (Check out our post here if you missed it!) March and April are very busy months for us. But, let’s be realistic – every month is a busy month! Once the month was over, our plan was to re-evaluate our spending and move forward in the same way. So, how did it go?
Our No Spend Month – How it Went
We decreased our spending drastically during the last month, but we definitely had a couple slip ups. Despite our rule not to get take-out, we did twice. We also had a couple unexpected expenses come up. So, we didn’t save as much as we’d hoped. However, this is a work in progress, and we’re going to continue practicing!
What Worked for Us
Planning was the only reason we were able to make No Spend Month work as well as it did – our Can and Can’t Buy lists were a great resource. We also made a Wish List, comprised of purchases we wanted to make throughout the month (more on that below). Avoiding stores and only visiting departments we needed to purchase from helped us not to be tempted, so we made many less Target runs that usual!
What Didn’t Work for Us
We kind of got off course by the last week of the challenge, so that shows that we need to do more planning and continually focus our intentions as the month goes on. That’s why we have been working on the free No Spend Month Success Planner in the next section of this post! We also had a hard time dealing with boredom and cooking dinner after long days at the office. Luckily, spring is here and we will be able to go outside more and enjoy nature. To avoid resorting to take-out, I have been brainstorming more meal ideas that take less than half an hour.
We are keeping at it! This month, we’re focusing more on planning by completing the No Spend Month Success Planner and returning to our goals each week. Writing everything down keeps us accountable and concentrated on the lifestyle changes we want to make. We’re also printing up our Can/Can’t Buy lists and sticking them on the fridge, so we can’t forget what the game plan is!
15 Tips to Plan your Own No Spend Month
Are you ready to start saving and make your income work for you? If so, you are in the right place! By challenging yourself to be conscious of what you’re buying, you can become aware of what your real essentials are, what purchases are fulfilling, and what purchases tend to be a waste of time and money. Though making lifestyle changes can be tricky, with careful planning and clever application, anyone can succeed!
Before you Begin
Download the No Spend Month Success Planner here! This free PDF planner will guide you through No Spend Month every step of the way, so be sure to either print it out or type along on your computer. The Planner is designed to help you to distill your thoughts and feelings as a consumer into a successful financial challenge customized to your goals and your life.
Review your current discretionary budget vs your expenses for the past couple months. Sometimes it’s not very clear where the money goes each paycheck! When we compared our budget to our bank statement, there were a few surprises. Eating out was a huge expense that we weren’t expecting, and so were random trips to Target. Reflect on any non-essential spending that you want to take control of during your No Spend Month.
Quantify your goals. The clearer your goals are, the better you’ll be able to achieve them. Use the amount you overspent to come up with a savings goal.
Identify your surpluses – Look through your house and see what you’ve unintentionally stockpiled… For me, it’s cans of black beans, napkins, and half-empty shampoo bottles. Every time I’m out at the store, I just think, “I better grab some shampoo since mine is almost empty!” Whatever you have extra of, make a note that you’re fully stocked so you don’t keep making unnecessary purchases! It’s also a great idea to write out a list of what you have in the kitchen, and try to dedicate your No-Spend Month to using up whatever leftovers you can.
Note any upcoming expenses – Check out your calendar and see what your month looks like. Maybe you have a doctor’s appointment. Maybe you’re throwing a party, celebrating a holiday, or going on a trip! You can definitely still do No-Spend Month with these sorts of events going on. Think about what your plans will entail, and allocate for them on your Can Buy list.
Make your Can Buy and Can’t Buy lists – So, after reviewing all of the above information about your lifestyle, spending habits, and upcoming month, it’s time to decide exactly what your No-Spend Month will look like. Each person’s lists will vary!
Talk to family members about the challenge – Reach out to others around you for both support and accountability! : )
Anticipate and plan out challenging situations – Changing your habits can be tough, but you can make it easier by predicting issues and planning solutions. For example, I chose to stop buying health/beauty products during my No Spend Month, so I whipped up some of my own bath treats using household items. We also had a rough time when we worked late and didn’t feel like making dinner. So, to alleviate that problem, I froze a few meals worth of leftovers and made sure to plan super easy dinners during March.
During No Spend Month
Transfer money to savings each time you get paid – It’s a good idea to withdrawal a portion of your savings goal from your income each time you get paid during No Spend Month. That way it is out of sight and out of mind.
Add desired purchases to your wish-list – This is on page 3 of the planner, and is a very helpful tool! A lot of the time when we are out shopping, I will think “Oh no, I forgot we need this! Better grab it now before I forget!” Instead of making those types of impulse purchases, we simply added them to a list. At the end of the month, we looked through the list and realized that even though the purchases seemed important at the time, they really weren’t necessary.
Avoid the store – Duh, right? But really, don’t tempt yourself! There are plenty of other things to do with your time! If you’re bored, here are some free/cheap but still fun date ideas.
Use up what you have – Prioritize eating food from your pantry, empty those half-finished bottles of shampoo, and clear off your shelves to make a fresh start for next month. It’s helpful to meal plan to use up the food in your kitchen and adhere to your grocery budget.
Get rid of stuff around the house – Do some spring cleaning! De-cluttering your home will show you how wasteful you’ve been and motivate you not to waste more.
Don’t say “I can’t spend,” say “I don’t need to spend.” A positive attitude is always a great asset. Remember your goals and keep in mind that the long-term benefits from No Spend month are far more fulfilling than whatever purchase has caught your eye.
Watch out for spending triggers – If you know of certain times or places you tend to overspend, such as when you’re running errands after work or anytime you step into a Target, have a plan to overcome your triggers!
Unsubscribe from retailers’ emails and social media posts – When you get updated every time your favorite brand has a sale or new arrivals, it can be hard not to indulge. You may want to unsubscribe for the time being or for good, in order not to be tempted to make unnecessary purchases.
Challenge yourself to do without– If you want to get the most out of No Spend Month, consider stepping a little farther out of your comfort zone. Instead of immediately replacing something that you’ve run out of or that’s broken, wait on your purchase until it becomes a problem. Though many products can seem like essentials, you may not actually need them at all!
Are you ready to change your lifestyle? Want to dramatically increase your savings in only one month? Need to get in control of your finances? You can do it! Download the planner here and get started today!
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